Figuring out what “attraction” really meant was a bit of a puzzle for me, especially when I first questioned whether I was ace. I definitely knew early on that I must not be feeling quite the same thing everyone else was – I’d never really looked at someone and thoughts, “oh, wow, I really want to touch / talk to / be with / do something else with that person“. I was pretty that I’d never had a crush, or an infatuation, or lusted after someone – or at least, not that I could recognize as such. But what if I was misinterpreting my own feelings?
At the very least, I could still tell the difference between someone who would be popularly considered attractive, and someone who would not be. I could appreciate a nice symmetric face, or great hair, or sleek muscle tone, or many other of the aesthetic traits that make some what I would call good-looking.
And then, sometimes, there was also something else. Sometimes I’d see someone who would make me do a sort of double take and go “hmm“. No physical draw to them, really, not even a desire to chat or interact in any other way. Just a “hmm” and a second glance. Was this the attraction everyone else talked about? If so, they were hyping it up way too much. Or was I just bad at introspection?
I was never really sure if I was misreading myself, until I finally realized where that extra “hmm” was coming from: it wasn’t because I wanted to be with them, it was because I wanted to be them.
Eventually, as I got more involved in conversations about attraction with both ace and non-ace folks, I would quickly realize that in fact, when most people are evaluating how attractive someone is (especially of another sex), their first thought isn’t necessarily “would I want to look like that?”. So in retrospect it seems like it should have been more obvious what was going on. But for some reason it took me a while.
In the end, the thing that I think really helped clear things up even more was listening to trans and nonbinary people discussing similar experiences they had, where they realized that, woops, a lot of that attraction to people X gender was maybe more just wanting to be X gender themselves. Knowing that other people had gone through the same “Do I want to be with them, or just be them?” confusion really resonated, and I think also reiterated one of the reasons it took me a while to realize what exactly made me do that double take – after all, if I was going “hmm” at both cute girls and cute guys, surely it wasn’t a personal look thing – after all, I was just a girl, so I should only be inspired by girls’ appearances, right?*.
*In the end it turns out that my genderfeels are complicated and my brain has no problem wanting to look like whatever handsome 6′ anime dude recently caught my eye, even if my 5’4″ skeleton would disagree with that idea.