You see, asexual erasure is something that you don't notice, but the lack of openly asexual people, both in real life and in media really does start to play with your head. You don't even notice the feelings of isolation, not until you discover openly asexual people or find them explicitly stated in media (I was surprised by how deeply having it explicitly stated in a book (Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire)). Then, for a little while, you feel less freakish. Then, you finishing watching the show, leave the convention, finish the book. And life returns to "normal." A life where asexuals might as well not exist. And the feelings of isolation begin to creep in again.
So it really did help to have that panel, on multiple levels.
The need for openness and representation was also behind my 'coming out,' as it were. Growing up feeling so isolated and freakish motivated me to be public about it. I want to be there for others who were like me. I want them to see someone like themselves, so they won't feel so awful about something as simple as their sexuality.
Coming out seems like such a stupid thing to say when it comes to asexuality. It still feels weird to be considered queer, since, particularly in my case, I'm hetero-romantic. However, as pointed out during the panel, a lot of asexual experiences match the experiences other queer folk, including the feeling that we're just not queer enough.
The fact that our experiences are seemingly universal really did surprise me. You wouldn't think that coming out as asexual would be a big deal to anyone other than asexuals hungry for representation, but I have received a surprising amount of push back, from surprising, and often hurtful, corners of my personal life.
One of the other shared experiences is that of having to continually 'come out,' as it were.
And it's not just having to come out to every new friend you make, which is annoying but understandable. I mean, they're new to you and your life. They're not just going to magically know about you, and it's not like asexuality has any major tells so that they'd be able to guess on their own. I don't mind doing that so much.
I do, however, mind having to come out repeatedly to the same people over and over and over and over again. Yes, that's a thing. That I have had to constantly do, particularly the first time I totally owned my sexual identity publicly. It suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucks, guys.
There are a fair number of reasons why this is the case. Part of it is that I write stories with characters who are, largely, not asexual. In fact, the only character I've written to be asexual is a side character in Daughters of Britain. Portia is, I've recently realised, most definitely asexual. Apart from her, though, most everyone I've written are sexual... sort of. I'd argue that Seraphimé from The Seraphimé Saga is on the asexual spectrum. I think she's demi, like myself. But you wouldn't really know unless I've said, because she does engage in sexual behaviours, and does find herself attracted to the animalistic god of death.
For the most part, though, my characters are all sexual beings. This is especially the case in Human, because, well, vampires. So, yeah. My writing doesn't actually reflect my asexuality in any real way.
I suppose the fact that people believe the sexuality of my characters despite my limited experience in the world of physical attraction is a good thing. It means I got a lot of things right. Yay! It does mean I get a lot of "Are you sure you're..." questions, though. And that gets tiresome.
Another major contribution to the constantly having to come out to people who should know by now, is the fact that asexuality is so underrepresented, dare I say erased, that people just don't understand what it's actually about. There are a whole lot of misconceptions about what asexuality is and people, generally speaking, couldn't be bothered to do the research to clear up their understanding. Even when someone in their life comes out as asexual.
Asexuality is not sex-repulsion. I mean, there certainly are sex-repulsed asexuals out there. I've met one. But not all asexuals are sex-repulsed. Many of us can, will, and do engage in sexual activities. Those of us who don't thusly engage, and aren't sex-repulsed can even be sex positive. I am. Obviously.
Asexuality is not celibacy. Celibacy is a choice. Asexuality is not. A celibate may feel sexual attraction, but for a variety of reasons, distance themselves from the activity and the pursuit of the activity. Sometimes, as in the case of monks, it is in pursuit of a religious ideal (because sex is... dirty...? Or something). Sometimes, as in the case of the BBC's modern adaptation Sherlock, it's because the character/person believes that doing so will interfere with a goal or objective. Think of it like this: did you choose to be attracted to the people you're attracted to? No? Well, asexuals did not choose to be attracted to no one (or very, very few, depending on where on the spectrum they fall).
Asexuality is not an inability to love. Sexual and romantic attractions are very different. I know that for most people, the sexual folk, the two are one and the same. That is not the case for asexuals. It is possible to be romantically attracted to a person even if you're not sexually. I know that this is almost impossible for sexual folk to understand, because for them they're one and the same. But they're not. This becomes apparent when you think of it this way: is there someone you've met or seen that you'd happily take to bed for a night, but just cannot fathom spending any length of time with outside of sexy fun times? Congratulations, that is the difference between sexual and romantic attractions. A romantic bond exists outside of sex, even if sex is the most usual way to express that bond.
Asexuality is not a result of some kind of physical or mental deficiency or trauma. It is a perfectly normal sexuality, even if it is not common. It is not caused by hormonal deficiency and won't be cured with supplements or injections. It isn't because someone had a traumatic experience in their life and now associates anything sexual with that trauma.
All asexuality is simply the lack of sexual attraction.
That's it. That's all it is.
But because people don't know that, many consider asexuality as something that requires fixing. They can't imagine that a person could be asexual and perfectly happy. And so there is a continual need to come out and justify one's sexuality. It gets tiresome. So fucking tiresome.
I cannot wait for the day when that's no longer a thing I have to do. I can't wait until the response to "I'm asexual" is little more than a shrug and an "okay." No more "Are you sure?" No more "Maybe it's [insert dubious medical rationalisation]." No more "Oh, you just haven't had a good experience." No more questioning. No more undermining. No more erasing my identity because they can't be bothered to do the mental labour necessary to understand something outside of their own experience.
No more having to come out over and over and over again to the same damned people.
Maybe, if we keep adding our voices, experiences and if people actually seek to educate themselves about it, one day this need continually come out will cease.