When I was a teen, growing up in a small town in 1980s Mississippi, there were only 2 options as far as I knew: Either you were gay or your were straight. Because I was exceedingly liberal for the time and place (though probably less liberal than I am now) and because I wanted desperately to leave Mississippi, I spent a lot of time learning as much as I could about the outside world. I spent hours at the library my high school shared with the local university reading the Village Voice and dreaming of going in New York City. Because of this, and because I was a huge fan of Erasure, I figured out that there was nothing wrong with being gay. Which was good, because I knew I wasn’t straight. I couldn’t be: I liked looking at pretty guys too much, and I got crushes on my male friends.
On the other hand, I also knew that I liked looking at pretty girls too, and I regularly developed crushes on my female friends. So I lay awake at night, my thoughts spinning in my head “I like boys, so I can’t be straight. But I like girls, so I can’t be gay. But I like boys…” Repeat ad nauseum.
Fast forward to the early 90s. I was going to college in New Orleans. This exposed me to much more of the world than I would have seen had I remained in Mississippi. But it didn’t bring me any closer to figuring things out until my second semester, when there was a rash of people in the dorm coming out as bisexual. Aha! A lightbulb went on in my head. THIS must be what I was. I could like both boys and girls! But something still didn’t feel right. Though I made out with people and liked it, I passed up chances to have sex with people of both genders. Finally one of my female friends basically harassed me into sleeping with her (at the time I didn’t recognize date rape for what it was – the early 90s were a much less aware time, at least for me). And when I met the woman who later became my wife, she was the one who made the first move sexually, as well as the second and third moves and most of the others.
Fast forward again, last 2015. My wife and I are still together and have had 2 kids. But no one looking at our sex life would ever mistake it for a “normal” sex life (to the extent that there is such a thing). But I still feel that something’s not right. I’m not unhappy, but at the same time, my main feeling about sex is a resounding “meh.” I research various fetishes and relationship styles on the internet, but nothing really feels right – some seem like they might be a lot of fun, but the whole idea just collapses for me once genitals get involved. When I watch a TV show about pickup artists, and besides being repulsed at all the dishonesty involved, my thought is “That seems like an awful lot of work for sex.”
Then one day I stumbled on a page about the difference between romantic orientation and sexual orientation. And then I learn about asexuality. And finally, after all this time, I figured it out. I’m panromantic and asexual. All of a sudden so many things from my past made sense. SO MANY THINGS! And while I’m very glad that I understand it now, I’m also rather frustrated at the time lost because I didn’t have this knowledge years and years before. I could have been spared so much mental anguish and so many sleepless nights if I had known.
Which brings us to why I think awareness is important: Because kids aren’t going to be straight just because they don’t know about the alternatives. They’ll still be whatever they are; they’ll just feel confused and agitated and WRONG because they don’t fit in to the alternatives that they’ve been told about.