Aro Week: My (Personal) Aromantic Manifesto

Handdrawn illustration of a yellow pasture against a background of hills and sparodic trees. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/grey/black stripes of the 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.

Over the last few years, the aromantic community has seen a comparative outpouring of recognition. It’s less common to see multi-identity art posts that remember asexuals but forget aromantics; it’s more common to see LGBTQIA+ blogs, spaces and communities referencing aromanticism. On Tumblr, I can find a wealth of positivity posts affirming many aromantic-spectrum experiences and even resources that reference aromanticism. Our existence, individually and collectively, is no longer solely the province of obscure art and essays … or presumed to be encompassed by asexuality.

We have a long way to go in acknowledging, including, supporting and protecting non-asexual aros, grey-umbrella aros, loveless aros, fluid and flux aros, aros of colour, non-English-speaking aros and disabled aros. Many of our gains have not yet reached or served all aromantics. The online aromantic world of 2021, however, bears little resemblance to that of 2011.

Past Aro Week content centres on demonstrating our existence: what we are, experience, feel, need, deserve. Now, though, such explanation feels repetitive; in 2021, I yearn to look inward, to face the questions underpinning my essays and storytelling. What does my aromanticism look like? What understandings, beliefs and obligations do I consider an inherent part of my aromantic identity? What do I owe other aromantics? What do other aromantics owe me?

This manifesto–my manifesto–details my belief in the creation of aromantic identity and community that refuses repackaged amatonormativity, rejects sex negativity and celebrates our radical, queer divergence from normal. Built from the bones of my intersection of identities and experiences, this list is limited at best and blinkered by my privileges at worst. Nor have I lived up to all its goals, because I am as flawed and hypocritical as any other human.

It is the start of an attempt to answer one question: what do I believe, as an aromantic seeking to understand and conceptualise aromanticism?

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Hallo, Aro: Question – K. A. Cook

Banner for Hallo, Aro Allosexual Aromantic Flash Fiction. Cover features dark pink handwritten type on a mottled green background with a large line-drawn peacock feather, several sketch-style leaves and swirly text dividers. Green arrows sit underneath each line of text. A translucent overlay of the green/light green/white/yellow/gold alloaro flag sits underneath the text.

Hallo, Aro is a series of flash fiction stories about allosexual aromantic characters navigating friendship, sexual attraction, aromanticism and the weight of amatonormative expectation.

Contains: Reflections on the aromantic desire to avoid family members’ amatonormative questions about dating–and the ways attaining this freedom can speak less about aromantic inclusion and more about heterosexist erasure and queer antagonism.

How can this be the aromantic dream when your queerness quiets the room?

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I Am Not Voldemort: An Essay on Love and Amatonormativity

Handdrawn illustration of a yellow pasture against a background of hills and sparodic trees. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/grey/black stripes of the 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.

Content Advisory: Discussions of and references to love, amatonormativity, ableism, neurodiversity, autism, familial abuse and partner abuse.

This June, I saw an increasing number of positivity and support posts for the aromantic and a-spec communities discussing the amatonormativity of “everyone falls in love”. I agree: the idea that romantic love is something everyone experiences, and is therefore a marker of human worth, needs deconstruction.

Unfortunately, a majority of these posts are replacing the shackles of amatonormativity with restrictive lines like “everyone loves, just not always romantically”, referencing the importance of loving friends, QPPs, family members and pets. Sometimes it moves away from people to encompass love for hobbies, experiences, occupations and ourselves. The what and how tends to vary from post to post, but the idea that we do and must love someone or something, and this love redeems us as human and renders us undeserving of hatred, is being pushed to the point where I don’t feel safe or welcome in my own aromantic community. Even in the posts meant to be challenging the more obvious amatonormativity, it is presumed that aros must, in some way, love.

I’ve spent weeks watching my a-spec and aro communities throw neurodiverse and survivor aros under the bus in order to do what the aromantic community oft accuses alloromantic aces of doing: using their ability to love as a defence of their humanity. Because I love, they say, I also don’t deserve to be a target of hatred, aggression and abuse.

But what if I don’t love?

What if love itself has been the mechanism of the hatred and violence I have endured?

Why am I, an aro, neurodiverse survivor of abuse and bullying, still acceptable collateral damage?

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Ask: Surviving Hate, Erasure and Amatonormativity

Handdrawn illustration of a yellow pasture against a background of hills and sparodic trees. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/grey/black stripes of the 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.

An anon asks on Tumblr:

Hello, I love reading your posts and I think all the activism you do for the aro community is beautiful and needs to be done, so thank you so much <#. I personally realized I was aroace a month or so ago–How do you manage just being an aromantic person in just daily life without getting crushed under all the erasure and ignorance in the world? I’m worried about going into the adult world as someone with this orientation because of all of what I hear about aros not being heard and all the stories about aces being taken advantage of, and I’m honestly scared of all the ignorance and amisia I keep hearing is in the world. I’m not out to more than my close friends and family and the online communities I’m in, but you don’t have to be out to be hurt by antagonism or ignorance from others, and the amatonormativity I keep seeing *everywhere* is starting to make me feel hopeless. What do you do with these feelings? Thank you for reading this and for your blog <#

Thank you so very much for the kind and lovely words, anon!

I will agree with you that you absolutely do not have to be out to be hurt by hatred, erasure, dismissal and invisibility, because this line of thought isn’t said enough for my liking.

First, I’ll point out that self-care is important. If you haven’t already, get to know what what distracts you, what makes you happy, what takes you away from anxiety or frustration, be it books or TV or crafts or talking with a friend. Have these things ready as a waiting toolbox for when you need to escape the pressures of the world. Keep books or music that make you happy on your phone or in your bag, have a stash of a food you like in the cupboard, know where you can go to relax and decompress. Pursue hobbies unrelated to activism and give yourself space to enjoy them.

Second, please know that you can and should make full and shameless use of unfollowing, blocking and blacklisting options. If you want to make for yourself a paradise where your dashboard bears no mention of allosexism or amatonormativity, do it. Having these spaces allows you to more easily bear those situations where you can’t avoid debating your existence, and you are under no obligation to endure, explain and educate. You are always allowed to put your needs, your safety and your limitations ahead of both other people’s demands and the fight to be seen as human. You are always allowed to choose some battles and let others ago. You are always allowed to say that you are done with a particular conversation and stop. You are always allowed to say that you are not capable of this or any other fight. You are always allowed to centre your needs, anon, and while I am less good at this than I’d like to be, it is difficult to accomplish everything else I discuss if you can’t make a point of establishing the boundaries you need to survive.

I do two things with my feelings, anon, that allow them to rest more easily inside my skin: creativity and gratitude.

Continue reading “Ask: Surviving Hate, Erasure and Amatonormativity”