Coming Out as Ace – an anonymous contribution from an Ace civil servant.
Asexuality was unknown in the popular consciousness as I was growing up. For that reason it was not until my mid 20s that I started to identify as Ace. I had friends suggesting I was asexual for years beforehand, but I originally rejected the idea. I didn’t feel sexual attraction to others, but I didn’t understand what asexuality is, so I didn’t feel like the label fit.
Asexuality is an often misrepresented and misunderstood orientation. From an infamous episode of House portraying it as non-existent and all due to a medical condition to confusions between celibacy and asexuality. Due to this everyone is affected by the misinformation. This includes those that may fall under the umbrella but think they are not eligible because, for example, they engage in sexual activities. This can increase feelings of isolation or that they might be broken in some way.
Even when as a person feels comfortable identifying as asexual the questions and comments asked by those around them can be alienating, insulting and upsetting. Again a lot of this leads from misinformation on what asexuality is. It seems only very recently that people seem to know what Asexuality means. When I first started coming out I had to explain the term constantly, but in recent years I may be asked questions but in general people understand the gist. However, those questions revealed to me some troubling issues.
For some reason coming out as asexual means some people throw basic curtesy out of the window and think it is appropriate to ask personal questions about sexual habits. Even if that pitfall is avoided questions implying that 1) asexuality does not exist, and 2) you are somehow mistaken in identifying as asexual, are disappointingly common. This ranges from “you just haven’t found the one yet”, to “you fear sex due to trauma and using asexuality as an excuse”. Even when inappropriate questions are not asked sometimes just too many questions are asked by a person who does not understand asexuality but is not willing to do their own research. Asexuality is an umbrella, and no one should expect a person to represent all of that, especially when all they intend is to personally come out! With these responses coming out can become a trial.
If you are not asexual I ask you respect someone coming out to you, be supportive and hold any curiosity or judgement in check. I highly recommend that you self-educate. The factsheet on the BiSpace home page is a good place to start with plenty of links to further information. If like me you prefer to learn through fictional encounters I can also recommend some more accurate asexual representation. On TV there is Todd in Bojack Horseman and Florence from Sex Education. There is also a growing market of books both non-fiction and fiction.
I highly recommend that if you are asexual to get in touch with other Asexuals for support. BiSpace hold bi-monthly virtual meet ups. The factsheet also gives links to useful forums such as AVEN. I also recommend getting in touch with your own work place LGBT+ network.