Colin Gray

How Do You Know You're Asexual If You've Never Had Sex?

Tyler Ford breaks it down -- plus tackles even more pronouns.

By Tyler Ford

My name is Tyler Ford, and I’m a queer, transgender writer and advocate. Ever since I came out as trans on national television on “The Glee Project” three years ago, I’ve received tons of questions and calls for advice about being LGBTQA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Asexual)-identified, and about life in general. I’ve carved out a space here to share my life experience with you, and to discuss any fears, feelings and curiosities you may not feel comfortable talking about with anyone else.

So let’s get started with the questions!

Can you truly know if you're asexual if you have never been in a sexual situation? Like, people say, "Don't hate 'til you try it"?

Yes, you can definitely know your sexual orientation without ever having been in a sexual situation. This is because sexual orientation is based on attraction -- not behavior. When you ask a heterosexual person if they had to have sex with someone of their same gender before knowing they were not actually gay, most often, their answer will be “no.” Just as bisexual people do not suddenly become straight when they engage in monogamous heterosexual relationships (because they still experience attraction to more than one gender regardless of who they are currently partnered with), asexual people do not suddenly begin experiencing sexual attraction upon having sex.

It is possible to have sex without being sexually attracted to someone -- people of all sexualities do this -- but it is also common for asexual people to not engage in sexual activities at all. Many asexual people never have sex and remain 100% sure of their sexual orientation.

If you’ve found that you don’t experience sexual attraction, experience it very infrequently or with little intensity or experience it only under a specific set of circumstances, you very well may be on the asexual spectrum and can use that label for yourself if it feels comfortable for you. If you know that you do not want to have sex or if you don’t feel the need or desire to seek it out, that is valid, normal, and OK.

You never have to prove your sexuality to anyone -- and you never have to try something you are not comfortable with, or simply don’t want to do, for the sake of other people or for the sake of an expression such as “don’t knock it ‘til you try it.” Heterosexuality can sometimes feel pervasive, and the topic of sex often seems inescapable, but you are not required to sacrifice yourself or your comfort to conform to society’s norms. Your sexuality is no one’s business but your own.

My question goes for those who fall under the non-binary umbrella. I was wondering if there are ways you can change from being "daughter/princess" to something neutral like you would do with pronouns. Can you please help?

Sure! Here is a list of some gender-neutral alternatives for gendered words:

Son/Daughter/Stepson/Stepdaughter/Grandson/Granddaughter: Child/Kid, Grandchild/Grandkid, Stepchild

Mom/Dad/Grandma/Grandpa: Parent, Grandparent

Sister/Brother: Sibling

Prince/Princess/King/Queen: Princen, Prinxe, Royalty

Girlfriend/Boyfriend: Partner, Date, Datefriend, Datemate, Babefriend, Babe, Heart, Person, Significant Other

Husband/Wife: Spouse, Partner

Mr./Mrs./Ms./Miss: Mx., Per. (short for “person”)

Girl/Boy/Man/Woman: Person, Human

Boys/Guys/Girls/Ladies: Y’all, Folks, People, Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen: Honored Guests, Distinguished Guests

There are some words (niece/nephew) that non-binary people come up with their own alternatives for (I’ve heard of the term “nibling” for the former example).

How to make your language more inclusive:

Think about what you’re saying and about the implications of your words before you say them. Speak consciously instead of speaking out of habit. Pronouns and gender cannot be assumed based upon appearance. If you do not know someone’s pronouns, ask them. If you cannot ask them (maybe they’re a stranger you won’t ever actually speak to), default to using the neutral: they/them/theirs. Asking someone what pronouns they use is a simple and straightforward question: “What are your pronouns?” This is an incredibly important question to ask people so that you know how to refer to them.

A small change in speech, like saying, “Hey y’all,” or “Hey folks” instead of “Hey guys” or “Hey ladies” makes your language so much more inclusive, and makes a world of a difference for trans and non-binary people.

Once you start changing your language, you might start to wonder why gendering strangers is even necessary (it isn’t). Using titles and honorifics (Mr./Ms./Sir/Ma’am) with strangers to show respect runs the risk of misgendering, and therefore, actually disrespecting them. If you would like to use gendered terms or titles with someone, a simple “Are you comfortable with this term?” is a considerate question to ask.

It’s the same type of question you would ask someone before using a nickname for them. You can’t assume every Rebecca is going to be comfortable being called Becky, Becca or Bex. Just as well, you can’t assume someone else’s level of comfort with gendered terms, titles and/or pronouns. Using inclusive language is an easy way to show respect for and to be an ally to trans and non-binary people.

Thanks you for trusting me with your questions! If you have questions or need advice, send your concerns to me via Twitter and Instagram @tywrent. Tag your questions with #heytyler! For longer or more private questions and concerns, you can message me at facebook.com/heytylerford. Your questions will be posted anonymously.