Personal story time.
The other day, I brought up my orientation to a new person, and it… could have gone worse, though I wasn’t left feeling very good about it. On the other hand, this was the least awkward I’ve ever been about coming out (which isn’t saying much) so we can still count that as a success. Another first is that this was a guy I came out to, and before this I had only come out to women. What made it feel a little less risky is that he’s a gay guy, and even though that doesn’t necessarily guarantee safety, it seemed like that might take the edge off things, to some degree, maybe.
Even then, I wouldn’t normally have even brought it up, but he and another coworker of mine had started talking about the failings of public school sex education, and, uh, it was awkward, knowing that they were both assuming that I was allo right then. I was kind of scared where the direction of this conversation might be headed, since they were talking specifically about how abstinence-only education doesn’t work, and that can quickly slip into dangerous territory. So it seemed like the best way to steer the conversation in a new direction (and simultaneously vent my own frustrations) for me to blurt out, “I just wish I had learned about my own orientation before age nineteen.”
To that, the guy said something like “Oh, I thought you were straight,” and I laughed and said I used to think that too. Then he asked something that, in retrospect, caused a little bit of a misunderstanding, by inquiring if there were any people of my gender that I was especially close with and that I thought were sexy — to which I replied, oh, uh, no, that’s called being demisexual, and that’s not what I am, as far as I know. He pressed the question as if he didn’t believe me, which got me a little worried at first, but then everything got cleared up when he asked, “Who do you think is sexy?” and I got to tell him, “Nobody. No one.”
He seemed to accept this, and then went on to ask me why, then, do I call myself gay instead of asexual.
I burst out laughing and pointed out that I hadn’t called myself gay. He then realized his mistake and laughed too, because he’d automatically translated “I’m not straight” in his mind to “I’m gay”.
So then all the mistaken assumptions had gotten cleared up and the cat was out of the bag. Technically, I don’t call myself “asexual” either, since I prefer “gray-a”, but as I’ve talked about before, I usually don’t come out specifically as gray-a in real life, and thinking I’m asexual is close enough for jazz. The cool thing was that the guy had presented the “asexual” label all by himself, and I was too relieved that he’d done that part of the job for me to risk anything further on the hope that he might know anything about the asexual spectrum.
Anyway, I then admitted that I could also be gay, since I don’t know my romantic orientation, and I’m open to the possibility and all; it just doesn’t seem to be true of me for now.
He didn’t seem to pay much attention to the romantic orientation thing. Instead, he chose to become awkward about this new information about my sexual orientation, making some vague comments with a slight smile that I wasn’t sure how to interpret. When I expressed some confusion at him, what I remember him saying was something like… there are some experiences that can only be experienced “intimately”.
So I raised an eyebrow, looked at him, and asked, “What does that mean?” to which he… pretty much just repeated the same thing again.
First, let me hypothesize as to what I think he was getting at. He didn’t say this outright, but it sounded a lot like the whole “Well, but sex is really good” routine, which has no bearing on what my orientation is and there’s honestly no need for bringing this up. I am aware that sex is very popular for feeling good, I am aware that many people find sex enjoyable, and I have no patience for anyone who thinks they’re the first to communicate this idea to me. Oh, a lot of people like sex, you say? Yeah, I know. I’d have to be very unobservant not to have picked up on that by now, thanks. But he didn’t state it as explicitly as that, and I wasn’t able to press him into revealing what he actually meant, so I was unable to tell him off. It also sounded like he might be suggesting that celibacy (which is not equivalent to asexuality) means “missing out”, or that “You should try it”, or that “You’ll change your mind some day”, or several other permutations of clueless invalidation that I would have loved to argue against, had he clarified what he meant, but he insisted on being vague.
So, given that he was leaving it open to interpretation, I chose to deliberately interpret his comment by my own definition of “intimacy” (i.e. closeness that’s not necessarily sexual) and remark that yeah, I wish I had more good friends. And then we got into a discussion about close friends and the range of things that “friends” can mean (from acquaintances to soul twins) and the difficulty of maintaining more than a few good friends and from there I was safe.
I was safe, in the sense that I didn’t have to confront whatever crap he has against aces and/or celibate people and/or sex-repulsed people (Does he think anything bad/inaccurate about us? I couldn’t tell, and that’s not very reassuring). I’m not safe in the sense that now he knows and I don’t know to what degree or on what conditions he accepts me. It won’t matter, since he’s going to be studying abroad, and I don’t think I’ll see him much, if at all, after that conversation, but I’m still left with this nagging uncertainty about what he was trying to say.
Anyway, it didn’t go as bad as it could have gone, he seemed to already know about the existence of asexuality as an orientation (which I am still surprised and pleased about), and at least he didn’t tell me to get my hormones checked.