On the fringes of the bush in Cromer where I grew up, being asexual (or “ace” for short) wasn’t something which was ever talked about. As my friends and peers began having sexual feelings for other people, I was left behind and confused – wondering what the big deal was all about. Much of my teaching came from the thousands of DVDs my Dad had amassed in our living room over the years – but no matter how many I watched; I never see characters like me onscreen. In fact, they all seemed to suggest that sex was an essential part of love, growing-up and being human. If a character didn’t want sex, then they were probably a robotic murderer, a mentally-ill agoraphobe, or a pathetic loser in need of a wing-man.
As a transgender and asexual writer-director, I feel that my job is more than just to simply make a tender and immersive picture. It’s to allow people, perhaps with nowhere else to turn but the movies, to see themselves. Film is one of the most accessible art forms, and that’s why I’ll be shooting ASEXY on location in rural Australia, later this year.
Asexual people make up at least 1% of the population – and yet there have been a mere handful of openly-asexual characters in all cinema history. I don’t include here characters like Doctor Who, Sherlock Holmes or Sheldon Cooper who may be described as “non-sexual” or disinterested in sex. To set the record straight, being “ace”, means that you don’t feel sexual attraction to people of any gender – and is a recognised sexual orientation, just like being gay, lesbian, bi, pan or otherwise. Take a moment now and try to recall how many major characters you’ve seen, who have openly used the label “asexual”…
With the abysmal lack of “ace” representation, it’s not surprising that 72% of people are unable to even accurately define “asexuality”. If you asked me, even 5 years ago – before I came out – I would probably be in that same boat. Growing-up, the only openly-asexual characters who I can recall seeing were mentally-ill or just plain faking it. I was a fan of the medical drama House – for example – and in one episode, the series’ cynical hero “cures” a patient of their asexuality. Upon this discovery, the character’s girlfriend, who also identities as “asexual”, reveals that she has been pretending all along. This episode aired in 2012, when I was 14. Without realising, it made me believe that asexual people simply didn’t exist. It in turn, made me hate myself.
The only thing I love more than making films, is watching them – from pulpy horror like Dario Argento and John Carpenter, to the existential dramas of Ingmar Bergman and Chantal Ackerman. I’m of course a member of many different cinephile forums, but only a month ago, found myself replying to other movie-lovers who believed that it was “literally impossible for someone to be asexual.”
The truth of the matter is, many people don’t know an actual ace person, so, they look to the movies for guidance. And when there are no films which give any real exposure to asexuality, ace people are left to defend their sexual orientation by people who don’t know any better. For me personally, it wasn’t even until I studied at the Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS), and met out and proud filmmakers like me, that I even learned what being asexual really meant. It didn’t take long before I realised that I was “ace” all along.
Perhaps it was lucky that this was at the same time that I came into my own as a writer and director. Finishing up distribution on See for Yourself, a psychological thriller I made in collaboration with the d/Deaf and Hard of Hearing community, I decided to make the film which I wish I could have seen growing up. With my women-led team from the independent production company Inner Pictures, I set out to make a film with real “ace” characters who were just as outgoing, funny, clumsy, stupid and lovable as any other teenager you’d expect to see onscreen.
ASEXY is perhaps the first short film by, for, and about asexuals. This isn’t a claim that I’m necessarily proud to make – because I wish it already existed.
Set in the stark Southern Highlands of rural NSW, it follows two edgy young “aces” who spice up their fifth date by stripping naked and sharing a spa bath… but a sudden and alarming sexual awakening threatens to send their romantic evening down the drain. It’s a story about how two inexperienced young people attempt to get close to each other – in more ways than one – and, in doing so, discover what being “ace” really means to them.
ASEXY is for all the young “aces” who will otherwise grow-up feeling broken, because they’re unable to see characters like them on our screens. It needs to be made, because everyone deserves to feel a little asexy.
Learn more about ASEXY on Facebook and Instagram at @asexyfilm You can also drop us a line at email@example.com