“I was scared for my life”

Hanna realised very early on that she is actually asexual. Since then, the 29-year-old has completely reoriented her life for herself. However, the war brings back the traumatic experiences she had before. Our columnist Iryna Hanenkova met Hanna.

The story of my life begins in Kharkiv. It is the city of my strength, the city of my dreams, my alma mater. It taught me how to live and survive, how to love and fight. Today my whole country is at war.

My own “war” began when I realised that I was different, asexual. Nevertheless, I tried to prove to everyone that I was “like everyone else” so as not to stand out. This had consequences.

Hanna. Photo: private

When I had the strength, I ended a relationship that was forced on me and felt better, physically of course and psychologically. At that time, I began to deal intensively with myself.

I was about 16 or 17 years old when I realised that I was not interested in sex, but mainly in relationships with people. I decided to read articles about it and learned about people who feel romantic but not physical attraction. Since then, I have been interested in the issues of gender and sex, in the “norms” and the “exceptions” that society has set for us.

I finally got to know myself, built boundaries and relationships that were comfortable for me and my loved ones. I explored the world and opened up to it as much as possible after all the violence I had experienced.

I built a wall around myself

During the war, my condition deteriorated. As my psychotherapist explained to me, my brain reacts painfully to any form of aggression and violence, both direct and indirect (e.g. in news). As a result, I became more sensitive to the stimuli around me. And my boundaries, which I had built up over the years to protect myself, soon resembled a stone wall. I was rigid and unfriendly.

I was stressed about losing my job, scared for my life …

This was compounded by harassment in the street, which eventually silenced me. The come-ons from men deepened my aversion to myself, my body and everything that had to do with sexuality in any way.

My life as an asexual and the confrontation with it have been going on since my childhood. When I analyse myself back then, I notice episodes that point to this. Today, I believe that it is normal to be asexual, to prefer not only physical pleasures, but also emotional, intellectual ones etc. That has always been the norm for me.

Over the years, I have experienced situations where my boundaries have been violated. And I don’t think I’m the only one. It’s important to talk about it so that it doesn’t just remain a traumatic memory, but is woven into our lives and makes us stronger.

The rustling of leaves calms me

Now, in the middle of the war, things that appeal to senses help to ground me: smells, touches, tastes, visual impressions. This can be reading by candlelight, for example. Or the sunrise outside, when the soft rustling of leaves or the chirping of small birds can be heard.

And of course I believe in the victory of our country and that each and every one of us is important, wherever and however we are.

This is how you can help

INDIVIDUAL HELP Munich Kyiv Queer has its own fundraising campaign via www.paypal.me/ConradBreyer to support people in Ukraine who need help and are not organised in the local LGBTIQ*-groups. We can help fast, directly and unbureaucratically.

HELP FOR LGBTIQ* ORGANISATIONS To support LGBTIQ* in Ukraine we have helped set up the Alliance Queer Emergency Aid Ukraine, in which around 40 German LGBTIQ* Human Rights organisations are involved. All these groups have access to very different Human Rights organisations in Ukraine and use funds for urgently needed care or evacuation of queer people. Every donation helps and is used 100 percent to benefit queer people in Ukraine. Donate here

Questions? www.MunichKyivQueer.org/donations