Actively vs. Passively Staying in the Closet

This is for the December 2015 Carnival of Aces: Staying in the Closet.

Given that there is much less awareness of asexuality compared to, say, homosexuality, it often takes a deliberate effort to be ‘out of the closet’ as an asexual, as many asexual bloggers have noted in various ways. Some people have had to repeat multiple times that they are asexual to the same people before said people actually remembered.

Since it usually takes a bit of effort to convey that one is asexual to an unaware audience (i.e. most people I interact with), I am generally not ‘out of the closet’ by default. But is that the same as being ‘in the closet’?

Here, I want to make a distinction between being actively in the closet vs. being passively in the closet.

Being passively in the closet is when one is not revealing one’s asexual identity primarily as the path of least resistance. For example, I am not out to my father mainly because of the high awkwardness cost. If he asked me if I was asexual, I would not hesitate to say ‘yes’, and I suspect he’s already figured it out one way or another by now anyhow.

Being actively in the closet is when one is making a deliberate effort not to be perceived as being asexual – and if necessary, would actually invest an effort in concealing their asexual identity. The one time in my life when I would have actually invested an effort in concealing my asexual identity was when I was living in a hotel in Taipei. As it so happens, it did not require an effort at all since people assumed I was heterosexual, but if a modest effort was required to hide my asexual identity, I might have put that up.

Right now, I am in a situation where I don’t mind if anybody I interact with learns that I am asexual. However, that being said, there are situations where putting in the effort to do that education would not be appropriate. For example, I’m not concerned about discrimination against asexuals at my workplace, but at the same time, my workplace has a culture of ‘sex/romance is only discussed when it is relevant to one’s work duties, not even during breaks’. Overall, I think that’s fantastic, since I think that makes it a more ace/aro-friendly environment than it might otherwise be, at the same time, it makes it tough to do the ace education (even the informal kind) which would be necessary for people to get that I am asexual. So, yeah, I am passively in the closet at work, but ironically, the same cultural rule which makes it a relatively safe environment for aces/aros to work there would make any efforts to come out of the closet … challenging.

6 thoughts on “Actively vs. Passively Staying in the Closet

  1. Yeah. I’ve done both, and being actively in the closet was by far the less savory experience, so I tried to change that situation very fast. All those lies you have to keep track of – no fun, even if you’re a more dishonest than I tend to be.

    • Ah, at least in the situation when I was a bit active about staying in the closet, it was mostly a matter of nodding along with the assumptions they made about it, so I didn’t have to keep track of lies.

  2. I’d say I’m passively in the closet too to most people. It’s pretty easy to be assumed heterosexual so long as you just stay quiet and nod along, at least at my age (university) because people often aren’t very observant. I suspect that it will get harder though, once I get older and everyone else had a partner and”I’m busy studying/haven’t met someone/not a priority right now etc” aren’t as unexceptionable. When people DO notice that I go quiet when they talk about guys (mostly the conversations where my asexuality shows are about guys), I can tell they usually wonder if I’m lesbian because asexuality isn’t even on most of their radars.

    • I have been out of university for more than five years and … staying quiet and nodding along is still pretty effective for letting other people assume I’m heterosexual. The fact that I look younger than I actually am may be a factor, but I think it’s mainly that people do not get to know me well enough or long enough to realize that I do not form heterosexual relationships (for example, it is often assumed that I have a boyfriend, or at least that I have had one).

      • I look younger than I am too. It’s nice to know that staying quiet and nodding should work for a long time because it’s so convenient. I’m mostly out to people I’m very close to and I don’t really mind if other people figure it out, though I won’t tell them unprompted.

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