Words are undeniably powerful. So much so, that when there is not a word for something, we might be led to believe that such a thing does not exist. This is perhaps why when describing my sexuality to my friends, I would say, “Men and women are the same to me. Not because I feel attracted to both, but because I don’t feel attracted to either.” What I now find interesting is how I always knew this. But, I never thought it made me anything other than heterosexual.
I am a “posh nomad”, if you will and have spent my entire life traveling. I like my lifestyle, but it results in multiple awkward situations. Especially when it comes to sexuality, gender, or what being “liberal” means. As an ex-model, I look how traditional models look. When in Spain, I am regarded as gracious and elegant. However, I do not meet the “quintessentially feminine” – conforming to patriarchal canons of what being feminine means – ideal that rules the country. Heterosexuality is regarded as being adherent to over-performing in a traditional manner the gender you are assigned at birth. In Spain there could be a potential hint of a doubt about my not being heterosexual. In contrast, moving to London led me to be regarded as the ultimate, “quintessentially feminine” woman. It strengthened the idea that I fully “fit the norm”- heterosexual.
In London a lot of people seemed to think that I was extensively sexually experienced as soon as they caught a glimpse of me. As I grew into my looks, this belief extended amongst my Spanish acquaintances too. The truth is that I basically had no sexual experience. The reason was that I fundamentally do not find people sexually attractive. Perhaps that is also why selecting the ‘heterosexual’ option never felt right for me.
It is why I felt uneasy, grossed out, even violated whenever I forced myself to kiss guys whom I thought I should have liked – but simply did not. Or why I used my lack of experience as an excuse to avoid experiences at all. I used to tell my friends that, had I been more experienced, I would just have “gone for it.” However, the truth is that, no matter how traditionally “hot” a man was, I did not genuinely wish to “go for it.” So, if I did not like men, why did I not like women, either?
I sought explanations from my friends. Londoners told me that I was a girl at the top of the tree, needing someone to make a bigger effort to reach her. In Spain they said I was scared of living, unable to let go. In Italy, I was told that anything other than heterosexuality is a phase. I was utterly confused, yet resigned to not having a word to describe my sexuality.
The ‘top-of-the-tree’ description was good. But when I actually did feel attracted by someone in the past it was not exactly because he made an effort for me but because I simply felt the connection. The hypothesis that my anxiety disorder was causing me to not feel desire seemed possible too. But then, why had I felt something so intense for those few people? Nothing seemed to quite make sense. I felt pressured to jump into experience. I genuinely did not want to “go for experiences” with anyone who was on the map at the time.
In 2018, I found a t-shirt by Florence Given that read “somewhere on the spectrum.” It spoke to me, because I felt like my spot on the spectrum somehow did not belong to what is unfairly set as the norm. I have graduated in Comparative Literature, written articles that often touched Queer Theory, and shared my life with people who are or fully support LGBTQ+. It still took me reading an Instagram post by Kristen Cochrane to come across the term ‘demisexuality’. It instantly clicked. ‘I do not feel attracted by men, I feel attracted by some men’. ‘I need to have some connection with someone in order for me to feel attracted to them’. For the first time, it made sense. My sexuality had a name that described it more appropriately than simply ‘heterosexuality’.
As Florence Given has stated, heterosexuality is basically presented as compulsory. Looks play an important role in this. If you are a traditionally beautiful girl – and I am not saying this does not give passing privilege – you are assumed to meet ‘the norm’, which inhibits you from exploring yourself. In Spain, when I say that I am demisexual, some people react by stating: ‘Okay but you are normal, not weird’.
I have had the privilege of spending a long time in London, of having studied a degree that certainly has me not even questioning my ‘not being weird’ because of my sexuality. But I speak from this privilege, and the fact that some people still make such comments highlights the long road there still is on the way to debunk the idea that all the rest of us circle around heterosexuality. I’m not weird and not in the least apologetic. I define myself in the words that I feel are closest to who I genuinely am and claim my freedom to do – or not do – anything I desire.
By Tiare Gatti Mora