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: A queer, pansexual, genderless person dealing with the historical inability to find recognition of hir aromanticism as separate from asexuality.
Length: 915 words / 4 PDF pages.
Advisory: This is an autobiographical-with-creative-liberties piece about a time with fewer aromantic resources accessible to asexuals and aromantics alike, with resulting amatonormativity, confusion and alienation. This story also contains swearing and sex references, and uses the common-in-my-country word for my LGBTQIA+ community: queer.
You don’t recollect how; you just cherish the word that shakes the world. Aromantic.
You first happen across the word when mentioned by your best friend: Oh, I’m asexual.
Explanations follow, delivered by your friend and Google alike: no to low sexual attraction. That rattles your world a little, a world in which sexual attraction was regarded as a universal constant, but you’re queer. Maybe bisexual? Maybe pansexual? Maybe an attraction to women, complicated by the mystery of your own relationship to gender? Asexuality, though, fits this world of queer diversity found online but never voiced at your school save in quiet, furtive whispers: I heard that Gemma is bisexual.
You don’t know who you are, but you know you’re not straight. Queer.
Asexuality doesn’t sound like you.
Your friend lives alone, goes to asexual meet-ups, wears purple-striped pins on their bag. I can’t stand it when anyone’s attracted to me, they say to you. I don’t do relationships.
Asexuality, as in your friend, can encompass low to no romantic attraction.
They just never describe it that way.
Meanwhile, you write stories about boys having sex, boys having the relationships and experiences you want and can’t manage in real life. Your stories are romantic. Aren’t they? But you like the goofy scenes with casual guys having weird conversations while fucking each other, best friends before everything else. It’s romance, isn’t it? There’s an intensity lacking in your life and your writing when it comes to relationships, something that disconnects you from readers, partners and acquaintances alike. Your sexual attraction doesn’t match society’s nebulous definition. It feels emptier, shallower, stranger. Bewildering.
What else is it but romance?
Are you pansexual? Transmasculine?
Your best friend talks about fostering children as a single parent. They don’t date. They know who they are and what they need, encapsulated in one word that perfectly fits their shape of queerness.
Lisa dumps you after you try to say that you hate her making you breakfast in bed. Were you even dating? You told your coworkers that she was your girlfriend, praying that this label makes normal your relationships. Did she regard you this way? Were you just friends? Something more than friends, whatever that means?
Deep down, you just wanted to fuck her and, afterwards, talk about science fiction.
Genderless? Pansexual? But pansexuals in fiction feel this … pull, overwhelming and ineffable, and you don’t. Not in the same way.
Queer is easier. Vaguer.
Less tangled up in expectations you can’t meet.
You decide not to risk dating. Instead, you search for storytelling less interested in romance. Stories about queers, pansexuals, trans men, non-binary folks, genderless folks. The need becomes an obsession: to see yourself fighting zombies, casting spells and saving the world like the cisgender, heterosexual heroes of your spine-creased, dog-eared fantasy novels. You can now find these works as an adult, PDFs from indie queer presses read on your black-and-white e-reader. The kind that assuage a growing audience’s hunger for fictional existence. The kind that end with a romantic happily-ever-after as though queerness is, unquestionably, inseparable from falling in love. The kind that have no space for you as the protagonist.
Why can’t you find your queerness in a narrative that isn’t defined by romance?
The books you like best celebrate friendship and found family. Children’s books, read long into your adulthood, space out the queer storytelling that depicts your pansexuality, transmasculinity and absence of gender. You always compromise, one or the other. Both together ring absurd, so unreal that the desire must make you singular and unnatural.
Over and over, you speak your wish: queer stories that don’t focus on being in love.
If you’re as real as anyone else, why do you dream this alone?
Ironically, you don’t remember how you happened across the word. A blog post, maybe? A conversation with another queer friend? You don’t remember, because how you found it isn’t as important as the resulting frisson of understanding and relief. You don’t recollect how; you just cherish the word that shakes the world.
In odd posts scattered across the internet, like a hunt for hidden treasure, lies evidence that aromantic isn’t always bound to asexual. Often an afterthought, a side-mention in a longer article, a paragraph; pansexual and aromantic don’t fit together with the same deliberate confidence. If your aromanticism stands bright and bold on its own, its relationship with your sexuality lacks clarity. What shapes your pansexuality when you’re aromantic? You don’t know, and queer spaces only acknowledge possibilities of non-asexual aromantic existence.
There’s no defining community for both, no certainty of connection with others. Just a promise. Potential. A fleeting song that names, one absent hue, vibrancy and texture.
Queer, pansexual, transmasculine, genderless, aromantic.
Only years after that discovery do you realise that your asexual friend never said the word that would have illumined your life. Didn’t you speak loudly enough? Were they caught in the misconception that aromanticism only pairs with asexuality? Couldn’t they look past your scrambling, chimerical attempts to conform to romantic expectation? Were they as miseducated as you were, as the internet was? You don’t know, and a brittle, resentful anger grows each time you think of it—one undeserved, yes, but painful just the same.
How many years did you lose, ignorant to your own self and experiences, because the people you believe should have known didn’t say the word?
Who would you be if you’d known earlier?
You don’t know, can’t know.
You can only promise yourself, now, that you’ll never stop saying two words.
K. A. Cook is an abrosexual, aromantic, genderless, autistic, queer adult who experiences chronic pain and mental illness. Ze writes creative non-fiction, personal essays and novels about the above on the philosophy that if the universe is going to make life interesting, ze may as well make interesting art. Ze can be found online at Queer Without Gender and @aroworlds.