iStock / Cristoph Kadur
Celia Mulder
February 17, 2016 10:23 am

I was attending the Romantic Times Convention, a five day, intense, immersive, romance-themed conference held once a year and attended by hundreds of writers, readers, and industry professionals. By the second day, I was soaring with the adrenaline of being around so many people who cared about writing as much as I do. Earlier in the day I’d sat in a panel about LGBTQ romance, led by Riptide Publishing. The panel was discussing the current challenges in writing LGBTQ novels when the topic of asexuality came up. Mainly that there weren’t many, but there are some, asexual romances. I left the panel, deep in thought but without time to process — I was on a tight schedule of trying to attend everything I possibly could.

A little later, at the erotica panel, something clicked in my head. There I was in a room with about fifty other attendees, listening to five authors talk about how their own experiences with BDSM led them to write erotica. I learned a lot from these women who were so open about their sex lives — polyamory, bisexuality, and more. I learned about creating characters who were navigating a path of self discovery and experimentation. Most importantly, though, I realized I didn’t want any of that personally, in my life. Not just the BDSM, but any type of sexual interaction.

I realized that I wasn’t attracted to anyone in that way, and that I never had been. The tugging realization that started during the discussion of asexual romance novels solidified as I watched one of the panelists explain different types of nipple clamps. People actually could be asexual and I knew that because I was one of them.

The knowledge enhanced my feeling of giddy excitement and also gave me a sense of deep relief. It was like I’d been trying to squeeze myself into a pair of pants that didn’t fit. I had known all my life that they didn’t fit, but before this moment, I wasn’t ready to admit it to myself. So I kept trying to put them on and wondered why I was so frustrated and unhappy.

Before this moment, I had always assumed there was something wrong with me. I had my first boyfriend at eighteen, after all my friends first experiences with romance, and I really only asked him out to see if I could do it. I was over the relationship in three weeks, and I was out of town for one of those weeks.

Sure, I had “crushes” on boys, but it was really only because that’s what my friends did. I never really wanted anything to happen with any of these boys. It simply felt safer to say I liked someone that face the fact I didn’t. I could not for the life of me understand how people got into relationships. It didn’t make any sense to me and I got upset — only I wasn’t upset about being alone,  I was upset because I felt like I should want someone, and everyone else told me the same thing.

When I got back to my room that night at the conference, I researched asexuality. I read everything I could on AVEN (the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network) and got overwhelmed by the vast terminology aces (asexual people) use to interpret their identity. Since then, I’ve been able to step back and sort through what applies to me and what doesn’t. I understand that some aces want to be in relationships and are while others don’t and aren’t. Some are romantically attracted to others and some aren’t. And it’s all good.

Honestly, if I had known asexuality was an option, I’d probably have come out way sooner. I grew up with copious amounts of sex ed. I knew everything there was to know about sexuality — except for the fact that asexuality is real, possible, and could be used to describe me.

I’ve heard negative, dismissive reactions and positive, embracing ones. I’ve had friends tell me that I haven’t met the right man or woman yet, that perhaps I’m secretly a lesbian and won’t admit it, and that maybe I’m too young to know what I want. I love reading and writing romance novels, which confuses people and I can’t explain it myself. The reasons why don’t matter to me. All that matters is that I found a way of expressing myself that it authentic and supportive, like the authors in that erotica panel.

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