Before anything else, we want to make something clear: sexuality is not a choice; it is part of an identity — the same way the colour of our hair and skin are. Unfortunately, to this day, it's devastating that not everyone has the liberty to show off their true self. And so this Pride Month, we are celebrating and advocating for having the choice and freedom to embrace and live out sexuality regardless of stigma or judgement through putting forward stories from the LGBTQIA+ community.
Today, we tackle asexuality — something that is not often discussed and one that is ripe with misconceptions. It's even labelled as the "invisible orientation" due to lack of understanding for asexuality and the individuals who identify with it. Engineer Shoji Daradal, who is proudly asexual, sheds light on what it's like to be an ace as she shares her experiences, the story behind why she came out "prematurely" and her advice for others who still haven't come to terms with their sexuality.
All about asexuality
From the advertisements we see to the pop music we listen to, it's no secret that we're living in a highly sexually-charged world. So it may come as a surprise — surprise, surprise — for many that there are individuals who are just not interested in engaging in sex. Could it be that they just haven't found the one? Are they victims of sexual trauma? Are they just sexually repressed because of their conservative values? The answer is no. They are simply not interested.
"Asexuals or ace is a blanket term for people who do not have sexual urges or at least don't put an emphasis on sexual relations when looking for a relationship," Shoji said. Contrary to popular belief, being an asexual doesn't always equate to lack of physical attraction to others. "There are some of us that still find people sexy, but to me, it's just like appreciating a painting. You know an artwork looks fine but you wouldn't want to make love to it, right? It's pretty much like that," she shared.
She further explained that the umbrella term also covers a lot of people including "grey asexuals (people who don't necessarily want to have sex but will do it for their significant other consensually and usually to create a family), demisexuals (people who only have a sexual attraction to those that they have an emotional connection with), ace-aro or asexual aromantics (those that are not interested in sexual or romantic relations)" and so on. So just because someone is asexual doesn't mean that they completely abstain from sexual relations.
Like anything else, there are a lot of nuances to the term but the general denominator is a lack of interest in sexual activities with other people. Ultimately, the label "ace" isn't meant to box people into a stereotype but rather to help others understand their sexual preference.
It was around the time when Shoji's friends started dating that she realised she didn't have the same urge to "be with a boo". "I started imagining myself having sex with my crushes and the fact that my back curls up in disgust at the thought was how I came to the conclusion that maybe I'm not into anyone and started reading about asexuality on forums. Then I kind of just realised that the description fit me," she said. But nevertheless, she still feels like she may be wrong and went on an exploration journey.
"I spent years trying to convince myself out of 'asexuality uncertainty' to see if I was wrong," Shoji said. During those four years, Shoji wondered if she was a homosexual or a bisexual. "I have been questioning and secretly interrogating both my straight and gay friends about sexual fantasies, and whether people actually imagine getting pleased when having sex and compared that to my own experience and I guess... I've been an R-18 fanfiction writer for so long that I realised that I'd rather be a voyeur than actually participating in sex," she recounted. Finally, after a long time of rumination, Shoji came to terms with her sexuality and accepted it. "As time passed by, I was getting more and more convinced that I didn't want to do anything sexual with anyone," she shared.
A premature coming out
For asexuals, coming to terms with their non-heteronormative sexuality is one thing, but it's another to gain acceptance from others. "The frustrating thing about being an asexual is that no one really takes us seriously — as if we're just undergoing a phase or we're just virgins who don't have sexual experience or that we just 'haven't had a good time'," she shared. Before coming out, Shoji had a handful of "acceptable" excuses in her pocket for adamant suitors. "I often mask my indifference to sexual advances by saying things like 'I need to study' or 'I need to get a PhD before I give in' because people don't get it when I say that I don't feel an urge," she said.
Often she's told that she'll get over it and that someone will make her fall deeply in love and make her eat her words. One relentless boy, an officemate of hers, was particularly stubborn in pursuing a relationship with Shoji even when she turned him down and never showed any interest. And this sticky situation led to her coming out before she was fully ready to do so. "My colleagues seem to back him up and kept pushing and teasing us together. I just had enough of the taunting, so I told my mum and brother that I wasn't straight and that I could possibly not have a boyfriend and/or a child which was a big deal because my mother really wants me to get married and have children," she shared. Her mum cried and said she might still change her mind because, at 22, she's still just a 'baby'.
It wasn't just her family that she had to come out to, Shoji also had to inform her workplace about her sexuality. But even after everything, the guy still doesn't get it. "He had the guts to tell me that I have to date him so I 'could still be a girl'. And I just told him 'I'm already a girl'. I don't need anyone to become what I already am," she said. Then Shoji blocked him on all her social media accounts.
Dating as an asexual hopeless romantic
For an asexual who is open to having a romantic relationship, it can be a challenge to find someone who is interested in companionship without sexual activity. "It's challenging to look for someone to talk to since I have weird hobbies and interests that aren't very typical and I am also very shy so I don't usually reach out to others," Shoji shared. Despite this, Shoji is actually a hopeless romantic who is open to dating but has some reservations. "Sometimes, I imagine what my life would be if I had a romantic partner and I end up kind of pitying them because I imagine I'd be a horrible partner," she shared. As of now, she is on dating apps but still has not made a move on anyone but still remains hopeful.
Shoji went on a long, confusing journey before she could say loud and proud that she's asexual and advised others who are going through the same thing to take their time and read about other sexualities until you discover one that resonates with you.
She left with this nugget of wisdom: "There's no need to rush things. There will be a time for everything so if you're still in the closet, it's perfectly fine to stay there until you are truly ready. Delaying your coming out does not and will never make you any less of an LGBTQIA+ individual and a human being. Stay proud."
Here are the LGBTQIA+ terms every good ally should know.