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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Story Collection: Bones of Green and Hearts of Gold

Banner for Bones of Green and Hearts of Gold. Image features a tree landscape background with a grassy foreground, tinted to resemble the greens descending into golds hues of the allo-aro flag. A sun sits in the top left corner and the bottom of the foreground is layered with ivy leaves and trailing vines. Text is written in black handdrawn script with the words green and gold in their respective colours. A cross-hatching frame in the colours of the allo-aro flag surrounds the banner.

Cover image for Bones of Green and Hearts of Gold: Non-Asexual Aro Stories by K. A. Cook. Cover features a tree landscape background with a grassy foreground, tinted to resemble the greens descending into golds hues of the allo-aro flag. A sun sits in the top right corner and a green banner, bearing text reading the author's name, sits at the bottom of the cover, surrounded by ivy leaves and trailing vines. The cover title is written in black handdrawn script with the words green and gold in their respective colours. A cross-hatching frame in the colours of the allo-aro flag surrounds the cover.A princess flees her betrothed in search of a witch willing to entrap her within a tower. Rowan yearns to be out and proud as an aromantic, but other people’s misapprehensions—and his own anxiety—hamper his quest. A woman expresses her wish for unfettered sexual intimacy, despite her mother’s desperate romantic expectations. For another pansexual, the route to freedom from amatonormativity lies in accepting monstrosity’s fur and fangs. Suki finds aromantic freedom inside the priesthood’s cloisters, but even a rebellious life leaves her at a loss when ministering to her own. And the words “allosexual aromantic” offer a struggling magician hope of a new road—but one not without its dangers.

Bones of Green and Hearts of Gold collects twenty fantasy and contemporary stories celebrating the many ways aromanticism need not always pair with asexuality.

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Fiction: Bones of Green and Hearts of Gold

Banner for Bones of Green and Hearts of Gold. Image features a tree landscape background with a grassy foreground, tinted to resemble the greens descending into golds hues of the allo-aro flag. A sun sits in the top left corner and the bottom of the foreground is layered with ivy leaves and trailing vines. Text is written in black handdrawn script with the words green and gold in their respective colours. A cross-hatching frame in the colours of the allo-aro flag surrounds the banner.

Constance, princess of Blackvale, knows the duty of a summer-hearted heir: wed the prince, birth the child, symbolise her people’s prosperity and fecundity. Love, joyously and passionately, a man even she believes handsome and kind. But what if her heart can’t cast summer’s warmth? What if she feels solely the profane desires of skin and flesh? What if Blackvale’s crops wither and rot unripened because their future queen can’t—and won’t—bow to the nonsensical-seeming rule of seasons?

She knows only one way to avoid catastrophe, falsehood and marriage: surrendering herself to the Forest Witch. Not even for his daughter will the king risk angering the feared but necessary master of briars, protector of forests and abductor of women.

Constance expects a lifetime’s bondage to a dangerous witch, freeing her cousin to inherit Blackvale’s throne. The witch has other ideas…

She owns no place in a world ruled by sacred seasons, and even a witch’s tower must be more welcoming of a princess whose heart beats unknowable.

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Book Edition: Absence of Language

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 Fiction sits across the image in a black, antique handdrawn type, separated by two ornate Victorian-style black dividers.

Cover image for Absence of Language by K. A. Cook. Cover shows a red brick wall behind a wooden step, a red curtain covering half the wall, with a small wooden bench sitting on step. A chair, a hat and a squarish bag sit in the foreground of the image and a fabric banner hangs on the wall in the background. An assortment of coins and buttons litter the floor, and two yellow roses are shown floating inside clear bubbles. The scene looks like a magician's performance area or stage. The subtitle "a kit march short story" is written in white handdrawn type.Four months ago, Kit March abandoned his fiancé without even a note of explanation for a deserving man.

Leaving Lauri should have freed him from the pressures of romantic expectation, so how does a talented magician end up performing flash magic for buttons and hairpins in Raugue’s worst tavern? Kit doesn’t know and doesn’t care, as long as he can keep drowning guilt in beer and spellworking. As long as he can keep not thinking!

When a stranger offers the word “aromantic” followed by an opportunity to join a dangerous quest to the Gast, Kit may have more distraction than he can survive—and more comprehension than he can navigate.

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Fiction: Absence of Language, Part Two

Cartoon-style illustration of shrubs, roses and grasses growing against a grey stone wall. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/yellow/gold stripes of the allo-aro pride flag. The text Marchverse sits across the image in a white, fantasy-style type.

Four months ago, Kit March abandoned his fiancé without even a note of explanation for a deserving man.

Leaving Lauri should have freed him from the pressures of romantic expectation, so how does a talented magician end up performing flash magic for buttons and hairpins in Raugue’s worst tavern? Kit doesn’t know and doesn’t care, as long as he can keep drowning guilt in beer and spellworking. As long as he can keep not thinking!

When a stranger offers the word “aromantic” followed by an opportunity to join a dangerous quest to the Gast, Kit may have more distraction than he can survive—and more comprehension than he can navigate.

There’s a word for anything if you look long enough.

Continue reading “Fiction: Absence of Language, Part Two”

Fiction: Absence of Language, Part One

Cartoon-style illustration of shrubs, roses and grasses growing against a grey stone wall. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/yellow/gold stripes of the allo-aro pride flag. The text Marchverse sits across the image in a white, fantasy-style type.

Four months ago, Kit March abandoned his fiancé without even a note of explanation for a deserving man.

Leaving Lauri should have freed him from the pressures of romantic expectation, so how does a talented magician end up performing flash magic for buttons and hairpins in Raugue’s worst tavern? Kit doesn’t know and doesn’t care, as long as he can keep drowning guilt in beer and spellworking. As long as he can keep not thinking.

When a stranger offers the word “aromantic” followed by an opportunity to join a dangerous quest to the Gast, Kit may have more distraction than he can survive—and more comprehension than he can navigate.

A drowning man doesn’t drown because the water creeps up on him by degrees, so why can’t Kit make himself search out something better?

Continue reading “Fiction: Absence of Language, Part One”

Fiction: Ringbound

Cartoon-style illustration of shrubs, roses and grasses growing against a grey stone wall. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/yellow/gold stripes of the allo-aro pride flag. The text Marchverse sits across the image in a white, fantasy-style type.

If Kit can’t find anything unfair about the contract or the man, why is the ring so heavy?

Kit March is a signature away from marrying the man who loves him. He should be delighted, but for reasons he doesn’t understand and can’t explain, his future with Lauri weighs upon him. What is a magician to do when no script extant has words for the confusion he feels?

Is it so very cowardly to not want to be monstrous?

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Fiction: Love Spells, Rainbows and Rosie

Cartoon-style illustration of shrubs, roses and grasses growing against a grey stone wall. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/yellow/gold stripes of the allo-aro pride flag. The text Marchverse sits across the image in a white, fantasy-style type.

Lovers’ Day is good trading for a witch who deals in enchantments, ribbons and dyed flowers. For Mara Hill, it’s long been a holiday of tedious assumptions and painful conversations—once best handled by casting petty curses on annoying customers. This year, when a girl asks about love spells, it may be time to instead channel a little Aunt Rosie.

It’s a terrific exercise in redundancy, but some people find the words “no love spells” to be a bewildering subtlety.

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Book Edition: Those With More

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 Fiction sits across the image in a black, antique handdrawn type, separated by two ornate Victorian-style black dividers.

Cover image for Those With More (and Other Suki Stories) by K. A. Cook. Cover shows a garden growing against a grey stone wall, with trees and blue sky visible behind it. Garden includes several layers of beds filled with palms, ferns and yellow and red orchids. The foreground shows a green lawn with a moss-covered tree-trunk and two translucent blue mushrooms. Cover and author credit are written in a white, fantasy-style text.Suki Lewis has always known what she wants—or, more correctly, what she doesn’t want. She also knows that a good woman of Freehome, deserving of her mother’s uncritical love, wants something she can’t fathom or mimic: a stable, lasting romantic relationship.

She can’t safely stay, but leaving means surviving the challenges of priesthood, her mother’s abuse and the belated finding of a name for her differences: allosexual aromanticism.

Those With More collects four stories showing Suki’s lifetime navigation of her belief, family, community and identity.

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Fiction: Those With More, Part One

Cartoon-style illustration of shrubs, roses and grasses growing against a grey stone wall. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/yellow/gold stripes of the allo-aro pride flag. The text Marchverse sits across the image in a white, fantasy-style type.

When Mara Hill’s magic results in her brother’s impossible, wondrous transition, of course Suki wants to know how she did it! What if Sirenne’s magic workers can help others find euphoria? What if this magic can heal Suki’s hands—or at least lessen her pain? But Mara, distrustful of priests after their failure in protecting Esher, won’t share her power.

A senior priest must bear responsibility, but Suki suspects her problems lie deeper than lack of oversight, and her reluctance to discuss her aromanticism with a woman who needs support only proves it. Would she have preserved Mara’s faith and Esher’s health if she hadn’t first avoided revealing herself to her aromantic kin? If she’d faced their expectations that she shoulder their pain and grief as well as her own?

Suki has lived her life by the Sojourner’s second precept, but how does she serve when she doesn’t have more to give—and never will?

Non-romantic love, to Suki, serves a similar role as the Sojourner or any other god: a fine concept in theory, but while she respects others’ need for a guiding framework, she can only nod vaguely at love’s existence.

Continue reading “Fiction: Those With More, Part One”