The first post I wrote about gray-asexuality is here. Might want to read that first.
This post is going going to be a continuation on the same theme. The topic has already been covered a million times, but I keep coming up with new wordings that I like better, so here we go.
The term “asexual spectrum” is useful to me because I experience the vast majority of my life, if not all of it, as asexual. This is different from being allosexual & “picky” because there is not a regular pattern of sexual attraction that is happening and I’m not “picking” anything. There are not any celebrities I consider hot, though some of them are very pretty.* There aren’t any particular gender categories that I consider hot. I can’t think of anybody I think of that way. If you take away the option of gray-asexual, the label that describes me second-best would be asexual, and not anything else.
*Gonna tell me that sexual attraction and aesthetic attraction are the same thing? Get off my case.
The claim that gray-asexuality is already the majority experience — that most of allosexuals only experience sexual attraction sometimes — neglects to consider the varied definitions of gray-asexual and the varied definitions of sometimes. Okay, maybe y’all only experience sexual attraction “sometimes”, but what if I experience it even more infrequently than that? What if it was just, say, two or three times in two decades? What then? And listen, you don’t need to explain to me that allosexuals aren’t attracted to everyone all the time because hey, wow, I’ve lived around you folk my whole life, I get it, I’m already quite familiar with your experiences. I’m not misrepresenting allosexuals by saying that they experience sexual attraction more than I do.
(also, lol, if I’m not gray-a but instead some version of allo, what’s my “real” sexual orientation? gonna base it off my romantic orientation? what romantic orientation? whups, try again, looks like that ploy ain’t gonna get you anywhere today)
Part of the problem is that people tend to envision gray-asexuality as some kind of halfway point (a problem not helped by some of the diagrams out there) between asexuality and allosexuality when really, it’s more like one step to the left, or a slight nudge off the center of the bullseye. Sexual orientation terms are based on describing an overall pattern, and “more asexual than not” is one of the patterns that exists. I’m gray-a because I’m not sure I’m 100% asexual, but I’m more asexual than anything else.
So why not just call myself asexual? Maybe. You can call me that if you want, although it would be kind of weird of you to insist.
There are varied reasons for identifying as gray-asexual, and mine is, among other things, a matter of doubt — which is not to claim that doubt is what distinguishes me. Doubt is a near-ubiquitous experience for the whole asexual spectrum, thanks to this culture of compulsory sexuality and all the surrounding insinuations that asexuals are either damaged or lying. We’re always pressed into wondering and rethinking ourselves, as the lovely Queenie has talked about before. So if anything, it’s not that I want to claim that my doubt about experiencing sexual attraction is more than or stronger than that of anyone who IDs as asexual. It’s not the presence of doubt. It’s the type of doubt — pertaining to specific and infrequent experiences that felt briefly semi-sexual — that makes gray-asexual a more comfortable label for me.
Maybe, in time, with more data (and more years of life), I’ll draw different conclusions about my attraction patterns, but for now, this is what makes sense for me. My orientation doesn’t feel like an absolute. It feels like a kinda-sorta. So I use terms that express that. If you think I’m putting myself on a pedestal by describing myself differently than you describe yourself, then you’re the one who needs to get off your high horse.
The other accusation I’ve seen, besides the idea that we’re oversexualizing allosexuals by making the gray-a distinction, is that people use the gray-a label to look “special”, i.e. that gray-asexuality is a concept made up for the specific purpose of drawing unwarranted attention and distinguishing oneself as unique. Those in the asexual community who lob this accusation at us are, in theory, trying to protect themselves against unworthy allosexuals trying to invade and pollute their spaces.
This whole idea of the lying gray-a rests on the idea that there are more potential social rewards for joining the asexual community than there are for fitting the allosexual norm (or that breaking binaries is held in higher esteem than fitting within them), and sorry, we just don’t live in that world.
Anyway, in response to the asexuals who think I’m waving my gray-asexuality like a banner in people’s faces, showing it off to everyone like baby pictures and expecting some kind of special attention or admiration for it, you need to understand that the internet is the only place where I frequently self-describe as gray-asexual. You of all people should understand what a pain in the neck it is to explain asexuality in meatspace to people haven’t heard of it. Gray-asexuality is only possible to understand in the context of asexuality, so coming out as gray-a is not easier or better or flashier; it’s the same painful explanation complicated by a further layer, and saying that I’m trying to get some sort of special attention for being gray-a doesn’t even match up with my behavior.
Offline, when I come out to allos, the kinds of phrases I use are things like “I’m on the asexual spectrum” or “I pretty much don’t ever experience sexual attraction” or “I partially identify with asexuality”. I don’t usually draw attention to the specifics of gray-asexuality because most of the time that’s a term only used and understood by people who are already in the asexual community. I do not get any sort of extra attention for being gray-a that I wouldn’t get for being asexual. It’s not a thing that’s happening.
Secondly — and this is about these sorts of accusations in general — you need to consider what you even mean by saying someone “just wants to feel special”. I don’t know about you, but even before finding the asexual community and exploring my orientation, I already was special, in several other ways. I don’t need to make myself special; I already am — and I say that knowing without a doubt that feeling special is one of the worst ongoing experiences in my life. Being special isn’t fun. Being special isn’t a positive. To me, being special has meant growing up in the shadow of normalcy, being left out, being picked on behind the teacher’s back and going years without having any real friends. Feeling special hurts. Feeling special is an inferior product and a waste of time, 0/10, would not recommend to a friend.
And yeah, being White and neurotypical and other things have sheltered me from a lot of that kind of pain, but the fact is that I’ve already experienced some of what “feeling special” feels like before and will again, and you’d have to be irrational to think I would go willingly seek that out.
That, or you’d have to think I’m irrational. But perhaps “lacking empathy to the point of accusing folks of enjoying emotional pain in order to deny the validity of their experiences” is a discussion for another day.