Hello. Thank you for agreeing to do an interview with me. What should I call you?
Call me Maryna
Where are you from?
I’m from Belarus, but currently I’m living in Japan.
Tell me about yourself.
I’m asexual and lithromantic.
In your experience, what is it like to be asexual in Belarus/Japan?
In Belarus very few people heard of the word “asexual”, even young people. Some of my friends told me they heard about it from me for the first time in their entire life. A lot of them are really interested and would ask me a lot of questions. Some of them are supportive and understanding, but a lot of my people told me I should try fixing my “problem”. Older generation tend to think that it’s all “made up”. Some people suggested I must get my hormones levels checked, see psychiatrist about it, etc.
Also visiting a doctor might be really uncomfortable, as some of them won’t believe you if you say that you don’t have sex and will try to convince you that you’d better start having it for your own health. It really depends on a person, but I feel a bit stressed before seeing a doctor there, to be honest.
In Japan it’s kind of normal to ask really private questions to your co-workers, for example. So people keep asking me if I’m married/have a boyfriend/when I last dated someone etc. and when I say that I’ve never actually been dating anyone they just can’t believe it and say I’m lying. Some keep saying that I just haven’t met the right person. Also they would talk quite a lot about their romantic/sexual lives, and these conversations make me feel really uncomfortable. I have been living here for a bit more than two years now and I’ve never met a single Japanese person who knows the word “asexual”.
Do you feel like parts of your identity are conflicting?
I’m from very conservative Catholic family, and I kind of feel that I’m supposed to marry and have kids, but I just don’t feel like it. Luckily my parents are very supportive and accept pretty much anything as long as I’m happy and don’t hurt anyone. My grandmother, however, keeps saying that the main purpose for a girl in her life is creating a family and having kids, and she keeps asking me if I found a boyfriend. During this awkward conversations with her I feel like I’m upsetting her. Sometimes I feel a bit guilty for being asexual, even though it’s not something I chose or can change now.
Have you come out to people? How were their reactions?
When I came out to my mom, she asked me “Do you mean you are frigid?” and said that I probably should get my hormones levels checked.
Since then I never really talked about it to my family directly, but I’m not hiding anything either. I repost a lot of asexuality-related stuff on my Facebook page, Twitter, etc., I write posts on my experience during Asexual awareness week, and since my parents follow me there, they see all of it. Most of the time there is no reaction from them, sometimes my dad will even “like” it.
So pretty much everyone can see it on my social nets, but I rarely come out to someone in person.
I also had this conversation about relationships with my really close friend, and it was obvious that we feel the same way about a lot of things, so I told her I’m asexual, it turned out that she is as well! So now when I need to talk about this part of my identity, I just talk to her, because I know that she’ll understand me completely.
What would you say are some advantages of being asexual either in general or for you personally?
For me personally the biggest advantage was that I didn’t have to waste my time/energy on finding a partner. I probably wouldn’t mind dating if I met a soulmate, but I don’t feel the urge to actively seek for someone. I could concentrate on what is important and interesting for me. While my friends were crying over another breakup and were searching for a new date or were scared of unplanned pregnancy, I would work on reaching my goals. I also feel like being asexual saves me from unnecessary drama. I’m an introvert, so I feel more than fine on my own. It feels like asexuality has really positive influence on my mental health. Actually, one of my friends even told me that he is envious of my asexuality, because I can concentrate on important things, while he sometimes gets distracted by sexual attraction.
What are some disadvantages?
For me the biggest disadvantage is that people tend to misunderstand my asexuality no matter how hard I try to explain the way I feel. Even if I love someone dearly, find them attractive in every way except sexual, they won’t feel loved, won’t feel attractive and appreciated. It’s really sad how simple lack of sexual attraction just crosses out all other feelings I experience. Sometimes I feel like no matter how much I can give to someone, without sexual attraction it’ll never be enough.
Tell me about your relationships.
I’ve never actually been in a relationship. Since I found a word for the way I feel quite late (I was 23), I think for a really long time I was just confused, scared and didn’t know how to explain what I feel to others. I had some crushes, some guys asked me to date them, but I knew that the way they feel and the way I feel are different, but I just couldn’t explain it. And it seems like I just got used to not being in relationships, I really enjoy my life the way it is now, so maybe I just don’t feel like going through all labor of looking for someone accepting enough, trying to explain myself and stuff like that.
I am romantically attracted to someone now, but there’s no chance of us being together, and to be honest, this attraction itself makes me really happy. Actually, this is how I came to think I might be lithromantic.
Let’s talk about representation in the media. Are there any characters that you can identify with?
There is a book by Japanese writer Kaori Ekuni “Twinkle Twinkle” about a married couple that never had sex. And there was this passage, I don’t remember it word to word, but it said something like “I hear his heartbeat, I feel safe and peaceful as a little child.We never had sex, so what? I know that our bodies fit perfectly”. And I read this book many times, but this one line always makes me cry a bit, because I’ve never felt so understood and represented. The marriage of main characters is so weird for everyone around them, but makes sense for them, and they are happy and really care for each other, despite what the society thinks. It’s both heartwarming and heartbreaking, because I know that something like that is very rare in the real world.
Do you feel represented in the ace community?
I feel like there are very few asexual spaces for Slavs, maybe because Slav cultures are still pretty traditional. Most of the ace communities I belong to are English-speaking, there are very few Russian-speaking communities and no communities at all in Belarus.
Also I noticed that there is very little information about asexuality in Japanese and it’s not always accurate. Pretty much all Japanese articles on asexuality that I’ve seen used terms “asexual” and “aromantic” interchangeably. That’s why I’m thinking of writing posts about asexuality for Asexual awareness week 2018 in Japanese too.
Anything you’d like to see more (or less) of in the ace community?
I’d like to see more positive things, stories about accepting your identity and enjoying your life rather than stories about feeling broken and sad. I also love asexual puns/memes xDD because laughter makes everything better and it’s always nice to have inside jokes for community.
I’d like to see less sex-shaming, because sometimes asexual spaces show allosexuals as sexual predators who think about sex 24/7, which obviously is not true. I just really hope that one day we all can calm down and respect each other in our differences. Even though we are on the opposite ends of the spectrum, we are not enemies.
Are you doing anything pride-related during Asexual Awareness Week 2018?
For the last two years I was posting my experience/thoughts on asexuality on my social nets profiles in Russian and English. And actually some people wanted to know more, I got messages from confused teenage kids, saying that when they read my posts, they felt like I’m the first person to understand them and it was a really amazing feeling. It made me feel like the little thing I’m doing is actually changing something. So this year I plan to do the same thing, I’ll try to add Japanese to my posts too.