A Parent’s Guide To Asexuality

First Things First

Asexuality is a sexual orientation, like being straight or gay.  When someone is straight, they’re interested in people of a different gender.  When someone is gay, they’re into the same gender.  But when someone is asexual, or “ace” as it’s called, they’re not really into anyone in that way.  They simply don’t experience sexual attraction.  Asexuality isn’t something that needs to be “fixed” or “cured”, it’s just a part of who they are.

You’ve probably never heard of asexuality until your child mentioned it to you.  You’re probably a little bit confused and a little bit concerned.  That’s understandable!  This probably wasn’t a conversation you were expecting to have when you woke up this morning.  This guide aims to help explain what you need to know about asexuality, and what it means for you and your child.

It’s a good idea to let go of whatever preconceptions you might have about asexuality.  When people hear the word “asexual”, it conjures up a lot of images and ideas, and most of those are wrong.

Asexuality is not a problem that you need to solve.  It’s not a disease.  It’s not a disorder.  It’s not an Internet fad.  It’s not a cult.  It’s not a fancy word for celibacy.  It’s not a gender identity.  It’s not a choice.  It’s not some tree-hugging hippy liberal idea.  It’s not some conservative purity movement.  It doesn’t involve spores or splitting in two or anything like that.  It’s not some excuse to get out of dating. Asexuality is a sexual orientation.  That’s all.

Now, you’re probably wondering why, if it’s a real sexual orientation, you’ve never heard of it before.  That’s because the word used to describe it is relatively new.  Although it’s been around for decades, it really only started picking up popularity in the early 2000s.  But the concept is much older.  There have been asexual people for as long as there have been people.  They just didn’t have a word to describe themselves.  The age of a word used to describe a concept does not make that concept invalid.  After all, “heterosexual” wasn’t used until 1892, although there were certainly heterosexual people in the Middle Ages and in Ancient Greece and even earlier.

The current best estimate is that at least 1% of people are asexual.  This figure comes from Dr. Anthony Bogaert, a scientist who was among the first to explicitly study asexuality.  He wasn’t the first to notice it, though.  The famous researcher Alfred Kinsey, when he was working on the “Kinsey Scale”, realized that some people simply didn’t fit on his chart, so he labeled them as “Group X”.  Many people today believe that this Group X described asexual people.

If at least one out of every hundred people is asexual, this means you probably know someone else who might be asexual.  Think about the people in your life.  Is there a bachelor uncle or spinster aunt who never showed an interest in anyone else?  Is there a friend who always stays out of the sex talk?  Is there a cousin who got married a couple of times, but never had any kids?  Was there a college roommate who was more interested in books than hookups?  Those people might be asexual, too.  They might not even know of the word.

 

What This Means For You

This means that you have a child who is asexual.

No, really, that’s all it means.  Nothing in your life or your child’s life has changed. This is simply a revealing of what was already there.  It’s one of many things your child will come across as they live their life and discover who they are.

 

Why Is My Child Asexual?

Like any other sexual orientation, the cause of asexuality is unclear, and for the most part, it doesn’t really matter.  What matters is that your child is asexual.  It’s part of who they are.

Your child likely did not start using the word “asexual” lightly.  This isn’t something they’re saying on a whim.  They thought about it a lot, probably even agonizing over why they weren’t like everyone else.  For many people, the discovery of the word “asexual” is actually a liberating moment.  Finally, they become aware that they’re not alone, that there are other people like them.  They are sure this is who they are.

You didn’t do anything to turn your kid asexual.  They didn’t end up asexual because you scared them off of sex or didn’t hug them enough or anything like that.  Asexuality is not the result of poor parenting.  There is nothing you could have done differently that would have changed anything.

 

What Should I Do?

  • Listen to your child.  They know more about this than you do.
  • Try to understand.  It doesn’t all have to make sense right away, but what’s important is that you make an effort to understand.
  • Do research.  If you don’t understand something, or have questions you don’t feel comfortable asking your child, or if you simply want to know more, then spend some time and look up what you want to know.
  • Treat asexuality with respect.  Asexuality is not imaginary, it’s not a “teenage thing”, it’s not a punchline.  It’s an integral part of your child’s identity.  If you disrespect asexuality, you’re disrespecting your child.
  • Accept them.  This is important to them, and it’s important for them to know you care.
  • And most importantly:  Love them.

 

 What Shouldn’t I Do?

  • Don’t get angry.  There’s nothing to get angry about.  Asexuality isn’t a choice, it’s part of who they are.  Getting angry over your child being asexual is like getting angry that your child wears size 9 shoes or has brown eyes.
  • Don’t try to “fix” it.  There’s nothing to “fix”.  The APA recognizes asexuality as a valid orientation in the DSM-5. Sending your child to a therapist to “cure” their asexuality would, at best, be a complete waste of money, and, at worst, be a horrifying, traumatic experience.
  • Don’t try to convince them that they’re wrong.  Trust that your child knows how they feel and what they’re thinking.
  • Don’t dismiss it.  If your child says that they’re asexual, that means it’s important to them.  Brushing it off will tell your child that you don’t care.
  • Don’t “forget” about it.  If your child has to remind you that they’re asexual at some point down the line, it shows them that you’re not interested in their life.  You don’t have to remember all the terminology and all the specific details, but you do have to remember that they are asexual and what that means.
  • Don’t tell anyone else without your child’s permission.  Your child has trusted you with this information.  There may be other people that they do not trust with this information.  Don’t betray your child’s trust by telling other people about it.
  • Don’t say anything in the “What Not To Say” section below.  That section is a collection of hurtful and invalidating statements that should be avoided when talking to your child about asexuality.

 

What Not To Say

“What about grandchildren?” Many parents are concerned that they will never become grandparents after a child comes out as asexual.  First, you need to recognize that your children are under no obligation to produce grandchildren for you.  The decision to have or not have children is a personal one, and there was no guarantee that your child would have wanted to have children of their own, even if they were heterosexual.  However, nothing about being asexual prevents your child from having kids, if that’s what they want.  There are many asexuals who want kids and there are many who have kids.  Asexual people can become parents the same way anyone else can:  Adoption, surrogacy, artificial insemination, even through natural conception.

“But you dated someone!” Past dating history is not evidence that someone is not asexual.  Even current relationship status is not evidence that someone is not asexual.  Maybe your child went out with that person because they felt that they had to conform to social expectations.  Maybe your child went out with that person because they were experimenting with their own feelings, and that’s what led them to realize that they are asexual.  Maybe your child went out with that person because they were in love.  Dating someone has no bearing on whether or not a person is asexual.

“I was like that, too.  You’ll change!” When someone tells you that they are asexual, they’re not looking for reassurance that someday they’ll be “normal”.  They already are normal.  They’re looking for acceptance and understanding.  They’re looking for recognition of who they are.  By saying that you “used to be the same way”, you’re not helping them at all.  You’re dismissing them.  Asexuality is not some sort of teenage fashion trend that they’ll be over in a week.

“You’re too young to know.” If your child came to you and said “Hey, I’m straight”, would you think that they’re too young to know?  If they said “Hey, I’m gay”, would you think that they’re too young to know?  If you think they’re old enough to know that they’re gay or straight, then they’re old enough to know that they’re asexual.

“I don’t approve.” You do not get to disapprove of this.  You have no say in the matter.  When your child tells you that they are asexual, it is a statement of fact.  It’s not a matter that is open for debate.  You can’t talk them out of it and you can’t convince them to change, because it wasn’t a choice that they made.  There is nothing to talk them out of and there is nothing that they can change.  They are asexual and that’s that.  Your disapproval will only hurt your child.

“I’m fine with it.  Just don’t tell anyone about it.” If you want to silence your child, then you’re not actually fine with it.  It is not your place to decide who your child tells.  Are you embarrassed by it?  Are you worried what other people will think?  That is not your role as a parent.  Your job is to defend your child’s right to be who they are without fear.

“No one will go out with you if you say that.” There are several problems with this sort of statement.  First, you’re telling your child to hide who they are for the sake of finding a partner, instead of telling them to value themselves and find someone who will love them for who they are.  Second, you’re making the assumption that your child is actually interested in going out with someone.  They might not be.  A significant number of asexual people are also aromantic or are otherwise not interested in dating.  And finally, you’re saying that sex is the only important thing in a relationship.

“Don’t worry, you’ll meet someone someday.” Asexuality is not a synonym for single.  It’s not a temporary state that’ll just evaporate the moment the right person comes along.  When your child told you that they were asexual, they weren’t complaining about the lack of a suitable partner.  They were telling you what their sexual orientation is.  Certainly, they may meet someone someday.  And if they do, your child will still be asexual.

“I don’t want you to limit yourself.” The word “asexual” is a description, it’s not a self-imposed limitation.  Your child is not using it to shut themselves off from experiences they’re afraid of or aren’t ready for.  They’re not suppressing some part of their personality to fit this word, they’re using the word because it fits their personality.  An asexual person is no more limited by asexuality than a straight person is limited by heterosexuality.

“But I heard that sexuality is fluid.  Maybe you’ll change someday!” Maybe they will.  Maybe they won’t.  That’s not the point.  They are asexual today, and that’s what matters.  When you say something like this, what you’re really saying is that you don’t like the current state of things and wish they were different, and that you won’t accept your child until they change into something more acceptable to you.  Besides, this argument can easily be turned around:  If sexuality is fluid, maybe you’ll become asexual someday.

“We’ll take you to a doctor to fix this.” Asexuality is not something that can be fixed or cured.  You might be thinking that having no interest in sex is a symptom of something like a hormone imbalance or a brain tumor or something else.  While it’s true that a lower libido or disinterest in sex can be a symptom of a number of medical conditions, it’s rarely the only sign.  It’s natural to be concerned, but unless your child is showing other symptoms or there has been a sudden drop in their sexual interest, there’s likely no reason to involve a doctor.  Many asexuals have had their hormone levels checked, and often will find that the levels are within the expected ranges.  Some asexuals have even been on hormone therapy for various reasons, and they typically report no changes.

“God doesn’t approve.” Since the people who raise this objection are most often Christian, here are a couple of verses to take a look at:  1 Corinthians 7:6-9 and Matthew 19:10-12.  Many other religions have similar statements of acceptance.  I am unaware of any religion that specifically condemns asexuality.

“You’re going out with someone now.  I knew you weren’t asexual after all!” Dating someone is not proof that your child is not asexual.  There are many reasons your child might have for going out with someone, and sexual attraction doesn’t have to be one of them.  Saying something like this indicates that you never believed your child in the first place and were always looking for some evidence to “prove” that they were wrong.

“That must be so hard on your partner.” If your child is in a relationship when they tell you that they’re asexual, you might assume asexuality mean there’s no sex, and no sex means that there must be relationship strife.  However, neither one of those assumptions is necessarily true.  Asexuality doesn’t prevent someone from having sex, it’s just that asexual people generally aren’t very inclined towards it or enthusiastic about it.  Some asexual people do have sexual relationships with their partners for various reasons.  On the second assumption, being in a sexless relationship does not guarantee relationship troubles any more than being in a sex-filled relationship guarantees eternal happiness.  You do not know what is going on in their relationship.  You don’t know what arrangements, agreements, or accommodations they have made in their relationship.  It’s even possible that their partner is asexual, too!  If they are not sharing any of this with you, that is because it is none of your business.

If you’ve said any of these things: You’re probably reading this after your child came out, and if that’s the case, there’s a chance you may have already said some of these things (or something similar).  If that’s the case, then talk to your child and apologize.  Let them know that you now understand that you may have said something hurtful.  You can’t take back what you’ve said, but you can try to undo some of the damage it might have caused.

 

What Else Should I Know?

A single page cannot tell you everything you might need to know about asexuality, and I encourage you to do further research on your own.  The following is a very rough look at a few other topics which may come up when your child talks about asexuality.

The Ace Spectrum:  Your child might tell you that they are demisexual or are gray-asexual.  These categories fall along what’s called the “Ace Spectrum”, which means they’re somewhere in the middle ground between being asexual and not being asexual.  A gray-asexual person rarely feels sexual attraction, isn’t quite sure if what they’ve felt would be considered sexual attraction, or, for some other reason, doesn’t quite feel like the term “asexual” fits them right, even though it’s close.  A demisexual person does not experience sexual attraction until after they’ve gotten to know someone very well.  (Note that this is not the same thing as being unwilling to sleep with a stranger.  This is about never being attracted to someone unless they know them well first.  And before you say “Well, that’s just how everyone is”, consider that there are entire industries that revolve around people feeling sexually attracted to strangers.)  Both gray-asexuality and demisexuality are real and are perfectly normal ways to be.

Romantic Attraction:  Romantic attraction is separate from sexual attraction.  Although an asexual person lacks sexual attraction, they may still experience romantic attraction.  At the risk of oversimplification, if sexual attraction is about wanting to have sex with someone, then romantic attraction is about wanting to have romance with someone.  Romantic attraction, like sexual attraction, can be directed toward a gender or genders.  For instance, a man who experiences romantic attraction toward women would be described as “heteroromantic”, while a woman who is romantically interested in men and women would be “biromantic”, and so on.  Someone who does not experience romantic attraction would be called “aromantic”.  Although sexual orientation and romantic orientation are typically aligned (For instance, a homosexual person is often homoromantic, as well), it’s possible for a person to have any combination of these orientations.  That means someone can be an aromantic heterosexual or a panromantic asexual or any other or whatever else.

Gender Identity:  Gender identity is the perception of one’s own gender.  In other words, it’s how a person sees themselves as a man or a woman (or, in some cases, both or neither, or a combination, etc.).  Gender is separate from physical sex.  One way to think of it is that gender is in your head, while sex is in your pants.  Someone whose gender identity matches their physical sex (for example, a woman who happens to have a vagina) is said to be “cisgender”, while someone whose gender and sex at birth are not the same (for example, a woman who happens to have a penis) are called “transgender”.  Often, the concept of “preferred pronouns” will come up in a discussion of gender identity.  Preferred pronouns are how someone would like to be addressed.  For example, one person might want to be called “he”, someone else might want to be called “she”, and a third person might want the word “they” to be used.  It is important to note that asexuality is not a gender identity.  Asexuals can be any gender or any sex.

Asexuals on Coming Out: Advice

[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.]

One of the questions on the Coming Out questionnaire was “What advice would you have for someone choosing to come out?”  I had so many excellent responses to that question, that I had to split my post about coming out into two parts so I could fit all of them.

Should you choose to come out, hopefully you will find this useful.

The following is advice on coming out from other asexuals.

“If you don’t feel safe or comfortable coming out and you can avoid doing so, then that may be the best until things changes. Realize that it isn’t a simple binary between being out and being closeted. You can be honest about something, or give a true indication by your behavior, without advertising it. Not everybody wants to or has the right personality to be really open or to advertise their sexual orientation a lot, even in ideal circumstances. Each person should decide based on their situation and their personality what the best place on this spectrum is for them.”

“If you want to come out as asexual, make sure that’s what you want, and that you’re ready. Consider, if possible, taking a friend who already knows with you. If that’s not possible, I strongly recommend having some sort of support system where you can access it quickly if necessary. If things go badly, I always want a hug and a willing ear to hear me rant and cry. Personally, I tend to emotionally distance myself from the conversation, because I’ve learned that the people who are closest to me are the most likely to blurt out something accidentally hurtful, and that pretty much anyone will ask you anything. Try to equip yourself with as much patience and words as you can; you’ll possibly need plenty of both. Good luck.”

“Have tough skin. Especially if the person you’re telling isn’t very well versed in issues such as these. If you’re generally young, like me (18) you’ll probably find telling your friends a smoother process than telling your older family members, therefore tell your friends first.”

“Be prepared to get a negative reaction, because there’s a good chance you’ll be met with doubt, incredulity, or (depending on how old you are) condescension.”

“If someone gives you flack or sees you as a freak, don’t ever believe that. You are who you are and, no matter what happens, you are the pilot of your life. Don’t let words discourage you in any way.”

“Generally, if you don’t make a big fuss about it, other people won’t either.”

“It’s not as bad as it might seem. People will say what they say. The ones that truly love you won’t give a damn, they’ll love you no matter what.”

“Start with the easy ones and work up to the difficult or important people.”

“Never come out as an expression of guilt. Many people are in circumstances where coming out isn’t necessary and would only add undue confusion/strain on their relationships. Really think about it and weigh things out before doing it. If you’re in a religious community that is disapproving (like I am), make sure you have a support system in place should shit hit the fan, because it’s likely that it will.”

“Everyone’s experience is different and everyone’s situation is different. No one should take one person’s experience as evidence of what it will be like for them. But I would say that you want to tailor your approach to the person you’re talking to. If it’s someone who loves you but who might not respond well to the idea of asexuality, it might be a good idea to try coming out to them *first* and *then* educating them. If you do it the other way around and they react badly to the education, you might end up feeling really hurt and not telling them — but if it’s someone who loves you, they might have been much more open and accepting if they had known from the start that you were telling them about *yourself*.”

“I would probably recommend sending letters or emails if a face-to-face talk seems too daunting. This will give you an opportunity to explain everything without interruption, and give links to resources where questions can be answered correctly.”

“Only do it when you want to. But when it’s forced, bite that bullet and get it out. There will be people who slander and completely disbelieve you, and they may dismiss you, but you won’t be lying to yourself. I tried to kid myself for years that I was just denying that I was gay, but it just wasn’t working. Actually telling somebody helped cement it in my own mind that this is me.”

“I think it’s best to only come out to people you trust, initially. Especially when you’re “new” to identifying as on the ace spectrum. Talk to them in a calm and collected manner and try not to yell – make them see you are serious about what you are saying and that they will not change your mind. You are telling this so they know who you are. I found it’s helpful to read other aces’ coming-out stories and read up on witty responses and explanations so you don’t go into a possible battle unarmed. And it’s probably best not to choose a moment when they’re stressed, angry or otherwise in a mad mood.”

“You should be proud of who you are and know that there are people who will support you, especially if you have lgbt-friendly people in your life. There may be people who call you names, pressure you to have sex, or pretend to be supportive while actually being ignorant bigoted assholes. Some people may get irritated or angry when you come out, because they think you’re just trying to be different. Some lgbt people and their allies may even be bigoted towards you. Defend yourself and draw positivity from your support system. If you don’t have a support system, then it may be time to get new friends.”

“Know your feelings inside out and be able to articulate them easily. It’s hard to convince someone that your orientation is legit if you can’t explain yourself properly. If you have access and time, reading some of the scientific articles or one of the academic books (like Understanding Asexuality, which is a great read) is also a great help. That way if anyone says that asexuality doesn’t exist, or you’re broken/have a hormone imbalance/inhuman/repressed/traumatised from sexual assault, you can throw the science at them. Most people change their minds pretty quickly once there’s proof that their ideas are incorrect. The people who are stubborn and still don’t believe or accept you, they’re not worth your time. Browse the AVEN forums or the tumblr asexual tags too, there’s always some good coming out stories on there.”

“First, it’s never as bad as you think it will be, your mind exaggerates to incredible degrees. Second, test the waters first, see how that person reacts to statements typical of the group you find yourself a part of (ex: oh, hey, those homo-/bi-/asexuals, those transgenders, those transsexuals, etc.) Really, it’s not so bad as you think it will be. If people you like react poorly to it, those are not people you want to be around and it’s better to find out sooner rather than later.”

“Coming out is personal, moreso as an asexual in how it is regarded by the public at large. Whether the outcome is a positive or negative experience, always stay true to yourself and your feelings. If your friends discuss engaging in sexual behaviors with people and characters, but you’d rather not, don’t try to pretend that you would to fit in. If you test out sexual acts with other partners and you do not enjoy them, that is entirely okay. If your family or friends make fun of asexuality in ways that make you uncomfortable, attempt to use neutral “I feel” statements to broach the subject. Most of all never project negative labels onto yourself such as “frigid” or “broken” and more. There is absolutely nothing wrong with how you feel.”

“Relax. People will probably be understanding. If they know you well, they’re probably at least somewhat aware of the fact that you’re asexual; they just may or may not have a name for that. And if you’re unsure about how people will react, start by talking about the asexuality of other people. When I came out to my friends, it started with a conversation about the sexuality of Abed in the show Community, and that helped me figure out how much explaining I’d have to do and how understanding they’d be. I also like gauging reactions by telling people about Tim Gunn being asexual.”

“Tell those that you trust first. They can be there for support while you come out to people who you are not as comfortable with.”

“Take it slow. And only tell one person at a time. People listen better one on one, and if it’s a group one person who doesn’t believe you, or who has negative views or bad information on asexuality might sway others who individually may have been more receptive.”

“Have resources on hand, bear up for rejection but always hope for the best.”

“Choose who you come out to, make sure your comfortable with them knowing, be ready to explain, explain, explain, and have some facts and links as well. Also, be prepared for some rather intrusive questions and possibly revealing more about your intimate life than most people would ever feel comfortable with doing. Also be prepared for some insensitive comments as well.”

“Be prepared to answer questions. There might be misinformation to correct. For the most part, people tend to be accepting, if not somewhat confused. Don’t feel pressured to come out if you don’t want to. Don’t feel pressured to “fit” the label. The only person who can decide your sexuality is you; it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.”

“Bring along lots of sources to back you up. Also, patience is key. Asexuality is a strange concept to sexuals.”

“Time and place is key. Think of the questions they might ask and be prepared with the answers. Trust that your judgement of the person is sound and that they’ll at least listen to you. Put your courage to the sticking place and just do it.”

“The best advice I was ever given came from the asexual vlogger Swankivy, who pointed out that coming out doesn’t have to be one conversation: numerous hints over time can culminate in an eventual coming out.”

“Be confident. Don’t let anyone tell you who you are, or tell you it’s just a phase. Most people are just unaware of what asexuality really is.”

“Choose who you come out. You can do it little by little. You don´t need to go on national television or anything.”

“Don’t submit your orientation for approval. Bring up asexuality in advance, just to see how people react to it. If they react badly, perhaps rethink your plan to come out. Don’t come out unless you feel comfortable coming out. Being out is not worth compromising your safety or well-being. Don’t do Asexuality 101 unless you want to. It’s not your job to educate everyone in the world; people can respect your privacy and use basic search engines. That said, be polite about turning down questions, and direct people to other (good) resources. Expect people to bring the topic up again. Some people won’t ask questions when you first come out, but will instead do some basic research before asking you questions. You’re still not obligated to answer anything you don’t want to. Be aware that if you come out, people may assume that you are out to everyone, and may out you without your permission. If this is a problem, pull them aside and politely ask them not to do so. Most people are pretty good about respecting your privacy.”

“You don’t have to come out to everyone at once – it’s a process. Pick a time and place where you feel comfortable to have the conversation. If there’s a chance the other person will actually be violent, pick a public place, maybe a coffee shop. Otherwise, maybe somewhere more private, with a hot drink, and lots of comfort food available? Be prepared for lots of awkward questions.”

“The most important thing is to not come out to someone that you think will respond in a negative way that could hurt you. Probably the second thing to watch out for is people who might put you in a dangerous situation by outing you. If you’re nervous, email, instant messaging and texting work great to give you time to think about the conversation and your responses, as well as giving you the opportunity to easily walk away if you need to get out. It might also help to have a friend with you who can provide support. mediate, or step in and help explain if you’re having trouble.”

“Make sure you can explain the terms you choose to use.”

“Tell them as simply as you can. Address confusion or objections as they’re made clear. Pre-emptive defence is likely to make things messy. People have the right to be unhappy about your sexuality, but not to blame you for it. Don’t take objections to the concept of asexuality personally. If people have made assumptions about your sexuality, then any false conclusions they may have come to are not your fault. If you have unintentionally misled people about your sexuality, then that’s also not your fault. If you’ve intentionally misled people about your sexuality, then before you talk to them, think about that, about your reasoning for doing so and about the degree (if any) to which you owed them honesty in this area.”

“Do your research before you come out. When your friends/family come to you with questions you should know the answers and be ready to defend them. You should already know the things that people might say so they are prepared.”

“Being out is better.”

“Come prepared with background knowledge, know the bingo and don’t try to do too much at once. That means, leaving stuff like non-binary trans* people to another conversation, if you’re not trans*.”

“Prepare. Get a definition and some links, be ready to educate people, even though ideally you shouldn’t have to. I realize a lot of people have had worse experiences than I have, so maybe you should be emotionally prepared for some real issues; definitely be prepared for people not to know what you’re talking about and possibly not even to believe you.”

“Stay strong. Hold on, and find a good metaphor. A good metaphor/analogy goes a very, very long way. People will tell you it’s not a real sexuality, that’s you’re just pretending, but hold strong. People are there for you, and they love you for you. Find your LGBT community, they are usually great people who will embrace you for who you are. ”

“You need to decide how much of your life, sexual or otherwise, is anyone else’s business. Let that guide you in how much, or not, you want to come out.”

“Think about why you want to come out, and if the reasons are good, for you, then do it!”

“Be prepared for questions you don’t want to hear. You will hear them.”

“Ideally to have scouted the waters first to see what they said when asexuality came up as a topic or possibility. Other than that, just go for it and be firm that no, you really know yourself best and whatever they think is not relevant. At all. Once you’re out it’s really nice not to feel you have to hide to fit in.”

“Explain as well as you can and answer sensible questions or comments. If they start asking silly questions or making offensive comments, just walk away – they’re not worth your time.”

“Don’t let anyone tell you that what your feeling is wrong or that you are too young to know how you feel! Only you can decide how you feel, not anyone else. Also be prepared to answer questions that people might have or if you don’t want to do that, direct them to some helpful resources!”

“Before you do it, think about how much information you’re willing to share with this person, what questions you’re comfortable answering and what you want to be off-limits. You’re going to end up answering questions, and you don’t want to go into it unprepared. Have an idea of how you’re going to explain asexuality if they just don’t get it. You don’t want to feel like you’re scrambling for an explanation, or like you’re on the defensive. And be proud of yourself, because it’s not an easy thing to do.”

“I think the most important thing is to live honestly with yourself and to be honest to others. Sometimes being honest to others may require explicitly “coming out” to them. Sometimes you can just live your life how you choose and they can think of that what they want to. Don’t feel that you need to come out or to do so in a specific way if that isn’t the right thing for you and your circumstances.”

“From my experience, you don’t necessarily need to come out as asexual in order to be accepted as one.”

And I think this one says it best:

“Don’t be afraid.”

 

(Also take a look at the companion post about the experience of coming out as asexual.)

Asexuals on Coming Out: Experiences

[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.

The responses:

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.)

Asexuality Questionnaire #2.3: Coming Out

If you have not already done so, please stop off at the main questionnaire page for important information about the intent of these questionnaires.

Thank you for your interest, but this survey is now closed!  We are no longer accepting responses at this time.  If you’re curious, here’s what the questions were:

  1. Have you ever been outed against your will?
  2. Had you previously come out as some other sexual orientation or otherwise indicated that you were something other than asexual?  Did this lead to people doubting your asexuality or questioning your honesty when you came out as asexual?
  3. Have you ever pretended not to be asexual or otherwise hidden your asexuality at some point after coming out, in order to fit in?

[wpsqt name=”Coming Out Part 3″ type=”survey”]

Asexuality Questionnaire #2.2: Coming Out

If you have not already done so, please stop off at the main questionnaire page for important information about the intent of these questionnaires.

Thank you for your interest, but this survey is now closed!  We are no longer accepting responses at this time.  If you’re curious, here’s what the questions were:

  1. Have you lost any friends or other close relationships because of coming out?
  2. Do your parents or other close relatives know?  If so, how did they react?  If not, why haven’t you told them?
  3. Did people believe you when you came out?
  4. Have you ever had another person react positively to you being asexual?
  5. Have you ever had another person react negatively to you being asexual?

[wpsqt name=”Coming Out Part 2″ type=”survey”]

Asexuality Questionnaire #2.1: Coming Out

If you have not already done so, please stop off at the main questionnaire page for important information about the intent of these questionnaires.

Thank you for your interest, but this survey is now closed!  We are no longer accepting responses at this time.  If you’re curious, here’s what the questions were:

  1. Have you come out?  If so, why did you come out and what was it like?  If not, why not, and do you think you ever will?  Are you out to some people, but not others?
  2. How do you describe your asexuality to another person?
  3. Have you had any positive coming out experiences?
  4. Have you had any negative coming out experiences?
  5. What advice would you have for someone choosing to come out?

[wpsqt name=”Coming Out Part 1″ type=”survey”]