You Need Help: How to Best Be There for Your Newly Out Asexual Friend

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Welcome to You Need Help! Where you’ve got a problem and yo, we solve it. Or we at least try.


Q:

A friend of mine just came out to me (and to herself) as asexual and I really want to help her find resources and support online so that she can feel like she’s part of a community. Do you know of any good articles and blogs for baby aces that I could send her way?

A:

Hello person who sounds like a good and supportive friend! Even with all of this raised awareness for some of the letters in LGBTQ+, there’s still a lot of people who don’t know very much about asexual people, so I’d bet that you’re far from alone in wondering this.

First off, I’m going to give some general advice. I think that by looking for resources and wanting to help your friend with this exciting new part of her life you’re already doing something good to help her. I know when I came out as trans and a lesbian, I mostly wanted to know that the people I love still loved me and still wanted to be my friend. I also wanted to know that, although they would embrace my newly open identities, they wouldn’t treat me like a stranger or weirdo. So I think those are important things here. It’s good that you’re here looking for help for your friend, but I also think it’s important to make sure that your friend doesn’t feel like you’re only seeing her as your “asexual friend” now that she’s come out.

Now, I’m not exactly an expert on being asexual, I’m not asexual and I don’t have a ton of knowledge about asexuality (although I do suppose I have more than a lot of people). What I do have is a brother, Pete, who is asexual! More than that, I have a brother who is asexual and was happy to talk to me about their experiences coming out as asexual and finding the very same resources and community that your friend is looking for! So in order to answer your question, I posed a bunch of questions to them and put the answers right here for you to read.

Mey: Hi Pete! First of all, how would you describe our relationship?

Pete: Gosh, ha ha, well, you’re my older sister and I’d probably say you’ve been one of my best friends for probably most of my life. You can be kinda high maintenance but you’re cool and I look up to you, and I usually feel like I can talk to you about stuff.

Pete and I on Halloween a few years ago

Pete and I on Halloween a few years ago, they’re a Pokemon and I’m a witch (obviously).

M: Ha! I am pretty high maintenance. How would you describe your gender/sexual identity?

P: I’m a non-binary queer ace. I don’t know if I really have a gender? Sometimes I say my gender is “werewolf,” ha ha! I only experience sexual attraction very rarely and to be honest I’m not really sure if I know what it is. I don’t think I really have a preference when it comes to the gender of my partners and I’m currently in a long-term relationship with my great girlfriend, Ceci.

M: So, can you tell me more about your ace identity and what it means to you?

P: Yeah! I identify as ace or ace-spectrum. That means that I don’t (or only very rarely) feel sexual attraction to people. I used to call myself demisexual (only feeling sexual attraction to a person after I’ve formed a strong bond with them) but the more I’ve thought about it the less sure I am that I’ve ever felt sexual attraction or that I even really know what it is. I might still be demi but at least for now just calling myself asexual is easier. It’s just a nice simple way to express that how our society and non-ace people talk about sexual attraction doesn’t really make sense to me.

M: How did you feel about being ace-spectrum before you found out about ace identity and how did you feel after?

P: Before I found out about asexuality I definitely felt like… outside of a lot of stuff. I’d pretend I had crushes on celebrities so that when my friends were talking about which actors or actresses were hot I wouldn’t seem weird or different. My classmates and the people around me would talk about their relationships or who they wanted to date and I just… didn’t get it. I always felt like I’d just be interested in that stuff later. I felt like I was different and kind of missing out on stuff that everyone around me was going through.

After learning about the ace spectrum, though, it sort of just made sense. Like there were other people like me and it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing and that felt good. There were other people I could talk to who felt the same ways I did and it was a big “ah ha” moment for me.

M: I’m writing a “You Need Help” for someone who wants to be there for their friend who just came out as asexual. What do you want people to do when you
come out as ace to them?

P: When I tell people I’m asexual, mostly I just want them to understand? I feel like my aceness sort of explains a lot about me. When I tell someone I want them to be like “okay, yeah, that makes sense,” and be cool with it. And I like it when people ask me questions about it so they can understand better. I mean, I can get pretty anxious if I’m put on the spot or something but if people ask nicely or one-on-one I’m usually more than happy to help explain.

What I don’t really want is for them to say something like “oh you just haven’t met the right person,” or “have you tried it?” Like, some people seem to think those are innocuous things to say but really they kind of boil down to “I know you better than you know yourself, and you’re wrong about your own feelings and experiences.” Fortunately I haven’t gotten too much of those, though, people have mostly been great to me.

M: What resources would you suggest for a person who just came out as ace?

P: When I was first learning about asexuality, I did a lot of reading on the AVEN wiki. I can’t really recommend the AVEN forums because they’ve had a lot of problems (like racism) but I remember the wiki being helpful to me. There’s also some good tumblrs, if you can parse through, like, The Discourse and oversimplifications. [Ed. Note: Here, “The Discourse” refers to discussions, sometimes overly verbose or hyperbolic, about a topic, usually revolving around theory or deep concepts related to oppression or “social justice” issues.]  Metapianycist has a great tumblr and swankivy, who also has a nice archive of YouTube videos on asexuality has a pretty great tumblr as well. She also had a book about asexuality published not too long ago called The Invisible Orientation and what I’ve read of it is great. I know she talked to a lot of ace spectrum people (including myself) about all the topics in the book, in addition to drawing from her own experiences as an asexual person. There’s also the (A)Sexual documentary which, last I checked, is on Netflix, and while it’s a little dated now and it’s not perfect, it has decent 101 ace stuff if you want to have discussions afterwards. Just remember when you’re looking up resources that a lot of things asexual people are put through by society overlap a lot with racism and homophobia, etc., and things written by white aces, or heteroromantic aces, might not acknowledge important things to remember about those issues.

If you’re unfamiliar with the term heteroromantic, it comes from the fact that some asexual (and some other) people separate their attraction into sexual attraction and romantic attraction, and therefore they can identify as asexual (meaning they experience no sexual attraction) and homoromantic (meaning they experience romantic attraction to people of the same gender) as well as aromantic, heteroromantic, biromantic or panromantic. So, for example, a heteroromantic ace man would experience no sexual attraction, but experience romantic attraction to women.

Here's Pete wearing an asexual pun shirt that says "Man delights not me no, NOR woman neither," which is both a line from Hamlet and a joke because NOR stands for Non-Oriented Ram, which I guess is a scientific classification for asexual rams. It's also the colors of the Asexual Flag. Jeez, that's a lot of layers

Here’s Pete wearing an asexual pun shirt that says “Man delights not me no, NOR woman neither,” which is both a line from Hamlet and a joke because NOR stands for Non-Oriented Ram, which I guess is a scientific classification for asexual rams. It’s also the colors of the Asexual Flag. Jeez, that’s a lot of asexual layers.

M: What about some resources for someone who’s friend just came out as ace?

P: All of the resources I listed should be great for someone whose friend just came out as ace as well. I do want to say that the Internet is probably your friend and you can find a lot of people talking about asexuality on livejournal and tumblr. It’s also good to remember that everyone is different and there isn’t one Unified Asexual Monolith, so your friend’s experiences are probably unique in a lot of ways, so politely ask them if you have questions. It’s not their job to educate you but if they’ve come out to you they probably trust you a lot and want you to understand them, so if you ask politely you might get some good answers.

M: What are some places where you think ace people, especially newly out ace people, can find support?

P: I feel like I’m sounding like a broken record but I’ve found a lot of support on tumblr. I’ve made a lot of really good ace friends there and for the most part it’s been really great for me. There’s been a lot of asexual spectrum people on tumblr as long as I’ve been on there using various tags (asexuality, demisexual, etc). I’ve also found support from local QSAs or other similar groups, but it varies from group to group. You can also send me a private message me here on autostraddle social.

M: Lastly, what’s your favorite thing about being ace?

P: My favorite thing is probably that generally it’s like, if using the Asexual label is comfortable, or good, or helpful for you, you’re welcome to it. Even if you realize later that you’re not ace anymore, or never were, you can use it while you’re figuring things out. A lot of the people I’ve met through ace communities have been really welcoming and it’s just been great. Like, it’s pretty easy to find people who will talk to you about asexuality if you’re questioning whether you’re ace or not. It’s also super great to be able to read stuff from other people who’ve experienced the same kind of stuff that you have, when you’d thought they were experiences that made you different and weirder than everyone around you.

There you have it! Doesn’t Pete have a bunch of great advice? I hope this has made asexuality a lot less intimidating to both you and your friend. I also found this cool video from our friends at First Person that talks some more about asexuality, maybe you could watch this or share it with your friend or even watch it together (as long as she doesn’t think that’s weird).


Send your questions to youneedhelp [at] autostraddle [dot] com or submit a question via the ASK link on autostraddle.tumblr.com. Please keep your questions to around, at most, 100 words. Due to the high volume of questions and feelings, not every question or feeling will be answered or published on Autostraddle. We hope you know that we love you regardless.


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Mey Valdivia Rude is a bisexual Latina trans woman living in Los Angeles. She's a writer, comic consultant and a trans activist. She's a bruja, a femme, a pop princess and she loves comic books, witches, dinosaurs and crying. She has a cat named Sawyer and a very successful twitter.

Mey has written 514 articles for us.

47 Comments

  1. Yes!!! When I saw the title I was like “I gotta recommend tumblr!” but you already got that covered. I’ve found that a lot of the discourse on sites like Aven is homophobic an alienating to me as an ace lesbian. There are so many ace lbpq women on tumblr though! It’s great.

  2. Aaaah, yay! Autostraddle covering asexuality! Also hey that’s me in that video! I have kind of been holding my breath to see if AS would post my First Person episode because I am an avid Autostraddle reader and also ace (…obviously…) and also not a girl, and I was worried that maybe you would think that I and those like me are not the AS audience. But wow here this is and here we are!

    This interview was great. Thank you for this interview. Also Mey is great. Hi Mey. <3

  3. This is amazing! Exactly the article I wish I had read, oh, a couple of years ago when I was still working my way towards figuring out my ace identity. I’ve been hanging around Autostraddle for the last 4 or 5 years, since I was a wee confused nineteen-year-old trying to figure out this whole not-straight thing. It’s nice to feel like I still fit in here somewhere, even as a nonbinary ???romantic??? ace-spectrum person.

    I think Pete and I have a lot in common in our experiences of aceness & finding community. I definitely second a lot of their recommendations! For people who are looking to move past 101-type stuff, I would also recommend checking out The Asexual Agenda (asexualagenda.wordpress.com).

    Thank you to Mey and Pete for sharing this great conversation. Articles like this make it easier for aces to recognize ourselves and connect with each other, which is so, so important, especially when most people still don’t know much about asexuality (if anything).

  4. Thank you Pete and Mey – you two make such a great sibling pair! 😀

    I’m really happy that the asexual community is starting to get more recognition in the queer community. I identified as asexual before I identified as lesbian, and still do to a degree. As a teen, I knew I felt no sexual attraction to men, but being attracted to other women wasn’t an option in my ultra-conservative peer group. As I matured and moved on, I began to recognize and admit that, yes, I did feel attraction toward other women and could only envision myself being intimate with another woman. But for me, physical “intimacy” wouldn’t need to involve sex (though, I wouldn’t be against it either – it just wouldn’t be necessary in a relationship). So what does that make me? A grey-asexual homoromantic? I’m still newly out and have never been in a relationship, so I really think it’s an identity that’s still growing and maturing for me. For now, I’m just happy that there’s a space in the queer community for identities that aren’t always clearly defined.

    • @eunoia !!! I had the same exact experience before I identified as lesbian. I strongly thought of myself as asexual, knowing in my soul that I could never be intimate with a man. (I also always said “I don’t wanna get married”, because I imagined that marriage was only a man/woman thing.) The signs should’ve been obvious, haha. Once I finally thought of women as an option, and got my first straight girl crush, there was no going back.

      Now I realize I am not asexual at all, but I do have a solid understanding of it. People who don’t “believe in” or shame asexuality just don’t make sense to me… It should be pretty easy to understand?
      Anyways I am happy AS is inclusive as always!

  5. Thanks Mey, Pete, and Kara! I just skimmed the article as there’s only so much time tonight between mowing and needing a shower, but I wanted to comment as things seem to move on so quickly. When I first heard about asexuality 12 or 13 years ago it was on AVEN, which at the time was a very helpful resource. I had taken a class on sexualities in college as part of my women’s studies degree and not heard about asexuality. Then in graduate school I remember reading the MS boards until they closed, then looking around for other boards on which to lurk and finding AVEN. It just made so much sense.

    I had been happily single and at times struggled to explain. I remember walking around the city wondering if something was wrong with me, if I needed therapy, and ultimately deciding it wasn’t me that was wrong, it was societal expectations. Then finding out about asexuality and it made so much sense.

    Eight years, or so later, I got a crush on a woman and was like wait. Strangely it made me feel so normal, to like like someone. Around the same time my spirituality also shifted from aspiritual, if you will, to a somewhat spiritual humanism. Then I found my wife on OKCupid. We’ve been together for a little over 3 years.

    So the moral of my ramblings is yay for raising awareness of asexuality as a valid option!

  6. Thank you Pete and Mey for sharing and writing this! I’ve somewhat recently came to terms with my aceness, and i’m still in the questioning stage. It’s very nice to see it discussed. I came to terms with it by seeing a lot about it on tumblr, and I avoided thinking about what it meant in relation to me for a long time. Thanks for posting this and spreading awareness!

  7. I’ve been struggling to find a way to get my parents to understand my asexuality. I shared this article on my facebook and it has already opened up a really great dialogue with my mom. Autostraddle was so helpful when I was coming as gay so it’s great to see some content dedicated to asexuality as I continue navigating that aspect of my identity. Thanks for posting!

  8. Thank you, Pete, for being comfortable with people coming out as ace and then later finding an identity that fits a bit better. I’ve felt a bit like I’m betraying/hurting an already marginalized community since I came out as asexual about two days after I first encountered the term, because it was the first time I’d found an identity that felt at all accurate, and then a year later came out as bi and then lesbian. I’ve been so worried that my experiences will be interpreted by non ace and non bi people as proof that those orientations are just phases, so it’s nice to hear that actual ace people don’t mind people using the label for as long as it’s accurate.
    I’m also really excited to see non-binary voices on autostraddle! The website has done a great job of dealing with the range of gender identities and presentations that fall under the umbrella of “women,” which is rare and validating by itself, but gender is even more varied than that and it’s great to see feminism starting to embrace even more of the spectrum. Also, I’ve got several non-binary friends, and this is pretty much the only place besides tumblr that even acknowledges people like them exist, so thank you.

  9. Thank you for this great interview, Mey and Pete : )

    I identified as ace-spectrum for a while, and it was so nice to have language to describe my puzzling experiences, and to feel less alone in them by reading about the experiences of others.

    For people (especially those who are not ace) who want a 101 introduction to the topic, I really like this article s.e. smith (who identifies as asexual) wrote for Tiger Beatdown a number of years ago, cheekily called “Life Among the One Percent”: http://tigerbeatdown.com/2011/04/13/life-among-the-one-percent/

    As for online community options, I spent most of my ace-identifying time on /r/asexuality (https://www.reddit.com/r/asexuality/) and /r/Asexual (https://www.reddit.com/r/Asexual/) on reddit, which I recommend checking out, regardless of whether you are a reddit user already or not.

    As well, I’ve never used it, but I know at least one homoromantic ace friend who met her girlfriend via the ace social networking site, Acebook (get it?), so that might be worth checking out too 🙂 Here’s a link: http://www.ace-book.net

    Good luck everyone, and enjoy the cake!

    • I’m sorry! It just didn’t come up during the interview. As an ace I’ll try to make sure I bring up aromanticism more in the future! Do you have some good resources for people wanting to learn more about aromanticism? I’m not the most educated myself

  10. I know people think that people who don’t want to include asexuality in lgbt are mean gays but, I mean, come on… Pete clearly passes as a white man in a long term heteronormative relationship. Maybe he only experiences sexual attraction sometimes but as a gay woman we have zero in common when it comes to the oppression we face and the experiences we have.

    • first of all, pete uses they/their pronouns, second of all, they don’t claim at all to face the same oppression as gay women. That’s not what this article or interview was trying to do. I think we both know that there are asexual women, some of whom are attracted to other women, who very much do share a lot of your experiences and oppression, and this comment makes it seem like you don’t think they deserve to see content that talks about another part of their lives on autostraddle. Finally, I don’t really appreciate you judging what kind of experiences you think my brother has without knowing them.

    • i think that this question was a queer woman asking for advice on supporting her asexual friend, and so this is a post by a lesbian talking to her asexual friend (who also happens to be her brother!) about how she has supported them. if we were to address the asexual experience here in a first-person capacity, it would obviously be something written by an asexual woman who is attracted to other women.

    • This is so unnecessary. I didn’t hear Pete request to be part of the community. They are simply supporting their sister in answering a question for someone who is. Don’t be an ass.

      Also, as far as I am concerned, Pete is more than welcome. You on the other hand…

    • That’s one seriously slippery slope you’re on. Should bisexual people in long term relationships with a person of another gender be excluded as well? How about straight trans people who pass as cis? And if it’s all about how much oppression we face, shouldn’t it just be T(WOC) instead of LGBT?

      And besides, this article was not about what we have in common at all. It was about asexual people specifically. Why are you trying to make it about you?

  11. WHOA FIRST ACE ARTICLE ON AS!!! I have been waiting for this forever, and I kind of honestly just thought it would never come haha. So thank you for writing this Mey, and for writing it through an interview with your ace brother! <3

    I've been identifying as queer/gay ace for some time now, and it is definitely a community that welcomes all kinds of ace spectrum people, regardless of your background or specifics. And since I came out as ace, I've discovered that two out of my three best friends are also ace!!! It has been crazy and amazing.

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