“Sexuality is fluid and you cannot box it with a few labels.” I had heard these words before, but they never resonated like they did last Sunday when I attended the LGBTQIAPK+ People Library event in Delhi.
Held in Nehru Place, Delhi, the event was aimed at eliminating the discrete stereotypes around each limb of the LGBT+ spectrum. It was the first time (for me), seeing sections other than the ‘G’ at the forefront of a queer event. It also happened to be my first encounter with the asexual (ace) community here, and I am glad I managed to pull myself out of bed that Sunday.
“I’m a lithromantic questioning homo grey asexual human person thingy,” said 20-year-old Ayesha* as she introduced herself. Struggling with the urge to ask her what ‘lithromantic’ meant and not seem ignorant, I nodded along as she helped me understand the subtleties of asexuality, a concept that has always eluded me.
(Someone who is lithromantic can experience romantic attraction, but only in theory, i.e., they don’t necessarily feel the need to be in a romantic relationship.)
Asexuality is an Umbrella Term
I, like a lot of others, believed asexuality was the absence of any attraction whatsoever. So when I saw Ayesha with a partner, I just had to ask. She proceeded to explain to me what it means to be asexual. Turns out, asexuality is an umbrella term in itself and has a lot more nuance than being an antithesis of sexuality.
“There are like five different types of attractions — romantic, sexual, platonic, sensual and aesthetic — and the only one that an ace doesn’t feel is sexual attraction. They can feel all other types of attraction.” Basically, there are a lot of permutations there, hence a lot of sub-types, e.g., aromantic (experience little or no romantic attraction), antisexual (opposed to the idea of sexuality), demisexual (experience sexual attraction only after forming an emotional bond), etc. There is no homogeneity to it.
Ayesha elaborated that she’s a grey asexual, i.e., she falls in the grey area between asexuality and sexuality. “There’s a grey area between sexuality and asexuality, where grey asexuals and demisexuals fall,” she said. “Grey asexuals are people who have a very little tendency to get sexually attracted. Let’s just say that the tendency keeps fluctuating.”
Sexuality is Fluid
“Even if we mark sexuality on a scale or something, it will only be for that moment. It can change,” Ayesha says explaining that one’s sexuality can evolve several times over in a lifetime, as has been established by some studies.
What I found really interesting to note here, is that asexuality is an altogether different criterion from the Kinsey scale, which maps a person’s sexual orientation from 0-6 based on their homosexuality or heterosexual tendencies (0 being exclusively heterosexual, and 6 being exclusively homosexual). So, an ace may also identify with another label, say pansexual. “You can have multiple labels and no, that doesn’t mean you’re confused. It just makes you more open about your sexuality,” says Megha*, who identifies as a heteroromantic demisexual. “Our sexuality is pretty complex.”
You can crop up as many labels or sub-types, it would probably never be enough to have a permanent one. At different times, you can be attracted to different people, even if they might not necessarily identify as your preferred gender.
It’s a shame that I didn’t know asexuality like this before and a lot of it has to do with the absence of its mention from the information we consume. Asexuals are dangerously underrepresented, even in pop-culture (I double checked). At peak ignorance, people even refuse to acknowledge their existence and it’s something that really has to change.
*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals