This Bi Life: Bi and On The Ace Spectrum

4/17/2017

When I was a teenager coming into my bi identity, I was confused, maybe even a little more so than your average person questioning their sexuality. I had only ever felt sexually attracted to one person before, and even then, it had come only after years of close friendship. I had a lot of questions. Was it normal for a teenager to so seldom feel sexual attraction? Was there a difference between attraction and just finding someone good-looking? How could I know I was bi if I had only ever been attracted to one person in a sexual way?

Years later, I felt more secure in my bisexuality. By the time I was nineteen, I had been in love twice, once with a girl and once with a boy (this is not to say that relationships or sexual activity with more than one gender are required to know that you’re bi – they’re not). But I still felt a little odd about my very limited attractions to anyone, of any gender. I got used to being teased (mostly good-naturedly) by my friends and family for being “picky.” Most people I knew could list off ten or more people they had been attracted to, and I sometimes wondered what was wrong with me.

I had heard about asexuality on Tumblr, but it didn’t quite seem to fit. Asexuality generally refers to a lack of any sexual attraction, whereas I had felt sexual attraction (and enjoyed sexual experiences). Soon, however, I started seeing other terms show up on the internet, such as ace spectrum. Ace spectrum refers to the fact that asexuality is, in fact, a spectrum, and that asexual people have a variety of experiences. So if asexuality wasn’t necessarily black and white, did that mean I could be on this spectrum?

Then I came across the term demisexual. Demisexual people only feel sexual attraction once they’ve formed a close bond with someone, and forming a close bond does not necessarily mean that sexual attraction will ever occur. After years of feeling alone in my experience, I learned that other people felt this way, too!  I was ecstatic to have a term that so accurately described me. But I worried that maybe identifying as being on the ace spectrum would mean I could no longer identify as bi. Luckily, that wasn’t the case at all. Over the years I’ve connected with a myriad of people, both online and offline, who are on the ace spectrum and also identify as something else. You can identify as asexual and biromantic, demisexual and pansexual, gray-asexual and homoromantic, or any number of other combinations.

It was such a relief to know that I could keep my bi identity (which had become very important to me) and also acknowledge this other facet of myself. I started identifying as bi and demisexual, or bidemisexual. To me, this means that I have the potential to be attracted to someone of any gender, but only after a close bond is formed, and that I tend to experience sexual attraction far less frequently than most people.

At this point, you might be thinking, Why do you have to have a label for everything? Why can’t you just be who you are? It’s a question I get asked a lot. Everyone’s different, and that means everyone has different feelings about labels. Some people don’t like them, and that’s perfectly okay. But for me, labels were an incredibly important part of understanding myself and connecting with others. I think it’s wonderful that someone can search for asexuality on the internet and be given information that might make them feel less alone, or make them realize that they’re not broken. There are stereotypes about millennials “making up words” on Tumblr, but when it comes to gender and sexuality, I think it’s only logical for us to expand our vocabulary. There are so many ways that human (a)sexuality can manifest, so why not name our own if we want to?

Hannah Johnson

Hannah Johnson is an intersectional feminist, cat lady, and bisexual activist. Her writing has been featured in Bi Women Quarterly, Selfish Magazine, The Minetta Review, the Journal of Bisexuality, and more. She is currently pursuing her MFA in poetry at Mills College.