Rachael, 23, shares her journey to identifying as aroace (asexual and aromantic). She explains what this means and how it has impacted her mental health.
Be yourself, and you will flourish.
Recently I’ve been on a journey of exploring my sexuality. I've now settled on the label of aroace (asexual and aromantic). Before I go into my journey to arrive at this label, let me explain what it means.
What is asexuality?
An asexual is someone who doesn't experience sexual attraction or want a sexual relationship.
An aromantic person is someone who doesn't experience romantic attraction or want a romantic relationship. (I found this harder to understand, but in practice it means I don’t experience crushes or have romantic feelings for people.)
Both of these are a spectrum (which include other identities, such as grey and demi), and someone can be one without the other. For example, someone can be asexual but homoromantic, meaning they lack sexual attraction but are romantically attracted to people of the same gender.
An asexual is someone who doesn't experience sexual attraction or want a sexual relationship. An aromantic person is someone who doesn't experience romantic attraction or want a romantic relationship.
My journey to get here
I've always known I was different when it came to sexuality. I remember talking with other girls at school, discussing who we thought was good looking. I struggled to answer as I genuinely didn't have an opinion either way. Later in life when I was doing psychology at school we had a whole unit on relationships, which started with a big section on romantic relationships. I really didn't understand why people would have the views they did about sexual attraction, but assumed I was just late growing up, and would understand one day and feel the same way.
I'm the sort of person who likes labels as it helps me better understand who I am, and as I grew up I learnt more about different sexualities. I loosely applied the label of bisexual to myself privately, as I felt the same about men and women, so assumed that was the label that best suited me, even though it didn't ever feel quite right.
I'm not sure where I first heard the term asexual, but I began to think about the fact that it might describe me quite well. It was just in passing though, nothing too serious. Then one day I came across an asexual community online and, after hearing about other people’s experiences, began to really feel that the aroace label described me. I dabbled in both the asexual and aromantic communities, which were really helpful when I needed them. I haven't stayed as I feel comfortable just being myself and don't feel the need for a community, but I know lots of people find communities helpful, and everyone there was really supportive.
One day I came across an asexual community online and, after hearing about other people’s experiences, began to really feel that the aroace label described me.
My asexuality and my mental health
As much as I felt it was right, the whole thing was still very confusing. Different definitions, different personal experiences, and the fact that the whole thing was a spectrum cast some doubt. So I reached out to an adult I trusted, and we talked it through. She also gave me some links to websites that gave more details, and answered the questions I had. Once I'd had a chance to think everything through we talked again about how I was feeling. After a couple of weeks, I was certain of my identity.
It was a bittersweet find though. All my life I'd been told that one day I'd get married and have children, and while I had never been completely on board with the idea, it had still seemed like one day that was something that was going to happen. It was strange to think that I may never have a romantic partner, or get married, or have the family I'd always imagined I would have. I wasn't really sad about it, but it did take a few days for me to come to terms with the fact that my life wasn't going to be what I'd always thought it would be.
However, once over that, I soon realised the positives. Finding a partner had always seemed like such a scary task, seeing as I was never attracted to anyone. So to realise that actually I didn't have to find a partner was quite a relief. I was also able to start planning my future without the "what ifs" that a partner would bring. I am able to decide what I want to do in life, and as long as I am happy with it, I will be able to do it. I only need to plan for me, and it feels so much simpler.
It was strange to think that I may never have a romantic partner, or get married, or have the family I'd always imagined I would have.
That doesn't mean, however, that I am alone. Aro and ace people are all capable of love. I've started a family, and plan to add another member as soon as I am able. Of course, they are dogs, but I have now realised that actually, that is the perfect family for me, and I don't need a romantic partner to make my life complete. As long as you have the love in your life that you need, that's all that matters.
I am now very comfortable with the label of aroace. I do know, however, that if another label comes along that describes me better, then I am able to change it. Labels are helpful tools we use to describe ourselves; they aren't set in stone. But at the same time, if the label of aroace suits me, then I am welcome to it.
Not wanting a sexual or a romantic relationship is completely normal and acceptable, and if that describes how you feel then I hope you will be able to embrace it the same way I have. Be yourself, and you will flourish. And if you’re struggling with your sexuality or mental health, speak to someone you trust.
Not wanting a sexual or a romantic relationship is completely normal and acceptable, and if that describes how you feel then I hope you will be able to embrace it the same way I have.
If you would like to find out more about asexuality and the different ways that people within the asexual community identify, read this article by The Trevor Project.
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