What does it mean to be asexual?

Asexual students share their experiences in light of Ace Week


Wren Bulawin

Part of the LGBTQ+ community, asexuality is an identity that describes a lack or complete absence of sexual attraction to others. However, those who identify as ace tend to be disregarded as part of the community and their identities dismissed because of ignorance and misinformation, leading to the creation of campaigns such as October’s Ace Week.

Wren Bulawin, Staff Reporter, Open Canvas Manager

Crushes, intimate relationships, and dreams of one day starting a family with their one true love—all these are supposed to be normal teenage feelings. But as she watched all her friends find significant others and swoon over attractive celebrities, Kyu* (12) wondered why she didn’t feel the same way—that was, until she learned about asexuality, a sexual identity that encompasses a lack of sexual attraction or desire to others. Suddenly, her experiences finally made sense, and for once, she found a label that made her feel seen.

In an ever-changing world, people are finding new ways to express their identities and unique experiences. However, as is the nature of a sexualized society, many of the labels people identify with, such as gay, lesbian, and bisexual, are related to attraction and intimate relationships—leaving those who do not feel the same sentiments underrepresented.

In hopes of representing this underrepresented identity, asexual Sara Beth Brooks established Asexual Awareness Week, better known as Ace Week, in 2010. Each year, during the last week of October, asexuals worldwide gather in solidarity to celebrate and spread awareness of their identities, with this year’s Ace Week lasting from October 23 to 29. Since then, the movement has gained traction alongside the growing awareness towards the LGBTQ+ community. 

Asexuality, while still part of the LGBTQ+ identities, serves as its own “umbrella term,” encompassing the wide range and variations between each “ace.” Some aces may be completely sex-repulsed, while others, such as demisexuals, may only experience sexual attraction to those they have a strong emotional bond with, as opposed to attractive peers or celebrities. 

“I saw a lot of other people and friends have crushes and stuff,” said Kyu. “And for me, that just never really happened.”

Every ace has unique experiences with their identity; to some, being asexual is simply a way of life, while to others, their identity has had an effect on their relationships.

“I’ve had people have [crushes] on me, but I couldn’t really reciprocate that,” said Kyu. “I felt kind of bad because [I liked them], but not in that way, [just] as a friend.” 

“I don’t think [my experiences] really differ,” added junior Fern. “It’s just, I don’t like [the intimate] part of relationships… but at the same time, I feel like if I do communicate that, this is what I am, people get turned off by it.”

Unfortunately, asexuals, like other queer identities, are subjected to discrimination within society—most of which is unintentional. Many aces are constantly invalidated and dismissed by those who misinterpret their identity as a “phase” or a curable “ailment,” and, in severe cases, some aces are subjected to sexual abuse to “correct” their sexuality. The most common form of invalidation, however, is being told that asexuality is something to grow out of—something that typically stems from pure ignorance.

“There’s a lot of people who say, ‘Oh, it’s just a stage, you’re gonna get over it, you’re gonna meet that one person,’” Kyu said. “I’ve never really seen anything like that.”

“I feel like a lot of my discomforts are dismissed when the topic of [sexual relationships] comes up and I look uncomfortable,” added Fern.

Additionally, asexuals tend to be misrepresented as “cold” or “unable to love,” in part because of peoples’ tendencies to confuse them with being aromantic (“aro”), an identity that encompasses those who feel little to no romantic attraction rather than sexual attraction. Although some aces identify with both labels, the two are not interchangable due to the split-attraction model, a term coined by both aros and aces to separate sexual and romantic attraction.

“[Aromantic and asexual are] two completely different identities [with] two completely different definitions,” said Fern. “If we didn’t mix those up, it would help a lot of people identify with what they actually aligned with rather than an [aromantic] person identifying as ace or [vice versa].”

But thanks to campaigns like Ace Week, asexual education and representation in society is beginning to see a slow and steady rise. Information about the identity is increasing, and aces are starting to see the sprouts of proper, non-stereotyped representation in the media through canonically-ace characters such as Todd Chavez from BoJack Horseman and Issac Henderson from Heartstopper.

“I feel like it’s certainly getting better,” Kyu said. “Nowadays, I think it’s a lot better because I don’t really have to search for [information and representation] anymore.”

As Ace Week comes to a close, take the time to listen and uplift ace voices, as well as educate yourself and others on the identity’s history. With asexuality finally stepping away from being the “invisible” identity, now has never been a better time to stand up against acephobia and encourage an inclusive world for all.


*Names have been changed to preserve anonymity.