Aro: Language, Identity and Reflection

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.

I’m K. A. Cook. I run several accounts with “aro” in the title: Aro Worlds on Patreon and WordPress, @aroworlds on Tumblr, @alloaroworlds on Tumblr, @aroflagarchive on Tumblr and Aro Arrows on WordPress.

Aro, the shortened version of aromantic, is a significant part of my creativity, my identity, my self-expression and my digital noms de plume.

After a few years of identifying only as aromantic, I now name myself arovague, idemromantic and nebularomantic. I need the specificity of these micro-identity terms, because a general word like aromantic doesn’t always fit my identity and these words better centre my autism in how I understand aromanticism, romance and attraction. Having the truth of these more-specific ways of identifying my aromanticism lets me again feel comfortable with “aro” and “aromantic”, even if I no longer define myself by an absence of romantic attraction instead of an absence of alloromantic understandings of romantic attraction.

I can identify myself in relation to a larger group of people with whom I have similarities in not being wholly and permanently alloromantic: aro and aromantic. I can identify myself in relation to a smaller sub-group of people that more closely share my aromantic experiences: nebularomantic, arovague, idemromantic. One speaks to a broader coalition, a category of experiences; one speaks to specific ways of experiencing and understanding my aromanticism.

I’m not, in this post, speaking for any other aro. I’m giving voice to my fears and beliefs; I’m sharing and explaining the decisions I have made concerning language and identity. Just as no other aromantic has my relationships to my identities, neither have I seen another aromantic voice my exact experiences of alienation and connection. You don’t need to agree with my conclusions, but I do ask that you respect them.

So I’ll begin with this declaration: I am aro and aromantic.

I will no longer identify myself, my projects, my communication or my community with the term “aro-spec”.

Continue reading “Aro: Language, Identity and Reflection”

Allo-Aro 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/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 easy to get caught up, in writing about allo-aro experiences with regards the a-spec and aromantic communities, in the same reactionary series of responses: don’t do this, stop doing this, this is why this is erasure, this is why this is sexualisation, this is why this is exclusion.

These conversations are necessary and needed to provoke change.

They’re also exhausting, an expression of frustration and anger that is less about my beliefs and philosophies as an allo-aro and more about challenging or correcting behaviours that harm or erase. They’re exhausting because they’re communications to, for and about the people that hurt me; they’re exhausting because even my feelings, in the end, are about asexuality. They’re beneficial to my allo-aro community in the sense that one allo-aro’s anger and frustration validates others, but they’re not communications that build understanding of what allo-aro is. Asexuality is so centred that even our activism focuses more on what asexuals do and less on what allo-aros are.

This manifesto is about, in part, the allo-aro relationship to the a-spec, aromantic, asexual and allosexual LGBTQIA+ communities. This post also outlines who I am as an allo-aro and what philosophies of identity and behaviour I bring to my dealings with other a-specs and allosexuals. It’s a blueprint, waiting for corrections and adjustments and scribbles in the margins, but it is a picture of something that will one day be.

In this post, I’m speaking to and for an audience often forgotten in allo-aro activism: my allo-aro kin.

Continue reading “Allo-Aro Manifesto”

Community Inclusion for Allo-Aros: A Guide

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.

Many a-specs have a tendency to regard gains in general aromantic inclusion as sufficient for allo-aros, and it’s true to say that decreased antagonism or amatonormativity benefits all aromantics.

Yet allo-aros endure the a-spec and aromantic communities’ ignorance of allo-aro erasure. We endure the unspoken assumption that there’s a clean division between our sexual attraction and our aromanticism, that our allosexuality is best pushed to the side. We endure the belief that there isn’t a problem in how the a-spec community centres asexuality or contextualises allo-aros as either a shape of asexuality or adjacent to it.

When we are told in ways implicit and explicit that our allosexuality doesn’t belong in a-spec spaces, our first fight is to be. How do we create a culture that allows allo-aros to exist without fear of erasure? How do we gain acceptance enough that we too can see our shared home as a shelter and a sanctuary?

Consider this my attempt to create the safety we need with a list of ways any a-spec or aromantic community can become more inclusive of and welcoming to allosexual aromantics.

Continue reading “Community Inclusion for Allo-Aros: A Guide”

Warning and Advising: A Community Conversation, Part Two

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.

This is a collection of discussion points and questions on the subject of broadening the aromantic community’s understanding of content advisories and building an environment that doesn’t alienate, other or sexualise allo-aros in seeking to protect aros who experience repulsion.

For more information on why I think such conversations are necessary, please see part one of this post.

Warnings for Attraction and Identity

Are tags like #pansexual and #allosexual sufficient advisory for any discussion about or references to sexual attraction (as distinct from sexual experience) when paired with aromantic tags? If something is tagged #alloaro or #allosexual, is there any reason to warn further for discussions only referencing sexual attraction?

Do we need to warn for romance mentions when tagging works with the names of romantic-attraction-experiencing identities like #lithromantic? Is it reasonable to assume that these tags should also serve as sufficient advisory for romance mentions and references?

Should we handle either circumstance differently when lithromantic or allo-aro works are also being crosstagged to #aromantic or #safeforaro? What are the community expectations for warning when it comes to crosstagged content in general aromantic spaces? We need to help aros who experience attraction understand what’s expected of us in shared community spaces, because fearing that we will misstep leaves us too afraid to speak at all.

Should we create a tag or tags for use by aros who choose not to warn for sexual/romantic-coded content, references or depictions of sexual/romantic attraction in our posts? This means we can post in general aromantic spaces without extra warning tags (as many aros may not be able to provide these!) but still allow aros who experience sexual/romantic repulsion to blacklist said posts.

Continue reading “Warning and Advising: A Community Conversation, Part Two”

Hallo, Aro: Neuronormative – 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: An autistic allosexual aromantic struggling to deal with the ways alloromanticism and aromanticism alike are binary, neuronormative ways of looking at the romantic attraction spectrum.

Is there anything romantic not also non-romantic?

Continue reading “Hallo, Aro: Neuronormative – K. A. Cook”

New Community Term: Dia Aro

In the last twelve months or so, it’s become common to see folks scrambling for a term that conveys the meaning of “someone on the aromantic spectrum who doesn’t solely describe their aromanticism as ‘aromantic'”. “Aro-spec” was for a time beginning to be used this way, in the sense of “I’m an aro-spec ace”. Now, I’m seeing an increasing number of posts where the community is deciding that “aro-spec” includes all aromantics.

On the one hand, some of us have a need for a word that includes aros like me–aros who additionally use terms that aren’t “aromantic” to describe our aromantic identities. On the other hand, the alternative “greyromantic” (in its use as an umbrella term) doesn’t include everyone who feels that general aromantic spaces and terms are unable to encompass our needs because of the way we identify our aromantic identities and experiences.

When idemromanticism and my shape of nebularomanticism mean I am not greyromantic, but the general aromantic community’s approach to content and representation leaves me feeling alienated from my own community and even the word “aromantic” because it assumes a relationship to and understanding of romance and romantic attraction I don’t have, how do I find connection and support?

Let’s be real, here: “aromantic” is a broad term that encompasses us all. General aromantic community spaces, however, tend to focus on a few ways of being aromantic, particularly the kind that doesn’t require additional identity terms to explain how we experience or navigate romance, romantic attraction and relationship behaviours.

I am not greyromantic, but when I am lumped together with end-case aros as though that interpretation depicts my aromanticism, all I feel is how different–and unwelcome–are my experiences with regards romance and attraction. I have more in common with the greyromantic community than I have with most end-case aromantics, despite not being one of you. I need a way, therefore, to connect with other aros who don’t fit the standard end-case aromantic experience without misidentifying myself, a word that can’t be conflated with “aromantic” or “aro-spec”. A word not quite as wonderfully broad as “aromantic” or “aro-spec” but a little broader than “greyromantic”. A word that lets other people identify us without leaving cupioros and idemros under the “end-case aro” label as though the reasons we claimed those identities don’t matter enough to be worth distinguishing.

Continue reading “New Community Term: Dia Aro”

Ask: Ace Identity and the SAM

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:

To be honest, in the past I was on the exclusionists’ side with the SAM (Split Attraction Model). It’s harmful! Stop forcing it on people! Attractions don’t need to be separated like that! Even though I myself am technically aroace. I was angry because I felt like I was being erased and spoken over in the ace community. I felt like I was being forced to separate my romantic and sexual attraction when they weren’t separate. It made me furious that I couldn’t make a post or comic calling myself asexual without some ace commenting, “no, asexuality is actually x aces can do/feel y that’s not what asexual means!” As if I’m confused.

So basically I hated that the SAM was forced on the word asexual any time someone used it. I’ve somewhat changed my mind recently: I now understand that splitting attraction is crucial to some people, but I do think we need something else because I can also understand genuine reasons why some are adverse to it and feel like its forced on them. There has been concern with using existing terminology and splitting them into romantic and sexual attractions.

Maybe instead of doing this we could create terms that are shorter and mean the same, combining the two attractions into one distinct identity. For example, a panromantic asexual is, uhh, tresexual? Not the real alternative–just to show what I mean. Arosexual or aseromantic could be umbrella terms for aspecs who feel one type of attraction and not the other. I’m not saying we should abandon the terms we have now.

Like I said, I’m not against the SAM any more (I’m sorry I ever was) and definitely think anyone can identify how they want. But I think we as a community need labels that are more concise and convey more information. I think it will make it easier for aspecs to find people that are most like them instead of just one part.

Just so folks know: you (general you) don’t need to insist to me that you’ve changed your ways. You don’t need to prove to me that you’ve learnt better. You can just say “I no longer believe that” and leave the conversation there. I dislike the purity culture tendency of having to constantly demonstrate one’s growth and resulting apology in order to reveal a less-palatable truth about the people we were, and I’m not going to demand it of the people who are doing the risky and dangerous thing of revealing their past in conversation with me.

We can’t grow as a community unless we talk about the beliefs we held and why we held them. We will fail in outreach to others if people don’t feel safe to talk about their history–we will fail to learn the unspoken undercurrents of why harmful attitudes are compelling. Folks who have learnt and changed are a vital bridge between two sides, and I think any requirement to constantly apologise or offer up reassurances for making a mistake long after is only going to stop the people we most need to hear from talking to us.

And oh is this a reason we need to better discuss and understand.

Continue reading “Ask: Ace Identity and the SAM”