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  • Leeds LGBT+ Literature Festival

Understanding Demisexuality

In October 2019 I came across a tweet that revealed that I was demisexual. That there was a term to describe how I identified sexually. I know that if I had this term when I was a teenager I would have felt less alone.

By Lianne Herbert


Demisexual flag with black triangle on its side on the left, white and grey blocks and a purple line in the middle painted on a stone wall
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It is not clear how many people in the UK class themselves as demisexuals; but we may know more after the 2021 Census findings come to light. This is because for the first time ever, you can voluntarily declare your sexuality.

Demisexuality is under the A in LGBTQIA+. Asexual. ‘Demisexuality is a sexual orientation in which someone feels sexual attraction only to people with whom they have an emotional bond. However, Demisexual is different to the broad Asexual term: asexuality means little to no sexual attraction or interest in sex. Demisexuals, however, for the most part don’t feel sexual attraction and can be attracted to a few people in their lifetime or even just one person. As both demisexuals and asexuals can be uninterested in sex, they are listed under the Asexual spectrum.

In October 2019 I came across a tweet that revealed that I was demisexual. That there was a term to describe how I identified sexually. I know that if I had this term when I was a teenager I would have felt less alone as I would have known that there are others like me. It also meant that when others talked about sex and their ideal bodies I would know it’s OK to not think the same way as others. I am, and was NOT, “broken”; I just think - and feel - differently.

Whenever I had sex with strangers I’ve never felt emotionally or physically connected. Thich Nhat Hanh describes this perfectly as ‘empty sex’ in his How to Love book. I now believe that being demisexual could explain why I kept going back to my ex of seven years. I kept returning as he was familiar and I had a lot in common with him. Bonds can be hard to form with strangers so you tend to stick to what you know.

Finding Community

Demisexual flag and LGBTQIA+ flag on poles blowing in the wind
iStock by Getty ImagesTM

Being demisexual - specifically in our modern society - has added to my depression as I have felt isolated. Since I have self-identified as a demisexual I have found groups on Facebook that make me feel less alone. Before, I used to wonder if I would ever be in another relationship as I would need to be friends first before getting romantic. I am now hopeful and I worry less about this.

These new communities have enabled me to learn new information that has been enlightening and comforting. Several people stated the last time they had sex: for some it’s several years and for others it’s decades. Whatever the number is for you, I’ve learnt it’s perfectly normal. I’ve also learnt there’s a difference between celibacy and demisexuality – which are often confused. Being celibate is a choice. Being demisexual isn’t.

Deaf and Demisexual

Are Deaf people more likely to be demisexual because of communication barriers? There isn’t any data available for this. It would be interesting to find out! Deaf and hearing relationships can be difficult if a shared communication method isn’t available between the two of them, such as being able to lip read the hearing person or using British Sign Language if that’s the Deaf person’s first language.

If no suitable communication method is agreed then that may mean the romance won’t blossom, as how would you both be able to articulate your needs? This is why I think Deaf people are more likely to be demisexual as we struggle with communication every day. We are most likely to want to suss out the others’ communication styles before committing to them. It would help to alleviate any relationship problems you may have as a couple if you can do this first. I’m not saying Deaf and hearing relationships won’t work, it’s just that you need to be aware it will take some time to find out what’s best for you both.

Lianne Herbert is a writer and playwright. Lianne has poems published by Peepal Tree Press 'Weighted Words' anthology edited by Jacob Ross and Magma 69 'The Deaf Issue' edited by Raymond Antrobus and Lisa Kelly. Lianne has an article published in gal-dem about how her relationship with deafness led to a psychotic episode. She has also written numerous articles for the Deaf online magazine 'The Limping Chicken' edited by Charlie Swinbourne.

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