We all know the vocabulary lesson that happens every time we tell someone our sexuality. ‘What’s that mean?’ ‘I’ve never heard of it’ ‘you mean like how plants reproduce?’ It gets exhausting pretty quickly, and I’ve discovered that sometimes I just… don’t.
Not because I want to stay in the closet. I don’t. Out and proud is something most of us strive for. But sometimes it’s late at night and I’m tired, or I’m hungry, and I just can’t deal with the ‘you know that being asexual is a pretty big turnoff, right?’ So I say nothing. Go undercover, if you will.
When I first started uni, I put a lot of pressure on myself to come out. I had only been out for around a month and a half, and only 5 people in my life really knew, so that pressure was slightly misplaced, and I panicked. I didn’t come out to anyone upon first encounter, mostly because I didn’t know these people well enough to know how they would react to it. I still haven’t come out to some of them.
So I’m in the kitchen a few days after I’ve moved in and am just finishing up my meal when one of my more chatty flatmates comes in and sits down at the table. She starts talking, which I’ve come to realize is just her custom but I was a little put off by her relentlessly chatty nature at first. She talked about whatever she wanted, which ended up being all the relationships she’d been in. She did most of the talking while I sat there like a lump, slightly uncomfortable but not brave enough to outright leave the conversation. She’d ask me things, like ‘have you been in a relationship before?’ ‘have you had sex?’, all of which I responded with as few words as possible.
It was kind of funny, sitting there in the kitchen pretending I was straight. I could, I realized. I didn’t have to tell anyone here that I was ace. That’s certainly what the anxiety would have me do. But, like I said before, out and proud is something I strive for.
The hardest part about that conversation was that the whole time I wanted to tell her. I wanted to say, ‘look, this is great and all, but I’m asexual so I want nothing to do with anything like this’. Thing is, I am not a forward person, and I wasn’t sure how she would react. So I stayed silent, kept my cover, wishing I could turn the conversation to anything besides what we were talking about but too socially anxious to try.
And let me tell you, that sucked. We’ve developed a relationship now that she mostly talks and I mostly listen, and I haven’t again felt the discomfort that our first conversation reached. But I constantly have to remind myself that it’s okay if I don’t want to come out to everyone at the same time, that no one ‘deserves’ to know unless I’m thinking about them romantically. It’s my choice, but the next time I had the opportunity I promised myself I would be ready.
About a month after this conversation I was staying late after one of my club meetings with some of the other club members. We were just sitting talking when the topic turned to the LGBTQ+ community, inevitably because of the people there. As sort of a test I brought up the discourse that had been happening around ace people and the LBGTQ+ community, wanting to see how they’d react. Yet when they were all for aces in the community, giving me a perfect opportunity to come out to them, I still stayed silent.
In hindsight they probably knew. Although I didn’t outright say I was ace, I never confirmed any other sort of identity so they probably all saw right through my little sleuthing experiment. And they were all really accepting people, but for some reason I really just couldn’t tell them.
So jury’s still out on this one. Sometimes it is the best policy to stay silent, and I know for a lot of us socially awkward/anxious aces this is usually where we end up. But sometimes enforcing this silence leads to regret when I realize what a perfect coming-out opportunity I just missed. The undercover ace we’ve all been at one point in our lives or another tells us to keep ourselves in the shadows- sometimes for good reason, other times for no reason at all. It’s up to us to either listen to or silence that part of us that tries to keep ourselves hidden.