How to support your asexual teen

If your teen is asexual, or if you think they may be, there’s lots of things you can do to help them explore and find answers to what this might mean for them.

This can help if:

  • your teen has come out as asexual and you want to know how to support them

  • you notice that your teen isn’t that interested in sex or dating 

  • your teen has expressed that they feel something is ‘wrong’ with them because of their lack of interest in or desire for sex

  • you want to understand more about asexuality.

teen daughter and mother sitting by a window and looking supportively at each other

What is asexuality? 

Asexuality, or ‘ace’ for short, is a sexual orientation that some people identify with when they don’t experience sexual attraction to others. There’s a whole spectrum of asexual identities, so there’s no single way to experience being asexual. It’s different for everyone and may change over time. A US survey by The Trevor Project found that about 10 per cent of the 40,000 LGBTQIA+ young people surveyed identified as asexual.

An important distinction is that asexuality isn’t about celibacy or a lack of interest in relationships altogether. Asexual people can still have deep, meaningful connections and romantic relationships. You can head here for more details on the different identities on the asexual spectrum.

Signs my teen is asexual

While there’s no hard-and-fast checklist when it comes to signs of asexuality, the most common indicator is if your teen doesn’t experience sexual desire for or attraction to others, or if they show little interest in age-appropriate sexual activities. Your teen might already identify with the term ‘asexual’ or experience feelings that align with asexuality. Ultimately, this is something they need to explore for themselves, which can take time and experimentation. It also helps to keep in mind that sexuality can be fluid

Is it too early to know if my teen is asexual?

Many people know their sexual orientation and preferences from a young age. Your teen's understanding of themselves will evolve as they grow older, and it’s important not to treat their sexual orientation as ‘just a phase’. Supporting them as they explore their identity can have a positive impact on their emotional and mental wellbeing and on your relationship.

Common misconceptions about asexuality

Asexuality is often misunderstood, though it’s a legitimate sexual orientation. While some of the common misconceptions about what it means to be asexual can seem harmless, they can actually be quite damaging. 

In Human Rights Campaign's analysis of a 2021 LGBTQ+ Community Survey, 82 per cent of asexual people surveyed said their highest-priority health concern is addressing mental health challenges. These challenges are often rooted in the stigma that’s associated with being asexual and in the myths that have grown around asexual people. These myths include:

  • They’re going through a phase.

  • They’re shy or prudish.

  • They just haven’t met the ‘right’ person yet.

  • They must have a medical condition.

  • They aren’t ‘normal’, or it isn’t ‘real’.

  • They’re late bloomers. 

You may have heard other parents say these things about their kids, or you may even have said some of them yourself without even realising that such comments can invalidate a young person’s experience — particularly when it comes to their sexuality.

Other misconceptions about asexuality

‘Asexuals can’t have sexual thoughts’

An asexual person can still have sexual thoughts and fantasies. ‘Asexuality’ refers to a lack of sexual attraction to others, and not to a complete lack of sexual feelings or behaviours. 

‘Asexual people don’t go on dates or have romantic relationships’ 

Just because someone identifies as asexual, it doesn’t mean they identify as aromantic (though sometimes a person can be both). Many asexual people date and have romantic relationships.

‘Asexual people never have sex’

This isn’t necessarily true. Some asexual individuals may still choose to have sex for various reasons; for example, they may want to please a partner, or they are curious, or they desire intimacy. It's a personal decision and varies widely among asexual people.

‘Asexual people will always be asexual’

Sexuality can be fluid, and feelings about sexual attraction might change over time. Someone might identify as asexual at one point in their life and experience different feelings later. It's important to support your teen in their current identity and to understand that their self-discovery is an ongoing process.

‘Asexual people aren’t part of the LGBTQIA+ community’

The ‘A’ in LGBTQIA+ actually stands for asexual, aromantic and agender, but asexual people also have a community of their own. This is because there is such a wide spectrum in which asexuality can be experienced, and being part of the ace community can provide asexual people with a supportive network to lean on and learn from.

You can learn more about asexuality misconceptions here. 

father and son talking in the kitchen

How can I support my asexual teen?

There are many ways you can support your asexual teen. 

  • Listen to them without making judgements. Encourage honest conversations with them about their feelings and experiences, and reassure them that these are true for them and important.

  • Educate yourself about asexuality and sexual identity so that you can better understand your teen's experience. 

  • Respect their boundaries. They might not be ready yet to talk with you about their sexuality or relationships. Even if you suspect they may be asexual but they haven’t come out to you, avoid pressuring them into conversations before they’re ready.

  • Trust your teen's decisions about their relationships and identities and embrace them if they evolve or change over time. 

  • Advocate for their rights and wellbeing within your family and community. Knowing that their caregivers have got their back can have a positive impact on your teen’s wellbeing.

  • Provide access to resources, such as books, websites and support groups, where they can find information and connect with others who share their experiences. 

  • Support your teen to find and connect with communities they feel comfortable with, and understood and accepted by. This could be online or offline.

  • Be an ally to your teen by actively opposing any discrimination or acephobia they might encounter. 

  • Seek professional help if your teen is struggling with their identity or facing significant challenges or discrimination. A therapist who is familiar with issues young people in the LGBTQIA+ community experience can help to support them.

What can I do so that my teen doesn’t experience discrimination? 

It’s natural to feel worried about your teen’s sexual identity being misunderstood. While there are a lot of things that are out of your control, providing a supportive and safe environment at home isn’t one of them and can help to support their mental and emotional wellbeing if they do encounter discrimination. Educating yourself, and your friends, family and community, can also help to foster a safe and accepting environment for your teen.

I’m worried that my teen won’t ever have a relationship or fall in love. 

Asexual people can and do have fulfilling relationships and can fall in love. They might seek romantic partnerships without a sexual component or form deep, meaningful bonds in other ways, such as through friendships, family, interest or faith groups, and other communities.

It's important to support your teen's unique path and to trust that they will find happiness, whether that’s on their own or in relationships that suit their needs and desires. Encourage open conversations about their feelings and experiences as a way to better understand their perspective.

What support groups and communities are available to asexual teens?

Asexuality-focused communities: AVEN, Australian Asexuals and the Ace and Aro Collective AU.

LGBTQIA+ services: Check out this list of LGBTQIA+ services across Australia.

School support: Look into school counsellors or support services at your teen's school.

Urgent support: Contact QLife at 1800 184 527 or use their online chat service (available 3 pm to midnight daily).

Peer support: Suggest that they connect with peer workers or online forums like ReachOut’s Online Community for a safe and moderated space in which to discuss sexuality and gender.

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