Last night, a reader on Twitter asked me, "Asexual Kadee? Y/n?" It wasn't a question I had been asked before, so I gave it some thought. It took me three Tweets to answer, because I wanted to give more information than I could fit in 120 characters.
(Kadee narrates the second book of the Maeve'ra Trilogy, Bloodkin,
and "The Rebel," a stand-along short e-story related to the series)
After I replied, the reader commented, "I've been debating it on tumblr for months." I was glad I had taken then time to say more than, "No, well, maybe, too young to know." I didn't want to ever imply that 15 is too young to be fully aware of your sexuality, whether you identify as straight, gay, bisexual, or one of the many, many variations that exist in the human population but receive less acknowledgement and understanding- such as asexual.
Kadee, specifically, lives in a culture that is seen from the outside as sensually and sexually free but is in many ways quite limiting. Among the serpiente, passion is seen as a gift from the goddess Anhamirak. While a person always has the right to say no in any specific moment, a person with no interest in sex may be seen as odd, "broken" even, in the same way that too many people in the modern human world view GLBTQIA+ (did I forget a letter? I'm sure I did. If I forgot you, I apologize!) It's a troubling aspect of serpiente society that is often overlooked (like their belief in capital punishment, and some crimes that don't get trials, among other things. No, folks, it is not a perfect society).
Kadee is 15, and has lived a traumatic life that has shifted her from one very controlling view of sexuality to another, equally controlling but opposite view. She hasn't had time to safely explore her sexuality. By serpiente standards, yes, she's asexual, but she would tell you she is too young to know yet. While in the meantime she would say that she is not accepting the serpiente view that there's something wrong with her because (gasp!) she is 15 and she isn't ready for a lover, she can't help but internalize a little bit of that stigma. Just as a person grappling with the looming cultural presence of homophobia may be more likely to delay deciding* they're* gay (I speak from my own personal experience here; everyone's story is different), Kadee faces pressure in her society, even in the Obsidian guild, that make it hard for her to know at this age.
Maybe one day she'll decide, yes, she is asexual; maybe she will decide she identifies more with one of the other many labels that won't exist in English for a very long time (remember, Maeve'ra takes place in 1803-1804). As the author who has known Kadee since I first wrote her in 2001 as part of the novel Aureate, I suspect demisexual would be the best term, but like Kadee, I'm in no hurry to decide.
* I'm using the word "decide" here to mean "consider everything she feels and knows and determine that's the best label." I am not of the opinion that human beings choose their sexuality. I'm using the word "they" as a non-gendered singular pronoun because English needs a better word for this kind of context.
Whew! That's why I had so much trouble answering on Twitter. 140 characters. What's the point?
I was going to go into the disproportionate representation of cis/hetero characters in fiction, even in my own work, and how cultural pressures affected me as I was writing (including an unfortunate teacher remark while reading The Color Purple as a freshman in high school that I think caused me to self-censor GLB themes for a long time)... I guess I'll save that blog post for another day. To be continued!