RG Insights: Pride Over Shame

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Submitted By: Brian Warner

Happy Pride Month, I’m asexual.

Why am I nervous? When did saying that start making me nervous?

When I proposed this blog at a marketing meeting, I was nervous just to say the word “asexual.”  I don’t know why; it’s not like I don’t have full faith in everyone I work with, and it definitely wasn’t the first time I’d told someone – that was more than ten years ago. But that didn’t stop me from ending a few meetings thinking, “I’ll bring it up next time,” and finally starting the conversation by saying, “I’m . . . so, I am . . . I’m . . . why am I nervous?”

It’s not even that I was scared to say it, but more like a disconnect between my brain and my mouth. Like trying to do a Double-Twisting Double Layout. “I know it’s possible for someone to do this, but I don’t know how to move my body in that way.”

It wasn’t always like that. In college, I was totally open about it. I’d casually slip it into conversations and feel confident that I’d be fine. The worst that could (and did) happen was that my friends would ask probing questions. I went to a meetup to get to know other people in the ace community one January, and honestly told my roommates where I was going.

But maybe it’s easier to say that you’re different in this one particular way when your city has a neighborhood called “The Gayborhood” and rainbows underline the street signs. Any city that inspires The Naked Bike Ride is bound to inspire you to be open about yourself.

Because the truth is, you come out all at once and then a hundred thousand more times. Suddenly this feeling about myself became a fact when I told my friend in a Barnes and Noble, and then I did it again with my roommate, with the friend I had coffee with, with the person asking me out who wouldn’t take no for an answer. “Me too,” they said. “Now would you want to go out with me?” I didn’t.

But somewhere along the way I got out of practice. I agreed when a friend at work questioned if I really thought our boss would be accepting if I said anything. I thanked a friend when she didn’t include me in a conversation about the queer community with people I didn’t know. It didn’t happen all at once – I didn’t even notice it – but at some point I realized a few years had gone by and I hadn’t told anyone. I hadn’t talked about it. All of the people I’d felt so free telling had slowly faded from my life and now the people I talked to every day had no idea.

And I wasn’t sure: was it just not coming up or was I burying it?

Maybe I was thinking that at some point everyone would notice, and there would be an unspoken understanding. I wasn’t dating when everyone else was, I wasn’t getting serious when everyone else was, and I definitely wasn’t getting married when it seemed like everyone on Facebook was.

And honestly, I (usually) never had a problem with that. Some people hate getting older without being married first, but I’ve always loved being on my own. So why not just say, “You know I don’t have a sex drive, right?”

There’s a fine line between privacy and shame, but I’m not exactly sure where it is.

Especially as we get older, when so many of the people we know are through professional circles, it can feel easier to file so many things under “privacy” in the name of professionalism. Our mental health, our addictions, our emotional messiness, our neediness, the embarrassing sides to our personalities. “If I don’t say this just quite right, am I saying too much?” And then without trying, you compartmentalize enough that it feels like you’re a cell that’s split into two (reproducing . . . asexually, if you will [I’ll see myself out]).

When I went to another meetup a few years later, I lied and said it was just young people who wanted to meet new friends. When I was driving with my sister over Thanksgiving weekend, she asked if I’d ever dated anyone and I said no but nothing else. I don’t know why.

In the same way as mental health and addiction, I know it’s no one’s business but my own, but I also know there’s a lot of distance between everyone knowing and no one knowing. There are a lot of choices to make between the two, and that struggle between privacy and shame inspired me to give up on choices altogether. To instead turn a fact about myself back into a feeling, to wait people out until they’d finally get the hint, to internalize the drive to be “just like other people” and the drive to prove that I don’t need to be “just like other people.”

And yet I never would’ve thought to call it shame if you had asked me about it. As a pretty with-it person (however not-with-it saying “with-it” may make me sound), I never thought I needed to provide any defense or explanation to anyone, much less myself. 

Just as I was writing this, spending more time thinking more about my place in the LGBTQ+ community than I probably have in the past ten years, a friend from college shared something on social media. Taken from a 2014 conversation with The New School, it was a quote from bell hooks, saying, “[Q]ueer not as being about who you’re having sex with – that can be a dimension of it – but queer as being about the self that is at odds with everything around it and has to invent and create and find a place to speak and to thrive and to live.”

It’s hard to build a life for yourself that doesn’t look all that familiar to anyone around you, and to honestly tell people that you’re happy and proud with how it’s turned out when they ask.

Happy Pride Month, I’m asexual.


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