How to Ally: Discussing Allo-Aros in the Aro Community

Handdrawn illustration of a yellow pasture against a background of hills and sparodic trees. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/yellow/gold stripes of the allo-aro pride flag. The text Aro Worlds Discussion Post sits across the image in a black, antique handdrawn type, separated by two ornate Victorian-style black dividers.

It’s a common allo-aro experience to see well-meaning allies defending us by the use of discussion points that reinforce the erasure and othering they’re meant to counteract. Allies signal-boosting allo-aro works by arguing that they’re also useful for aro-ace understandings of aromanticism, for example, looks like a positive action at first glimpse but continues to contextualise allo-aros in terms of our relationship to asexuality.

How should folks discuss us, then? How should folks discuss the reality that allo-aros are not always regarded as a fundamental part of our shared community or fully supported within it? What words do we use if allo-aros are going to get upset when we’re just trying to be helpful?

So please find a list of discussion points, goals and shapes of activism that are more likely to make us feel that we do have allies willing to acknowledge our experiences and feelings.

Promoting Allo-Aro Inclusion and Acceptance

  • Signal boost posts, articles and creative media by allo-aros as often as possible. Many posts about allo-aros aren’t created by allo-aros, and there’s a tendency for positivity and community posts by allies to get more traction and attention than our own expression posts. A good ally will recognise this tendency and make a point of trying to ensure that their reblogged or linked allo-aro content comes first from allo-aro community members and creatives.
  • Refer or link to an allo-aro who has spoken on the issue should our experiences, identity or community membership come up in conversation. Sometimes well-meaning allies paraphrase posts by allo-aros in seeking to educate other asexuals, but this divorces allo-aro narratives from their allo-aro creators. We need our allies to help promote and enhance our own voices more often than we need you to speak for us.
  • Remember that allo-aros are part of the reason we have a separate aromantic community. It was created to give all aros a place to be aro (however wonderfully and diversely we each do that) on our own terms. It can’t and won’t exist as it does today without allo-aro involvement.
  • Regard all allo-aros in all circumstances as part of the aromantic community, but don’t pretend that allo-aros haven’t had our right to aromantic community membership challenged or overlooked. Positivity posts that act as though allo-aros have never felt disconnected from the aro community often come across less as idealism and more as an attempt to rewrite history in a better light–in other words, erasure. Treat allo-aros as a natural and fundamental part of our shared community, but also acknowledge that this belief is yet to become as universal as it should be.
  • Move away from speaking about allo-aros’ value to the aro community or the asexual aros within the aromantic community. In fact, let go of the idea that any more-marginalised aro or aro identity offers value or education to the community or another identity within it. When you are part of the community simply by nature of being aromantic, your existence isn’t something that should be evaluated in terms of your usefulness.
  • Enforce and encourage the idea that no aro, irrespective of how we identify our aromanticism or what identities accompany it, needs to do anything other than be aro and not engage in harmful or exclusionary behaviours to be deserving of aro community membership, support, encouragement and equitable inclusion.
  • Understand that while some aro-aces may see their aromanticism and asexuality as the same shared identity or set of experiences, to treat this understanding as universal is harmful. Centre the idea that the aromantic community is its own identity with its own language, social mores and culture, and while there is overlap with asexuality and the asexual community, there is also overlap with allosexuality and allosexual communities.
  • Recognise that allo-aros have long had to draw a distinction between our allosexual and aromantic experiences in ways not required of aro-aces or even natural to our understanding of being allo-aro. Don’t accept the use of claims like I can’t tell the difference between my asexuality and my aromanticism to excuse the aromantic community’s harbouring of non-aromantic content when only one category of aromantics is permitted such leeway, not all others.

Expressing Support for Allo-Aros in Aro Spaces

  • Allow tagged, advised-for depictions of and discussions about sexual attraction and identity as they intersect with aromanticism in general aromantic spaces (as opposed to aro-ace-specific spaces).
  • Respect the allo-aro need to avoid asexual references and asexual content by tagging for depictions of and discussions about asexuality and asexual identity as they intersect with aromanticism. When only allo-aro content (with regards allosexuality and allosexual identities as they intersect with aromanticism) is tagged this way, the perception that asexual shapes of aromanticism are central to the aromantic community isn’t challenged.
  • Establish that sex repulsion and alienation is not a default aro experience any more than is romance repulsion and alienation.
  • Ensure that no aromantic has to hide any other aspect of their identity to participate in aromantic spaces (although some aspects of our identity-related experiences, including some asexuality-related experiences, should be tagged and advised for in broader community spaces).
  • Acknowledge that queerplatonic relationships are inclusive of sexual attraction and sexual experiences and that this is as normal as any other shape of QPR. Do not treat QPRs as though they are mostly, usually or often non-sexual.
  • Establish that solely non-aromantic content doesn’t belong in the aromantic community. If there is no exception made for solely allosexual content, there should be no exception made for solely asexual content.
  • Allow allo-aros to express distress without criticism or disregard when the proliferation of solely-asexual content in aromantic spaces denies us equal access to our own community.
  • Understand and recognise that allo-aros, in asking that asexual-only content stay out of aromantic tags, are not denying aro-aces the right to make aro-ace content in aromantic spaces. Don’t require us to have to reassure asexual aros on this point every time we seek to discuss asexual centring in aromantic spaces.
  • Question the creation and use of community-wide terminology that excludes behaviours associated with our allosexuality. Don’t leave allo-aros to have to speak first on this subject; make sure we are included and defended by our aro kin as our language evolves.
  • Question the acceptance of language that describes sexual attraction and/or experiences with derogatory terms in aromantic spaces and tags. Encourage ways to express sex repulsion that don’t refer to sexual attraction and sexual experiences with negative or harmful language, or at very least provide content warnings for this language.

Goals for Community Acceptance

  • Removing the current pressure on allo-aros to avoid speaking about sexual attraction, relationships and experiences in order to be accepted and welcomed as aromantic.
  • Recognising that alloromantic-and-allosexual communities for any identity are not yet accepting of allosexual aromanticism or discussions about the ways our aromanticism shapes our allosexuality.
  • Respecting the difference between discussions about sexual attraction and sexual experiences.
  • Normalising the truth that (allo)sexual attraction and aromantic identities together are as common and ordinary as any other combination of attraction-based identities.
  • Acknowledging that the pressure on allo-aros to hide our sexual attraction is part of a community dynamic that avoids centring and even acknowledging allo-aro needs.
  • Ensuring that all aromantics have equal access to resources and information about all shapes of being aromantic, so we can better understand each other.
  • Ensuring that the aro community understands the difference between “general aromantic”, “a-spec” and “aro-ace” blogs and spaces, including what shapes of content are normalised, what requires tagging/advising and what is and isn’t included.
  • Breaking down the assumption that “a-spec” and “general aro-ace” blogs, communities and spaces are the same thing, as aro-aces need and deserve their own community spaces free from allo-aros.
  • Recognising that the mores and requirements of aro-ace spaces should be different from general aro spaces, just as the mores and requirements of allo-aro spaces should be different from general aro spaces.
  • Recognising that the general aromantic community is a playground shared by many different aromantics.
  • Understanding that allo-aro/non-asexual aro experiences in terms of our aromanticism are often different from asexual aro/aro-ace experiences.
  • Recognising that while allo-aros are also erased for being aromantic in a-spec spaces, our simultaneous erasure for being allosexual impacts our aromantic erasure in ways asexuals don’t always recognise.

A Final Note on Aromantic Community Experience

It’s important to keep in mind that much of what allo-aros endure in the aromantic community isn’t yet understood as antagonism or erasure. It doesn’t resemble the discourse movement and associated behaviours we’re accustomed to regarding as hatred. It doesn’t always resemble the erasure dealt by much of the asexual community in shared a-spec spaces.

  • Few people are in my inbox saying they hate allo-aros. They’re in my inbox accusing me of hating aro-aces.
  • Few people are saying allo-aros shouldn’t speak of sexual attraction or experience in the aromantic community. They’re flagging posts on my allo-aro blog containing the word “sex” as problematic or concerning.
  • Few people are saying that allo-aros aren’t a rightful part of the aromantic community. They’re leaving supportive-sounding comments saying that allo-aros are a much-needed addition to our own community.
  • Few people are saying allo-aros don’t experience erasure in aromantic spaces. They’re accusing allo-aros of disregarding the validity of aro-ace suffering should we say that allo-aros and aro-aces face different and distinct challenges.

It isn’t helpful to compare allo-aro experiences to better-understood forms of aromantic or a-spec erasure, antagonism or discourse in order to decide what is erasure or antagonism. The aromantic community must acknowledge and counter this tendency as it seeks to make itself more welcoming of its allo-aro membership. Right now, allo-aros are left fighting a pall of invisibility: we know what we experience, but we don’t know how to convey its impact on those who don’t recognise it as harmful because it doesn’t always match their understandings of harmful content.

If there’s any one thing you can do to make us feel supported and welcome, it’s this: listen to allo-aros. Even when, especially when, you don’t understand what we’re feeling or why we’re feeling it.

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