Steve Winter and his husband-to-be Thom Gray have opened up about their three-year relationship as asexual, homoromatic men.
The couple, who will be getting married later this month, say that people are surprised when they meet them and find they’re just like any other couple.
“The reality is, we do everything a couple does except sex. So that means cuddling, physical contact, romantic gestures, etc.
“Normally you wouldn’t see your friends having sex, so why would an asexual couple appear any different in comparison to any other couple?
“What does or doesn’t happen behind closed doors does not define a relationship,” Thom told HuffPost.
The prevalence of asexuality is largely unknown. Research in 2004 suggested that 1 percent of the world’s population is asexual, but many within the community believe the actual number to be much higher.
The lack of exposure and information makes it hard for asexual people to come out, because many have never even heard of the term.
Steve didn’t find out what asexuality was until five years ago, when he came across the term on someone’s Gaydar profile.
The man in question, Stephen Lloyd, taught Steve all about asexuality and pointed him to resources such as AVEN (The Asexuality Visibility and Education Network).
Stephen will now be Steve’s best man at the wedding.
“This could not have happened at a better time, as I was finding myself to be heading towards a really dark place where I was convinced that I was broken, and that something was wrong with me as I didn’t experience the same feelings towards other individuals that my friends did,” Stephen said.
Thom, who is now applying to get his Master’s degree in psychology and sexuality, discovered asexuality around the same time, and also found a community in AVEN.
He said that “looking back, I realised I have always been asexual, but it sadly it took some bad experiences whilst identifying as gay to find that out.”
Both Steve and Thom said that these uncomfortable experiences stemmed from them feeling like they had to fulfil societal expectations and follow a script rather than be open about how they felt about sex.
Thom compares it to being a gay guy dating a straight girl, explaining that “he may have an interest in women, but the script from society said that he should be interested in having sex with her, but he just doesn’t feel it.”
Sex is everywhere – in every TV show, shop window and magazine ad.Rules about when, how much and who we should be having sex with are embedded deep into societal norms – studies show that most people lie about their sexual activity, even in anonymous surveys.
Rules about when, how much and who we should be having sex with are embedded deep in society. Studies show that most people lie about their sexual activity, even in anonymous surveys.
For Steve, what he loves most about being asexual is that there’s no pressure or ulterior motive. “You can just focus on enjoying your time with the other person and being completely and totally immersed in them as a human being, a personality and overall a person to get to know with all their quirks, features and fun bits!” Steve said.
The couple both identify as asexual and homoromantic, and think a big part of the problem is society does not acknowledge the two types of attraction as separate.
“Romance is not mutually exclusive to sex for a lot of people. But as asexuals we promote the fact that you can have sex without love, so why not love without sex?” Thom said.
Steve added: “I don’t believe that anyone’s identity should be defined by who they want to stick things into or receive things from.
“Surely there is more to an individual and a person than that!”
Lack of information about asexuality means there are lots of misconceptions about it. For one, asexuality is not the same as celibacy.
Steve said: “Celibacy is a choice. Asexuality, like being gay, straight, bi, trans, etc., is how you are wired. Quite simply, you are born this way!”
Thom thinks it’s vitally important to tackle the idea that asexuals have been sexually abused, or are repressed.
“These are horrible accusations to make, and I doubt anyone would get away with claiming the same about any other identity,” he said.
“Sadly, asexuals have barely any legal cover, so any negative actions towards an asexual tend to be overlooked.”
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They both also addressed the belief that asexuality isn’t real.
“My first challenge to those individuals is: “How dare you tell me who I can or cannot be or identify as?” Steve said.
“I personally wouldn’t dream of trying to force my own thoughts or beliefs onto anyone else’s lifestyle choice, gender identity or sexual orientation.
“Personally it disgusts me that people still feel it is their given right to do this to anyone. It is none of their business.”
The couple have a live podcast on YouTube every Sunday evening called “Pieces of Ace” that they started in 2015.
Thom said the reaction from the asexual community has been “overwhelming,” particularly from people who live in small countries or remote areas, so have never met another asexual person.
He hoped their podcast will spread the message to asexual people that they’re not alone. “2017 is the best year yet in terms of asexuality, as the community is connected across the globe like never before.
“And the great thing is, it’s only going to get better. We hope by showing people that two asexuals can be married without having sex that people can see that there is hope for them too.”
Get a taste of their show below: