Being an asexual is not altogether tough. I do not face anything in the way of discrimination or hate, which simply cannot be said about other groups. Yet, society does seem to have an idea of where it stands with other groups. Despite a continued presence of homophobia (as an example), society appears to have developed some level of positive expectations about homosexuals, as well as a context in which they can fit into our heteronormative culture. It does not appear that the same exists for asexuality.
For one, a lot of people are either unaware of it or believe that it does not exist. I had a recent conversation with a psychological professional, in which she revealed that she was not privy to what I meant when I mentioned I am asexual. She did not disbelieve me, but she apparently had not stumbled across the concept before.
More complicated than that are the people who have heard of asexuality but do not accept it as true. Now, I am mostly okay with this. It is fair enough if people are genuinely skeptical about the concept of asexuality. Many others will deride this as “invalidation,” but I see no use in that state of mind. It is hard to change people’s opinions about anything if you call them bigots, and the burden of proof usually falls on the person making the affirmative claim. If I want others to believe me, I will inevitably need some level of patience in this process.
Nevertheless, this means that I cannot expect people to interpret my actions benevolently in regards to my asexuality. As much as stereotypes can lead to misinformation, I cannot fall back on one to make it clear how I exist. People instead are generally going to assume that I am a straight man, as they have done many times already. This means that I have to be careful in the decisions I make and the things I say, because my intentions are unlikely to be well understood.
The widespread skepticism toward asexuality itself also mandates a level of caution anyway. I could imagine someone saying, “See, you were straight all along,” if I ever dated a woman. If I wanted to pursue my personal wish to have a family of my own, then dating a woman would enable me to do that, but it would have the potential to jeopardize my image. Again, I am not too bothered by the skepticism; I am just worried that people will think I am lying about my sexuality (or rather, lack of it). If I were to have recreational sex with a girlfriend, many people would see that as directly contrary to being asexual. If I only had sex for procreative purposes, then it is a low probability that my hypothetical girlfriend would stick around very long to start a family with me.
The meta-game surrounding asexuality is not an easy one to win. In the post-MeToo world, the risks associated with being interpreted poorly are also quite great. Millions of people will believe an accusation before any fact-checking occurs, and all that is needed to get to that point is an unscrupulous person with a Twitter account. What if someone sees an act of kindness as an unwanted, sexual advance and announces it to the world? Once the accusation is made, it does not matter how much one might be able to clear the waters. No level of honest correction will stop at least some people from believing it for the rest of one’s life. It is a permanent, reputational wound.
I hold these concerns and many others over my asexuality. I do not live a miserable existence, but it is an awful tricky one. That is partly why I wrote this on Medium, in order to inform more people about it, for as long as the general public is foggy about the concept of asexuality, the asexual life is a riddle that I will be unable to solve.