A Publicly Changing Identity

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I’m pretty much an open book about myself, my identities, my diagnoses, my labels. It’s part of what happens when you keep up a blog that’s about your own experiences. You share a lot, and you share your understanding of different labels and identities as they apply to you.

I also happen to be a human whose self understanding/diagnoses/labels/identities change over time. Unsurprisingly, this is true about basically every human who has ever existed. None of us remain static.

Where this becomes an odd kind of contradiction is when you’ve written publicly about the experience of being x, then slowly come to realize that maybe you’re actually more y. Were you lying before? How do you relate to those prior writings? Should other people take you seriously anymore? What if you just change again? It can feel like it undercuts all of the insights you had, every time you connected with others through a shared identity, all the work you put into writing about the identity.

I have a lot of anxiety about being an authentic representation of the identities I claim, because like most mentally ill and disabled people, I have massive imposter syndrome about my diagnoses and am convinced that I’m not actually different or special, I’m just a lying snowflake (hey thanks assholes who keep saying shit like that). Also people are different and I don’t want to misrepresent other people’s experiences!

This is a lot of intro.

Here’s the deal: I’m not sure if I’m asexual.

I’ve been struggling with this identity since I first started thinking about claiming it. Before I even knew that asexuality was an identity, I had and enjoyed sex. I thought that I’d felt sexual attraction. I’d dated extensively. It’s just that these things never felt right or natural, and it always seemed like I was pushing myself just for other people. Gray asexual was the most affirming identity I could find. It gave me the self assurance to set boundaries, to reclaim my body, to take the break from sex that my deeply traumatized body needed (and someday I’ll tell y’all about how much trauma it’s taken because people didn’t know how to express love within boundaries). It gave me the space to realize that love and sex are separate and that I can take as much or as little time to deal with my sexuality as I need, without any expectation that I need to be providing a partner with a certain amount of sex.

It made sense as an identity and it was SO helpful as an identity for me. I would never give up what it did for me. But I don’t know if it’s right anymore. Moving past it is weird and hard, especially because I already have felt as though my sexuality is definitely not the mainstream norm, but also not really anything that fits in queer culture.

I’ve been seeing a sex therapist recently. Husband and I decided that we wanted to try to find some common ground and see how we could make compromises considering the fact that he is allosexual and I identified as asexual. And boy howdy have we unleashed some shit…

I am kinky.

I am kinky as fuck.

Sexual desire has been showing up consistently for me when I integrate kink into my life. I want sex, I think about sex, I think about my partner sexually.

Now there’s still a lot of…stuff to deal with beyond that, not the least of which is all the anxiety and trauma I have over trying to be a vanilla person for 27 years. Sexual attraction is still not something that seems to occur in any kind of spontaneous fashion for me. I still have to actively work if I want sex of any kind to be a part of my life. Do I still fall somewhere under the gray spectrum?

Where do I go from here and how do I stay responsible in my writings when I’m talking about something as uncertain and malleable as self-identity?

I both love and hate that moment when a new identity snaps into place and you’re left looking at it like “wow how did I miss this for 27 fucking years?” I love the way it feels like you’ve unlocked whole new parts of yourself. I love the feeling of reading about someone else’s experience and going YES ME TOO. But I hate the way it feels like rewriting or replacing. Was I ever ace? What was the point of reading about asexuality for five years, exploring it, trying to understand how I fit into that spectrum if I was actually just going in the wrong direction this whole time? How on earth do I explain to all the people who have read my writing about asexuality that no, actually, I’m not sorry don’t listen to me anymore, don’t pay attention to that.

On an intellectual level I fully believe that an identity is valid even if it is temporary. If someone identifies as lesbian, then goes on to identify as trans and straight, they still have the experiences of being lesbian. If they wrote or spoke about it, those words and stories still matter. It wasn’t fake or a lie, they weren’t misleading anyone.

It’s hard enough to believe those things in the personal hellscape of my own head. But doing it out loud in front of all of you? Owning that uncertainty and change? Wowsers bowsers. I just don’t know how to do it. I don’t trust myself anymore, because I keep changing my story. I feel like I’m gaslighting myself half the time because I have such a bad opinion of my own perceptions.

The best that I can do and still feel responsible is to be transparent. My identity is changing. I’m not sure what it’s changing to, or what is being left behind. But I’m here. I’m still confused. And I’m still probably not normal. Huzzah!

7 thoughts on “A Publicly Changing Identity

  1. Benny Vimes

    “when I integrate kink into my life. I want sex, I think about sex, I think about my partner sexually.”

    YEP. This VERY strongly speaks to me. My experience of sexuality changes dramatically when kink is in the picture. I often think of myself as having a “play drive” rather than a “sex drive” but when the play is really good sexuality follows with enthusiasm. When it’s not my feelings about sex varies from fine/okay to actively gross.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I dunno.
      I know my sex life is better when there’s a kinky element, but I think identifying as kinky is usually more general than what you’re asking here. That said, the kink communities I was involved in in various Northern UK cities had a very large percentage of people with minority sexual or gender (or both!) orientations, in addition to “kinkster”.
      Lots of bi people of all genders, lots of lesbians and gay men, trans men and women, and non-binary folks etc. So I would guess there were folk for whom kink wasn’t about sex at all, and for whom the only sex they would ever enjoy would be kinky sex.

      There’s also a subset of kinksters for whom kink is or was very much a major part of how they recovered from sexual trauma or intimate partner abuse. Because boundaries have to be explicitly negotiated, the kink scene can be a place to safely* explore what it means to have boundaries in the first place, especially when so much of mainstream society has some seriously fucked up attitudes to consent and bodily autonomy, and gives people so much shame about queer and non-vanilla sexual identities. Fetlife discussion forums would be one place to look.

      *insert standard disclaimer about how this doesn’t mean abuse doesn’t happen in kink communities, but kinksters should know better!

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      • Yeah, like I had kind of assumed that kinky didn’t mean a strong orientation like the one I’m describing, but once it started to click for me I was like “wait, have I just been missing something this whole time??”

        Like

      • Yeah, I get that. 🙂
        I hope you can find similar folk for whom it is. Like, I don’t for one second think you’re the only one for whom kinky is a strong orientation. I just can’t think what words they’d use to describe it so you can find others like yourself. Good luck! 🙂

        Like

    • Benny Vimes

      I don’t think it’s the only way to identify as kinky. I know lots of people who are kinky AND ace – they have no sexual connection to kink. I also know people who are highly sexual outside of kink, and their kink is fairly nonsexual. And I know people who enjoy both vanilla and kink sex.

      But I definitely know a lot of people (a LOT) who need kink elements in order to enjoy/want sex. I know a lot of people who have sexual responses to a huge range of different kinks – some need/want something very specific, others are into a huge range of things.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I think being open about the limits of our knowledge is the only real way to be both open and true to ourselves. It’s how all good science is conducted, too, after all. So go you for having that courage and level of insight.

    Liked by 2 people

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