How to Ally: Advising for Sex-Negative Language

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.

Note: I consider this site’s content advisory page sufficient for non-fiction posts, but as I need asexuals to read this essay, I’ll begin by saying that I reference sexual attraction, sex acts, sex repulsion and sexualisation. And romance! I also cite common examples of sex negativity/sex-negative language, misogyny, ableism, cissexism, heterosexism, amatonormativity and allo-aro antagonism.

I now seldom participate in–and even actively avoid–online general aromantic and a-spec spaces.

This isn’t because I don’t wish to meet other aros. This isn’t because I’m uninterested in what other aros have to say. This also isn’t entirely because chronic pain limits my online interaction and I can’t afford the supports/technology needed for full access (although this is the reason why I fail in replying to comments and asks).

This is because any space predominantly occupied by asexuals results in my being exposed to posts that hurt like a punch to the gut.

Continue reading “How to Ally: Advising for Sex-Negative Language”

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?

Continue reading “Aro Week: My (Personal) Aromantic Manifesto”

Hallo, Aro: Pressure, Side Two – 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 community’s historical privileging of asexual aromantics, the ways it has failed to provide equal inclusion to allosexual aromantics, and how this shapes my relationship to my own aromanticism.

I look over our wall at my golden heart, dust-covered and tarnished, slumbering in a field of poppies. Does anyone else stagger under the weight of our locked-on glasses?

Continue reading “Hallo, Aro: Pressure, Side Two – K. A. Cook”

When Asexuals Belong In Allo-Aro Spaces

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.

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.

Continue reading “When Asexuals Belong In Allo-Aro Spaces”

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.

Continue reading “How to Ally: Discussing Allo-Aros in the Aro Community”

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”

Poetry Collection: Aro and Loveless

Handdrawn illustration of a green meadow foreground with green and yellow pine trees growing against a mint-hued sky. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/grey/black stripes of the aromantic pride flag. The text Aro Worlds Poetry sits across the image in a black, antique handdrawn type, separated by two ornate Victorian-style black dividers.

In my current queue and drafts for Tumblr, it feels like the majority of fiction and poetry is centred on promoting, celebrating and valuing the non-romantic ways aros still love. As much as I respect and support the need for other aros to tell their stories about love, I have to admit to feeling alienated. I’m struggling to find an equal number of depictions of aro identity and self-expression that don’t focus on an aro’s love.

So here’s a collection of reblogged aro poetry more welcoming for loveless aros and aros with complicated relationships to love. These pieces still reference love and discuss love, romance and amatonormativity. They’re not, however, focused on presenting or showcasing the author or narrator’s platonic or familial love. In other words, an aro narrator’s need to love or have their love seen and valued by others is not what these poems are about.

Continue reading “Poetry Collection: Aro and Loveless”