Laura from Italy

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I'm an asexual, gray-aromantic (I think) and perhaps agender (still questioning) Italian 23 year old.When I was younger I always thought there was something wrong with me.

I guess it all started when I was in middle school. The first thing I noticed was that while all of my friends and classmates started having first boyfriends or girlfriends I was never interested into that. I never had someone I liked, was never interested in 'gawking at the boys playing basketball' like my childhood best friends and I was mostly not keen on greeting my female classmates with kisses like it was custom to. I didn't feel comfortable with any of those things and that's what made me stand out from the others. And if you add a passion for reading, very few friends and studying... well let's just say I totally wasn't among the popular crowd in my class.

My disinterest in dating continued in high school as well: I never had crushes and if anyone asked my opinion on a guy.. I just shrugged and said I didn't know and that he looked normal to me. It wasn't until I was in the "triennium" (that's what the last 3 years of high school are called in Italy) that I noticed my gaze lingering on certain individuals at times, both male and female ones. I was 16/17 and the fact that I sometimes even considered what kissing a girl or a boy would be like totally freaked me out. You see my parents never pressed their ideas on me or my sister, they always wanted us to get our own opinion of things, but I knew my dad wasn't keen on gay people: he'd often mock them and make fun of them so I was super scared of what everyone's opinion of me would be if I voiced those thoughts. Needless to say, this is the very first time I tell anyone about that period of my life.

Eventually when I was 17 I went out with an older guy (he was 22) for two/three weeks. I wouldn't call that a relationship or what I felt for him attraction: I was kind of pushed into going out with him by two of my classmates and I must admit I was kind of glad someone liked me.I was never comfortable with him touching me though and once I voiced my concerns he broke it off. I guess I wasn't worth his time since I never let him touch me below the waist.

I'm 23 now and that's the only experience I've ever had with relationships so far. Anyway time passed, I graduated high school and started university still not dating anyone and still not having the slightest crush whatsoever. Flash forward: when I was 22 I read a book called How To Be A Normal Person by TJ Klune. The book is about a guys called Gustavo Tiberius who falls in love with Casey, an asexual hipster stoner. That was the first time in my life I came across the word "asexual".

While reading the book I identified so much with Casey I totally freaked out once I finished it. I couldn't be asexual, I was normal, I was fine and I was not like him. I was just a late bloomer.The weeks passed but my growing interest on the subject did not: I searched asexuality, demisexuality, aromanticism,... online checking every single result, every single day.

I don't know how I got over my internalised acephobia but I did, I did and it was like I'd gotten a huge weight off my chest. And that May I fully identified as asexual. Few months passed and in September I decided to give coming out a go: the first person I told about it was my sister. Her reaction? She shrugged and said "Good for you". The second person was my very open minded best friend A.: she just said it was awesome I came to this conclusion and that she didn't love me any less.

My parents? Well that's a sour territory: my mum reacted saying it was bullshit and my dad... he said I had to try to be normal. What's the definition of normal though? The concept of "normal" varies so much I think there's nothing really normal. I was so hurt and disappointed by their reactions that I never mentioned anything again. Well after my sister and A. I got both very acephobic and accepting reactions:

I was told I was a late bloomer; I had to get my hormones in check; I had to try having sex first because it just 'feels too good not to try'; I had to wait till the right person came along; I was told that mine would be a very sad life; I was looked with pitiful eyes and told I would find someone; I was called a liar and a late bloomer all over again. I've had a friend who accepted me telling me it was just a phase a few weeks later.

But I was also accepted, loved and had friends who had never heard the word asexual trying to understand what the Ace Spectrum is, making some real sensible questions.

You see in Italy some sexualities are still a taboo. Italy is still lagging behind all of the EU countries in terms of homophobia, transphobia and biphobia. We've had civil unions approved one year ago (which is awesome) but still have people degrading those marriages and not heterosexual love. I've read about some awful things happen to LGBTQ+ members and I couldn't be more ashamed of my fellow Italians.

There isn't enough awareness on sexuality: there's people (even youngsters) still thinking homosexuality is a choice or an illness; let's not talk about asexuality which on Google search is associated to the words "cure", "illness", "remedies", "symptoms"; bisexuality is still a taboo and not fully understood. (And I got that by just confronting the results in English and the results in Italian)..I am happy I came out though and I am happy I finally can understand a part of myself I always though wrong. I am still questioning myself though: I know I'm asexual but what about romantic attraction or gender identity? Well at this day I consider myself gray-aromantic or demiromantic (I'm still not sure) and am currently wondering whether I am agender too or not since I've always considered myself female just because of what my body looks like.

I'm sure I'll get to a conclusion soon and regards my past fear of an attraction to both men and women I've decided to let it be. It's okay for me to fall in love (if I'll ever fall in love) with either. I guess I'm scared of not being accepted but now I know I don't have to have a significant other or get married to be happy.

I just have to learn to love myself and.. well I guess I am slowly getting there: we all have ups and downs.. they're what keeps us alive after all. ^^

/ Laura @MylostNeuron

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