This is my submission for the December Carnival of Aces on the theme of change – somewhat late, but hey, I’m hosting it, so I’ve got the final word on what gets included anyway!
Sometimes, when I first started identifying as asexual, I asked myself how long it would last. Everything changes, right? Being ace felt like one of the most certain things in my life, and at the same time, I had doubts – like many, many other ace people do.
When I decided on change as the theme for this month’s Carnival of Aces, it was because I realised that I’d been identifying as ace for two years. Perhaps that’s not a long time in the scale of things, but it feels like an age. In spite of my doubts, I’m still as ace as I ever was. That hasn’t changed. And yet so many other things have.
When I first figured out I was asexual, I thought I was homoromantic, or maybe even demisexual. Not for any real reason other than that I’d previously identified as gay, and because maybe having a romantic orientation or being demi was a way of dealing with the ‘woah, does this mean I’ll never love anyone?’ question. It didn’t last too long though, and soon enough I settled comfortably into the aromantic asexual label, with a side of ‘I have no clue what this romance thing is anyway.’
It took me a moment to be perfectly happy in that place, and just a few months after I’d realised that relationships weren’t going to be a thing in the near future, I suddenly found myself in one. So much for that idea. Turns out, falling in love and getting into a relationship with someone didn’t actually change my identity as aromantic. I’m still happily there, with my committed platonic relationship and the most wonderful partner I could have hoped for. (I was, however, slightly surprised that my partner was male.)
Being in a relationship has led to a lot of little changes – new perspectives, new boundaries to negotiate, new things to learn. Two years ago, or even at the beginning of my relationship, I never would have thought that I’d have someone to cuddle with, that I’d figure out how bodies fitted together (not in a sexy way) and where your arms are meant to go. I notice little changes all the time. Things that I didn’t like before (like my partner touching my face) I now don’t mind at all. Some physical boundaries have changed, some of the more significant ones have stayed the same.
Being able to explore some of the more physical aspects of being in a relationship with someone (without the sex or much of the kissing) was something I was a bit wary of to start with because I didn’t know how it would affect my identity. Actually, being in a relationship full stop sometimes made me worry about my identity – in terms of potentially having to re-write it yet again. I’ve been through quite a lot of identity changes in my life so far, from the default-setting straight, to lesbian from about fourteen onwards, and eventually to maybe-straight-after-all, and actually-something-is-seriously-wrong-with-me. Being ace has felt more right and more certain than any of those other identities ever have, but I sometimes still wonder whether I’ll just turn out to be another normal, sexual person like everyone else instead of some special snowflake. (Obviously, normal and special snowflake are silly terms to use here, but you get the picture.)
Doubt figures largely in asexual narratives, as I’ve written before, and as a whole Carnival of Aces theme has shown. Because we, as aces, often define ourselves based on something we have no experience of, many of us sometimes feel that we can never really know what will happen in the future. It’s a scary thought, the idea that we could wake up one day, suddenly know what everyone else is talking about, and suddenly not be asexual, or aromantic, or whatever we thought we were anymore. Everything changes, right? It’s not just our own personal feelings and identities that we have to worry about though. What if the people we were out to as ace suddenly say ‘ha! I knew you were a sexual person too,’ as if they’ve been right all along? What if we’re accused of just having gone though some phase on our path to normalcy? (Again, not my use of the word normal.) Everything changes, right?
Over the past two years, I’ve come to realise that yes, things do change in ways that you don’t expect. But for me, none of those changes – being in a relationship, in love, trying out new ways of being close to someone – have changed the thing that actually matters to me. I’m still as asexual as I ever was, and in a way, it’s even clearer to me now. I’ve changed, but I’m still the same person, happily ace and happily sharing that fact with the world. And although I never really expected that to change, it still seems pretty damn amazing sometimes.