First, to my readers outside the United States, things are truly surreal here.
For the 74+ million citizens who did not (and will not) support the toupéd fucktrumpet our sketchy and antiquated electoral process installed as President, every day brings new, increasingly frightening portents that the government is run by truly incompetent, dangerous people.
So, in addition to school and work, the news has me constantly stressed out and anxious.
Just over a year ago I started writing about identifying as demisexual. My views have evolved significantly since then, partly thanks to the work I did with my therapist last year to start pulling back the curtain on the machine of lies and bullshit my parents raised me with as fundamentalist evangelical Christians.
I did get some pushback from one reader who commented he didn’t understand my decision to stop identifying as gay. “I could acknowledge strong similarities with you on almost all of the points you made and I’m gay as a goose,” he wrote.
Another friend wrote to ask why I couldn’t identify as demisexual and gay, while another asked if “demisexual” wasn’t an adjective that could be applied to gay.
Still another wrote to express confusion at how I could discard a label he had fought for years to claim for himself.
In part, I want to address some of these comments and share some of the work I’ve been doing.
AVEN’s definition of demisexuality is “a person who does not experience sexual attraction unless they form a strong emotional connection with someone.”
While I knew demisexuality was on the “sexual” end of the asexual spectrum, I didn’t fully grasp how true it was for me.
As I’ve thought back over my teen years and sexual awakening, I realized that my sexual feelings have rarely been directed outward. They’re there, and I did (and still do) experience sexual arousal, but I don’t recall it being directed at anyone. I had crushes on guys, but the desire to do anything sexual was almost always absent.
My sexual fantasies were abstract—in hindsight, more about intimacy than sex.
I’ve been trying to determine if this was some kind of coping mechanism. That is to say, because I’d been taught those feelings were forbidden, my mind found a way to block them since they were inaccessible.
This might be the case. I’ve compartmentalized so many other feelings, so why not this too?
However, I’ve never been terribly interested in sex. I was always more focused on writing, practicing piano, or reading. Even today, I’d rather be cataloging than hooking up.
When I was having sex, whether with a boyfriend or some random from an app, I felt nothing. It was disorienting and alienating. The sensations were okay, but there was no connection.
As harsh as it sounds, frankly, I don’t think I was much attracted to any of the guys I dated.
I may as well have been masturbating.
This process of deconstructing my sexual upbringing has also resolved some issues with being externally defined.
When I was growing up, my sexuality was defined for me by my community and what the Bible supposedly said about it, which meant that I was defined as a heterosexual male.
Obviously that did not work.
When I finally came out in 2008, it took some years before I really started having sex, and when I did, I did what I thought I was supposed to do—seek out strangers and friends to bang.
I assumed the feelings of emptiness that resulted were from lingering internalized homophobia that I needed to fuck out of my system.
I was doing what I’d been raised to do: suppress my feelings (no matter how miserable it made me) and do what I perceived was expected of me.
It still felt forced though. I didn’t really understand what guys were doing when they checked each other out, or ogled some hunky god from afar. Some of that might have been posturing or trying to impress each other, but I didn’t get it.
This has also helped explain ambivalence I feel about things like kink, or gay identity markers like hairstyle, fashion, or speech mannerisms. That’s not to say there’s any universal identity marker. Each community has its own set.
However, I figured out where the disconnect is for me: namely, that those identity markers (hair, dress, etc) are ways gay men telegraph their availability to each other, whether for flirting, dating, or just sex. From an anthropological view, the majority of humans do this, whether deliberately or not. It’s how our brains work.
Life, uh, finds a way.
On a subconscious level, I have been telegraphing my lack of interest for years. If I were interested, I might have adopted a more “gay” haircut, tried to dress more like other gay men, or adopt their mode of speech.
I prefer to march to my own beat, and have always been happiest that way.
The third thing I’ve just recently been able to articulate is that demisexuality best describes the manner in which I experience sexual attraction, while “gay” describes its direction.
One blog post from The Asexual Agenda helped put this in perspective. It’s about overlapping circles.
The author writes, “‘Homosexual’ defines the ‘direction’ of the sexual attraction… while ‘demisexual’ defines the manner in which that sexual attraction is experienced–only after forming an emotional connection.”
The model also works for someone who is heterosexual but is capable of homosexual attraction after emotionally bonding with someone of the same gender.
In this sense I am both gay and demisexual. Putting my cataloging hat on, my pseudo-LC subject heading would be:
Homoromantic demisexual cisgender male androphile.
While my dating life is a lot more complicated, finding myself on the asexual spectrum just feels more aligned and true.
That’s what matters.