One boy, ebony curls traveling down his fair complexion, olive eyes staring at me as he flashes me with a radiant smile. I run eagerly to sit next to him, not minding the fact that he is nearly eight years older than me. He giggles at my candid childish behavior and pats the seat next to him, telling me to come closer so we can watch a movie. “My daughter has a crush on you, won’t you just give her a kiss?” My mother begs him, and he tenderly complies by smooching my cheek in a rather innocent matter, in the same fashion a father kisses his children in bed at night and tucks them in. My cheeks turn a bright red and I curse at my mother, feeling utterly and devastatingly betrayed. I am only six years old yet my mother is ever the matchmaker of the women in her family, always willing to spare them from becoming bitter spinsters chained to ever-lasting maidenhood. But I am no woman, and no daughter either, but she won’t find that out until ten years later.
One girl, her caramel skin glistening at the touch of the sun’s rays peeking through the classroom’s window. She looks at me and watches me fail miserably at my geometry problems, which she always ends up helping me solve thanks to her mathematical genius. Little does she know of my affections for her, of how I desire to kiss her glossy lips and run my hands through her silky hair. Of how I fantasize of her during the day, of how she visits my dreams as if she weren’t from this physical realm, almost as if she were some kind of magical enchantress that took my heart with her into her fairyland realm. But my love for her withers like leaves fall from autumn trees, for she loves not me. I witness as she kisses a golden-haired girl that calls herself her girlfriend, a girl that is much more delectable than myself. She was just a dream, and I was but an enamored fool. Thus my heart is broken, dreams of her lips pressed against mine being no longer a possibility.
One person, the joy in their smile spreading through each and every fiber of my being just how the light spreads on the candles of their menorah on Hanukkah. Except that while they only saw me as a friend, I saw them as a promise; a promise that others at my school would accept me for who I am as a transgender individual, a promise that there was more than just cruelty towards people like me. Their kindness, their hilarious sense of humor embedded with generational dank memes, their gentleness, every single one of the facets of their personality only further enhanced their inner beauty in my eyes. I loved getting lost into their dazzling turquoise eyes, longing to stroke their short chestnut hair as lovers often do. But my affections were once more unreciprocated, for they had a boyfriend. Therefore, my heart ought to move on.
One man, the valedictorian in our senior high school class. Did I truly harbor feelings for him, or did my brain just trick itself into thinking that if he could love me for who I was, perhaps I could love myself as well? The answer remains unclear to me, but I care not. He may have been conventionally attractive as a white man, but the arrogance that dripped from his voice as he proclaimed his grand valedictorian speech tore off any and all attractiveness I previously saw in him. There he stood, feigning the prowess of the mighty Achilles and boasting to possess the intellect of the legendary Odysseus when he rather resembled King Midas instead, once having an entire castle of gold only to later acquire a pair of donkey ears for his pretentiousness. He was but an eighteen-year-old punk that happened to have scored two places above me in our high school rank due to teacher-parent favoritism. I cried myself to sleep the night of our graduation, but the tears flowing down my cheeks were of self-hatred rather than heartbreak. If there was something that I had wanted just as fiercely as being loved romantically, it was to be number one among my classmates, and third place seemed rather dull as opposed to first. No love for him remained in my heart, only envy.
One woman, bombarding her rivals with dodgeballs in an open field at my university campus. She was plump when compared to the skinnier girls that surrounded her in the athletics court, but when my eyes first saw her all I could see were rays of beauty beaming through her deep brown eyes as I was nearly blinded by the paleness of her white complexion. She knew my name and I knew hers, yet she was two years older than me, a college freshman at Oxford University. Our conversations were brief and mostly stuck to topics concerning the project we had together for anatomy class, but I didn’t mind our impersonal relationship. I was content with watching her from afar during the luncheon we shared together, observing the agile dodgeball maneuvers she used upon her friends like a majestic eagle that catches its prey. I knew it was but a wild fantasy to think that she could ever see me as anything besides a nuisance (for that is how the vast majority of upperclassmen see the freshman population at Oxford University) but that didn’t stop my mind from fantasizing of what the taste of her ruby lips would be like. We parted ways after she graduated, and my life went on.
One person, an indigenous Canadian exchange student at Oxford, my very first romantic partner. They were perfect in every way, their androgyny complimenting my hard-won sense of masculinity that I acquired after years of being out as transgender. We dreamed of how I would escape Oxford and join their indigenous people in Nova Scotia, of how we would both leave everything behind and dedicate the rest of our lives to passionately loving each other. But all our illusions shattered when they saw the freshly cut scars upon my wrists after they discovered that I was wounded from so many years of living as something I was not, of being raised and expected to be a lady when all I had ever wanted was to be like a gentleman. My constant suicide attempts, my never-ending depression, my mental illness sickened them so that I ended our three-month relationship in order to spare them pain. Then I foolishly told them I regretted our break-up and tried to better my frail mental health for them, but this was to no avail. All this time, they had been a lesbian, incapable of delivering the passionate love they had promised to me, one who acted, spoke, thought and lived like a man in spite of living in a society that told me I could not be one because of my ‘biology’. And thus my tragic romantic adventure ended.
One man, long curly hair flowing down to his shoulders and vivid sky-blue eyes staring at me through thin-framed glasses. It would be but a lie to pretend I did not secretly find him handsome and wish that he would think the same of me, but it was a lie I was adamant to believe due to the chains of toxic masculinity and internalized biphobia that bound me. If anything, he only saw me as an acquaintance, and it would be too much for me to presume that he and I were close friends. We often saw each other at the support meetings for ***** students at Oxford, and we would engage in conversation every so often. He was always so gallant and courteous, always making sure to pronounce my name correctly and to use the appropriate pronouns for me. It should not have surprised me, considering he himself was *****, but I felt immensely thankful regardless. I often wonder what it would have been like to pursue a relationship with him but I was never brave enough to find out, and he never expressed any romantic feelings towards me. And thus the two of us remained friends.
One woman, her curly dark hair framing the lovely oval shape of her face. It was not my first time being in love with a female student older than me, and so my feelings for her did not take me by surprise. She too was an exchange student, but unlike my ex, she came from Honduras. We met on a Saturday morning when she found me weeping at the stairs of a Roman Catholic church, pleading for God to absolve me of my self-destructive tendencies, to fix me, to make me ‘normal’ even though there was nothing inherently abnormal about me. Thus she introduced me to the Church’s priest, who was benevolent enough to make me see that being ***** and transgender is no sin. When I had no one, I had her, but I knew that this was a forbidden love. She could have never seen me in such light, and I never expected her to reciprocate such feelings. Yet I was content just being by her side, just by admiring the brown bronze of her radiant skin and the light within her obsidian eyes. Her inner light shone through each and every one of her words and deeds; she was a holy woman if ever I had met one. And if there is something the Bible clearly states about blessed women is that they are not to be objects of desire like the one I harbored for her (No woman should be merely an object of desire either, for all men, women and people are living, breathing individuals made of flesh and bone and should not be only viewed for their sexual or romantic value). Thus once more I buried my affections for one of my romantic interests, and she remained an intimate friend of mine, one with whom I would share my joys and sorrows with.
One person, my friend, my tutor, my peer mentor at Oxford University. They were the first person I spoke to when I walked inside Oxford’s ***** center, and after I came out to them as transgender they took it upon themself to make my stay at my university as pleasant as possible. Like so many of my other loves, they were two to three years older than me, a senior while I was still a freshman. Never mind their age, however; they were as refreshing and youthful as a cool breeze upon a midnight’s summer dream. They were ever so cordial, so tender and sweet and loving, having both the tender sweetness of a mother and the hilarious dad jokes that being a father entails. Their thick-framed glasses complimented their black straight hair that fell to their shoulders, and their ears were often adorned with dazzling little ornaments like the stars that litter the sky. But it would be a lie to make myself think that I had any opportunity to be with them as a romantic partner, to take the place of their boyfriend. I knew very well that they saw me as a child, as someone to be protected and nourished due to the naiveté and innocence that comes with being a first-year at a university. And children can never be objects of romantic love from adults. Thus they remained my friend and mentor.
One man, but this time he was a man like me, a man ‘born with the wrong parts’ as our overwhelming cisheteronormative society dictates. His hair was a dark ebony artificially colored with bright red and orange hues, his deep dark eyes assessing me at every instance. He seemed so perfect in every way, so sexual, so suave, so confident of himself and his ability to charm other people’s hearts and to make people ‘come out from their shells’ (his own words being quoted here). And like me he too was in the autistic spectrum, making it easier for me to relate to him as a fellow autistic human. But it was all a big juicy lie, the greatest fraud ever to be found in my love repertoire. He feigned to have only platonic feelings for me, but it was evident to anyone near us save myself that all he wanted was to get into my pants. He kept kissing me, cuddling with me, touching me in the fashion sexual lovers often touch one another when he invited himself over to my place. And after he was done playing with me and using me as merely as his sexual toy, he often apologized (and even admitted to) for his sexual assault, for how he touched me in such intimate bodily parts that no one should ever explore without consent. Luckily I realized I had to cut him off when I was informed by his friends that he had had a boyfriend the whole time, and I had been cheated on. And only after I cut him off did I realize how dangerous he was. I had blissfully and ignorantly thought that being a ***** transgender individual entailed that I would be safe from the dangers of partner and sexual abuse; yet I was wrong all along. It should go without saying that it does not matter what parts one is born with, but that anyone can be a sexual predator regardless of gender identity or sexuality. But alas, I was foolish and did not know this. Thus our toxic and sexually detrimental ‘relationship’ (if I can even call it that since we were not even a committed couple) ended, leaving me weak, frail, heart-broken, and devastated. For while he only used me as a toy to express his hypersexuality, I had been suppressing my romantic feelings for him this entire time.
One man, one woman, one person… this was but the ever repeating cycle that my lonesome love life seemed to be confined to. I had never truly minded my affections before, but it was about time for me to come to terms with myself; I was not, am not, and will never be, a fully sexual person. My romantic feelings for others have nothing to do with my sexual appetites, which are clearly missing. For so long I had felt that I was broken, as if something was missing from my life due to my almost twenty-three year old virginity. I sought to get rid of this label that in the eyes of society labeled me as a chaste prude, as someone incapable of loving others romantically simply because I am sexually indifferent and do not desire this form of attraction. But there is a difference between romantic, sexual, and platonic love, and only now had I realized that. Like Elton John and Bernie Taupin said, I want love, just a different kind.
I want love, but it’s impossible, I sing half-heartedly as I sob out of the pain years of feeling broken have caused. A man like me, so irresponsible, a man like me is dead in places other men feel liberated.
“I don’t think that’s impossible,” I hear a voice behind my back say. I turn to meet a piercing sky-blue gaze, his eyes analytically observing me through a thin set of glasses. It is him, the man I suppressed my affections for due to my toxic masculinity. He points towards a chair next to me. “May I?”
I nod, wiping the tears strolling down my cheeks. He sits there quietly for a second or two, then he starts speaking in a gentle tone.
“I don’t know what you must be going through right now, but as a ***** man myself I know what it’s like to feel down. I’m here if you need an ear to listen.”
His offer takes me by surprise. We speak to each other a couple times a week, alright, but never on such a one-to-one basis. But here he is now, offering me his time and undivided attention with his kind words and sympathetic tone. So I begin to open up.
“I… I don’t want sex. With anyone, ever. I have never been sexually attracted to anyone, and I am romantically attracted to all genders. I know people will call me a prude, I know people think it’s not normal, I know…”
He raises a finger to his lips, making the shhh sound with his voice. “You’re asexual, or on the asexual spectrum. Is that right?”
The sudden realization hits me like a wave in the ocean crashes against a ship, only that this water is sweet and not salty like the many tears I have shed throughout my life. “I… yes, I suppose so.”
He lowered his glasses ever so slightly, his neck craning to meet my shorter stature, his curly brunette hair swishing as his lips formed a tender smile. “I’m asexual too, you know? Have you checked out the asexual support meetings at our ***** center yet?”
“I didn’t know we had that, no.”
He pulls out a flyer from his satchel and hands it to me. On the paper it reads, ACE & ARO PALS: A place and time for people on the asexual and/or aromantic spectrums to be ourselves.
“Thank you,” I mutter from the bottom of my heart, and tears flow from my eyes once more, but this time they are tears of joy. I am not alone. There are others like me that share my experience to some degree. And finding love may not be so impossible after all.
“Of course.” Just before his eyes dart back to his computer screen, we engage in a second or two of eye contact, my pupils meeting his sparkling vivid blue irises. Only then do I realize that any romantic attraction I had for him has faded, for he is no longer just one man to me. He is now a fellow asexual person, a confidant, a brother if you will. I say nothing else to him out of shyness, but I add the date and time of the meetings to my calendar. Better times are ahead. I know it. And for the first time in my stay at Oxford, I realize I have never been alone.