Understanding asexuality with Ace Dad Advice

Minka: Hi everybody, and welcome back to Minka Guides. This month we are talking about asexuality with Cody Daigle-Orians. 

How are you doing today, Cody? 

Cody (he/they): I’m good. How are you?

Minka: Yeah, not doing too bad.

Asexuality - Cody inside CREDIT Ace Dad Adviced

So, Cody is a queer, asexual writer and educator who’s in his mid-40s and is based in Hartford, Connecticut. Cody is the creator of Ace Dad Advice which is a wonderful and very popular online platform, which you can find on YoutubeInstagram, and Tiktok which he creates videos talking about asexuality that’s specifically for younger people who feel they’re not sure about their identity around this yet. 

To start with, I think some people don’t really have a clear idea about what asexuality is, and maybe some of the labels around it, such as ‘ace’ or ‘gray ace’ and stuff like that.

So, would you mind giving a brief insight into what this identity is about?

Cody: Sure, asexuality is a sexual orientation that includes people who do not or rarely experience sexual attraction. 

So, asexual folks, there’s a wide range of experience under that definition. There are folks who just identify as ace who never really experience sexual attraction. But there’s a whole spectrum. There are gray ace folks, as you mentioned earlier, who sometimes experience sexual attraction, but it’s a rare experience. 

Others like demisexual folks only experience sexual attraction when they have developed a close personal connection with someone, but otherwise, they don’t.

All of those various experiences, plus a whole host of micro-labels, which explain more specific experiences to sexual attraction and also sexual activity, exist under this asexual spectrum. But the thing that really holds the whole spectrum together is not experiencing or rarely experiencing sexual attraction.

Minka: Okay, great. So the use of the word ace is just a shortened way of saying it. Is that correct? 

Cody: Yes, so ace is just short for asexual.

Minka: Okay, cool which is great because I love the whole ‘ace dad’ thing because it gives you this whole, “I’m so cool! I’m that ace dad. I’m a cool dad.” 

Cody: (laughs) Being a cool dad has kind of been like a vibe that I’ve had a lot of throughout my life. So yeah, it’s ah, it’s very fun being an ace dad.

Minka: So, talking about your life, could you give us an insight into what your journey into identifying as asexual has been and how you came about to create Ace Dad Advice?

Cody: Yeah, sure. So, I didn’t really come out as asexual until I was in my early forties. I was 42. 

I originally came out as queer. My first identification label was gay. I came out as gay when I was 18. Gay was just an identity that was the closest thing that fit. I knew it wasn’t quite right, but that was kind of the closest thing that I had to understand how I was experiencing the world.

I didn’t have access to the language of asexuality or information about it. But then, I met my husband a little over ten years ago, and he’s a bit younger than me. During our time together, he introduced me to Tumblr.

Through hanging out on Tumblr, I spent a lot of time on sort of the queer side of Tumblr, and that’s when I started to really encounter a lot of asexual people describing their experiences and learning more about asexuality. Through that experience on Tumblr, I started to recognize in stories about asexuality, I was really seeing my own experience.

Minka: Wow.

Cody: That was where I started to identify as asexual, and as I said, that happened, you know, just a few years ago in my early forties, when I turned 42. For several years, I just sort of existed as an asexual person, not really making much of a big deal about it.

Maybe two years ago, I was encouraged by my barber to download Tiktok and like play around on Tiktok, and so I did. On a random day, I made a Tiktok where I identified myself as asexual, and all of a sudden, I started to get a ton of messages and comments from young asexual folks saying things like, “Wow! I’ve never seen somebody asexual who looks like you. I didn’t know there were ace adults. I didn’t know you could be ace and be old.”

Minka: (laughs) And you’re like, “Thanks!”

Cody: You know, comparatively sure.

I recognized there was maybe a space or maybe a need for there to be sort of like mentor figure, educator figures in the ace space. Having older ace folks talk about their experience and talk about asexuality because you know mentors exist in other queer communities too. 

So, that’s how Ace Dad Advice was born. It was an opportunity to sort of teach and provide not just education but also encouragement and empowerment and confidence building for young ace people who are questioning their sexuality.

Minka: It’s so interesting what you say about language and how language has evolved. Particularly for someone else who’s also in their forties, seeing how my identities have shaped and shifted with how society and the language around different identities has evolved as well. 

Back in the 90s, when I was a teenager, there was no language around stuff like gender. So as someone who’s genderqueer, it took me a really long time to kind of feel my way into those identities.

Back then, it was literally like you’re either gay, straight or bisexual, and you were just like trying to put on a hat that you knew didn’t really fit, but you’re like, “I’ve just got to choose one.”

Cody: Right. Absolutely.

Minka: Whereas now these days, there is this beautiful spectrum that we can feel our way through what those options are. It is astounding how much people think that these identities are just for younger people. And that this is something that everybody who’s older don’t identify with at all.

Cody: Yeah, and that’s what’s been very interesting. Before, I really had only access to a very small number of labels and a small number of identities because that’s what we had access to, but the internet has exploded that.

Minka: Yeah

Cody: And what’s also been great about the internet. Through the work that I’ve done and just through engaging and being openly ace, I’m meeting a lot of other ace people who are my age who have always felt this way and always known this is who they were, but they were just never very public about it or never really found spaces where they were sharing it. 

Asexuality does get accused often of being a thing the kids do, and that’s just not true. There are many adults who are my age and also older. There are asexual folks in their fifties, sixties, and seventies who are part of this community and have been living this experience for their whole lives too.

It’s not just an invention of the kids. What has changed is that access to information has evolved and grown. And there are now online spaces where we can connect and find each other.

Minka: Yeah, which is incredible.

It’s funny because I think the first time I was even exposed to any idea around asexuality, even in some sense of it was… I remember being in a gay club about fifteen years ago. I was with some friends, and this very beautiful man walked in. One of my friends was like, “I’m going to go and talk to him,” and he came back a few minutes later with this very puzzled look on his face. He was like, “So, the guy says that he’s gay, but he’s not into sex…” and we’re all just like, “What…? Okay, how does that work?” (laughs)

So, it’s amazing how even within the space of a decade or a bit more that we’ve come to understand so much more about the way that all of us can be in a whole spectrum in regards to stuff around sex.

Cody: Yeah, absolutely, you know, like I feel so grateful to be in the position I am in because it’s a cool position but also because it’s helped me understand my experience so much more deeply. 

Back in the day, in the mid-90s, when I was first going out, I was that guy at the gay bar who knew he was gay, I was interested in men and wanted to be romantic, but sex wasn’t really a high priority for me. I always felt like that just meant that I was a bad gay, or there was something wrong with me and the way that I was like expressing queerness. 

Beyond just being able to connect an identity with yourself, what I think has been so beautiful about watching people gain access to the language of asexuality when they never had it before, and it fits them. It just corrects their idea that they’re broken and watching people move from “I feel like I’m broken. I feel like there’s something wrong with me” to “I’m not broken. There’s nothing wrong with me.” There’s a language for it. There’s a community of people that share how I feel. 

Watching that process for people is a really beautiful thing, and it’s one of my favourite things about the project is being part of the process of helping people recognize that there’s they’re not broken. That you’re not broken. There’s nothing wrong with you. Ace is a thing.

Minka: Absolutely, and because our society loves binaries, I think it’s really good to talk about what the other side of that binary. Most people wouldn’t realize, they would think that being sexual is the norm without realizing that there is a term for that which is allosexual, and that’s correct, isn’t it? 

Cody: Yes.

Minka: So is there a particular definition of what being allosexual means? 

Not wanting to see it as an opposite to asexual but rather than looking at it as a spectrum. But if someone is to see themselves as allosexual, which is what we thoughtlessly just see as the norm in society. Is there a particular definition for what that is?

Cody: Yeah, Allosexual is anyone who experiences sexual attraction regularly. When I talk about sexual orientations, I often discuss it as thinking about patterns of experience. So you know, for asexual folks, you don’t or rarely experience sexual attraction, and that is like a pattern of experience that you have over time. 

For allosexual folks, it’s the opposite. If you were regularly experiencing sexual attraction for other people, it could be towards someone of the same gender, someone of a different gender, multiple genders, or all genders. If that is your regular pattern of experience over time, then that fits you in allosexual. Within allosexuality, there’s a wide variety of experiences, just as there’s a wide variety of experiences within asexuality too.

Minka: Yeah, absolutely. 

So, what I thought it might be good to do is some myth-busting because I think there’s a lot of not-great preconceptions about asexuality. 

One of the first ones this is one I hear a lot is that: if you’re asexual, you can’t have an identity other than of another sexuality. You are just asexual. You can’t be gay. You can’t be straight. You can’t be anything else.

Cody: Busted. No, not true. 

Identity language and the concepts of identities are very broad and inclusive. Being asexual just talks about your experience to sexual attraction, and there could be a lot of different things in there. But you still can have other attractions. You can have romantic orientations who you want to have romantic relationships with.

Even as an asexual person, you can still enjoy sex. You can be a sex-favourable ace person. Even if you are asexual, you still could have an understanding of what the realm and spectrum of sexual behaviour is like for you. 

I’m asexual. I don’t experience sexual attraction, but I am sex favourable, and so my sexual activity it would be gay. So, I could say that I’m asexual and gay. Both of those things would be true, and that works for other labels too. It can describe how you have sex if you do. It can describe how you fall in love. What your romantic orientations are.

I think if whatever words you use to whatever words best describe you smack them together and use them. That’s what those words are for. They’re to help us talk about ourselves and find other people who are like us.

Minka: Yeah, absolutely.

So, the next one is (and I think you’ve kind of already covered this): if you’re asexual, you don’t like sex or any form of physical intimacy.

Cody: Not True. There’s a whole range of relationships you can have to physical intimacy and also sex. Asexuality just talks about your relationship to attraction.

There are a lot of reasons other than being sexually attracted to someone that can make you want to have sex. You can have it just because you physically enjoy it. It can be that it’s enjoyable. It could be something you choose to do with your partner to express another attraction to them. For those who are able to have kids, it could be you’re having sex to create a family with your partner or partners.

All of those reasons are valid. So, asexuality doesn’t mean no sex, no touching, no intimacy. You can enjoy all of those things and still be ace. There’s there are lots of ways to express intimacy and enjoy intimacy as an asexual person.

Minka: Great.

The next one is you can’t be polyamorous and asexual. I love the video that you put online with your husband and your boyfriend. I was like, “Ah, they’re so cute.”

Cody: Busted again. You can absolutely be polyamorous. Asexual people can enter into really any kind of relationship structure that exists. Sex isn’t the only reason that we enter relationships. We enter relationships for a lot of different reasons, and if you are a naturally polyamorous person, you can have more than one partner and still be asexual. 

I have two romantic partners. I’m married to my husband, Neil, and I have a romantic partner, Scott. My husband has a romantic partner, Dan, who, in a lot of ways, is sort of like another partner for me. We talk about it like we’re queerplatonic. That is sort of the way that we talk about our relationship.

Minka: Awwwwww

The four of us together are this polyamorous unit. We call it the constellation, which we just love. Also, because Scott’s an astrophysicist, we thought it’d be cool. But yeah, I’m the only asexual one in the bunch. All of the other boys are allosexual.

That doesn’t preclude me from being successful in my relationships with my partners. You know every relationship is a negotiation of boundaries and wants and needs and yeses and nos. The same thing applies for all of our relationships too. Being asexual doesn’t knock me out of the running for that.

Minka: Good. 

The next one is: if you are asexual, you will have to have this identity forever.

Cody: No, and no identity falls under that guideline. Human beings are incredibly complicated, and human sexuality is really complicated, and we change and grow over time. So, anybody – ace or allo – can through their lives find that their experience of sexual attraction may change. So maybe now someone is asexual. Five years down the road, that experience might change as they do. 

It’s okay to pick up language that works for you now and then change that language later when something different is true for you. Can you imagine having to be stuck with one choice you made when you were 18? What a nightmare that would be!

Minka: (laughs) Exactly.

Cody: It’s where I think human beings are just far too complicated to expect us to only be one thing forever. That’s the beauty of identity and especially identity language. We can use the words that work for us, and we can discard them when they don’t anymore, and that’s how it should be.

Minka: Exactly. I recently went on a couple of dates with someone who was like, “I’m just feeling like I’m in a bit of an asexual place at the moment,” and I was like, “That’s cool. What does that look like for you?”

It made me really interested as to whether that was something the asexual community as a whole feels about people maybe sometimes using that label temporarily. Picking it up, putting it down kind of thing. 

Cody: It depends on who you talk to. I think this is true in all communities there. There are some folks who get very nervous about non-ace people being in the ace community because there’s some fear about that.

They think as an asexual person, if your experience has been that allosexual people have made you feel terrible about yourself, and when you’ve had really bad experiences, you want to make sure the spaces you were in are safe. 

So, I understand that, but I really think our community should be as open as possible because, you know, if someone is feeling like the language of asexuality and the experience of asexuality is what they’re experiencing, who am I to say they’re not?

Minka: Exactly.

Cody: I think the best thing that we can do is create open spaces that are inclusive to as many people as possible and support people as much as we possibly can because, you know, it’s kind of tough to move through the world not experiencing sexual attraction when it feels like the whole rest of the world does.

Minka: Yes.

Cody: So, always opting for inclusivity as opposed to gatekeeping just feels right to me. But you know there are people who will feel differently based on their own personal experiences. 

Minka: Yes, and I’m not expecting you to be the voice of the asexual community for everybody, you know?

Cody: Oh yeah, no, like there are a bunch of people who will totally disagree with me on a ton of things. And that’s great. That’s how it should be.

Minka: The next one is: if you’re asexual, you don’t like hearing about sex or seeing it on TV and in films.

Cody: Not always true. There’s a whole identity label that specifically describes people who enjoy consuming media that includes sex or like thinking about it, fantasizing about it but don’t want to have sex. That label is aegosexual. A lot of people respond to anytime I’ve created content around aegosexuality. A ton of people were like, “That’s me – something that describes me.” 

You can have a comfort level with sexual content and not feel comfortable with sex itself, or you can have comfort with consuming sexual things or like writing erotica or consuming erotica, watching porn, enjoying all of that stuff or fantasizing without actually wanting to do it or without experiencing sexual attraction.

Minka: Okay, wow! Cool.

If you’re asexual, no one will want to date you or have a relationship with you (which I think you just disproved).

Cody: Well, I’ve got people who will disagree.

No, I certainly think that that is a misconception that lives out there, and I think that has a ton to do with a concept called ‘allonormativity.’ The idea that everyone is allosexual and everyone wants sex, and that’s a compulsory sexuality too. That everyone wants and needs sex in their lives. So, people assume that an asexual person won’t be possible, so a relationship can exist. 

Not true. As I said before, every relationship, no matter who’s in it, is a negotiation of terms, and you have to decide between you and your partner or partners what’s on the table and what isn’t. How you’re going to navigate your individual needs and how you will both meet each other’s needs or how you will get your needs met.

Asexual people are as capable, open and available to that as any other allosexual person. So no, we can be in relationships and actually be pretty good at it. My husband and I have been almost married for ten years, so you know we can still be good at it. 

Minka: Yay.

Ok, the last myth we want to bust is that: if you’re asexual, you can’t dress sexy or act sexy.

Cody: Busted. Not true at all. 

One of the most important asexual activists in our community and really one of the leading voices in our community is Yasmin Benoit. She is a lingerie model, and you know she embodies this idea that just because you’re asexual, it doesn’t mean you have to like shut yourself off from certain kinds of self-expression, in your dress or in how you move through the world. I think Yasmin’s work (and that’s not the only thing that she does that’s wonderful. She’s doing a wonderful research project now for asexual rights in the UK), but she’s a living embodiment that that’s a myth. 

You can express yourself in any way that you want, regardless of being asexual. Being ace doesn’t limit us. We can do all we can like, have whatever life we want and still be ace. We don’t suddenly become personality-less, genderless, lifeless people just because we don’t experience sexual attraction.

Minka: Absolutely, that’s awesome. 

Okay, one of the things I was really interested in is as an allosexual person. How can we be really good allies to people who are asexual, particularly within the queer community? 

Because there’s so much focus from the outside world on our sexualities like it can be seen as something that’s very like, as you said, allonormative. How can we actually be way more inclusive of asexual people within our spaces or in our everyday lives?

Cody: I think like the one thing is listening and being aware. Just being aware that ace people exist, particularly in queer communities. That’s great. You know, include us in the list when you know if this is a queer-friendly space, include ace people in the list of identities that are welcome in that queer-inclusive space. 

I think on an individual level, listening is the most important thing when ace folks enter your life. You know, recognizing that asexuality is a wide spectrum of experiences. So, as an asexual person, I will have a very different experience of aceness as the asexual person standing next to me. 

So, a great way to be a good ally is to listen to the ace folks in your life explain how it works for them and what they’re comfortable with and what they don’t make assumptions about like, “Oh, they’re ace. So we can’t have any sexual content, or we can’t talk about sex.” That’s not necessarily true. 

Approaching each ace person in your life as a full complex person is the best way to be an ally. In any space, especially if you’re in a space where you have a voice, a queer space when you have a voice, or any space, not just queer spaces. When you are advocating for equitable time and space for queer people, include ace people in that. We’re part of the community too.

It’s great to have more allies thinking about us and including us in the conversation when we’re talking about lesbian, gay, bi, trans folks, pan folks, and intersex folks. 

Minka: Everyone under the umbrella. 

Cody: Making sure that ace folks are being included in that, especially if you’re in sort of a position of power. You know, if you’re putting together a panel of queer folks, see if you can find somebody ace to share their experience. That’s an interesting perspective to add to the conversation.

Minka: Yeah, absolutely.

So, I’m very excited that you have a book coming out in January called I Am Ace, which I just love the title. Tell us more about your book.

Asexuality - Cody outside CREDIT Ace Dad Advice

Cody: Yeah, it’s basically a book version of the Ace Dad Advice project. It’s aimed at YA (young adult) readers, so mostly high school up into college. Hitting that time when people are figuring themselves out mostly.

It explores what asexuality is, it explores how to know if you’re ace, how-to advice on coming out, advice on dealing with relationships, and advice on existing inside the larger queer community. It’s meant to educate and empower, and as the subtitle of the book is “Advice on living your best ace life.” That’s what the book aims to do.

So, for anybody ace or anybody who’s questioning, hopefully, what this book will do is give them the tools and the information and the encouragement to live their aceness in the best way they can. It was such fun, and I’m very excited about the book coming out. I can’t wait till people can actually read it. It was really fun to work on.

Minka: Amazing. It sounds great.

So, people can find out more about the book on your website, is that correct?

Cody: Yes, yes, absolutely: acedadadvice.com. You can find information about the book and all the other things that I’m doing online.

Minka: And where else can people find you online such as Tiktok and Youtube?

Cody: Yeah, pretty much anywhere you search ‘Ace Dad Advice’ on the social media platforms, you’ll find me. I’m mostly on YoutubeInstagram, and Tiktok. If you look for @acedadadvice on any of those platforms, there’ll be video content and other kinds of content as well. There’s also an advice column on my website that answers a bunch of ace-related questions. So you can find me in any of those places.

Minka: Wonderful. Well, thank you so much, Cody. I think this has been really wonderfully enlightening to hear your perspective about all the different facets of asexuality. Thank you so much for joining me today.

Cody: Oh, thank you! This was a blast. Thank you so much.

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