Discussing Allo-Aro Identity (And Why Fluid Folks Need Better Definitions)

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.

I began my Allo-Aro 101 page by defining the words “allosexual” and “aromantic”. If “allosexual” is uncommon terminology outside a-spec spaces, “allo-aro” (in all its grammatical and stylistic permutations) is even less accepted. “Aromantic” itself voyages into arcane language, often understood by outsiders as only a relationship to or a form of asexuality. Visitors to this website may not know what “allo-aro” means, so–limited by current terminology and conceptualisations of the split attraction model–I follow the well-trodden educator’s path of first mimicking a dictionary.

I consider my following explanation more important, as an allo-aro whose relationship to this identity cannot exist untouched by fluidity:

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 inclusive of allosexuality can identify as allo-aro.

Some allo-aros identify as both asexual and allosexual or shift between them. Abrosexual aros may be entirely allosexual or experience both asexual and allosexual identities. Aceflux aros may experience allosexual identities along with their asexual ones. Being solely and permanently allosexual should never be a requirement for allo-aro identity and community participation.

I can count on one hand (with spare fingers!) how often I’ve seen fellow a-specs acknowledge attraction’s potential fluidity in their defining of “allo-aro”. In stressing adverbs like “permanently”, I am an outlier in the genre of explaining allo-aro identity and community membership.

Most allo-aros explain our identity by the words comprising this term: allosexual and aromantic. What more need one say on this subject after coming to agreed-upon meanings for the words “allosexual” and “aromantic”? What more need one say than to explain that allo-aros are aromantic and not-asexual?

Such an explanation erases a non-zero number of fluid allo-aros (not to mention forcing aromantics who are neither asexual nor allosexual, or reject identifying with this binary construct, under the allo-aro umbrella).

It erases me.

When our definitions don’t address fluidity as a potential component of allo-aro identity, we force people to ask questions like these:

Many recent, aro-authored definitional works on aromantic identity stress that asexuality is no prerequisite for aromanticism (just as any sexual orientation/attraction identity, allosexuality included, isn’t a prerequisite). We understand the need to create a world where nobody, despite a wealth of external assumptions and ignorance, presumes aromanticism by default a shape of or connected to asexuality. Every “can I be aromantic while not being asexual” query should prompt conversations about extending community outreach, because the need to ask signals inaccessible knowledge.

How many questioning aromantics don’t think to ask? How many unknowing aromantics believe without question that not being asexual precludes them from aromantic identity? How many uncertain aromantics so fear the denial of their aromanticism due their allosexuality, based on dissemination of false knowledge, that they don’t dare ask?

How many would-be community members, suffering the agony of ignorance, do we lose because they won’t ask or don’t know to ask?

That allo-aros who don’t fit the “static identity, wholly allosexual, wholly aromantic” norm can identify a subset of their experiences as allo-aro but then seek permission to name themselves is, currently, considered an acceptable lapse. Our discussions too often reinforce casual assumptions that allo-aro is an identity open only to those possessed of the most visible, centred way of being allo-aro: a static or non-fluid allosexual aromantic who never experiences romantic attraction.

How can newcomers to the community be expected to find the rare posts that describe allo-aro identity as something that need not be static in its avoidance of asexuality and alloromanticism?

How many fluid allo-aros do we lose?

The absence of fluid-encompassing definitions isn’t an accidental lapse. It’s a feature baked into the allo-aro, aromantic and a-spec communities, fluidity acknowledged via expecting fluid-specific identities to function in a binary  either/or construct. In this way, fluidity boxed within simpler words like “abro” and “aceflux”, non-fluid people can safely ignore our complexities and contradictions. We are included if we can categorise our fluidity as “mostly asexual” or “mostly aromantic”. Fluid aro discussions about in-community and identity-related experiences are rare (and rarely signal-boosted), while grey-umbrella/spectrum aro discussions seldom focus on these experiences entwined with allosexuality.

Most of the time, fluid aros exist as pride flags and memes.

(For also-asexual allo-aros, our asexuality is a dirty word: shameful, betraying. As much as I fear recognising the existence of my allosexuality in general a-spec and ace-majority aro spaces, as common for allo-aros, I also fear recognising the existence of my asexuality in allo-aro spaces.)

Ignorance means that even well-meaning people who seek to include us do so in ways that perpetuate harm:

“Allo-aro” doesn’t describe or encompass my attraction’s roiling complexity. In no way does it mean “a sense of attraction that shifts between various multisexual and some asexual spectrum identities, blinking in befuddlement at the alterous and aplatonic spectra, whilst veering about the aromantic spectrum like a panicked moth trying to escape a swatter”. In naming myself allo-aro for a world that demands one-term categorisation, I don’t describe my orientation as much as I declare that allo-aro best encapsulates my experiences and needs as an a-spec person, albeit one constrained by static/non-fluid presumptions.

To be allo-aro means enduring disdain, antagonism and erasure based on antagonistic beliefs about love, sex and relationships. To be allo-aro means enduring sexualisation, because even our a-spec kindred render us rapacious and monstrous. To be allo-aro is to become a bold explorer of a newborn galaxy expanding in a joyous rush of hydrogen. To be allo-aro is to know in our golden hearts that we will together build a space and time where we are accepted, nurtured and valued.

We take the word “allo-aro” because words like “heterosexual”, “pansexual” or “lesbian” and “aromantic (spectrum)” alone fail to provide needed connection, comprehension, support, resources and representation on the basis of experiencing both allosexuality and aromanticism.

Naming myself allo-aro freed me to name myself loveless, defying further Western understandings of what makes a worthwhile human. Naming myself allo-aro taught me to celebrate neurodiversity’s shaping of my attraction-related relationships, experiences and passions. Naming myself allo-aro allowed me to hold a middle-finger up to scores of oppressive systems! It’s true, however, that no other allo-aro–fluid or static–will share my relationship to our identity term, find the same power in this word or travel the same journey in claiming it.

We do share the potential of diverse discoveries awaiting us from the moment we first speak it to ourselves.

Yet even well-meaning non-fluid allo-aros speak of fluid and also-asexual inclusion in ways that restrict our access to allo-aro connection, comprehension, support, resources and representation. Why must a certain percentage of time spent as allo-aro be a prerequisite for community identity and participation? Why are we granting membership to only the “technical aroaces who are more commonly alloaros” and not all people who are on the aromantic spectrum and in part allosexual? Why must we minimise also-asexual allo-aros’ asexuality in order to celebrate their allosexuality?

When I spend most of the year allosexual, I need the power of this term.

When I spend most of the year asexual, I still need the power of this term, because the existence of my asexuality doesn’t void my allosexuality.

When I am allosexual, I am allosexual–but I don’t forget what it is to be asexual. When I am asexual, I am asexual–but I don’t forget what it is to be allosexual. It doesn’t matter if I am allosexual for one day a year or 364 days a year: I am no less allosexual on my allosexual days than any other allosexual. In many ways, irrespective of my current experience of sexual attraction, I am always simultaneously allosexual and asexual in terms of a-spec community identity and interaction: both shape how I know myself to be aromantic.

When we suggest that aros should be “mostly allosexual” to qualify as allo-aro, I see the community regarding my fluid allosexuality as watered down or diminished by large “amounts” of asexuality. This suggests our allosexuality must be less relevant to us should we spend more time as asexual, rather than empowering us to build our own relationships to our identities. This suggests that only fluid aros who fit a limited norm merit allo-aro identity, resources, community and supportirrespective of our needs, which may exist unrelated to how long or often we experience allosexuality. This suggests that fluid allo-aros’ asexuality must be an undesirable intrusion on our allosexual aromanticism, and it encourages us to conceal, repress and diminish our asexuality for allo-aro inclusion.

This burdens me with an omnipresent fear of my own asexuality: I fight to avoid being seen as “too” asexual, lest my identity, inclusion and authority as an allo-aro be stripped from me.

No, nobody directly insists that I must repress my asexuality to be allo-aro enough to speak as an allo-aro. The absence of meaningful fluid inclusion in our discussions of allo-aro experiences and identity, however, results in ignorance’s ongoing perpetuation of fluid erasure and antagonism.

This is just as harmful.

This leaves fluid and also-asexual allo-aros feeling unsafe in our own community–or excluded from it.

I am not asking allo-aros to reproduce the community structures of asexual-majority spaces in order to accommodate also-asexual allo-aros. Allo-aros need spaces that allow us to express and explore the intersection of our allosexuality and the aromantic spectrum, something discouraged in general aromantic and a-spec spaces. Allo-aros need spaces that aren’t, both explicitly and implicitly, built around asexual norms.

Fluid and also-asexual allo-aros, however, share this want! I have long written about the pain of not expressing my allosexuality in aromantic and a-spec spaces, because, like most allo-aros, I need communities and spaces where aromantic sexual attraction can be freely depicted and celebrated. I also suffer the pain of not having my allosexual aromantic needs met in the aromantic and a-spec communities–a pain undiminished by my asexuality.

I am asking allo-aros to recognise the ways fluid and multi-identity allo-aros are treated as an afterthought in a community that presumes allosexuals are never asexual. I am asking allo-aros to make small changes to how we conceptualise and discuss allo-aro identity to better include fluid folks:

  • We need more definitions in circulation amongst the allo-aro, aro and a-spec communities that explain allo-aro in a fluid-inclusive way.
  • We need more promotion and signal-boosting of fluid-inclusive allo-aro posts, articles and resources, so that fluid folk questioning the term “allo-aro” can more easily find them.
  • We need to recognise that fluid allo-aros can encompass multiple orientations and orientation spectra–including alloromantic, quoi and non-SAM identities–and are not solely part aro-ace and part allo-aro.
  • We need to stop assuming that a declaration of asexuality (or alloromanticism) must mean one isn’t allo-aro.
  • We need to respect fluid allo-aros’ right to declare, express and explore our identities, our needs and our communities–no matter how shifting, conflicting or contradictory our communications may seem.
  • We need to reject any requirement that a majority of time spent as allosexual is necessary for fluid allo-aros’ participation in the allo-aro community.
  • We need to seek, respect and value the unique experiences and opinions of fluid allo-aros, particularly as we navigate fraught relationships with other a-spec and orientation-identity communities.
  • We need to create an allo-aro community where fluid allo-aros are equally recognised, included and accommodated in conversations, interactions and understandings of what constitutes allo-aro identity.

I am allo-aro. I share dreams, hopes and fears with my fellow allo-aros. I cling tight to this marvellous word and the potential it represents, even with the struggles that come with being allo-aro inside and outside of a-spec spaces. I am proud to speak as an allo-aro and contribute, as much as I can, to a growing body of allo-aro information, resources and representation. I am proud to stand beside and support my fellow allo-aros.

I just happen to be, some of the time, asexual.

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