Written for the August 2016 Carnival of Aces.
This month’s topic is based around names and terms used within the ace community to describe our experiences. I can’t remember the first time I came across the word ‘Asexual’, partly because it took me so darn long to actually start identifying with it. Until then, I hadn’t even considered the fact that what I was feeling was different to most peoples’ experiences. But now it’s like a warm blanket, or a shield. Something that comforts and protects me (even if I don’t tell people. It’s a kind of internal reassurance I guess).
When it did finally click that maybe the word asexual actually fitted my experiences it was a weird moment. It took several months between my first exposure to the community on tumblr and me deciding that yes, this was me. In the process of deliberation, I ended up delving deep into the terminology used by other asexuals- learning that romantic attraction is not inherently the same as sexual attraction for instance, or that asexuality is a spectrum with so many identities under the umbrella (some of which I’m still discovering now- whether that’s because they’ve just been named or I’ve only just been exposed to it is something I’m unsure about).
And that’s another thing. Exposure.
I think that part of the reason it took me so long to start identifying as Asexual was because it seemed like some kind of made up thing. Something that seemed so obscure, and surely it was just aimed at the people like me who’d never been in a relationship, right? The awkward kids, giving us an excuse to not have a partner.
The other day I was with my aunt, both of us scrolling through social media. She reached a post of different flags and pointed out the asexual one, saying that that was her. Then she misread aromantic as aromatic and was confused, what was this? So after I’d explained that within the community there’s often a distinction made between sexual and romantic attraction- you don’t need to feel neither- and that this has a name, she looked stunned. That’s the power of names. They can work in one of two ways: you come across one that doesn’t fit your experience and are enlightened as to how your experiences differ from other peoples; or you come across a name, term or definition that you click with.
Names have the power to easily convey to others the way you feel, to differentiate between similar but different experiences, to find other people who also connect with this word. If nothing else, names give you something to type into google when you think this word might be you but you’re not quite sure yet. And I think that’s pretty cool.