My Sexuality’s Ties to CF

Sexuality is complicated. Sexuality when you have chronic illness is doubly so. Finding out who you are and what you may or may not be attracted to becomes a mess when you factor in antibiotics that can easily affect libido, plus comorbidities like depression that can often cast a gray pall over your world.

It wasn’t until I was in my late 20s that I even thought the word “asexual” could apply to me. Asexuality is a lack of sexual attraction to others. I blamed my cystic fibrosis (CF). Maybe I was just worn out from medication and treatments. Maybe I just didn’t have the time to want to pick up men at bars. The face of CF was presented as being so uniformly heterosexual. I knew I was romantically interested in men, but that’s as far as it went. Something about that felt broken or wrong to me, as if there was something in me that was just incorrect for not wanting more. There’s been an increasing focus on maintaining healthy sexuality in relationship to CF, which is directly a positive thing, but when it comes to representation of LGBT+ relationships within the CF community, the literature is sadly lacking.

I started using the label asexual when I was 28. I told my mom when I was 29. Her first reaction was to wonder if it was a side effect of Symdeko — a valid question, but it still stung. Those were questions I’d already asked myself countless times. It wasn’t the cystic fibrosis. It wasn’t my depression. It wasn’t the mound of drugs we take on a day-to-day basis just to be able to breathe. My sexuality simply is who I am. Just as there’s a spectrum in the able-bodied population, so it must exist within cystic fibrosis patients.

As the average life expectancy of CFers continues to rise, these are things that need addressing. We base so much of the normalcy we strive for on stereotypes of life — that everyone must want a conventional marriage, a picket fence, 2.5 kids. I’m lucky that I’m attracted to men so I can at least on the surface pass as heterosexual. I don’t face the same thing that other members of the LGBT+ community face. Regardless, maybe it’s time we open lines of communications more and acknowledge that life goals aren’t universally the same and that not everyone has the same sexuality.

My question for the rest of the LGBT+ CF community is this: How can we do better?