The first time I ever heard the word asexual, I was 23 years old. At the time I was hanging out with someone who I wanted to date very badly and his roommate. We were all talking about the commonality of being queer in the theater, as the two of them were theaters majors and I was trying to get the guts to do stand up comedy for the first time. They mentioned that in the theater program juniors and seniors would often bet on who would be out by the end of the year and in many cases the inviting queer environment of theater at a public college allowed for young people to come out who hadn’t been able to before. The idea sounded utterly fantastic to me at the time, and it still sounds great now. Who doesn’t want to be able to be themselves with pride — or, perhaps more accurately, who doesn’t want to love themselves as they are and be accepted by their community?
I was using the word bisexual for myself at the time. I thought it sounded right, though sex was sort of tricky for me — after all, I thought, I like people of different genders, and this seems to be the word for that. I liked sex with particular people, too, and kissing, and had had good sex. So what if I didn’t watch porn, or think about sex, or fantasize about people? So what if I was often unsure if I was sexually attracted I was to my partner until the act of sex had started, thus arousing me — that was sexual attraction, right?
The topic of asexuality came up concerning a friend of theirs who was in the theater program, who had apparently said she was “gray ace.”
“What’s that?” I asked, curious.
“Oh, that’s like — it’s like not wanting sex.” One of the young men said to me.
“Yeah, it’s like not having sexual attraction, except some of the time. Like rarely.”
“Oh.” I nodded, thoughtful, not truly understanding. “Huh.”
I remember putting that thought in the back of my mind. For weeks when I saw her, I would wonder if I should ask her about her sexuality and what it meant. The truth is I wasn’t simply curious for curiosity’s sake. I was curious because on some level, I found myself wondering how much I truly wanted sex and if I had sexual attraction at all, or if I had just never thought that “no/rare sexual attraction” was an option. There…