Does my teen need a label for her sexual orientation?

By Melanie Lopez

“Mom, am I asexual?”

It didn’t rock my world to hear this question from my 14-year-old daughter. She’s an inquisitive and open-minded kid, especially when it comes to herself.

“What is asexual?” I asked her, visualizing middle-school plant diagrams.

“It means you’re not attracted to boys or girls,” she answered.

“Where did you hear that?” I asked. It was her first week of high school.

We were on our afternoon walk, and she told me about a game she had played at school. It was one of those games where you share your secrets and crushes, and when she revealed she had never had a crush, the other girls were astonished.

“Oh my gosh! You’re asexual!” they had said.

“It’s true!” her friend agreed, “She’s never had a crush on anyone!”

My daughter had quickly conceded to their theory.

“Do you think you’re asexual?” I asked.

She said she didn’t know.

At first I felt frustration that my child had been labeled. It seems like everyone is given a label in high school. But, as we talked, I began to sense that her reaction to the girls’ assumption was simply relief. She seemed happy that there was finally a label that might fit her.

I consider my daughter a normal American kid. She watched Hannah Montana, ate Spaghettios, and played in the rain. But now that she is a teenager, I can see how she might feel abnormal in our openly sexual culture. Teen personalities have sex. Cartoon characters have crushes. Her siblings and friends all have an interest in, or at least a fascination with, the opposite sex.

Her childhood included action figures and stuffed animals, but the dolls and Barbies stayed in the corner. Since second grade, she has announced (emphatically) that she will never marry. She simply was not interested in romance. Not a Disney princess fan with their tales of happily ever after. “Why can’t I be friends with boys without people making drama?” she would complain.

On our next walk,  I brought up the subject again. “So,” I said. “I started reading about asexuality on the internet.” I wasn’t sure the topic was still on the table.

“Really?” she asked quickly. I could tell she was curious. “What did you learn?”

I told her that I had read several people’s personal accounts of finding they were asexual and the judgments they faced, both from heterosexuals and homosexuals. I told her that many asexuals had boyfriends or girlfriends or even married and had families so that they would appear “normal” and feel like they fit in.

“Don’t worry, Mom,” she says. “I’m not changing for anyone.”

That’s my girl.

Eventually, she might develop an interest in romance. Maybe she will meet the “right” guy or girl. Maybe she will never be interested in sex. Maybe she is just a normal teen in a society that pushes their kids to adulthood at breakneck speeds.

My daughter was offered a label about her sexuality, but I want her to know that she has a choice whether to wear it or throw it away. If she chooses to go through life without having a sexual relationship, I will support her decision. And if the constant pressure to be “normal” ever challenges her resolve, I will encourage her to discover her own path and keep walking.

Melanie Lopez is a married mother, elementary school teacher, and writer living in Missouri. She is intrigued by her children’s strength and self-awareness, and only takes a little credit for it.

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