On Being Invisibly Demisexual

purpleandgrey, 28, female, United States

For the past few years, my story has primarily been about being invisibly ace. I’m a cisgender demisexual woman in a committed relationship with a cisgender sexual man. To all outward appearances, our relationship is indistinguishable from a normative heterosexual relationship.

But this is the really strange part: to all inward appearances, our relationship doesn’t feel all that different from a heterosexual relationship, either. I’m sexually attracted to my partner, and he’s sexually attracted to me. I’m still not sexually attracted to anyone else, which is how I know I’m still demi. But sexual attraction is an everyday part of my life now, and the fact that it’s only directed at one person doesn’t make much of a difference to my internal experience of it. I continue to identify as ace, but I often don’t feel very much like an ace person anymore.

That makes me a lot more vulnerable to doubts about my orientation. I do a lot of visibility and education work, and every time someone asks me to explain how demisexual is different from plain old sexual, I experience a moment of panic. I know the standard answers to this question, and I know that the definition of demisexual is still objectively true of me. But it’s hard to believe in myself as demi when my demi-ness isn’t a constant presence in my life, the way it used to be. If even I can’t quite tell what distinguishes me from a straight woman at this point, am I really still demi?

The only thing that really helps with those doubts is reminding myself of all the times I’ve reassured my pansexual best friend that yes, she’s still queer, even though the person she’s decided to marry is a man. In many ways, I think my situation is analogous to hers. Like me, she will be perceived as heterosexual because of who she’s married to. Her real sexual identity will be ignored by society. Bi- and pansexual erasure is a real thing and it sucks. And I think it has a lot in common with asexual erasure.

The big difference between us, though, is that my friend will continue to find people of many genders attractive, and thus will retain an internal sense of her own queerness. All I have to reassure me of my own identity is absence: a lack of attraction to anyone other than my partner. The asexual side of myself has become the background in the portrait of my sexual orientation. And it’s hard to maintain an identity based largely on negative space.