Leni

An Ace up my sleeve

There once was a little girl, growing up just outside Salzburg, Austria, living her life and not thinking that at some point in her life, she might question herself, her feelings; wondering why she didn’t see the world as other people do. I went to an all-girl catholic school in Salzburg, Austria. I remember the first day of school back in 2001. 34 girls. It was heaven, especially when growing up with lots of boys. It felt good to be around girls. I won’t ever regret having made this experience (the school now accepts boys in order to get enough students). One was free to talk about “girl stuff” (you know, everything that boys find gross, but girls just need to talk about). I loved my classmates and I still have friends from school; 17 years of friendship. – I love them dearly. As great as attending an all-girl school was, starting sixth form (from 15-years up), I noticed that something was “off”. Girls talked about going out and meeting guys and having sex and their first boyfriends. 15-years old me was just confused. Why were they all talking about boys like they were the best thing that ever graced our planet? I listened and observed for weeks and months to learn. But there was nothing to learn, because while I heard what they said, I just could not find a feeling to connected with the meaning of what was said. I chalked it up to having grown up with two brothers, always having had more male friends and generally just being around boys; it made sense to me that with all this considered, boys were no mystery to me, nothing new. And therefore, I didn’t feel what the other girls felt. Then one day, I thought I understood. I had my first boyfriend. The relationship lasted almost two years; I broke it off. We had coffee dates, movie dates, walked through parks, kissed. Despite all that, I didn’t feel anything. At 16 this worried me, but it also felt okay. So, I went ahead and broke this boy’s heart; we’re still friends today, though (yes, you can be friends with your ex).  I forgot about my inability to feel anything but friendship for another person for quite some time. Two years ago, I met this guy at a Halloween party a mutual friend held. We hit it right off and had fun. And a few weeks after, we went on a date. Boyfriend No. 2. This relationship didn’t last long, for more reasons than my inability to feel. We had sex (my first time…). Yes, I found him aesthetically pleasing. No, I didn’t feel any sort of attraction whatsoever. And yet, I felt that I need to finally have sex, because come on! It’s about bloody time! I remember him being loving and sweet and careful, and yet, I am still baffled why sex is held in such high regards. Why people make such a fuss about it. He did not hurt me, I just did not feel anything.  Then I found the answer. I love reading, and I started reading fanfiction ages ago. First, they are a form of art I really appreciate. Second, you can learn from reading them. I read this wonderful little ficlet where one of the characters didn’t feel sexual attraction, which confused the people around him, but his best friend understood and respected that. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read this fic. During one of my re-reads, it suddenly clicked why I kept coming back to it. This character felt what I felt. He was me in fanfiction form. I was stunned that someone, somewhere knew these feelings. I read everything the author had to offer in order to maybe put a name to what I came to refer to as “off feelings”. And yes, there was an answer. A term. A small world that suddenly explained ME: Asexual.  I took that term, stored it in my brain and went on with life. I knew what I was feeling (or not feeling) and that was enough for me. But that word, that term, that answer didn’t leave me alone. It took two weeks before that voice in my head that nagged me to look the word up, finally got its way. The internet was my best friend for a while. I read what I could online. I learned about sexual orientations. Not that I wasn’t aware that different orientations exist. I read fanfiction, I was at least aware that homosexuality was there, and I fully support the LGBTQ+ community. But I learned so much more. I bought books on amazon to read about people’s experiences and learn about the struggles of all sexual orientations. And I learned something else: romantic orientations. This blew my mind, because until this point I wasn’t even aware that this existed. Remember when I said I didn’t feel anything? – I didn’t feel sexual attraction. I didn’t feel romantic attraction. I learned something new about myself. That I am an aromantic asexual.  Trying to describe how happy I felt knowing what was “wrong” with me is impossible. And “wrong” is the wrong word. Because there is nothing wrong. I knew that, deep down. My brain had to learn. My brain was wired on what people around me (family included, of course) always told me, what school taught me. In school we were taught what we needed to know to be efficient heterosexual people. We didn’t learn about different sexual orientations. We didn’t learn that there are different romantic orientations. We had to know by heart how a baby was formed, how reproduction works.  I learned a lot from online and books, which are written in English by non-German authors. The lack of information frustrates me still. It hurts to know that unless you’re heterosexual, your orientation doesn’t mean much. Sure, homosexuals get noticed and get mostly negative reactions. If we asexuals do get noted, we have to always explain what asexuality is and then, we have to proof that we are asexual. We have to justify our orientation.  During my time researching on the internet, I read posts talking about coming out to friends and family and how difficult it was to most. And let me tell you, it scared me. It took me until a few months ago to tell my best friends that I am asexual. They needed an explanation on what asexuality really meant. I almost cried when they accepted my coming out and thanked me. I feel our bond grew stronger. I was free to be how I am around them without the fear of being judged. Nothing changed. Losing my friends would have been devastating. The only thing left is my family. And it scares me. They are not homophobic. I am just afraid of them not understanding and me having to explain and justify my orientation to them. So, I might not tell them. Ever.

Leni

I moved cities recently and in my new home, I feel that there’s at least some understanding. A few days ago, I was on the tube to get to work when I saw this guy just next to me wearing a black ring on his right-hand middle finger. I didn’t talk to him, but I felt this sudden burst of happiness, of acceptance. I noticed him noticing my own black ring. And we even briefly made eye contact. I felt we both felt happy seeing the rings.

28-year old me just wishes that the educational systems adapt to what is happening, and I don’t mean in history or politics. I want students to learn about sexual and romantic orientations. I want them to learn and know that it is absolutely okay to not be heterosexual. I want kids to grow up, learning about this, and feel good about themselves. Proud. Unafraid. Perfect the way humans are. Because being scared sucks. Having to keep who you are a secret from friends and family sucks. And it hurts. And no one deserves that pain.