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Living in Shades of Gray

Gray is a lovely color. While yes, it’s visually appealing, I mean in its metaphorical use. Gray is used to describe many things that are ambiguous or mixed as it is with sexuality to address the space between specifics. Asexuality, not to be confused with celibacy, has a gray space and people who fall into that area are “gray asexual.” There are other nicknames such as ‘grace’ but they all refer to this space of asexuality that’s not strictly defined. While it’s easier to explain asexuality by saying ‘a lack of sexual desire,’ (and for some, that explanation is accurate) it doesn’t ring true for every person who identifies as ace. That’s where the gray comes in. Those in the gray experience sexual attraction to an extent and may or may not choose to act on it.  So, what makes someone fall into the gray?

Similar to queer, gray reminds us that sexuality is a spectrum. It acts as an umbrella to catch everyone who feels sexual attraction infrequently, in low intensity, those who feel it for few people or only in specific circumstances. It also catches those who feel sexual attraction, but have no desire to act on it and those who feel sexual attraction is not a meaningful concept to them personally. This gray area helps asexual people find their own definition of asexuality in relation to how they approach sexual attraction, if they feel it, how often and if they choose to act on it. Although asexual means a lack of desire and action on it when it comes to sex, just because you feel a flicker of attraction sometimes and were able to have sex with your previous partner doesn’t mean you’re not asexual. It just means you’re in the gray.

Unfortunately, oftentimes flexible definitions and misunderstanding go hand in hand. The idea that pansexual or bisexual people aren’t as they claim to be because they’re with someone of the opposite sex, making their relationship ‘seem heterosexual’ can be found in the gray too. Just because you’re not feeling or acting as another asexual person in or out of the gray does or as someone outside your sexuality thinks you should doesn't mean your personal expression of sexuality isn’t valid. That’s the beauty of ambiguous terms and having variants. Think about it in shades of color. Instead of gray being the end-all, be-all description of the color, there are shades called steel, smoke and trout that are lighter or darker, but still gray. As there are different shades, there are different versions of how asexuality will be expressed. 

To keep ambiguity from becoming limitless, there are boundaries to the gray area. For example, the exclusion of those who choose to be celibate. But don’t be afraid if characteristics of other sexualities or even lifestyle choices (like celibacy) overlap. Demisexuality might frequently overlap with asexuality.

Some demisexuals consider demisexuality to be under the gray asexual umbrella because it involves feeling sexual attraction in specific circumstances. When this overlap does happen, you can determine which sexuality you identify with more. It’s okay to identity with both, especially if you see demisexuality as a faucet of asexual. Gray-A can be included alongside other sexualities we use to understand our identity. Anyone who is bisexual, pansexual, gay, straight or lesbian (and more) could be under the gray umbrella because those sexualities listed show who the grace person feels attracted to when they get that flicker of attraction, or by chance act on it.

Identity and defining identity can get confusing. It might feel like a string map or playing connect the dots where you’ve crossed your lines or accidentally double drew them. That’s okay. Like words themselves, definitions are always evolving and opinion can affect a person's adaptation of a definition. What’s important is that you learn and look for information so you understand your identity even if it seems like your lines are crossed. Research, spending time with those in the LGBT+ community and self-reflection will be your best friends as you explore your shades of gray. What are you waiting for? Go exploring.