For anyone wondering about asexuality, AVEN is a good place to start.

Figuring out you’re queer is hard – I think asexuality is one of the more challenging things to understand, because not all aces are aromantic and sex-repulsed. Asexuality is a spectrum, and depending on where you fall on that spectrum, you can mistake yourself for allosexual when in reality you’re really not. That’s what happened to me. I identified as pansexual for a lot of my adult life, when I’m actually panromantic. Asexuality was not well understood when I was a young queer, so I went with the labels that made sense to me at specific times in my life, moving from bisexual to pansexual and finally to what I am today, which I feel is the most accurate and comfortable label I’ve ever found.

Personal identification:
I identify as a panromantic asexual. Panromantic means that your gender identity and expression doesn’t matter to me, nor does your biology, when it comes to experiencing aesthetic attraction or forming any sort of bond. I am mostly sex neutral, meaning I can take it or leave it, and if I do take it – again, your gender identity and biology doesn’t matter to me. However, there are certain sexual activities I find repulsive and just will no longer do, so anyone partnering with me has to be okay with my boundaries. They are not negotiable.

I do experience aesthetic attraction, meaning I can and do find people aesthetically pleasing without necessarily feeling anything more than that. Or, as I phrase it, I prefer to observe than participate. I’d rather look than touch.

I also identify as aegosexual, which is a person who generally lacks the desire to do anything sexual with other people but experiences arousal, consumes erotic/pornographic materials, and may fantasize. However, an aegosexual doesn’t include themselves in even fantasy scenarios – generally there’s a disconnect between their arousal and other people. The people in their fantasies may be celebrities, fictional characters, or simply faceless bodies.

I identify as panromantic because my aesthetic interests run a gamut. However, that’s not to say all aesthetics are equally as intriguing to me. My aesthetic preferences run more toward women and the feminine. I also find that in general, I am more interested in women’s experiences in art, literature, film, etc. (That includes trans women.) I’m also attracted to genderqueer aesthetics and experiences, though I find they are way less represented. (We are still, sadly, very binary in how we think about gender.) I am less interested in men/the masculine, but it has come up occasionally.

Why it took me so long to understand I am asexual:
For a long time, I didn’t understand that sexual attraction is more than just aesthetic attraction. There’s an element in there that I’m missing, but because I’m not totally sex repulsed and do experience aesthetic attraction, I didn’t get that for a long time. I knew something was different about me, but I didn’t know what. A lot of my adult life was spent performing, and doing my best to steer sexual encounters toward activities that didn’t gross me out.

Dissociating and performing while engaging in things that I honestly really don’t like became harder as I got older, and forced me to really examine what was going on. No one should have to work to push back feelings of revulsion during a sexual encounter. No one should have to process feelings of revulsion after a sex act. That repulsed reaction began during my teenage years and continued for over twenty years. I stopped doing one thing fairly early on, in my twenties, because it just became impossible for me not to visibly show how grossed out I was. But for more than two decades, I dealt with feelings of disgust about other things that I thought I could hide my reaction to quietly, though I always did my best to avoid doing things that grossed me out. The problem was, having partners who want to do those things, and feeling like I couldn’t keep always saying no.

I want to be clear that no one else has ever forced me to do things I didn’t want to do – I simply felt like I had to say yes sometimes, or felt like I was letting someone down by avoiding things, and/or felt like – this is something I should enjoy, I need to relax and give it a chance, I need to just keep trying – but anytime I tried, I’d end up grossed out, and I’d have to parse through feelings of disgust while trying to perform and actually get something out of it. It’s exhausting.

Because here’s the really confusing part about bodies and sex – you can actually achieve an orgasm AND be repulsed by something AT THE SAME TIME. You can go somewhere else in your head, you can dissociate, you can focus your mind on something else to get through it, and hold back the waves of nausea and disgust until later. That was my experience with certain sex acts for a long time, and why I tried my best to avoid them and steer my encounters toward things that don’t bother me. When I couldn’t, I had ways of coping to get through it then quietly processed the feelings of disgust afterwards.

Now I realize, and want others to realize, that sex isn’t something you should be coping with, or performing, or doing because you’re afraid to say no or let someone else down. If you don’t like it, don’t do it.

And here’s the other thing: You don’t owe anyone an explanation beyond “I don’t like this and don’t want to do it.” If you want to provide one, that’s fine. But “I don’t like this, it doesn’t make me feel good” should be enough. If it’s not, you need to reconsider your choice in partner.

I will no longer do anything I find personally repulsive, and I no longer think there’s anything wrong with me because of it. I won’t apologize or explain – it’s just an ace thing. There are things I’m okay with and things I’m not. That’s my wiring. I’m glad most people enjoy these particular experiences – I simply don’t, and so they’ve been booted from my sexual repertoire.

My personal stance on sex and sexuality:
Philosophically, I’m sex positive, meaning I support open, accepting views toward sex and sexuality, as long as everyone involved in any sex act, expression, or community is able to give full consent and does so freely.

That was another complicating factor in understanding my orientation – the fact that philosophically, I am very open and very supportive of other people’s orientations and kinks and lifestyle choices. So feeling physically repulsed by some really basic things threw me, because I wanted to be that person who was open and accepting.

And the truth is, I am. Just because I lack the interest doesn’t mean I lack the ability to support those who do have the interest.