In my book, I don’t talk much about intimate relationships, outside of my first one. And people often assume that I am straight, because that’s the conclusion I came to at 12 years old when I asked myself “If my dad was gay, then was I too?” But as most things in life, there’s much more to the story and you won’t find all of it in my book.
After my first relationship ended, I fell in love with a girl, I’ll call her ‘A’. Until that point, I had identified as straight so it confused me. At the time I thought I might be bi but I wasn’t sure. I called my dads and asked, “Did your gaydar ever go off with me?” They told me it hadn’t. I knew this didn’t mean that I wasn’t bi but my uncertainty continued. I didn’t feel like I could explore with A. She was in a serious relationship and happy; it didn’t seem fair to dump my feelings and questionable bi-ness on her.
My lesbian friends took me out to the bars in hopes of setting me up with a cute girl so I could figure things out, but the idea of a one-night stand seemed awkward and uncomfortable. I realized through these outings that I wasn’t sexually attracted to other girls and this confused me even more.
After college I didn’t really worry about my sexuality. One nice thing about growing up in an open family like mine-I never felt the need to label myself as one thing or another. When I was traveling from place to place I never felt the desire to be in a relationship. I knew I would only be in those places short term and I didn’t want anyone to hold me back from whatever came next. I dated occasionally but I never really clicked with anyone; it always felt like I was trying to force a connection.
But after A, I wondered about my sexual identity from time to time. While I’ve never been bothered by my lack of relationships, I’ve been aware for many years now that somehow, I’m different. But I never had the language or self-understanding to explain how. In my mid-20s I started to think that I may be asexual. I researched it but that didn’t quite feel right to me either. I knew I was capable of sexual attraction, even if it was rare.
I continued to live my life, not really understanding myself but no longer searching for answers. Then, after writing and editing most of my book, something happened. I saw the word demisexual for the first time. Out of sheer curiosity I looked it up online and as soon as I began reading, I started to cry. Suddenly, all of the pieces of my sexuality fell into place. Finally, after 12 years of not understanding myself I knew, this was me.
In case you’re unfamiliar, demisexuality is on the asexual spectrum. There are two forms of sexual attraction: primary which is based on physical characteristics and secondary which is based on personal connection. Demisexuals don’t feel primary sexual attraction. They can, however, experience secondary sexual attraction, meaning they are able to feel sexual attraction only after forming a strong emotional connection.
Suddenly so many things in my life made sense:
- Why dating seems so superficial and pressure filled
- My lack of sexual attraction for so many years
- My difficulty figuring out who I’m attracted to
- Why I’ve never been able to give a physical description of what I look for in a person
- When I meet someone that intrigues me why I want to ‘get to know them better’ instead of date them
I read everything I could find – it didn’t take long; there are very few resources for demisexuals. I found some online groups, which I joined to find and learn more from this community.
I came out to my parents and sister immediately. Fortunately, I didn’t have to worry about what they’d say. They already knew about A and while I’m sure they were curious over the years, they never pressured me about my sexuality.
Demisexuality was a new term for them too. They also took the time to research so they could better understand my coming out. My dads told me how similar my story was to theirs in some ways. And that sometimes we need time to figure ourselves out: sometimes we know we’re different without really understanding how.
It took me a little while longer to figure out the rest of my sexuality. But eventually I realized that I’d struggled so long to figure out the ‘who’ because I didn’t understand the ‘how’ of my attraction. Once I understood I was demisexual, it didn’t take me long to realize I’m also pan. In addition, I came to understand that I don’t frequently experience romantic attraction. While I don’t often use the label, I consider myself grey-romantic as well.
*I use the term pan because I personally feel this describes me the best. However, I’m comfortable under the Bi or Bi+ umbrella as well. I tell people that Bi doesn’t feel wrong; Pan just feels more right.
Why come out publicly now?
The short answer is, it feels right. After being in the closet with my family for so many years, I refuse to live that way myself. I’ve already told most of my close friends and relatives. There were a few people, like my Grandma Izzy, that I wanted to tell in person. Over the last year as I’ve gotten more involved in public speaking, I’ve often talked openly about my own sexual orientation. This also gives me the opportunity to address other questions about queerspawn identity that are specific to 2nd Gen (a person with at least one LGBTQ+ parent or guardian who also identifies as LGBTQ+ themselves).
I also want to write about demisexuality, to educate those who are unfamiliar. I want to live life as a pansexual and be with whoever I may eventually develop feelings for. But most of all, I want to set an example by helping to create the change I want to see in the world. At TEDxBoise, I ended my talk by stating, “I hope one day we live in a world where we can all be honest-with ourselves, with our loved ones, and be able to live life authentically.” I choose to live in that world today.
As always, feel free to post any questions you may have in the comments. I’m happy to answer them.
*This blog post is specific to my individual experience. Asexuality is a spectrum and this piece isn’t meant to represent or speak for all demisexuals.