When Asexuals Belong In Allo-Aro Spaces

Handdrawn illustration of a yellow pasture against a background of hills and sporadic 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.

On my Allo-Aro 101 page, after explaining what the words “aromantic” and “allosexual” mean, I state whom the label “allo-aro” represents:

Any allosexual aromantic who isn’t also, solely and permanently, asexual; or any aromantic who wishes to centre their experience of sexual attraction alongside their aromanticism. Heterosexual aros, bisexual aros, pansexual aros, gay aros, lesbian aros and aros with fluid or shifting attractions can identify as allo-aro.

(Allosexual, as a general rule, means “experiences sexual attraction while not on the asexual spectrum”.)

This isn’t a description common to those folks concerned with explaining and defining allo-aro identity. In most circumstances, a-specs define allo-aro as “aromantic and allosexual” or “aromantic and not asexual”.

Allo-aro is positioned in opposition to asexuality to such a point that it is difficult to define why allo-aro exists as an aromantic identity without referencing asexuality. In practice, it has become a rallying cry of I am aromantic but not asexual against a broader culture of assuming aromanticism is only valid, acceptable or safe when paired with asexuality. Why shouldn’t allo-aros stick to those simple definitions? Why complicate matters with additional words like “solely” or “permanently”?

If we regard allo-aro identity as a mere statement of one’s present allosexuality and aromanticism, I’m not currently allo-aro.

The key word, I’ll stress, is currently.

I am, as of writing this post, aromantic and greysexual. I don’t consider my greysexuality a “quieter” or “reduced” form of allosexuality. For all my contention with and discomfort within the asexual community, I see my greysexuality as a shape of asexuality and understand it through that context. My asexuality, however impermanent, is difficult thing to acknowledge and voice as someone whose sense of aromantic identity, creativity and self-expression centres on my being allo-aro.

I’m abrosexual: an identity defined by shifts between any number of sexual attraction identities on the allosexual and/or asexual spectra.

In my case, my sexuality shifts between pansexuality (I give a fuck irrespective of gender), polysexuality (fucks given about everyone but men) and greysexuality (few fucks to give, fucks given weakly or inconsistently, a sense of disconnect from any fucks felt, a distancing from the notion of even giving a fuck). Shifts can occur from day to day, although I usually experience an identity for weeks or months at a time.

At times of increased rate of change or cycling, I prefer “abrosexual” as a more-specific label, knowing that no other identity will last long enough to feel “correct”. During times of allosexual stability, I’ve started describing myself as pansexual and polysexual (saving me the need to alternate between both labels). Times of greysexual stability, however, provoke an existential crisis coloured by internalised antagonism towards my own fluidity. Am I always an asexual aro, one pretending to be allo-aro for (a-spec) social cachet? Am I allosexual enough to claim the word if I’m not always allosexual?

One must venture deep into LGBTQIA+ spaces to find information on attraction identities defined by shifting, change or plurality. Many LGBTQIA+ people, however, believe that my abrosexuality doesn’t exist, is an expression of my mental illnesses/neurodiversity that need not be supported, or designates me as an immature attention-seeker. Many communities still operate on a base assumption that our identities don’t shift and can’t (or shouldn’t) exist in plurality. Change in identity, then, occurs when making, finding or accepting a better term to label our feelings, the correction of misidentification. Many people still oblige the cisheteronormative notion that gender and orientation are at core static and unchangeable.

While fluid LGBTQIA+ folks struggle to find identity-affirming information not subject to antagonism, erasure and an unconscious centring of static-identity experiences, non-fluid LGBTQIA+ folks also can’t recognise how they contribute to a default presumption that orientations or genders don’t cycle, shift or exist in plurality.

In the a-spec community, “allosexuality” and “asexuality” are a binary rarely permitting, never mind celebrating, overlap, crossover or fluidity. If you’re not asexual, you’re either allo-aro or in-between/neither (usually understood as “non-SAM aro”). When we reference allo-aros, we are understood to be excluding asexuals; when we reference asexuals, we are understood to be excluding allo-aros.

I also say this on the Allo-Aro 101 page:

As a general rule, most allo-aros should not be considered asexual, and to refer to us or contextualise us as asexual is to erase our allosexuality. This is a long-standing problem in the aromantic and asexual (a-spec) communities.

This is still true.

Allo-aros are often regarded as only a differing flavour of asexual, something frequently referenced in my examples of allo-aro erasure. Treating us as asexual cousins, as if we’re naturally and appropriately represented by asexual-focused content and activism, has done nothing but create a culture of allo-aro inequity, justifying our lack of accommodated participation and visibility in general a-spec and aromantic spaces, language, representation and informative/educational media.

Allo-aro-centred spaces allow us to escape both the asexual-normative culture of the general a-spec and aromantic communities and the allosexual-aromantic antagonism perpetrated and perpetuated by asexuals. Building our own spaces means freedom from assumptions that media about not experiencing sexual attraction is relevant to all aromantics, references to allo-aro-antagonistic stereotypes, accusations of antagonism if we discuss said acenormativity, unwarned-for uses of sex-negative language, and sexualisation of allo-aro content and identity. They mean something we haven’t found in the a-spec and aromantic communities: safety.

Asexual responses, given that we share the larger community spaces in which allo-aro offshoots are located, often make this quest more difficult still. Reactions I have seen or experienced, aside from a common refusal to acknowledge issues of erasure or antagonism voiced by allo-aros, include:

  • Accusations that we’re dividing the aromantic community by creating allo-aro and non-SAM aro spaces
  • Concern over the presence of casual, non-explicit and worksafe sexual and sexual-attraction references in public allo-aro spaces
  • Anonymous messages sent to allo-aros accusing us of hating asexuals or aro-aces
  • The insistence that asexuals can’t engage in allo-aro antagonism because of their asexuality
  • The insistence that aro-aces can’t engage in allo-aro antagonism because of their aromanticism
  • The dismissal of allo-aros’ discussions of antagonism by referring to us with words reflecting the allo-aro predator stereotype, like “bullying” and “aggressive”
  • Claims that allo-aro anger in response to our antagonism or erasure is asexual antagonism or exclusionary behaviour
  • Repeated requests to enter closed/private allo-aro and non-SAM spaces
  • Claims that allo-aros have perpetrated asexual antagonism by refusing asexuals access to said closed/private allo-aro and non-SAM spaces

Not only are allo-aros unwelcome as allo-aros in the a-spec and aromantic communities, we aren’t permitted to build, promote and defend our own or discuss the issues that impact allo-aros inside them. By these standards, given the contradictory nature of these responses to allo-aro community-building when taken as a whole, our aromanticism is only acceptable to asexuals when it is accessible to and inclusive of all asexuals.

Consequently, we must remind the a-spec community that closed spaces made for allo-aros and/or non-SAM aros are not open to asexuals on the basis of their asexuality, irrespective of their aromanticism. Not all aromantic spaces are, or should be, for all aros; not all a-spec spaces are, or should be, for all a-specs. Our safety, health and comfort depends on other a-specs’ recognition of this truth.

Some of our angry posts, however–even some of my own!–suggest or state that asexuals have no business entering closed, private allo-aro spaces. They’re phrased without any awareness of some aros’ possessing alternating, changing, shifting or simultaneous possession of asexuality and allosexuality. They’re phrased in ways that reinforce the non-fluid normativity still inherent in LGBTQIA+ spaces. They’re phrased in ways that suggest abrosexual allo-aros like me are asexual invaders in allo-aro spaces.

Despite the personal existential crisis I experience during my asexual periods, I can point to my labours as an allo-aro making content for allo-aros. I can point to the way my sense of my own aromanticism is entwined with allo-aro experience and expression. While I feel uncomfortable and anxious when seeing my fellow allo-aros draw lines that exclude me, I have demonstrated the right to be respected and included as an allo-aro even when I’m not allosexual.

But what of what of the fluid aros, the abrosexual and aceflux aros who experience periods of allosexuality, or the asexual-and-allosexual aros who can’t (and shouldn’t have to) so easily prove their inclusion? What of the asexual-in-part allo-aros now keeping secret their asexuality lest another allo-aro question their presence? How many asexual-and-allosexual aros now fear that we are–or will be seen as–more invaders wielding asexual entitlement instead of fellow allo-aros seeking safety?

I will never ask that allo-aros change how they discuss, reference and navigate allo-aro identity and experiences in allo-aro spaces when I am asexual. Allo-aros accommodate asexual needs in general a-spec and aromantic spaces without reciprocation far too often for this to be a reasonable request inside allo-aro spaces. Nor should I start conversations focusing or centering on asexuality in allo-aro spaces. We shouldn’t have to deny or treat our asexuality as flat-out unmentionable, but we must recognise that allo-aro spaces are a wildly inappropriate place to talk only about our periods of not experiencing sexual attraction.

I do ask that my fellow allo-aros recognise that “allosexual” and “asexual” people aren’t always exclusive of the other. Aros of fluid and/or multiple sexual orientation identities, encompassing both the asexual and allosexual spectra, shouldn’t be subjected to careless erasure even in our anger and hurt. Some card-carrying asexuals are also flag-waving allo-aros and must be able to participate inside closed allo-aro spaces.

This is why I add words like “solely” or “permanently” to my references to asexuality in defining what constitutes an allo-aro person: an aromantic who isn’t, solely or permanently, asexual and is, in part or full, allosexual.

Everyone, irrespective of their a-spec identity, needs to remember that private allo-aro spaces aren’t closed to asexuals as a group or category.

They’re closed to anyone who isn’t, in part or full, allo-aro.

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