I had just turned thirteen the first time I thought of kissing a girl. She was two years older than me and we volunteered together at the library every week. I remember imagining kissing her- how soft her lips would be against mine, how warm her hand would be on my waist- and feeling a rush of heat wash over me.
Since I was only thirteen- and a very sheltered thirteen at that- I pushed the daydream to the back of my mind and tried not to think about her too much.
When I was sixteen I wrote poetry and sometimes shared it with my friends. One of them, a bold girl with gorgeous hair that was always a mess of waves and curls, took my words and put them to piano music. She later wrote a full song of her own for me, and I cried after she played it for me because no one had ever created something for me before. I didn’t know what to call the feelings I had for her, but I knew it felt like more than friendship.
The winter I was seventeen, a friend took me swing dancing. She taught me to go in elaborate spins and held me close to the crooning of Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald. We’d go home after school together and explore frozen woods and have dinner with her family. She’d talk to my dad about the orchids he grew, and when she smiled at me it felt like I had just swallowed a full mug of hot chocolate.
Three makes a pattern, and I couldn’t keep pushing these feelings to the side.
The summer after graduating high school I cut my hair pixie short. I spent hours working to understand myself. I kissed a boy I barely knew and didn’t feel a thing. I tried on the label “lesbian.” I told a few trusted friends that I liked girls the way I had been taught I should only like boys. I read a book that featured a lesbian couple.
I tried to drop a few hints to my mom that I might not be interested in boys. She said I admired men’s ab muscles too much to be lesbian. I figured she must be right, and besides, hadn’t I had crushes on boys all throughout my childhood? Hadn’t I only ever kissed boys? She must have been right.
Freshman year of college I made a friend who seemed like everything I wanted to be. She was smart, and bold, and unafraid to be herself, and she made me feel like I could be that way too. Everything seemed better when I was with her, and I was so sure that if I told her how I felt, maybe we could be something more than friends. That assumption turned out to be wrong, but she remained my friend until the following fall when we had a falling out over an unrelated issue.
I started working to accept myself. I only told a few close friends at first, and then came out to my brother when he visited me at college. He accepted me instantly and completely, and has never stopped being supportive. Next I told my parents, who took the news better than I had expected. My mom had some suspicions, so perhaps my hints the previous summer had been heard. Dad was pretty stoic about it all, and basically just said that as long as I was happy, that was all that mattered. I told the rest of my siblings over the course of the next few months, and their reactions varied from long discussions on hetero-sexism in society to excitedly asking me if I was dating a girl.
The fall of my sophomore year of college, I began dating girls. The dates didn’t turn into anything serious, but I felt more comfortable dating girls than I ever had dating boys. The conversations flowed more easily, I felt more confident, and I was comfortable even with butterflies doing the samba in my stomach.
The winter of my sophomore year, I made a very good friend through Tumblr. Over the course of the following months, I developed feelings for them. To my extreme surprise and excitement, they turned out to have feelings for me as well. We began a long distance relationship, which quickly became the best romantic relationship I had experienced.
About the same time as when I was falling for this person, I realized that my fantasies of a relationship and marriage/lasting relationship didn’t necessary include sex. I had never really enjoyed kissing, and at times the thought of physical intimacy with another person made me feel kind of sick. I had heard the term “asexual” a few times on Tumblr, and began to look into it more and did some research. Everything I read felt right to me, and so I began to refer to myself as a biromantic asexual (or “bi ace” for short).
I came out as asexual to my dating partner when I visited them in the summer. We had been dating for about two months, and I remember being so terrified to tell them. I had read enough horror stories from other asexuals about how their partners couldn’t accept their orientation and broke up with them as a result. Thankfully, my partner was amazing and didn’t get scared off. They asked what kinds of physical contact I was comfortable with, and then respected the boundaries I set.
Sadly, about two weeks after I visited them we broke up. It was a mutual decision, but I was still pretty upset. They were the first person I ever said “I love you” to and the first to tell me the same. We remained friends, and still are there for each other when things get tough.
After the break-up, I gave boys a try again. I kissed a friend from high school on the 4th of July, and felt absolutely nothing (which really convinced me that asexual was one of my correct terms). When school started again I went out to dinner with a classmate and, while we had a great conversation, felt nothing. I figured I just wasn’t really over the break-up and decided to take some time off dating.
By senior year I was ready to date again for sure, and so got on Tinder to try and meet people. I ended up finding an incredibly sweet guy who was funny and interested in me, and we went out a few times. I should have liked him. I should have wanted to turn dating him into a relationship. But something was missing, and so I let things fizzle out and moved across the country (I never said I was good at handling things).
After moving and getting more-or-less settled, I started looking to date again. I found a surprising amount of guys who were interested in taking me out on dates, and went out with four of them. I had enjoyable times with all of them, but there was no spark. I didn’t feel the kind of connection that I want to feel with a romantic partner.
In the case of two times I hung out with one of the guys, I found myself more interested in women at the events we were attending. One was a gorgeous and lively woman in a red top and short white skirt at a latin dance class and the other was a petite woman in a floral dress reading The Once and Future King at the table next to ours at a cat cafe. Each time I would have loved to get to know the women better, but since I was technically there with a date, I couldn’t.
That, my friends, is a sign that I was dating the wrong person.
After continuing to go on these dates that were vaguely disappointing for no reason I could define, I took some time to really examine what it was about the dates I wasn’t enjoying. Each thought led me back to the lack of a connection I felt after each date, which I then compared to past dates I had been on. Right away there was one glaringly obvious fact: I felt most connected to a romantic partner when I dated girls.
In high school my mom and I would watch the TV show “Glee” together every week. I vividly remember the episode in season two where the character Santana was revealed to be a lesbian (partially because Naya Rivera, the actress who played her, is one of the celebrities I would love to date), and after the episode my mom commented on the reveal. “She just wasn’t connecting with any of the boys,” she said. “It makes sense that she prefers girls.”
About six years later, her words came back to me. Maybe the reason I’m not connecting with any of these perfectly nice guys I’ve gone out with is because I don’t actually feel an attraction to men. I mean, yes, there are multiple male celebrities that I have on occasion drooled over. However, when faced with an actual guy I am generally unimpressed. On the other hand, I frequently see women who I would like to get to know better or take out to dinner or wander around a European city with while holding hands and chatting about poetry.
I still stand by the label “asexual,” but I am less sure about the label “biromantic.” I definitely have a stronger preference for women. For the time being I will probably stay with my bi ace label, mostly because if I were to find a guy that I felt a romantic connection with I would date him (partially because I like the variety of puns I am able to make regarding those two parts of my identity).
Regardless of how I choose to label myself, I love women. Some part of me has known that since I was thirteen years old. I spent too long denying that, and I am tired of not accepting it. So here I am, telling the world:
My name is Colleen, I am 22 years old, own two cats, love women, and I am not ashamed.
Colleen is a proud Ravenclaw, tattoo enthusiast, and Jane Austen fan. Her dreams for the future include learning to make homemade ice cream and getting a full night of sleep without her cats waking her up. She can be found on tumblr as RavenclawPianist.