Being asexual, being autistic

This is a post for this month’s Carnival of Aces, whose theme is analogies to an asexual experience.

After reading Queenie’s submission to this month’s carnival, in which she said that she could not imagine a world in which she was not asexual, and Jo’s post spurred by Queenie’s, where she posits how an identity such as asexuality can become undetachable, I started to think about my own experiences with undetachable identities. I realized that a lot of my experiences as an asexual person have been analogous to my experiences as an autistic person, and not only because both identities for me are undetachable.

Autism is undetachable from me because it literally describes how my brain developed. I can learn coping skills, I can study social skills, and I could even learn to pass as non-autistic, but that doesn’t change that my experience of the world (especially my sensory processing and how I relate to others) is fundamentally different from a non-autistic person’s. A neurotypical person is able to acquire social knowledge in ways that I as an autistic person can’t. My experience of the world is filtered through autism, whether I want it to or not. Both autism and asexuality affect the types of relationships I desire with others.

Similarly, asexuality has made my experience of interpersonal relationships fundamentally different than if I were not asexual. Asexuality very strongly shapes the types of relationships I seek out, and how I interact with others, especially because the types of relationships I seek out with others are atypical in ways other than lack of sexual attraction. I would not have been able to have words for those relationships without having interacted with the asexual community.

I have experienced similar types of adversity for being an autistic person and for being an asexual person, sometimes at the same time. I was once at an asexual visibility event In New York City where a few of us from the AVEN meetup group were in a park holding up signs that said “Ask an Asexual.” One passerby asked us if we were autistic. I was the only once who said I was, and he proceeded to completely ignore me while lecturing the other aces there about how they should be evaluated for autism, presumably so that they could be “cured” of both things. Other than that one time, I have experienced people wishing to cure me of both things, but separately. It is worth noting that being autistic involves facing a far more dangerous kind of cure rhetoric than being asexual: As far as I am aware, there is generally no widespread eugenicist motivation in people who desire to cure asexuals of asexuality.

I have experienced being told to shut up when I have attempted to advocate for myself as an autistic person and when attempting to advocate for myself as an asexual person. I have been told that my experiences and opinions don’t matter. In the case of autism, it is because I have asked for something so that my environment is more accessible to my sensory processing, or because I have said I don’t want to be cured of autism. In the case of asexuality, it’s because I have asked for a discussion to be inclusive to asexual experiences, or because I’ve said lack of sexual attraction is not inherently a problem in need of fixing.

While for me this analogy ends here, I wonder how other autistic aces have experienced autism and asexuality in relation to each other.

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