When Cristina Knowles came out as asexual, she knew people would react to her with confusion.
“Usually, I just start with telling people the definition of my sexuality,” she said. “For me, it means that I am not attracted to people. Even though I can be like, ‘wow, they’re really beautiful,’ it doesn’t translate into sexual desire.”
The Best Buddies International program manager, 26, gave regular presentations as a graduate student at the True Colors Conference, her alma mater University of Connecticut‘s annual LGBTQIA youth issues forum. Being a part of the college’s Rainbow Center gave her some sense of a community.
“I really didn’t start feeling a sense of community until I started volunteering at the Rainbow Center,” she said. “I met people who even if they could not always relate to what I was saying still valued me.”
As Knowles became more comfortable with her sexuality, she was able to push back against notions that she was less of a human being for not having sexual desire.
“This idea that it is human to have sex is really limiting,” she said. “It is more human to make connections willingly, knowing that you are going to find these other ways of connecting with people.”
One percent of people worldwide identify as asexual, or not sexually attracted to anyone. In total, that’s around 77 million people worldwide.
Like Art at a Museum
The Connecticut native came out to herself at 19 as an asexual biromantic, or someone who does not desire sex in a romantic relationship, but likes men and women romantically.
During her teen years, she did not have crushes in the same way as her peers.
“It is very weird to look back at that time,” she said. “There were a couple of times where I made myself have crushes on people.”
Knowles found herself preferring women to men, because she felt women were more aesthetically pleasing and friendly.
“I like looking at women the same way people might look at art in a museum,” she said.
Because of her lack of sexual attraction, dating is often hard to come by.
“It is usually pretty rare that I meet someone and want to date them, let alone they want to date me too,” she said.
She recently got out of a relationship with another woman. They decided to be friends after realizing they did not relate on the same level.
Knowles hopes to have a romantic relationship with someone who is asexual, but she is content with only having friendships and relationships with family.
She also hopes to see more representation in popular culture. The Netflix program “Sex Education” features an asexual character, and British model Yasmin Benoit is an out asexual woman, but there are still much fewer images of asexual people in mainstream media compared to other LGBTQIA individuals.
“Representation is something that I look for a lot,” she said. “It is frustrating.”