by Nina Auslander
This month, I interviewed students at Watershed who are pansexual and asexual to learn more about their experiences. They are represented by the aliases Ace Ventura, Ace of Spades, Skillet, and Non-Stick.
(If you are confused by these aliases, let me clarify: “ace” is a nickname for those who identify who are asexual, and “pan” is short for pansexual. Therefore, the asexual interviewees went with aliases that started with “ace,” and the pansexual interviewees went with aliases that are used to describe different kinds of pans.)
Before I begin this interview, here are some LGBTQIA+ terms you may not be familiar with:
Asexuality: a lack of sexual attraction
Aromanticism: a lack of romantic attraction
Pansexuality: Sexual attraction to all genders
Polyamorous: a relationship with multiple partners
Monogamous: a relationship with a single partner
Queer platonic relationship: A relationship that is neither sexual nor romantic but involves deep emotional commitment similar to a that of a long-term romantic relationship.
Sexual attraction: attraction to someone centered on future sexual interaction
Romantic attraction: an attraction centered on future romantic interaction
Platonic attraction: attraction that is neither sexual nor romantic can take a few forms;
Sensual attraction: attraction for someone centered on physical intimacy
Aesthetic attraction: attraction centered on aesthetics (looks), but not in a sexual way
Emotional attraction: attraction centered on emotional intimacy or openness
DSM: Diagnostic statistical manual of mental disorders
#1: What is your sexual orientation and romantic orientation?
Ace Ventura: Asexual, aromantic.
Ace of Spades: Asexual, aromantic.
Skillet: Pansexual, aromantic.
Non-stick: Pansexual, questioning.
#2: When did you first notice your romantic feelings strayed from the "norm"?
Ace Ventura: I always figured, “Oh, I’ll get a crush on someone later. I haven’t hit puberty yet, so that’s why. Then, I was at a summer camp in the Tetons, and all of the girls were giggling about boys. Then, one of them asked me if I had a crush on any boys. I told them “Nope.” One of them asked if I was gay. I didn’t think I was gay, either. Finally, one of the girls asked if I had ever had a crush on anybody, at all. “Not yet,” I responded to her. One of the “experienced” girls asked if I was ace. And it just fit.
Ace of Spades: I put the label on [my sexuality] in seventh grade—because I finally found a label for how I had been feeling. Access to labels was hard.
Skillet: When I never had any (laughs). Well actually, it was when people asked me out, and though I liked those people, I didn’t like that [romantic] attraction. I found it annoying and irrelevant.
Non-stick: When I was a little hatchling and all I wanted was to make out with all of my friends (laughs).
#3: What stigmatizations do you want to break down about your sexuality and romantic attractions?
Ace Ventura: The difference between asexuality and celibacy can be explained using a bar of chocolate. Think of someone who is celibate as someone who avoids the chocolate because they’re dieting. An asexual is just one of those weird people who doesn’t like chocolate.
Ace of Spades: All the time I hear, “It’s just a choice to be asexual, you haven’t found the right person yet.” Many people think that celibacy is the same thing as asexuality, but it’s not. I’ve also heard a lot of the same rhetoric of homophobia used against people who are asexual. But the thing that bothers me the most is that being asexual is still currently classified as a medical disorder is the DSM, called Hypoactive Sexuality Disorder.
Skillet: A lot of people aren’t sure about the difference between pansexual and bisexual. People who identify as pansexual is defined as “someone who is not limited to sexual choice with regard to biological sex, gender, or gender identity,” while people who identify as bisexual are defined as “someone who is sexually attracted to both men and women.”
Non-stick: I agree with “Skillet”: pansexual people aren’t promiscuous, we just don’t care about your gender.
#4: What’s your ideal relationship, platonic or otherwise?
Ace Ventura: I think I would like to live with someone who loves me for me—who doesn’t have any sexual or romantic expectations they need fulfilled. Sometimes I wonder if I will ever have a romantic attraction to someone, but then I wonder if that’s just societal programming telling me that I will want to live with someone.
Ace of Spades: Well, sometimes I think about the tax benefits that come with marrying someone. (laughs). My ideal relationship is a queer platonic relationship, which has many definitions, but to me, it means a very intense friendship with a deeper commitment.
Skillet: A mostly platonic polyamorous relationship would be ideal.
Non-stick: I am the same person as “Skillet.”
#5: Have you ever experienced any discrimination as a result of your sexual or romantic orientation?
Ace Ventura: People have told me that “I’m just trying to be queer.”
Ace of Spades: Well, of course. But the most hurtful is asexual exclusionary, which is when people who identify as asexual are excluded from the LGBTQIA+ community.
Skillet: Guys who know I’m pansexual are less likely to want to be my friends because they’re worried I’ll be attracted to them.
Non-stick: Oh yeah. People not believing it’s not a thing. A kid came out as bi at my old school and nobody wanted to be friends with him. I’ve had the same thing happen where girls don’t want to be friends with me because of [my being pansexual].