Here’s What It Means to be on the Asexual Spectrum

In the last 50 years, several changes have created more safety and inclusion for the LGBTQIA+ community. In 1976, New Jersey was the first state to allow transgender individuals to marry in their post-operative gender. Marriage equality was passed into law in 2015. Currently, many athletic organizations are working to create equity in sport for trans athletes.

But amidst these advancements, certain communities in the larger LBGTQIA+ community have been given more support than others. One community that has received notoriously little recognition is those who identify as asexual and/or aromantic. Many people who are not asexual or aromantic have little knowledge of what it means to identify as such. Asexuality and aromanticism are actually rather fluid, much like all identities describing sexual and romantic expression. Even if you are not asexual or aromantic, understanding what it means for someone to have those identifiers creates safety and belonging for everyone. 

what is asexuality

Loose categories of asexuality and aromanticism

As stated above, asexuality and aromanticism are a part of the more largely fluid asexual spectrum. Broadly speaking, someone identifying as asexual does not feel sexual attraction to any gender. Likewise, someone who is aromantic does not feel romantic attraction to any gender. Someone may be both asexual and aromantic, but identifying with one term does not guarantee the other.

Sexual and romantic attraction may feel challenging to differentiate. If someone is experiencing sexual attraction, they often want to engage in physically intimate experiences like intercourse, oral, or digital sex. Someone who experiences romantic attraction wants to build an emotional relationship with someone through conversations and shared values.

Here are some common identities along the asexual spectrum:

  • Gray-sexual/ gray-asexual/ gray-a: Someone who uses this term identifies their sexuality as being between asexuality and sexuality. They may feel sexual attraction, but not with frequency.
  • Demisexual: Someone who uses this term does not feel sexual attraction as a primary experience. However, they may feel sexual attraction to someone after building an emotional bond with them.
  • Gray-romantic: Someone who uses this term does not often feel romantically attracted to another person. However, they may on a rare occasion.
  • Reciprosexual or recipromantic: These identifiers indicate people who do not feel sexual or romantic attraction until they know another person feels that way for them.
  • Aceflux and Aroflux: Someone who uses one of these terms identifies as fluctuating between being asexual and sexual and/or being aromantic and romantic.

Some common yet harmful misconceptions

Unfortunately, due to the lack of authentic representation of identities on the asexual spectrum in media, there are numerous harmful misconceptions regarding asexuality. One of the most commonly heard misconceptions regarding asexuality is that it is a pledge of abstinence. Some people who are asexual prefer not to engage in sex; however, some do. Additionally, asexuality is not a gender identity. The proper term for someone who does not identify with any gender identity is agender, not asexual. 

Being on the asexual spectrum is not indicative or a physical or emotional health problem. These identifiers are simply describing someone’s emotional and romantic attraction and does not influence health. Furthermore, asexuality is not a product of a hormone imbalance. As with all identities, being asexual or aromantic is not a choice; it is how someone authentically is. 

Lastly, being asexual or aromantic does not mean that someone is afraid of sexuality or romance. When discussing asexuality or other identities on the asexual spectrum, I encourage you to be mindful of how you speak on the topic to prevent further lack of understanding.

Where to get support if you’re on the asexual spectrum

If you or someone you know identifies on the asexual spectrum or are considering if these identities are appropriate for you, there are support resources. The most well-known resource is the Asexual Visibility and Education Network. This organization is the world’s largest online asexual community. They strive to bridge the knowledge and inclusion gap between asexual and sexual communities. Additionally, acesandaros.org has a wide variety of resources for those who are asexual or learning how to be an ally. 

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About Sarah Kelly

Sarah Kelly is a licensed social worker and certified alcohol and drug counselor. Sarah received her MSW from Loyola University and Chicago and currently works as an individual and group therapist for Clarity Clinic Chicago with an emphasis in addiction and trauma work. While Sarah believes that therapy is a significant and often necessary tool to foster personal and community wellness, Sarah believes in caring for the whole person and whole community. Sarah works towards this value by engaging in Chicago’s running and yoga communities, tapping into several book clubs and indulging in the bachelor. Sarah hopes to support you in the process in discovering what brings you value in yourself and your community.