Every now and then I see someone complaining about words.
Do I have to learn a new word for someone’s sexuality? Do there have to be more than two genders? The LGBTQIA+ acronym is too long, does everyone need a letter?
Now maybe I’m biased because I deal in words for a living, but I think the answer is a simple yes. Because as much as we sometimes hate labels, they can be important—not for others, but for us. The labels I’ve chosen for myself have helped me better understand myself, find others like me, and realize that I’m not alone in the universe.
I suspect my story isn’t too different from a lot of asexual people. As an asexual panromantic woman, I didn’t think of myself as too different from other people when I was a kid. I had crushes on singers and movie stars, thought about what it would be like to get married someday, and planned romantic honeymoons at length. (That’s totally normal, right?) I didn’t prefer one gender to another, so I settled on the label bisexual, and thought that worked, mostly.
Still, every now and then there was a disconnect. People would talk about photos of half-naked people in a way that left me feeling like I’d missed part of the conversation. Sure, they were sometimes lovely pictures, and I might find the subjects beautiful, but I was never physically attracted to them. They’re just bodies, and what’s interesting about that?
The thing is, I didn’t have a word for asexual back then. So I had two options:
a) Everyone felt the way I felt, and all this drooling over people’s attractiveness was fake
b) I was broken, and missing out on something everyone else had
I spent a lot of years thinking of myself as a broken bisexual, and it’s a damn lonely feeling. No one is like you. No one understands. You’re on the outside of what you think should be your people. Bisexuals in my experience have been great and welcoming, don’t get me wrong, but there’s still that fundamental disconnect.
So wandering Tumblr one day, as one does, I saw a post. Asexuality, it said. It’s a real thing, and stop ignoring it.
Oh no. Had I been ignoring a whole section of the population? Letting them feel alone because I hadn’t acknowledged their existence? I hadn’t known a thing about being transgender until my little sister came out to me, and this felt like that all over.
Only when I read up, it started to feel like déjà vu. Like when I pick up a book I’ve read before without realizing it. Hey, I know this story. I know how this ends. I get this. I have never in my life felt sexual attraction, and until I stumbled upon a random Tumblr post, I had never understood that this was why. This was the thing that always made me feel like I didn’t belong. This was why I’d spent decades feeling like I was broken.
But I wasn’t broken.
I just didn’t know, because I didn’t have all the information. I didn’t have the words.
So for anyone who questions the need for an ever-increasing vocabulary to explain sexuality, the answer is yes. We need all of the words. Every single one of them.
Sam wrote her first fantasy epic with her best friend when she was ten. Like almost any epic fiction written by a ten year old, it was awful. She likes to think she’s improved since then, if only because she has better handwriting now.
If she’s not writing, she’s almost certainly either reading or lost down a wikipedia rabbit hole while pretending to research for a novel.
If you want to know more about asexuality or have questions, we’d advice you to check out AVEN. The Asexual Visibility and Education Network, which we found really helpful.