What Does Aromantic Even Mean?

Good morning, lovelies! I’ve just made it back in time for one Pride Month post (not that I don’t talk enough about queer issues outside Pride Month…). There are so many issues to choose from, I spent the last week feeling very confused about what I should discuss, and since I concluded that I was completely incapable of making a logical decision, I should make a personal one instead. So today I would like to talk about what it means to be aromantic.

Like many other queer identities, the aromantic identity is one that seems reasonably simple at first, but gets far more complex the closer you look. Asexual and aromantic identities are still reasonably new to the LGBT+ mainstream, not to mention the general public, who still tend to view these things as illnesses or flaws that are unhealthy and need to be ‘cured’. The truth is, however, that ace/aro identities are as natural as any queer identity – not everyone experiences sexual or romantic desire in the way we’re taught to consider ‘normal’. But the variations within the ace/aro spectrum can be pretty confusing, even for those of us who find ourselves somewhere along those spectrums, so your friendly neighbourhood misandrist witch is here to… probably make things even less clear, let’s be honest…

At first glance, being aromantic simply means one doesn’t experience the desire for romantic connections or relationships. This sounds pretty simple, right? That is, until you start to question: what is romance exactly…? Is it what we see in romantic comedies? Is it long term monogamy? (Hint: no, it certainly doesn’t have to be.) Does it have to involve dating? (Ugh.) Does it have to involve physical contact and desire? (Nope, just ask any asexual person.) Is there a strict divide between friendship and romantic attachment? (Gods no.) Can you really form true romantic attachments to more than one person? (Hint: yes, many people can.) What even is romance?!

As someone who’s spent quite a lot of time questioning their own identity, these questions really bothered me for a while. In spite of my very angry inner feminist, I love a good romcom (or a bad one, I’m not fussy – but don’t tell anyone). I read romance novels, I love a bit of fluffy fanfic as much as the next queer. And I certainly wouldn’t be averse to having a romantic partner. So how on earth could I be aromantic?

Well, to start with, I love being single. Like, really love it. And I prefer friendships over romantic attachments. I rarely feel romantic attachment to people, and even when I do, I even more rarely want to act on it – and not just because I’m a bloody coward.

But here’s the part where everything gets complicated. Because what we think of as ‘romance’ has a pretty narrow definition, and what I think of as romance doesn’t fall anywhere within those boundaries. I don’t hate the idea of a romantic relationship. But I also enjoy being single, and there are a hell of a lot of parts of singlehood I wouldn’t be willing to give up for any romantic relationship. I like to make my own decisions, manage my own money, and I don’t like the idea of being dependent on another human being for my happiness – the idea of someone else being dependent on me for the same is frankly terrifying. My concept of what a romantic relationship would involve looks very different from most people’s – in fact, it looks more like most people’s ideas of a really close friendship, although admittedly with more snogging… So does that mean I’m not really aromantic?

Hell no.

For me, being aromantic isn’t just about not experiencing romantic desire – although that is definitely what being aromantic means to a lot of people, and I certainly don’t desire romantic attachments in the way I’ve been taught is ‘normal’. But just like any other queer identity, there isn’t just one way to be aromantic, and for a lot of us, being aromantic is about not experiencing normative romantic desire. It’s about desiring and forming relationships outside the normative romantic/friendship binary. It’s about desiring and forming relationships that queer people’s expectations. I already have some deep relationships that are more loving and committed than most normative romantic relationships I’ve seen. For us, they defy definition in the normative system, making them inherently queer. Are they romantic? Are they friendship? I’d say it doesn’t matter – they’re loving, and the idea that there’s a strict binary division between romance and friendship is bullshit, and one of the biggest reasons I identify as aromantic.

Being aromantic is about rejecting normative ideas of romance. It’s about forming relationships that work for you as an individual. It’s about embracing the idea that there are more ways to relate to people than merely platonic friendship or sexually active romance – so many more! And people have been exploring these alternatives for centuries. These aren’t new ideas, they’re just not mainstream ideas.

To anyone who is wondering why they can’t form romantic relationships, or why they feel uncomfortable in them, or why they can’t relate to them – you are not broken. You might just be aromantic. You might be asexual. You might be both. And these things are absolutely okay. You are a whole person, with your own unique needs and desires, and provided those needs and desires aren’t hurting anyone (including you!), you don’t need to change, you don’t need ‘fixing’, or ‘curing’. You are beautiful just as you are.

This Pride Month, please remember to include your ace and aro siblings. We exist, and we are out there queering the normative concept of romance, sexuality, and gender, just like the rest of our LGBTQI+ community.

Get out there, be proud, and be awesome! I love you!
Misandrist witch out.

All Rights Reserved to Cambrey Payne 2017. Acknowledge sources when sharing.

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