The most common response I get when I explain to someone that I’m demisexual is that I’m just normal and looking for a special word for my sexuality. I’ll explain as painstakingly as I can that I don’t have sexual attraction unless a close bond forms, and that I don’t have it under any other circumstance, and that most of the time I don’t even have it then — and I’ll be met with “Oh, so you’re just waiting for the right person.” Then they’ll proceed to tell me that everyone does that while also talking about who they’re sexually attracted to, leaving me feeling unsure where to go with the conversation. Do I tell them that they don’t understand my orientation? Do I bring up that they might be demisexual too? Do I keep quiet?
In a way they’re right — after all, if my sexual attraction only forms under the circumstances of a close bond, and only towards that person, then my sexual attraction is waiting for the right person. But this doesn’t mean I’ve waited to have sex, or that I’m waiting until marriage to have it — I have had sex, and I don’t believe premarital sex is a sin. I’m ace, and my aceness is demisexuality and graysexuality, and in a world that’s saturated in sex, that can be hard to explain.
So — why come out as demisexual at all?
Realizing My Demisexuality
I first realized I was probably demisexual when I was about 24. I remember reading about it, taking quizzes, and talking to a lot of asexual and demisexual people about my sexual attraction and how I dated. How I’d tried in the past to have casual sex, but the attraction just wasn’t there, and it was just a neutral experience. How I had been sexually attracted to maybe six people in my life — but I still recognized when people were attractive — I just wasn’t attracted to them. How sexual attraction was eventually there in my more serious relationships, but not for a few months, at least, if at all. How my feelings towards having sex seemed to fluctuate and how often I’d had it just because it had been there and I thought “Well, I guess this is what we do now.” I came to learn that only having it under a specific circumstance actually had a name: demisexual.
I remember thinking “What, isn’t everyone like this?”
For most of my life I had been pretending; what if everyone else had too?
Learning Demisexuality Isn’t “How Everyone Is”
I want to first say I don’t think any one sexual orientation is “the default”. This idea is most often used to reinforce heteronormativity, which is particularly harmful to queer youth, as it can take years to unlearn the trauma of being told who you are doesn’t matter.
I think that demisexuality is probably a lot more common than we know now, and teaching others about it will help people discover themselves. But I learned talking to allosexuals— that is, people who are not ace — that feeling sexual attraction only under a specific circumstance was not a universal experience.
For a long time after I came out at 25, and then again at 26, and even this year at 27, I’ve asked my allo friends “Hey, so, what’s this like?”
Here’s what I learned:
- Allo people who wait for the right person are sexually attracted to people regardless of if they share a close bond with them. Finding someone physically attractive is enough.
- While allos aren’t sexually attracted to everyone they meet or find attractive, whether or not a close bond is present doesn’t matter.
- Allos understand things like being sexually attracted to models in perfume commercials or actors or people on tinder; I do not.
- While many aces may choose abstinence, choosing abstinence — or not choosing it — does not indicate one’s sexual orientation.
- Whether or not a person has casual sex often doesn’t indicate whether or not they’re ace — enjoying sex itself and having sexual attraction aren’t necessarily one in the same, and being allosexual doesn’t mean a person enjoys casual sex.
There’s more to it, but those were some of the major points. The biggest thing I learned was that the gray space between asexuality and allosexuality, where someone has a mostly asexual experience, does exist — and I exist in it. And I’m not the only one; far from it.
I didn’t come out for about a year after figuring this stuff out, and then I only came out on tumblr at first. It would be another year before I came out on instagram and then yet another year before I would start writing about it. Coming out is scary — especially when you’re a part of the LGBTQIA+ community that is barely acknowledged. What would people think? What would people say? Would anyone want to be with me if they knew sex might never be on the table?
Ever since coming out, though, and especially since writing and advocating for it, I’m so glad I did. I feel so much better about myself. I have a community of friends who understand what it’s like to feel like you don’t belong anywhere and only find it later on. I’ve even helped other people learn that they were demisexual, and I hope to keep doing so.
Coming did matter — and it still does.
When I came out as demisexual, I wasn’t saying “I’m like you but I want this special word to describe it.” I was saying “I’m like this, and this word describes me. Maybe you’re like that too. But I know I’m not allo, and I know that a word specifically describes what I am, and this is it.”
Demisexuality isn’t about saying that we’re somehow better, or that allos are bad and perverted, or that everyone should wait until marriage. It isn’t about saying that sex is bad, or good, or that being allo or ace is better or worse. It’s just about sexual attraction and finding a word that describes you — a word that feels good, like coming home. That’s the point of labels; they’re words that make you feel seen.
Being able to come out and say that and have it understood does matter. Everyone deserves that — including those of us who exist in the spaces in between. Every demisexual deserves to be able to say it out loud; all LGBTQIA+ people do. Being demisexual, and coming out as it, does matter.
And if you’re reading this and wondering if it would matter if you did come out — no matter your identity, you deserve to live authentically. Demisexuals included.
Elle Rose, also known online as secretladyspider, is a freelance writer and demisexuality advocate specializing in LGBTQIAP+ education and issues. She also creates YouTube videos about the intersection between pop culture and mental health. Help her advocate by becoming a patron today.