What it's like being asexual
Growing up different
TFT: Joel, thanks for agreeing to tell us about your life. What was it like growing up in Spain, perhaps feeling different from those of your age?
At the age of five, I remember being told I had to go back to the UK. There I was surrounded by kids who were from a very different culture, with different interests. For instance, I grew up not liking football, which is quite a big thing as a guy. So, from a really young age, I felt different in so many ways. It was quite a challenging time. But I learned from that point on to embrace what makes me different and appreciate those things. My parents always taught me that home is ultimately heaven. Where I am at any single point of time may feel a bit out of place, and I will never feel entirely at home until I’m in heaven. There are moments when I feel like I really fit in, but there are also times when that’s not the case. I don’t have a problem with that. It’s the reality of living in our broken world.
TFT: That’s really interesting. Now, when you became a teenager, you realised you didn’t have the same level of sexual or romantic attraction that others do to either sex. When did you first realise this, and what was that like?
Yes, it was another reason I found I differed from everyone else. Growing up, because so many things were different, I didn’t realise that I was different in this area. I thought, “Well, maybe it’s because I’m from a different culture”, "Maybe it's because I'm a Christian", "Maybe I'm just a late bloomer." There were many different reasons. I don't think I fully worked out what it was until I started university. There I sat down and gave myself the time to rethink and wrestle it through, and realise that I didn't have those same desires as everyone else. It was definitely a process.
TFT: Was it helpful to realise that you were asexual, or was that upsetting for you?
It was indeed a challenge that I had to pray a lot about and try to work out. Initially, I thought, "What's wrong with me?", "Why am I different from everyone else, again, on this issue?", "Why God? Why am I like this?" And it took me a while to get my head around the biblical truth behind what it means to be single. I also wrestled with whether I'd describe myself as asexual. I think labels like that can be helpful in a certain context, and it's a term I would use with people who already know and understand and use it, but with other people who don't know what it really means, I probably wouldn't. So it depends on who I'm speaking to. If it's going to be helpful as a shortcut to explaining things, I might use it. Otherwise, I probably wouldn't.
TFT: That makes sense, thank you. Do you have a thoughts on why God made you this way?
Ultimately, there is nothing wrong with being single, which Paul makes clear in 1 Corinthians 7. He wishes that there were more single people like him. I think that is something that has got lost in secular culture, where the entirety of life is built around relationships. But it has also got lost within Christian culture, which often idolises marriage and relationships. It has helped me to realise that God's singleness is a gift rather than a burden. I can serve Him with different priorities and opportunities than other people, so I see it as much as a gift from God as marriage.
TFT: It sounds like God's given you a sense of peace about your calling. I'm curious how other people have reacted when you've told them you are asexual?
There's definitely been a range of responses. Some people are probably a little confused because it's quite an alien concept for them. Other people's reaction is, "Well, never say never! God might change things. You just might not have met the right person yet." But, I also get some people who have been understanding, which is really refreshing. These people have frequently had experience either personally, or with friends or family, of singleness. They have supported me in significant ways, which has been great.
TFT: Joel, I know you enjoy being with other people. What is friendship like for you?
Yeah, friendship is crucial, for someone who is single. When God says to Adam in Genesis that it's not good for him to be alone, He creates Eve, and creates marriage. But we are all made as social beings to be in a relationship with God and other people. And that's one reason God has placed us in churches. And one thing that is important for me is finding people to whom I can be honest with and bare my soul. Friends I can speak to, who I can rely on, who will listen to me and understand me and have got time for me. At the same time, other people around me who are in relationships or marriages have different priorities in life, such as their spouse or their kids. So I think it's important to develop close intimate friendships with people who have got that time in their life to invest in me, as I invest in them.
TFT: And because you're not pursuing a sexual or romantic partnership with anyone, are you investing longer-term than most people might be in their friendships?
Yes, that's my hope. What is hard is thinking, "What is going to happen in the long run?" I'm in my early 20s, and everything is relatively transient. People are moving here, there and everywhere. I aim to establish longer-term friendships than most people are doing, but it's definitely a challenge. Our culture sees relationships as quite transactional.
TFT: As you say, you're in your early 20s. Do you have a sense of what singleness will look like moving into your 30s and into later life?
I think that will be a challenge. Most people around my age end up getting married or into long-term relationships. I think it will be a challenge being a single person surrounded by couples and families. New opportunities will emerge to be friends and support those people. That might mean looking after their kids, babysitting so that their parents can have a night together or helping on a day-to-day basis. It also means that I can be flexible to go somewhere to support someone who needs it and not worry about leaving my family behind. So definitely a lot of opportunities and challenges.
Advice to others
TFT: What might you say to other Christians who might consider themselves asexual?
Firstly, I'd say that God does not make mistakes. You are God's creation and made in His image. Don't feel you are a mistake. Don't think that there's something wrong with you. Secondly, you're not the only person like this. I've found it's helpful to know that I'm not the only person who is asexual. And thirdly, I'd want to encourage people to make the most of the opportunities that singleness brings, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7. Being single and being asexual is a gift. See it as an opportunity to serve God's church and glorify God.
TFT: I was wondering what Bible verses might be helpful to Christians who are asexual. There are, of course, references to eunuchs, such as Jesus' words in Matthew 19. However, when you mentioned 1 Corinthians 7, I thought of verse 9, which says that those who burn with passion should get married. But in verse 8, he calls those who are unmarried, and don't burn with passion, to the great calling of singleness.
Exactly. Yes, that's a great verse. If you don't need to get married, Paul is saying you don't have to. In the eternal scheme of things, the norm is not to be married. We're all born single, and many people will die single as well. Even when we're in heaven, it won’t be all the couples with strange single people! That's not what being a Christian is. You can see from the Old Testament through to the New Testament how Jesus redeems singleness. Whereas the Old Testament saw singleness as a curse, we then see that Jesus was single. Paul was single. Some of the most remarkable people in the New Testament were single. They served God in brilliant ways. This is a great reminder that the aim of being a Christian is not to get married and live a happy married life with kids. Our aim as Christians is to glorify God and tell other people about the gospel.
TFT: Joel, thank you so much for your honesty and openness.
This article was originally published in the spring 2022 edition of the TFT magazine, Ascend. Click the button below to download your copy.
Download the spring 2022 edition of Ascend