By Nita Tyndall
To you, when you’re 16 and confused.
This is not the name you go by at 16. You won’t change your name until you get to college and want to seem sophisticated and cool, to shed the image of the awkward, gangly, confused girl you once were.
But now, at 16, you are not sophisticated and cool. You are awkward and uncomfortable in your own skin, and it will take you years to shed that discomfort. Right now, you hate the things you love in order to seem cool. You hate yourself because you don’t know any better.
You don’t understand a lot. You don’t understand the crushes so many of your friends describe when they talk about boys, don’t understand the instant attraction they feel.
You understand you like girls. You understand the first girl you ever crush on, the girl who lives so far away. But you don’t understand why talking about sexual things with her makes you uncomfortable, why you can’t just make yourself like these things the way she does.
She will break your heart. You don’t understand that, either, until later.
Two weeks later, a friend will use the word “asexual” to describe a boy she knows. You won’t know what this word means; part of you will be scared to find out. At 16, you’re just starting to get comfortable with the fact you like girls at all.
But curiosity will get the better of you, and you will go home and look up the word anyway.
An asexual is someone who does not experience sexual attraction.
You think about the girl you liked, and your discomfort with talking about anything sexual.
Is this you?
You keep this word tucked close to your chest, not ready to identify this way yet, not fully aware of what it means at all. And what if you’re wrong? What if it isn’t you?
But months will go by and you still won’t understand your friends when they crush on boys.
You will meet a new girl at school. She will become your best friend, and only a few months after your first heartbreak you need a best friend. She will sleep over with you and the two of you will stay up late acting out scenes from books and plays and watching scary movies. She will quickly become the person you call when you need someone to talk to.
She will be the first person you truly come out to. At two in the morning, crying on her shoulder, you will tell her about the other girl you liked. She will say it is okay. She will say she is your friend no matter what.
You will not say the word asexual aloud. Not yet.
You will grow closer to this girl. At first you try to rationalize it -- she’s your best friend, of course you want to be around her, of course you do. But suddenly you will understand what your friends mean when they say they have a crush, when they giggle and whisper, “Oh, he’s so hot, I want to have his babies.” Because this girl makes you feel the same way.
But there is that word. Asexual. There is the fact that you’ve never felt this way before. So you will go back to that word. You will look it up again and this time you will explore what it means, all its subsets and associated words. In your search you will come across a new word: demisexual.
Someone who can only experience sexual attraction after an emotional bond has been formed. This bond does not have to be romantic in nature.
You will want to cry. Because after searching and searching you have found a word to validate how you feel, to tell you that you are not alone, you are not broken, there is a word for people like you and it is okay.
And you will begin to say it to yourself. You will begin to be okay with saying the word demisexual. It will take you years, but you will get there.
You will stay with the girl you love. You will move in together. You will write about being demisexual for this article. You will understand. You will become comfortable in your own skin. You will have days when that comfort will be difficult, but they will be fewer and fewer as time passes.
So hang on for a while. I know it’s rough. I know how lost and confused you feel right now. But you aren’t alone. You aren’t broken. You are going to be okay. You may never be as truly sophisticated as you’d hoped, but one day you will understand yourself, one day you will start to feel proud of yourself, and that is worth everything.
Nita Tyndall attends college in North Carolina and is completing her English degree in the spring. She is a moderator for The Gay YA and a social media coordinator for WeNeedDiverseBooks. When not spending time on the Internet, she writes YA novels about difficult girls and is represented by Emily S. Keyes of Fuse Literary. Follow her on Twitter at @NitaTyndall.