‘I’ve been engaged three times – before finally realising I was asexual’

Yes, it sounds hellishly confusing, I know, but sexuality is a spectrum after all, and I can only speak for myself, yet all of this might fall under the umbrella of “asexual”. Using the term either stops a conversation short, or becomes a chance to talk about it. If someone is curious I try to be open.

There was a sense of relief to having a name for myself, and on realising I’d never need to have sex again. I could stop trying to prove I was normal (or “normative” is the preferred word). Over the years I tried various kinds of therapy to understand myself better, which was of varying degrees of usefulness. I’ve also discovered I have ADHD. But I don’t believe that has anything to do with my asexuality.

I never set out to be an asexual or “ace” campaigner, but, at 48, I feel obliged to raise awareness. There was a US survey in 2019 which discovered 91 per cent of asexuals surveyed were between 18 and 27. It “vibes” with the young,  but that doesn’t mean it’s a passing phase – and I’m proof.  

In the 2021 census, only 0.6 per cent of people identified as asexual, but there is no official box on the form to tick; people would have to choose “other” and then self-describe, which I suspect many don’t bother to do. I am sure there are far more of us, those who perhaps don’t have the language but might be living in unhappy marriages not understanding why.

I’d like to think that my role in ace activism is to show the world that people like me exist, and, more importantly, have always existed, despite culture and society failing to ever acknowledge the concept. Even the biographer of Sir Edward Heath believes the late prime minister was asexual, for instance, because he avoided women and yet despite much digging on the writer’s part he could never find any man to come forward either. Perhaps if he’d known the phrase in the 1970s, Heath could have owned it. 

Today, I know this is what I am, and I’m very comfortable with that. Admittedly, I haven’t had a frank conversation with my own mother. I love her dearly, though; and I think she knows now not to buy that hat.

As told to Susanna Galton. For more information about asexuality, see the Aven website.

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