Coming up Aces
2011, middle school, I find myself receiving the obligational invite to a class slumber party. I went to a small school, only 20 or so kids in my grade, and had the misfortune of sharing exactly zero interests with the other girls in my class. And, as I was about to find out, I had one more dissimilarity to add to the pile.
“Aidan,” starts one of the girls. Simmy. She points across the small circle at me, light from the flashlight illuminating her face. “Truth or dare?”
“Truth,” I answer. Always a safe choice for someone with nothing to hide.
“Who’s your crush?”
I grin. This one’s easy. “Nobody!”
To my surprise, the other girls give me a flat look. “Is it Devon?” Simmy presses. Why? Do they not believe me? Not everyone has a crush, right? That’s high school stuff. I frown and shake my head, insisting that no, really, I don’t have a crush on anyone. I don’t get picked again that night.
Asexuality is one of those extra A’s hanging off the end of the LGBTQIAA+ alphabet soup, and it’s a funny one. Instead of being attracted to men or women or any of the above, asexuals (or “aces”) find themselves attracted to nothing and nobody. Crazy, I know. And yet, current estimates claim that asexuals make up over 1% of the human population (for reference, roughly the same number of humans are redheaded— though not all asexuals are redheads. That would be silly.)
2013, high school, I’m in the first half of my sophomore year. Crushes aren’t high school stuff either, apparently. Well, I had one “boyfriend,” a few weeks during freshman year: a friend of mine who had asked me out. I’d said yes— that’s what you do, right? But the gooey, romantic feelings I’d expected had never happened. I still don’t know the word “asexual” yet, and so I’m convinced that I’m an abnormality. A lifetime of Disney and well-meaning tv shows have taught me that the difference between ‘good and heroic’ and ‘evil and monstrous’ is the ability to love.
So what does that make me?
I fear I have an answer, and when the time comes to set a new password for the year on the school’s computers, I choose something that I know no one will guess, but that I’m sure I’ll never forget.
Choose a prompt: “What are you?”
In my defense, I was raised by a drama teacher.
Turns out, feelings of isolation and brokenness are pretty standard fare for asexuals. Almost every person has a “before” story— before they knew that “asexual” was even a word, and the relief at finding out that there were other people like them. The first thing that one asexual will say to another who is struggling is “you are valid,” and I think that says a lot.
2017, college, my roommate (a completely fabulous woman whom I adore) has brought over a classmate to study for their music exam the next day. When they leave for class, I send a text to my roommate’s phone:
“Your friend is cute. You should bring her over more!”
I later learn that she showed the text to her friend, who asked if I was flirting with her.
“No,” said my roommate. “Well, yeah, she is. But she’s also ace, so don’t worry about it.”
I sometimes call myself a “bad asexual” for my habit of flirting with just about everyone I meet, but my self image has never been better. I’ve been out and proud for a couple of years now, ever since I found the word “asexual” while skimming an internet article and coming to the stuttering realisation that hey, that kind of sounds like me. My parents worried when I told them— was I sure it wasn’t just a phase? Surely I might just be a late-bloomer.
Since coming to college, my Completely Fabulous Roommate, along with an increasing number of friends in-the-know, sometimes act as my “anti-wingman” so I can live out my “bad asexual” dreams without fear of letting someone down. Everywhere I go, I’ve taken to wearing a black ring on the middle finger of my right hand— a symbol of asexual pride, and a birthday gift from my father.
By: Aidan Peterson