Alex is a bisexual, half-Puerto Rican multi-disciplinary aromantic artist and creative with severe ADHD. You’ll find her prolific fanworks on AO3 as EmeraldTrash666, writing primarily for the JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure fandom. Her bold, colourful art for the JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Fullmetal Alchemist, Hetalia, Pokemon and Vocaloid fandoms is also available on Redbubble under the name StellaHagane.
She writes, she creates digital art and she dabbles in music, sewing and fashion design, single-handedly proving that there’s no such thing as too much creative awesome for any one aromantic!
With us Alex talks about finding the word aro, the power of fandom and creative fanworks, her love of aro Jotaro, the challenges of creating with ADHD, the struggles of being an aro gen writer in fandom and the importance of expressing our aro headcanons. Everything she says is absolutely on point, so please let’s give her all our love, encouragement, gratitude, kudos and follows for taking the time to explore what it is to be aromantic and creative.
Can you share with us your story in being aro-spec?
I guess in some ways my “story” starts out pretty typical. Got older, kept waiting for my First Crush™, never got it, started worrying and trying to force myself to develop crushes. I actually was in a relationship with another girl on a forum I was part of as a teenager, but eventually I realized that I didn’t really like her romantically, and the relationship started to become really unpleasant for me. I eventually felt so miserable that I didn’t even want to talk at her at all, even though we were close friends, but I didn’t want to break up with her – partly because I didn’t want to hurt her feelings, partly because we were everyone’s “OTP” and I didn’t want my friends to hate me for ruining that. But eventually I did break up with her, and I’m happy to say she took it with grace and we’re still close friends today! (She’s ace and a great writer/artist herself, too!)
I was part of a very nice LGBTQ+ group as a teenager, but I could never figure out my identity. I felt really ashamed and alone. Whenever I brought up how messed up I felt because I’d never had a crush on anyone, everyone was like, “Oh, sounds like you must be asexual!”, but I knew I wasn’t, and that was the worst part. Even though I knew aromanticism was a thing, nobody ever talked about it. It was only ever in the context of aroaces, so I didn’t know I was aro. I thought I must have had some sort of mental illness or something, but certainly not a legitimate orientation, nothing to be proud of like everyone else.
During that time, I found myself connecting on a deep emotional level to characters like Alphonse Elric, Fujiwara no Sai, the X-Men in general (although I’ve been an X-Men fan since I was literally a baby), basically anyone who was somehow “different” from the rest of humanity, even though I never understood why, since I was a fairly privileged kid who had never experienced much bullying or anything. Weirdly enough, it was Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure that helped me realize I was aro and come to terms with it; I saw an interview with Hirohiko Araki, the author of JJBA, where he was asked what type of girls Jotaro Kujo likes, and replied that he didn’t think Jotaro liked girls. The obvious interpretation would be that Jotaro’s gay, but somehow, one way or another, I decided to go with the idea that Jotaro’s aromantic. Jotaro also happened to be a character I really related to for reasons I couldn’t quite articulate, so around the time I was 18 I put two and two together and was like … oh shit…
Can you share with us the story behind your creativity?
I’ve always been weird in the way I’m very creative, but tend to kinda bounce around from hobby to hobby. Other people draw, or write, or sing, while I draw for a month, and then write for a month and sew for a week and play video games for a week, and then I draw some more, and then I try out something completely new, and then I write again. I think it must be an ADHD thing, idk. In any case, I’ve just always been really passionate about making stuff, whatever that stuff happens to be.
I’ve also always been very much fandom-oriented. Ever since I was a toddler, I used to dictate fanfiction to my mom (back then it usually involved Winnie the Pooh, the Powerpuff Girls, Godzilla, and my dog). I mostly draw fanart. I find that I’m not really capable of writing original stories, but I’m great at getting fanfics in character, and I love writing them. I love taking stories I already love and reinterpreting them, seeing what it would be like if the characters were put into different situations, etc.
Because of my ADHD, I really struggle with actually finishing things. I try really really hard, I really do, and I’ve been trying to push myself even harder these past few years. I’ve made progress, but it’s still extremely difficult, so I’m very sorry for all the projects I’ve abandoned over the years. Sorry I still haven’t finished the fic that was supposed to be done in early March. I’m trying, really. I promise I’m working on the next chapter of BLaD, too.
Are there any particular ways your aro-spec experience is expressed in your art?
Of course, pretty much everything I write is gen. Even if I include romantic relationships in my fics, I never write about romance, just stories which also happen to include some characters who might be dating someone. And obviously I always write Jotaro as aro! That’s really important to me. No matter which AU I’m writing, he’s always aro. (And autistic, but that’s off topic.)
I’m also not really into shipping because of my romance repulsion, but I ship Joseph Joestar and Caesar Zeppeli. The thing is … I’ve always viewed it as a unique relationship, sort of difficult to define as being strictly romantic or platonic or sexual, just kind of their own thing that defies words. That’s how I’ve always written it. I had the sudden realization recently that this strange view on the only ship I really actually like (at the moment, anyway) is probably due to my being aro, lmao.
What challenges do you face as an aro-spec artist?
People don’t read gen fics, and people aren’t interested in aro stories. That’s just the way it is. I do have some dedicated readers, whom I love deeply, but in general… I could post something with a deep plot, something funny and dramatic and witty and touching, something I poured my heart and soul into for months, and it’ll get very few hits/comments/kudos, while someone else could post the same generic 2,000-word romance fic everyone’s seen a dozen times over, with no editing or anything, and get twice the amount of traffic my fics do in half the time. It’s really crushing.
How do you connect to the aro-spec and a-spec communities as an aro-spec person?
I dunno… The aro community feels so small. Online, I have a small circle of aro mutuals who all kind of vent collectively, and I’m part of Arocalypse and a few aro/aspec Discord servers, but I still feel like there isn’t really much of a larger community to be part of in the same way that there is for other orientations. Offline, I’ve never met another aro, or even anyone who actually knows what aromanticism is prior to me explaining it to them.
I also don’t feel like there’s a very unified “aspec community”. As an allo aro, I feel very rejected by the ace community – not to say that I feel like I should be part of the ace community, since I’m not ace, but I feel like they throw aros under the bus a lot. I mean, we’ve all seen the “asexuals can feel love, just like anybody else! … oh, except for aroaces, I guess. But the rest of us are normal, so you should accept us!” rhetoric. Both within and outside the aspec communities, aros are rarely treated with the same priority as aces, even though we’re arguably in a much more difficult position than your average allo ace.
That being said, I’m glad there is an aro community at all. I don’t know where I’d be now if I were still questioning. Probably not in a very good place.
How do you connect to your creative community as an aro-spec person?
As I mentioned, there’s a general lack of interest in gen fics or sympathy for romance-repulsed people in general. It’s really difficult being romance repulsed in fandom spaces, because nobody cares about anything other than ships. There are very few gen fics, and even less that are a decent length, not abandoned, or cater to my specific interests, so I have to write my own. I don’t often have anything good to read; most of the big fics, the ones with cool plots and long word counts and ongoing updates, are ship fics. If I’m lucky, maybe two gen fics will be posted in one week, and maybe one of them will be longer than a few thousand words. Maybe one might even have my favorite characters. But usually genfics are few and far between, and kind of random in terms of what you’ll get. Sometimes I get so bored that I read ship fics anyway, and then I always wind up feeling really awful afterwards.
I’ve written, over the course of the past two years alone, over 20 gen fics. But whenever I vent that sometimes I’d like to actually get to read something, I always get someone telling me, “Well if you want gen fics, write some yourself! You have to make the change! You can’t demand people write stuff for you!” And of course, at the same time it’s totally acceptable to request ship fics from your favorite author, and if you complain that there aren’t enough fics for your rarepair, it’s seen as relatable and totally valid.
Fandom is just … really, really amatonormative, tbh. I hate it. I’m trying to make a difference (I did organize Gen Jojo Week along with my friend Rachel last year, and hopefully will again this year), but there’s only so much I can do.
How can the aro-spec community best help you as a creative?
Aside from reblogging my art and promoting my fics? Talk about stuff. Talk about aro stuff in fandom. Seriously! I know it seems obvious that aro people would like aro headcanons and gen fics and all that, but we need to talk about them more. Nobody outside the community gives enough of a shit about us to have aro headcanons, so let’s get them popular. Talk about your favorite aro headcanons. Talk about your favorite gen fics. Talk about how such-and-such character is totally aro; talk about how excited you are to see aro characters in fics. My dream is for aro headcanons to become just as common and popular as any other type of headcanon.
Can you share with us something about your current project?
This is old news to most of the people who already know me, but my current big project that I’ve been working on for several years now is Between Life and Death, a drama/horror/supernatural JJBA fic.
(WARNING: PHANTOM BLOOD AND STARDUST CRUSADERS SPOILERS BELOW.)
The plot of the fic is that Dio wins at the end of Stardust Crusaders, and after realizing that he has no hobbies other than harassing the Joestars, he decides to bring Jonathan back by sticking his head (which… we’ll just assume Dio preserved for plot purposes) onto Jotaro’s body. Obviously, Jonathan is NOT happy with this arrangement, but it also turns out that Jotaro’s still alive, just not in control of his body. He can still use his stand, so he essentially uses Star Platinum as a sort of proxy for interacting with the environment around him, even though he only comes out when Jonathan’s alone since he doesn’t want Dio to know he’s alive.
Basically, it’s the story of a depressed vampire and a traumatized ghost. It’s a very introspective fic; most of the story consists of conflicts between Dio and Jonathan, and Jonathan and Jotaro struggling to come to terms with their new existences – Jonathan being unable to reconcile vampirism with his personal morals, and Jotaro having one hell of an identity crisis while also mourning the deaths of his friends and family. The plot is picking up, though, and there is an end goal in mind, as well as an eventual sequel!
As for where the story-in-progress is at right now … well, the next “stage” of the plot is hamon training for Kakyoin and Avdol, which will be fun. This chapter also includes several dream sequences, including an extended appearance by Mary Joestar (Jonathan’s mom), and a very serious and dark scene which I almost ruined by having dream!Will Zeppeli refer to Jonathan as his padawan. Yeah.
Have you any forthcoming works we should look forward to?
As mentioned, I’m working on chapter 9 of Between Life and Death! And working on and off on some stuff for the mutants AU. Most recently, on a whim I rewrote the lyrics to Handbeat Clocktower by MOTHY to be about Jonathan Joestar. Somehow this went far enough that I’m making an actual UTAU rendition of this “parody”, and hopefully it’ll be done sometime in the next few weeks. I’m really having fun with it and I hope people like it!