[This post is the result of the Asexuality Questionnaire project. The quotations used within are gathered from anonymous responses to questions asked as part of that project.]
Coming out is an important part of the asexual experience. Most asexuals consider coming out at some point. Often, they’ll confide in a close friends, other times, they’ll dive in with a running leap and announce their orientation to the entire world. Some decide to remain in the closet until another time.
Many people are only out to a few of their friends or only part of their family. The phrase “I’m out to the people who matter” came up repeatedly in the responses. It seems to be uncommon for an asexual to be out to everyone they know. The two most common reasons for not coming out to a particular person are fear of how they’ll react and not considering it important that they know. Quite a few people just viewed their asexuality as a component of who they are, and held a “Yeah? So what?” view of it, that is, they don’t hide it, but they don’t feel a need to broadcast it to the world, and they’ll talk about it if it ever comes up.
When it comes to family, more people said that they were out to a sibling than to a parent, and more were out to parents than grandparents. Sometimes they would be out to only one parent, but not want to tell the other. Often, different members of the family would react differently. A brother might be wholly accepting, while the mother could be dismissive. Awkwardness discussing sexual matters (or lack thereof) with family and fear of rejection were some of the primary reasons for not coming out to family.
Most people who came out reported at least one positive experience. Positive or neutral experiences seemed to outnumber negative experiences. In fact, many of the people who responded did not report any reactions that they classified as negative.
Quite a few people stressed that coming out was a personal decision to make. No one should feel as though they have to come out. In the end, it’s nobody’s business but your own, so if you don’t want to tell anyone else, that’s perfectly fine.
Many reactions are positive.
“The first time I came out, it was to a bunch of my long-time online friends, and I had a very positive response. After that, it was my parents, who were mostly okay with it, and then my more liberal friends, and now it’s pretty much any time it comes up. Most of the responses have been indifferent or positive.”
“They were both incredibly accepting and awesome.”
“Yes, my parents especially were accepting of me. They had never put any pressure on me before, so their reaction was mostly, “So that’s why. That’s cool.” ”
“People have repeatedly supported me by reiterating the fact that I am who I am and it’s okay.”
“Most people accepted the information like they’d have accepted information about my favourite food: mostly they just said something like ‘Ah, okay’ or just continued the conversation like it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary.”
“I got high-fived once! That was pretty great.”
“I’ve been lucky. Everyone has been really great about it, once they knew what it was.”
“Almost everyone single person I have told has been very supportive and respectful, and the ones who weren’t didn’t care enough to stop talking to me.”
Some are not.
“My mother was furious. I explained what asexuality was, but she was adamant it didn’t exist. “There’s only heterosexuality and homosexuality!” she shouted. I didn’t make matters better when I confessed to being bi-romantic. After threatening to hit me, she stormed out of my room. (I should not that she did not hit me, only threatened to.) Later when my dad came upstairs to wish me goodnight I came out to him too. He didn’t care so much about the bi-romantic part. But when I told him I was asexual- I’ve never seen him look so disappointed. He wasn’t angry, just sad almost. Like I’d failed him. He told me that I was still young, and not to make such a big decision just yet. Both my parents act like that night never happened.”
“Denial was sharp and one of the worst pains.”
“I have only come out to my husband, who immediately regarded it as a failure of his sexual skills.”
“My one friend made bacteria jokes and told me I was broken.”
“I’ve been prayed over. I’ve had a therapist fixate on my asexuality to the point of ignoring everything else, claiming to accept me but going on about it in session after session. I’ve lost someone who was, at that time, my best friend; he just drifted away from me, and that was the start. I’ve been told, repeatedly, that I was broken, damaged, ugly. My mom once, after accepting me for a long time, suggested that I should get my hormones checked. I’ve had doctors treat it as a symptom, or with suspicion. I have one friend who, no matter how many times I tell, never seems to absorb the information.”
“My cousin said some very hurtful things to me and I was very depressed, even suicidal for a while. I had to cut him out of my life. If people can’t accept you for who you are, then they don’t deserve your time of day.”
“I lost one friend when I discovered he harasses asexuals on Tumblr for “appropriating queerness.” We were friends before I realised I was asexual and he realised there was such a thing. We both discovered the community separately, and apparently both had very different reactions to it.”
“First boyfriend tried to fix me with his magical penis. I’m not sure how much worse than that you can get.”
Several people “tested the waters” beforehand, talking about asexuality with people before coming out to them.
“I have not come out to my parents. I’ve told them both *about* asexuality and their reactions were not promising. I think my dad would make a lot of well-meaning but annoying conjectures about where it came from, and my mom would flip out and tell me I had an illness and if I didn’t get treated I would be “missing a crucial part of life”.”
Some people are out because they didn’t feel right concealing it.
“I came out because I didn’t want to keep such an important secret from my friends, especially when it’s directly relevant to my identity and relationships.”
“I do like telling people the truth and not having their expectations shattered after a long time of knowing me.”
“I came out to my brother first because he is my best friend and not telling him was eating away at me. I felt like a liar every time I looked him in the eye.”
“I came out because it was something I wanted out in the open and I wanted to have friends I could talk to about it.”
“I came out to a small group of people (a mix of close family and friends) because I didn’t want to keep a part of myself I considered important completely to myself, and I think it’s important to be honest with those closest to you.”
“I told other people because I couldn’t keep it to myself any longer. I felt like the longer I kept it a secret, the more ashamed of it I would become, and I didn’t want to be ashamed of my sexuality.”
Some people are out because they’ve just discovered something about themselves and want to share it.
“When I found out that Asexuality was a thing, I first read everything on AVEN, then raced downstairs to my mom and showed her the site, all ‘mom, mom, I found my people! :D’”
“I’ve come out to a few friends, though not all of them. I did it because I was discovering this new thing in my life and I wanted to share it with someone.”
“I came out because I was excited to find out something new about myself that I’d never realized before, and I wanted to share it with everyone.”
“I was out within hours of discovering asexuality, simply because the closet is not a happy place.”
Others don’t tell people because they don’t feel other people need to know.
“If someone asks, I tell them. Otherwise I see no reason to tell them (unless they wish to engage in a sexual relationship with me).”
“I only come out if it is necessary and would not voluntarily do so to anyone I didn’t know well, as I don’t see how my orientation is most people’s business.”
“Also, it doesn’t really seem necessary for me to bring it up with most people. It wouldn’t really change anything, so why bother?”
“My asexuality is not something I make a big deal out of, and I don’t really feel the need to tell people unless they specifically ask whether I’m ace.”
Quite a few people remarked that others had already guessed that they were asexual.
“The best reactions came from my friends and ranged from “That explains a lot” to “I knew there was something different about you. Nice to know there’s a word for it.” ”
“The times that I’ve talked about it, it was to explain why I’ve been single all my life and plan to remain that way for the foreseeable future. That is, to explain what they’ve already noticed about me and found out of the ordinary.”
“One is my best friend, who is also asexual. That was easy… since she already suspected I was.”
“And my mom’s like “I guessed.””
“Almost all the conversations I’ve had about my asexuality with friends have been supportive. Notably, last year some article online spurred me to tell my housemates, “I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned it, but I am asexual.” They replied, “Yes, we figured.” That was lovely and reassuring.”
“When I came out to one of my best friends, her initial reaction was “Wait, is this something you just figured out?” Apparently she’s known since 8th grade and I figured it out summer before sophomore year of college. We spent several minutes then with her just saying “How did you not know?!” and me replying “How was I supposed to know?””
“People were probably pegging me as asexual before I even knew the term, or even if they didn’t have a term for it themselves.”
“My best friend simply said “I’m not surprised” and accepted me wholeheartedly.”
Sometimes the person they’re coming out to is asexual as well.
“I told my best friend about it, but that was easy because he is asexual too!”
“As it turns out, she is also asexual, and she came out to me at the same time I came out to her.”
“One of my friends that I came out to actually told me that she is asexual too and now we both have someone that understands us and we can be completely open with.”
“The second person I ever came out to was my partner, and I was so upset by the thought of him dumping me and hating me just because I didn’t want into his pants that I started crying all over his shirt, which is hilarious in hindsight, especially since 15 seconds later he came out as asexual to me (serendipity!).”
And sometimes the other person knows someone who might be asexual.
“During the talk with both my parents we discussed a number of older relatives on both sides of the family who never married. My dad’s brother has never married and in all the time I’ve known him (going on 40 years) I’ve never seen him to have any romantic or sexual relationships. I don’t know if he is asexual or not, it’s not the kind of thing he would ever talk about. But my parents could understand me in the context of other people they knew who were similar.”
Some people expressed fears or doubts about coming out.
“I don’t know if I will ever tell my family as I’m pretty sure they won’t understand and will only hurt me by trying to be understanding.”
“I haven’t really thought about why I’m not out to most people, for the most part I think it’s none of their business, but there might be a slight fear in that as well, fear of not being accepted or that they don’t believe me or think I’m a freak.”
“I worry about what some people think, as I know they will tell me that it’s just a phase I’m going through.”
“I get more disbelief and confusion. I worry about being seen as attention seeking, especially with my own regular confusion about my own sexuality.”
“I’m not out to family yet though. I just don’t know how they will react, and I want to wait untill I have somewhere else I can go if they react poorly.”
Sometimes people are skeptical.
“One friend tried to convince me that I was simply straight and haven’t found the right guy.”
“Most people disbelived me and even asked numerous questions to try and find the reason behing my unwillingness to fuck. A lot of them sugested therapy and treated me as a labrat that is now open to scrutiny and can be used to prove or refute their own personal theories.”
“He preached to me for a good five minutes about how I couldn’t be sure I was asexual because I hadn’t had sex. And, he explained, he hadn’t enjoyed sex the first time either, so if I didn’t then I should try it again just in case. He’s flat out told me that I will have sex eventually, and that I was never a teenager because being a teenager is defined by having sex.”
“When I first came out to my mother, she dismissed it as me choosing to be celibate for we are Catholic.”
“My parents didn’t really understand what I was saying at all, and probably still don’t. My dad still thinks I’m gay but repressed, whereas my mum still wants grandchildren that I have no intention of giving.”
“I have come out to two people: my mom and my therapist. Both times were less than ideal. They didn’t really get it/ don’t seem to fully believe it. I haven’t come out to others because I am afraid they will not believe me.”
“One of my friends told me that I can’t be asexual because all adults want to have sex and I was just being immature and trying to sound like a special snow flake. I also tried to tell my parents but they told me I was too young to know what I am.”
Being out makes a difference in how other people feel about asexuality.
“But the more time passes and the more quietly and resolutely I stick to what I have said all along, the more acceptance I gain. My family are usually the first to fall in line.”
“The second person I told said that if I had just told him *about* asexuality without saying *I* was asexual, he would have been skeptical about its existence.”
“She insisted at first that I was just making stuff up to avoid social contact, but she’s come around since then and is now a great ally.”
“I got a lot of the “we’re worried you’ll be lonely” and “maybe you should try it” stuff from my parents, but once I’d explained that it was an orientation, they completely took me seriously and accepted me.”
“My parents’ response also wasn’t too bad, but it was still a long, five year process to get them to the point where we’re all really comfortable with their knowledge level. Now they’re proud, running around their rural community educating people on asexuality and all sorts of stuff.”
One person cited the “Just One Person” theory, where it only takes one out and visible person to make a difference in someone’s life.
“But more important than that, I want young aces to know they’re not alone. I felt so isolated through much of my adolescence, and I think that if I had known of one other ace, I wouldn’t have felt as confused and alone as I did. So I want to be that one other ace for young people.”
Occasionally, coming out can be very cathartic.
“It was extremely liberating. I felt ecstatic for days.”
“All around it was a really great experience. I cried from happiness because it felt like a weight had lifted off my chest.”
One person says they came out because their friends were playing matchmaker.
“I came out to my friends because they kept trying to set me up on dates with people and it was getting annoying.”
Sometimes aces come out non-chalantly.
“I have come out to a few people I only know online. But not in any grand statement, just a passing comment that fit the topic.”
“It has always been incidental to a conversation, rather than something I set out to do.”
“I’m out to my mother and all my close friends. Some various people from my high school knew, and so do some various people at Uni. I never had a huge “coming out” so to speak.”
Others will write a letter.
“I sent her an email with a link to AVEN and she overall took it really well.”
“I did it through letters, so I didn’t have to say anything.”
Or a text message.
“On the day I had decided was my coming out day I texted my mother from the light rail station with, “So I’m a homoromatic asexual. I’ll still prolly identify as a lesbian in most situations however, because my sex life is not that many people’s business.” She responded with, “Okay. You know I love and support you. :)” ”
Sometimes they’ll use various forms of social media to broadcast it.
“Yes, I’ve come out individually and en-masse via youtube.”
“I came out on my Tumblr blog first, because I have very good and open-minded friends there. I then came out on Facebook to all of my friends and family and got mostly positive responses.”
“I made a limited visibility post about it on Facebook. The response was underwhelming, but at least there was nothing negative. I got one supportive comment from my mom and one like from a friend.”
“I made a post about asexuality, in which I mentioned at the end that I was aro/ace, and I linked to it on Facebook, and so it’s entirely possible that many people I haven’t come out to know. That was kind of scary, and I’m not sure I would have done it again, but there were a lot of useless news stories about asexuality coming out, and one of my college friends came out to our group as aromantic and clearly had only just heard of it, and I wanted to do my part to increase awareness.”
And a couple of people were drunk when it happened.
“I told some others when we were discussing relationships, boys, who was attractive at the party, etc. while drunk.”
“I came out once – to three of my closest friends. We were at a party and VERY drunk. My three friends were talking about sex, my drunk mind decided now was a good time to tell them that I was asexual, so I did. They slurred “we love ya”, hugged me and continued talking about sex.”
One person came out in two languages while having ice cream in a foreign country.
“I think my ultimate positive coming out experience was when I was in Japan, and I went to lunch with an American friend, a couple of Dutch friends, and their Japanese friends (who spoke limited English), and, due to a series of slightly hilarious circumstances involving Sherlock, I wound up outing myself first in English and then in Japanese (because the Japanese girls wanted to know why the conversation on our end of the table had suddenly gotten so intense). Not only was it an incredibly validating experience for me in terms of language proficiency (I think that once you are able to explain human sexuality in a foreign language, you are probably getting close to fluency), everyone was very supportive and took it well. And that was how I wound up explaining human sexuality in two languages over parfaits.”
And finally, one person even used my book to come out. (Available on Amazon and Kindle!)
“My parents know. I sent them an email with a link to your book one night. The next morning, when I woke up, my mom took me out to breakfast and talked about it with me. Both of my parents were very supportive.”
(Also take a look at the companion post about advice for coming out.)