Hello! Last year for Pride Month, I posted about how, after years of research and thought, I’d figured out that I’m not straight: I’m actually demibisexual. For Pride Month this year, I’m sharing that again here on this new website.
If you’re unfamiliar with the terminology used for different kinds of attraction, “demibisexual” might sound like a confusing collection of syllables. Human attraction is complicated, like most things related to humanity. The fact that we have the language now to better explore and understand it is incredible! So thank you for taking the time to learn.
My journey in discovering my own sexual and romantic orientations began early on in writing a novel that has now been trunked. I knew that I wanted one of the side characters to be asexual because it’s important that stories represent people with different orientations. Not only is it unrealistic to exclude them, it’s also hurtful and can leave them unmoored. I chose asexuality in particular because it was the marginalized orientation that I’d always found myself most interested in.
Asexuality is a sexual orientation where a person does not feel sexual attraction to people of any gender. Asexual people do not necessarily have a medical or psychological problem, and they are not just choosing to be celibate. They just don’t feel physical desire the way allosexual people do when they are around an attractive person of their gender(s) of interest. Some asexual people are sex-repulsed, meaning even the idea of engaging in sex is repulsive to them; some are sex-favorable, meaning that they’re interested in engaging in sex despite not specifically being attracted to anyone; and some are sex-neutral.
What many people don’t realize is that sexual attraction and romantic attraction are two different things. Most people’s romantic orientations align with their sexual orientations, but that’s not always the case. The asexual community is where this divergence is most obvious. The split attraction model (which also includes other kinds of attraction like platonic and aesthetic) is a common topic of discussion among asexual people, many of whom experience romantic attraction without the sexual aspect. However, romantic attraction can be difficult to describe.
When I wrote the first draft of the novel in late 2014, I didn’t understand what made romance different from friendship other than sexual attraction. Because of that, I left the character’s romantic orientation undetermined. I revisited the idea a few times in editing, but I could never make enough sense of my own romantic orientation to feel comfortable writing about hers. I’ve always been someone who adores the intimate, affectionate commitment seen in romance stories (though I was not nearly that comfortable with sex), but I still couldn’t explain what romantic attraction felt like.
In April 2019, I realized that I needed to do some research. Leaving the character’s romantic orientation unexplored wasn’t right. So I embarked on an online adventure. For a while, the information I found only left me more frustrated. Most people who knew their romantic orientations couldn’t describe the experience clearly. Some of them listed specific nonsexual things they wanted to do only with romantic partners, none of which fit my experience. Some of them said romance was just “different” from friendship in a way they couldn’t explain, that it was “something extra.” I discovered that a segment of people call themselves things like quoiromantic because they have no idea what romantic attraction even is for them.
Then something clicked, and I remembered a roommate I had one trimester in college. She and I had connected right away and became devoted to each other within days of meeting. Multiple people had commented on our unusual closeness, and for a while after that, I had questioned whether I might be bisexual. But I had never felt sexual attraction to her, and I hadn’t wanted to do anything with her that I didn’t want to do with my other friends. (I had thought that I would totally have married her if she had been a guy, though.) She later started dating a girl, but I still hadn’t understood what I’d felt.
Now, four years later, things finally made sense. I had been romantically attracted to this girl. Like people said online, it was “different” and “extra” without being sexual. My feelings for her had been more vibrant and focused than friendship. And that meant I was biromantic. Later, I came to recognize more women I’d once been romantically attracted to. With that knowledge in hand, it felt right for my novel character to mirror my own romantic orientation journey.
A few questions about my past experiences still lingered, but I didn’t pay much mind to them. Then one night in May 2020, I was lying in bed like usual, letting my thoughts whirl their way around my head however they pleased until they slowed into sleep. For whatever reason, I started thinking about asexuality. I thought about how I’d always been drawn to it as a concept, and most particularly, to demisexuality. Demisexuality is a sexual orientation halfway along the asexual “spectrum,” where a person feels sexual attraction only to people with whom they’ve developed a special emotional connection.
I thought about how multiple online quizzes I’d taken had put me somewhere in the asexual spectrum. I thought about how my counselor sometimes questioned why sexual attraction was an afterthought when I talked about my crushes. I thought about the time in AP Literature class when the teacher asked us all to share one physical trait we found attractive and everyone thought I made them look shallow because I said, “When they look at you with love in their eyes.”
Up until now, I had assumed that I was repressing my feelings out of an OCD-related fear of sex. Now that I had worked through and moved beyond that fear, I started considering whether it might be the other way around: that I’d felt that fear partly because sexual attraction is so rare for me. I remembered the deep emotional connections I’d had with the only two guys I’d ever been attracted to enough to fantasize about kissing them. Though the romantic attraction had started earlier, the sexual attraction hadn’t begun until I had known them for months. Its strength had grown like a dimmer switch directly in proportion to our emotional connection. The peak intensity in both cases had startled and confused me because it challenged my understanding. (For some demisexual people, it works more like a regular light switch than a dimmer switch, either on or off, which is part of why I took so long to recognize myself as demisexual.)
As I now recognized for the first time my own demisexuality, many other things that had once confused me started making sense: the existence of one-night stands, celebrity crushes, and “hall passes”; my discomfort with dating apps; my consistent failure to actually have any romantic relationships. I understood for the first time that when it came to sex and romance, I really am not like other people, and they aren’t like me.
Some people might not understand the power in being able to identify myself as demibisexual because of my complete current lack of romantic/sexual experience. But knowing the subtleties helps me to better understand myself and others. Since then, I’ve slowly discovered more details about which personality traits and which intricacies of safe connection cause me to develop sexual attraction, which provides important context for navigating and nurturing future relationships. I’m also just thrilled whenever I find the words to better communicate and understand different concepts. That’s why I’m glad complex labels like these exist. Knowledge is power, and I hope this story increases your knowledge and power too!
Images via my own files, Hafuboti on Wikipedia, and Eugenex on TeePublic.
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