This post was written for the February Carnival of Aces, which is also the first ever Carnival of Aros. It is being hosted by The Ace and Aro Advocacy Project, and the theme is “The Relationship Between the Aro and Ace Communities”.
When I first saw the announcement about the new Carnival of Aros blogging event, I was surprised and, I have to admit, a little dismayed. I’ve always felt strongly that the asexual umbrella was big enough to encompass a wide range of identities, including the “aromantic” one. Why separate these two communities out?
As I continued reading, I realised the problem was partly my misunderstanding of what the aromantic community was. I’d always thought of it as a sub-group within the asexual community. After all, isn’t the asexual community where the word “aromantic” originated? Hasn’t the community always divided itself between “(allo)romantic” and “aromantic” aces? What I was ignoring was the fact that the word “aromantic” has moved beyond the asexual community, that a whole group of people consider themselves aromantic without otherwise identifying with asexuality.
I consider this kind of a strange development but a positive one. I firmly believe that the split attraction model has as much relevance to allosexuals as to asexuals, which means that both aces and allos should be equally capable of celebrating their aromanticism. And now I find myself with a question:
Is there a place within the aromantic community for me?
There are numerous arguments to be made, both for and against.
Pro: I’m not alloromantic.
Con: I’m not aromantic, either. I’m platoniromantic, which can be seen as a specific sub-category of quoiromantic. It means I don’t distinguish romance from friendship, or romantic attraction from platonic attraction.
Pro: So I don’t feel anything I would call “romantic attraction” or desire something called a “romantic relationship”.
Con: But I do have feelings and desire relationships that look like what other people call “romance”. It’s just that I call them “friendship”.
Pro: So I’m in the grey area between allo- and aromantic. As a demisexual, I’m also in the grey area between allo- and asexual. I still consider myself part of the asexual spectrum. So why not part of the aromantic spectrum?
Con: But there’s a difference between being demisexual and being platoniromantic. “Demisexual” means combining elements of both sexuality and asexuality. “Platoniromantic” means rejecting the whole romance-friendship dichotomy, and, without that, the alloromantic-aromantic dichotomy becomes meaningless. I can understand it intellectually, based on other people’s descriptions. But I don’t “grok” it.
Con: Also, as I wrote in “Stages of Coming Out”, it took me fifteen years to feel comfortable within the asexual community. Having invested so much time and emotional energy in belonging to one community, do I really want to go looking for another?
Pro: But maybe the fact that it took me so long to feel part of the asexual community proves it wasn’t the community I needed after all!
Pro: And haven’t I been saying that my romantic orientation has had a bigger impact on my life than my sexual orientation? Maybe what I need is less time in the asexual community and more time connecting with other non-alloromantic people.
Con: Perhaps what it comes down to is who I, as a demisexual platoniromantic, define myself in relation to. For me, having a demisexual identity is about feeling alienated by the sexual norms of mainstream society. It makes sense for me to identify with the asexual community because both asexuals and demisexuals are marginalised in the same way. On the other hand, having a platoniromantic identity is about feeling alienated by the romantic-platonic dichotomy that exists within the a-spec and aro-spec communities. It doesn’t make as much sense for me to identify with the aromantic community, since the whole discourse of (a)romanticism is what I feel alienated from
Pro: But aren’t platoniromantic people also marginalised by mainstream society? Just like aromantic people?
Con: Well… not exactly. Yes, my lack of interest in romance does set me apart from the mainstream, but that lack of interest is as much about my demisexuality as my platoniromanticism. The alienation I feel as a non-dater isn’t really separable from the alienation I feel as an ace. The real challenge of being platoniromantic isn’t an underinvestment in romantic relationships – it’s an overinvestment in platonic relationships. I feel an intense degree of attachment and affection for people I have no sexual interest in, and a lot of people find that hard to wrap their heads around. Are many aromantics in the same situation? Probably. But so, I imagine, are many alloromantics, especially if their sexual orientation is different from their romantic orientation.
So that’s where my thinking is at the moment. As far as broader society goes, platoniromantic and aromantic people are both marginalised, but so are alloromantic asexuals, homoromantic heterosexuals, and heteroromantic homosexuals. Why would I express solidarity with one group but not the others? And, as far as the ace community goes, the alloromantic-aromantic dichotomy still dominates the discourse, leaving me feeling alienated from both.
But, having said all that, I have to admit that I still don’t know a lot about the aromantic community. Maybe my image of it is wrong. Maybe it’s a more open place than I think. Maybe it’s even a place I would feel quite at home. I don’t know, but I think this blogging carnival is a great opportunity for me to find out. I’m looking forward to reading all the posts written from an aromantic perspective and gaining a better understanding of the community and the people in it.