Question of the Week: October 21st, 2014

I’ve been radio silent in the ace community for some time now, in part because I’m dealing with some fairly upsetting family issues that are sucking up a lot of my energy. But that has me thinking:

If your family know you’re ace, how do they think about it? Do they talk about it, or do they try not to acknowledge that you said anything?

I ask because mine treated the subject very much like “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” for a number of years, and getting to the point where I can discuss my relationships and the asexuality work I’ve done with them has been…. very difficult. I have also known aces whose family “forgot” they outed themselves, or aces whose family refused to acknowledge they had said anything. So I’m curious to know if there’s a more positive range of reactions out there.

About Sciatrix

Sciatrix is an American graduate student studying ecology, evolution and behavior. She identifies as asexual and has mostly given up trying to sort out the whole romance thing for now. She has previously blogged about asexuality at Writing From Factor X. In her free time, she trains in canine agility and knits oddly cabled hats.
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19 Responses to Question of the Week: October 21st, 2014

  1. Grace says:

    My sister was already aware of asexuality and barring a few clarifications, is open and supportive. My mother doesn’t mention it, though she’s also stopped mentioning dating and such to me either. My father asks questions sometimes, but his general view is that I can take care of myself and that he doesn’t have to worry about me dating (by my own admission, not his assumption). To my knowledge, none of my other relatives are aware.

  2. Taka says:

    This isn’t precisely answering the question (or giving you a more positive impression, I’m afraid), but I’m not out, partially because I know that the reaction would be dismissal and lack of belief at best and… well, quite a bit worse at worst. I’ve brought up the concept obliquely in the past, only for my parents to laugh at it outright, and my sister (who I am out to, and who, thankfully, has been nothing but understanding and helpful) said she did the same, and our father told her that that sort of thing “couldn’t really exist”. They’re therapists, which makes it all the worse.

    Sorry, I know you were looking for responses more from people who’ve actually come out ^^;

  3. Carmilla DeWinter says:

    Hm. My parents are divorced. So, my mum is still sometimes arguing – got the “demis are normal, why does everyone have to be a special snowflake”-speech just today. My dad is fairly cool with everything, thankfully.

  4. My parents know that I’m “not interested in anybody that way” and that I don’t plan to marry or have a significant romantic/sexual relationship, and of course they know that I’m 41 and have never had any such relationships. They don’t know the label “asexual” however (I didn’t even start using this for myself until recent years, but they’ve known me and my situation for much longer). They’re OK with it, and have never tried to put any pressure on me at all, for which I am very grateful. A couple years ago while we were all visiting my sister and her family over the holidays, we had an interesting discussion about older relatives from both sides of the family who had never married. Apparently there are a surprising number of these (my dad’s brother has never married and I’ve often wondered about his sexual orientation but its not something I would feel comfortable asking him about). I think that it helped my parents to understand me a bit better when they could see that I was like other relatives they had known.

    • Brin says:

      we had an interesting discussion about older relatives from both sides of the family who had never married. Apparently there are a surprising number of these (my dad’s brother has never married and I’ve often wondered about his sexual orientation but its not something I would feel comfortable asking him about). I think that it helped my parents to understand me a bit better when they could see that I was like other relatives they had known.

      Same here. My mom was a bit concerned at first, but then she was looking at her family tree (she’s into genealogy) and noticed a pattern: for the past few generations, up through the maternal line, eldest daughters haven’t married. Once she noticed that, she started thinking about how her older sister, the eldest daughter of the previous generation, never showed any interest in dating.

      Aunt P. lives and works at a boarding school in Middle of Nowhere, Arizona. She has her co-workers and her dog, and she’s happy. “My daughter’s going to grow up to be alone” sounds worrying, but “My daughter’s going to grow up to be like P.”? That’s much better. “My daughter’s following family tradition” might help a bit, too.

      As for the OP’s question: my asexuality doesn’t come up in conversation all that much, but I don’t think it’s because of denial. I note that for Hanukkah last year, Mom made me a T-shirt with a spade-shaped ace flag on it. (Dad seemed..about as okay as he gets, he doesn’t really show strong emotion much, and I think Brother found it patronising that I thought he didn’t know Asexuality 101 or its relevance to his sister.)

  5. Siggy says:

    I talked about being ace with several relatives when I first came out, and I know they don’t have a problem with it. I also know they haven’t forgotten since they know about my blog. But it just doesn’t come up, and people clearly find it infinitely easier to talk about the fact that I’m gay. I suspect people just don’t know what to say about it, or are afraid of saying something wrong.

  6. luvtheheaven says:

    My brother and dad, and my brother’s girlfriend too for that matter, are pretty amazing about it, and have been since I first broached the subject a little over a year ago. So was my boyfriend at the time. These people in my life all want(ed) to understand me and my experiences. They want to ask me questions until they do. And I want to be asked questions. So it’s a relationship dynamic that works out great.

    My dad was bringing up the topic on his own to ask me what was going through my head as we watched a sex scene on a TV show quite early on.

    On Christmas Day last year (so about 10 months ago) since me, my dad, and my brother had no where else to be until our planned evening dinner in Chinatown, we watched that documentary (A)sexual on Netflix together, pausing it a ton throughout to discuss things. I mean if you can hang out with your family on Christmas Day watching that film, I’d say yes, my family was certainly “acknowledging” my asexuality. My brother’s girlfriend said she decided to watch that film a few weeks later, maybe because my brother told her she should? Anyway yeah. So I’d say I do have a more positive experience to speak of.

    I ultimately have particularly open and communicative relationships with my only 2 immediate family members (my father and brother), so that helps. We’ve never been uncomfortable discussing personal things NOR complicated philosophical things. My brother had already confided in me that he considered the idea that he might be bisexual and even experimented with a sexual act with another guy before concluding that he really was just straight. Discussing asexuality is not a big deal around these people in my life.

    My brother’s girlfriend even said to me, at some point relatively recently, that she wasn’t surprised to learn I was asexual, and that once she found out it just made sense, given everything she’d already known about me. I don’t think she’d known the term before I introduced her to it, and she had originally been one of the people encouraging me to give online dating a try when I still thought I was a straight girl who had just never been on a date even though I was already 22 and graduating college, but now, 2 years later, she is happy for me to be making friends at an Ace-Meetup Group these past few months, and so are my dad and brother.

  7. Miriam Joy says:

    I thought I was gay for a while before I realised I was ace, and I came out to my parents about that, so I think they were kind of relieved when I changed my mind, as it were. Ace is easier for them as Christians, I think — they don’t mind that I like girls but they mind the idea of me sleeping with them. So their reaction isn’t perfect but it’s better than it could be. They’d rather I didn’t talk about queer stuff, but I refuse not to mention it. I’m always talking about events I go to with the LGBT+ society at uni and stuff, because I’m me and I’m not going to downplay that to make them more comfortable. They have to learn to accept me as I am. I think it’s getting easier.

  8. Dawg4280 says:

    I am out to my family. parents and two brothers. Most of the rest of the family knows but I have not personally talked to them about it. Generally the reaction has been positive. They have have a tougher time accepting that I want to be a big part of visibility efforts and such than the actual asexuality itself. The most frustrating thing to me is how they sometimes try to dismiss how hard it was for me before I learned of asexuality, I don’t understand how they feel like they have a relevant opinion on the matter when they have not and can live those experiences. Last time I checked I know more about being an asexual than they do. They do accept me as I am and I am thankful for that.

  9. GreyWanders says:

    My family has been great. That may in part be because they learned about my ace-ness at the same time as I was excitedly forming a new chosen family unit, so there was no worry that I would be sad and alone, but they are in general very accepting and open-minded.

    I had subtly introduced my mother to the idea of asexuality earlier by making pride jewelry (To sell. No big.) and then when I started talking about my chosen family stuff she asked if I was asexual. We’ve had a few long chats about asexuality in the car since then, which have been good if occasionally awkward. She’s genuinely interested and wants to understand my experience, but it’s hard for me to slow down and introduce all the jargon and ways of looking at things in an orderly fashion.

    My sister got it all straight away. I don’t even remember having to explain things to her past the basic definition. I once showed her Queenie’s very excellent tiny hippo tie, and she’s been following the blog ever since.

    My dad I haven’t told directly, although I assume he knows. (It’s not like my mother would keep quiet about it.) Dad doesn’t ask about my relationships in general, but I think it’s out of respect for my privacy rather than disinterest or willful ignorance. He once said that if I wanted him to know I would tell him, so I’ve told him about the relationships that are important to me, but not about my own orientation, because that’s just not a relevant level of detail. As long as he’s cool with me having a loving, nonsexual, committed relationship with a couple (and he is), that’s plenty.

  10. Cleander says:

    My family knows, and they’ve been pretty cool about it. They had also already been really good about not pestering me about the fact that I never dated or talked about crushes when I was in high school, so when I actually started IDing as asexual in college I don’t think it was really much of a shock. (They’re also super LGBT friendly, and I had a couple very out LGBT relatives; and on top of that they were generally very open about talking about variations in sex/sexuality in general).

    We’ve never really had any deep “heart to heart” conversations about it, but that’s mostly because I’m just not into that kind of emotional sharing – we do talk about stuff like my volunteer work with AVEN, or ace conferences I go to and stuff like that. They’ve been really supportive – my sister has marched with me in an asexual pride contingent before, and my parents tend to call me with excitement whenever they see references to asexuality in the newspaper or on the radio or whatever.

    As for the rest of my relatives…I’m honestly not sure, cause I’ve never really talked to them about it. Like, I’m pretty sure they know, but my family is scattered over all the corners of the US so we don’t have many family reunion type things, and even when we do dating or a/sexuality is not really a topic of conversation. But some of them have liked my asexuality related fb statuses, so I consider that a good sign 🙂

  11. I think my parents had already figured it was something like that before I mentioned the word to them, so they weren’t really shocked or surprised or anything. I think I’d gotten the “You know, it’s okay if you’re gay” line a couple of times in high school, after I failed to bring home a girl by the expected age. By the time I was 30, they were constantly comparing me to my bachelor uncle, who’d never really been seriously involved with anyone, and once in a while, they’d bring up the “monosexual” (their words) guy they worked with before they got married, who didn’t seem interested in men or women. So when I came out, their reaction was pretty much “So what else is new?”

    There have been a couple of strange and awkward conversations where my mother will bring up asexuality in a weird way, though. I don’t know if she’s trying to get me to talk about it in some way or what’s going on.

    I’ve never explicitly mentioned my website to them, though. I may be out, but I tend to keep that part kinda quiet in real life. They may have figured it out, but I’m not sure.

  12. Lewis says:

    Ehhh… When I came out to my mom when I was really young. Or at least, that was the first time I mentioned it to her. Probably about 13?
    I think I had what I call “inexperienced syndrome.” It’s kind of that you’ve just been exposed to something and now you want to tell the world all about it, even if you sound unprofessional and might not have a lot of experience. You get bonus points if you’re super young.
    Basically I told my mom and she just said “okay” in a very disbelieving voice. She later made a lot of jokes about asexuality and had a lot of statements start with “when you stop being asexual…” She even stole my ace ring and taunted me with it and said that when I would have sex she could finally take the darned thing away from me. I think she was trying to understand, but was generally incapable of it, so she delt with her problem by throwing uncomfortable jokes at asexuals. I can’t say it was a good experience for me though, as it taught me to keep my ace identity to myself (and not come out later about other important aspects of my identity).
    Years have passed and we don’t really mention it anymore. It’s just one of those things we like to keep quiet about. I don’t mention it and she mentions it only every other year. I like it that way, but I wish we could be closer and talk a little bit more about these things. Anyways, she did know I still acknowledged my asexuality. I was wearing my ace ring up until this summer, when it broke.

  13. accessdenied says:

    I came out to my parents about a month ago, by buying swankivy’s book and giving it to them. My sisters already knew, and I’ve had some really good conversations with my aro-bi sister about aromanticism and the gray areas in asexuality and bisexuality. My gay sister is significantly less supportive, though I think it’s mainly because she’s only thirteen and she hasn’t come to terms with her own sexual orientation yet and is really uncomfortable talking about queer things at all.

    My mother is in the middle of reading the book, though she hasn’t said much about it recently. She’s been pretty receptive to asexuality and aromanticism, and ace/arophobia and amatonormativity, which is a good thing I guess? I mean, she’s acknowledged all of those things as real, and I haven’t had to defend myself and the legitimacy of my experiences to her. My father hasn’t said much at all. I don’t know how he’ll respond to the book when he gets around to it. :\

    I knitted an ace flag hat and I’ve worn it around my family several times, even *gasp* out in public. Most people who’ve seen it probably assume it’s connected to one of the local colleges because of the purple and white, but eh. If even one person sees the hat and is quietly excited to have Visual Confirmation Of An Asexual Existing In Real Life, it’s worth it.

  14. Jasmine says:

    I’ve never ‘come out’ in the sense that I’ve sat people down and talked to them, because I’ve always been slightly bitter that anyone who isn’t straight has to make this big speech just so everyone knows. I have however stated to people that I’m asexual; a few of my friends know, one of which used to think he was asexual, but decided he isn’t now. I don’t think he has fully understood it to be fair, as he seems to almost romanticize it as a ‘Byronic trait’. My other friend is great with it, and we’re both at the stage where we know we’re not straight but are not quite sure where we fall.
    My family is a no-go area. They are not highly supportive of the LGBTQ+ group (although they may claim not to be, their words and actions say otherwise) and I would not be comfortable coming out to them. Certainly not with the possibility that I may not even be heteroromantic. I have mentioned asexuality though, and I have done so in reference to myself, only to be met with an eye-roll and a frustrated look. Also my mum gets annoyed with me whenever I got frustrated by the abundance of romance stories on tv and film, because it’s got to the point where it’s stifling. So yeah, my family wouldn’t be highly supportive about it, but as far as I’m concerned it’s also none of their actual business.

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