For as long as I can remember, I have never understood gender. I have always been fine with she/her pronouns and never really had a problem with being called a girl, yet I also never really felt like a girl. I was (and still am) very confused with the idea of gender roles, but it went further than that; I was just as puzzled by the whole idea of gender. I knew I wasn’t transgender, because I didn’t like he/him pronouns and didn’t want to have a typically male body, but I knew I wasn’t 100% comfortable with my body and my gender the way I was. As a child, I never really minded if I was mistaken for a boy, I wore clothes from the boys section, I was considered a tomboy, and I wanted to have my hair cut short, but I was never allowed. But I never felt uncomfortable in my body; I was just a bit confused.
But as I hit puberty, my issues with my gender became a lot more pronounced. I was suddenly expected to shave my legs and my armpits, and was very confused when I discovered that the boys weren’t, despite their hair being even thicker. When I was thirteen, I finally succeeded in getting my mum to let me have my hair cut short; it got me bullied, but I felt a lot happier with short hair. In sex education in year 9, they split the girls and boys up for an hour. The boys had a session about shaving, and the girls… our lesson was about makeup. This annoyed me, and I spent the session muttering about the boys who might want to wear makeup and why I was assumed to want to wear it just because I was a girl (at least, when I wasn’t having a reaction to the foundation my friend made me put on; I spent the rest of the day with a very red, itchy patch on my face).
But the biggest issue I had was with the changes in my body shape. I hated how wide my hips became, and my narrow waist really annoyed me. I had the biggest hatred for my breasts. I have always been on the chubby side, and this meant that my breasts were rather large. I hated them, and I still do. I hated wearing a bra, I hated the way they hurt when I had PMS, I hated the way they bounced when I ran, I hated the way the boys stared at my chest, and, most of all, I hated seeing them when I was getting dressed or in the shower. I never knew how to explain it, but I hated them with a passion. They made me uncomfortable, and sometimes made me want to cry. I don’t think my mum understood my problem with my chest until, at the age of thirteen, I approached her and asked her if I could have a mastectomy. She thought I was joking, but soon realised I was serious. But she said no, so I was stuck with them.
More recently, I asked my mum if I could buy a chest binder. I tried to explain that it would make me less anxious (and I wouldn’t mind the pressure, as pressure is one of my favourite ways to stim), but she didn’t see the point. She said I could have a breast reduction when I get my inheritance when I’m 21, but this didn’t reassure me for two reasons:
- My twenty first birthday was, at that point, three and a half years away.
- I don’t want smaller breasts – I want to have no breasts at all.
I knew she understood my issues, but her ‘solutions’ were no help, so I have stopped talking to her about it.
In my latest appointment with my psychiatrist, I mentioned by issues with gender. Her suggestion was that I go to therapy, so I know I won’t be bringing that up with her again.
A couple of months ago, I discovered the gender identity of being a demigirl. It was amazing to find this, as it fit me perfectly, and I knew that not only was there a name for my identity, but loads of other people have the same identity too. Much like with my sexuality (discussed below), I was overwhelmed with relief, and began to feel a lot better with myself.
Likewise, I never understood the idea of having a sexual orientation. When my friends and acquaintances began to fancy people and go on dates, I was left wondering why I wasn’t having the same experience. I was so confused that I began to research how attraction is meant to make you feel, and knew I had never been in love with anyone. What I thought were crushes on celebrities and fictional characters was actually just me being obsessed with then as a result of special interests, as I learned fancying someone is more about finding them attractive and wanting to kiss them, and less about being completely obsessed with them and knowing every little thing about them.
This was around the time when I realised that I’m not heterosexual. Yet I also knew I wasn’t gay, as I had no more interest in girls than I did in boys. At this stage, I was only aware of three sexual orientations, so that led me to identifying with the third one: bisexuality. So I called myself bi and ‘came out’ as bi to my friends, but at the same time… it didn’t feel right.
Eventually, through extensive Googling, I came across something which seemed to make perfect sense: asexuality. The emotional response I experienced was similar to my later discovery of OCD: I was overwhelmed with relief as I read through the information, and almost cried when I realised that there was a name for what I was experiencing and that I wasn’t broken.
So, with that, I was Officially Asexual. My mum was fine when I came out to her; I think she was just relieved that I had finally stopped worrying about my sexuality. I still haven’t told my dad, because I know he won’t understand. Coming out to my friends was a strange experience, and totally different to my experience of coming out as bi to them two years earlier. They were a very diverse bunch (I think only two of them were actually straight), and had barely reacted when I told them about being bi, but their reactions were entirely different when I came out as ace.
I told them as we were sitting in the canteen in year 11. None of them knew what asexual meant, so I gave them a brief explanation. Once I had finished, these were the comments I received:
- “But doesn’t everyone fancy someone?”
- “Is that really a thing?”
- “So you don’t want to get married?”
- “Do you need to go to the doctors?”
The last comment was the worst. That was what one of my best friends, whom I supported when she came out as bi and was the first person I told when I came out as bi, seriously said to me when I told her about asexuality. She couldn’t understand someone not feeling attraction, so her first thought was to assume there was something wrong with me that could, and should, be fixed. I didn’t say anything at the time, but her words really hurt me. I never mentioned being ace in front of her again.
It took me about another year to work out that I’m also aromantic. I realised that I’m aro when it occurred to me that I have no more interest in dating, kissing and cuddling than sexual relationships. And I’ve never been romantically attracted to someone either. And that means I am aromantic asexual, otherwise known as aroace.
My teens have been a difficult time in terms of my identities, but now, almost at the age of eighteen, I think I am finally comfortable with my identities. I have been through puberty and am out the other side, which helps, because my hormones are more stable and I don’t have to deal with the bullying and peer pressure of school any more. I still want to have chest surgery, but I am a lot more comfortable with my body now I understand my identity, and I am fully happy with my asexuality. I know I will never love myself (three years of bullying shattered my self esteem), but I think I have finally reached the stage where I accept myself for who I am.