Carnival of Aces: Stages of Coming Out

The August 2018 Carnival of Aces theme is Stages of Coming Out, specifically using Vivienne Cass’s identity model. In the model, there are six stages: confusion, comparison, tolerance, acceptance, pride, and synthesis.

After reading about the model, I didn’t find it particularly relevant to or reflective of my experiences. I seem to have skipped quite a few of the stages and even now I can’t pinpoint where I am.

I’ve never been too bothered by being ace. I didn’t spend a lot of time wondering what was wrong with me or when I was going to catch up to my peers; when my friends started dating, I didn’t wonder why I wasn’t interested. When they started having sex, I didn’t worry that I still didn’t even want to kiss anyone. I was so uninterested that it didn’t even occur to me to think about it; it just wasn’t on my radar at all. On the rare occasions when I went “hmm….” I just assumed it would happen eventually and promptly forgot about it again.

I think my skipping over the confusion and comparison stages was aided a great deal by the fact that no one else was bringing up these questions either. Due to being gender nonconforming, I’d had people asking if I was a lesbian or flat-out calling me a dyke since I was 12. When I didn’t date in high school, I think people took that as proof that I was gay. My friend group included a couple of out queer people, so none of my friends bothered me about not dating, probably because they didn’t want to force me to come out by interrogating me about it.

Of course, I had no idea at the time that I had anything to come out as. I knew I wasn’t gay and was in fact rather comically bewildered as to why everyone thought I was, since I certainly hadn’t given any indication of liking girls. I assumed I was straight and just… bad at it.

By the time I was 20 and was still completely uninterested in boys I wondered a few times if everyone else knew something I didn’t re: my supposed lesbianism, but I still could hardly remember to think about it in the first place.

When I stumbled across the term “asexuality” for the first time, I immediately went, “OH. Okay. That explains a lot!” and went about my merry way, still without thinking too much about it. I didn’t struggle to accept it or need to make peace with it or anything; having bypassed identity confusion, comparison, and tolerance (engaging with rising doubts), I likewise bypassed grappling with the acceptance stage.

The pride stage of Cass’s model involves “a wish to advertise the change in identity”, and I never really had that either. I considered it private; I wasn’t going to date anyone, I wasn’t going to have a partner to introduce to people, so what reason did I have to reveal this personal information to anyone? I wasn’t ashamed of being ace; I just didn’t think it was anyone’s business. I did tell a pair of friends when it came up naturally in conversation, and they were both completely unsurprised, but I felt no need to “come out” to the world at large.

Even today, it just isn’t something that really comes up. I’m very comfortable in my aro-ace identity, but it’s just not a topic of conversation in my world… for the most part.

There was an incident a few weeks ago at one of my pickup soccer games, though, that made me think about the whole topic of coming out again. Out of the blue, one of the guys I was playing with grabbed my left hand to look for a ring while asking if I was married yet. I grabbed my hand back and said, “Of course not!” and he got offended, wanting to know why of course not, wanting to know if I hated men, and then wanting to “reassure me” that I was still young and there was time to find someone.

I was angry and upset about the whole thing (I still am, frankly). It also surprised me in that I figured everyone at soccer knows/assumes I’m queer even though I haven’t explicitly come out. I’m out as both ace and agender to my friends and my brother, and I’m out as nonbinary at work. But I haven’t come out as either at soccer. I’ve been thinking about it, but I’ve only been thinking about coming out as nonbinary, with the name and pronoun change that would entail. I still feel like my ace identity doesn’t need to be stated because it’s not anyone else’s concern.

So which stage is that, then?

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6 thoughts on “Carnival of Aces: Stages of Coming Out

  1. :I assumed I was straight and just… bad at it.” This is so relatable. I learned what asexuality was at 14, but got dismissed so I didn’t think to much about it. It wasn’t until recently that I just accepted that was what I was and stopped explaining it to people.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think I was so sure I was straight partly because everyone was sure I was gay and I knew I wasn’t. “I know I don’t like girls so that /must/ mean I like boys (even though it seems like I don’t)”. I had no idea there was any other option, but if no one had been trying to push me in one direction I doubt I would have pushed back so hard in the other direction.

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  2. I find it interesting how so many people use the same or at least very similar words to describe their thoughts about their sexuality during puperty: “Assuming to be straight only not good at it.” or “Assuming to be straight since gay wasn´t the case.” or “Assuming to be straight or gay because of liking boys more than girls (or vice versa).” or “Assuming to be bisexual because of finding boys and girls equally aestetically beautiful/seeing no difference between boys and girls.” etc. Those were my thoughts exactly when I first wondered at the age of 12 and again at the age of circa 19. And like you, I never wasted much of a thought about it because there were so many topics that were more interesting than that.

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    1. Yeah, that is interesting. I think it has a lot to do with not knowing asexuality is a possibility. And non-aromantic people may assume their romantic attractions are or must be sexual attractions. I think I would’ve been more confused or at least done more wondering about my lack of interest if I weren’t also aro. I had no desire to date at all, which seems more straightforward to deal with.

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      1. The desire to date wasn´t there, too. But I knew how falling in love had to feel more than 20 years before I did for the first time. Plus, I feel sensually attracted to people. That´s what made it even worse and more difficult.

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