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”

Warning and Advising: A Community Conversation, Part One

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.

Advisory: Discussions of cissexism, heterosexism, allosexism, allo-aro antagonism/erasure and amatonormativity; examples of sex negative language. This piece also uses the word queer and contains sex and sexual attraction mentions.

Or: why the aro community should discuss our use of content advisories, particularly in light of how they other, alienate and exclude allosexual aromantics.

Not even a decade ago, it was difficult to find queer works that didn’t warn for queerness. Stories (usually from indie presses or posted to LiveJournal, FictionPress or Fanfiction.net) that depicted people like me came burdened by warnings of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender characters who may, gasp, engage in sex that didn’t include one cishet character boning a cishet character of the other binary gender.

I’m not talking about genre tags, like labelling a work “lesbian romance”. I’m talking about lines like “readers should be advised that this fic contains sex scenes between two men” even though the story was posted to a community collating m/m fiction. I’m talking about lines like “this fic is about lesbians and hate comments will be deleted” even though the piece was tagged as “lesbian”. I’m talking about a culture where it was deemed vital and necessary to warn for queer people engaged in intimacy. By contrast, the sex in cishet relationships merited warnings for explicitness, not people.

Often these warnings were placed on the same line as advisories for violence, sexual assault, explicit sexual acts or other content society recognises as potentially distressing. When I left comments telling authors what it feels like to keep seeing this sexualisation as a queer and transgender reader and writer, I earnt rejection, denial, refusal and abuse. I don’t know how many hate messages I got; all I remember is that nearly everyone I spoke to told me that they would keep on warning.

Even if warning for queer were somehow a value-neutral advertisement, the lack of comparative warnings for heterosexuality positioned this otherwise.

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

I Am Not Voldemort: An Essay on Love and Amatonormativity

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.

Content Advisory: Discussions of and references to love, amatonormativity, ableism, neurodiversity, autism, familial abuse and partner abuse.

This June, I saw an increasing number of positivity and support posts for the aromantic and a-spec communities discussing the amatonormativity of “everyone falls in love”. I agree: the idea that romantic love is something everyone experiences, and is therefore a marker of human worth, needs deconstruction.

Unfortunately, a majority of these posts are replacing the shackles of amatonormativity with restrictive lines like “everyone loves, just not always romantically”, referencing the importance of loving friends, QPPs, family members and pets. Sometimes it moves away from people to encompass love for hobbies, experiences, occupations and ourselves. The what and how tends to vary from post to post, but the idea that we do and must love someone or something, and this love redeems us as human and renders us undeserving of hatred, is being pushed to the point where I don’t feel safe or welcome in my own aromantic community. Even in the posts meant to be challenging the more obvious amatonormativity, it is presumed that aros must, in some way, love.

I’ve spent weeks watching my a-spec and aro communities throw neurodiverse and survivor aros under the bus in order to do what the aromantic community oft accuses alloromantic aces of doing: using their ability to love as a defence of their humanity. Because I love, they say, I also don’t deserve to be a target of hatred, aggression and abuse.

But what if I don’t love?

What if love itself has been the mechanism of the hatred and violence I have endured?

Why am I, an aro, neurodiverse survivor of abuse and bullying, still acceptable collateral damage?

Continue reading “I Am Not Voldemort: An Essay on Love and Amatonormativity”

Patreon, Aro Arrows and Other Projects

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.

It’s been a long time since I’ve last posted to this website. So I thought I’d give you all a rundown on some new projects of mine and updates to a couple of older ones.

Patreon

One of the problems of being a disabled creator is that when we try to monetise our work, we’re expected–even required, if we hope for a modicum of success at it–to offer up extras in addition to what we’re already doing for free. That makes it difficult to get something like a Patreon up off the ground! I’ve had to take time off everything else to set one up and build up enough content for the next month or two of posting.

I do need support from my community if I wish to survive to keep making aromantic content. So I hope you’ll join me in giving this adventure a shot!

For $1 a month, patron exclusives include:

  • Bones, Belts and Bewitchments, a 275 page collection of Marchverse ficlets, short stories and novelettes where everybody is queer and nobody is alloromantic. Includes the exclusive story Kin of Mind where Darius (Certain Eldritch Artefacts) meets Azhra (Hallo, Aro) and discovers that autistics and dragons have a fair amount in common.
  • Different in Other Ways, a series of fantasy sketches and vignettes about gender, abrosexuality, quoiromanticism, customer service, working-class queerness and friendship. This series shows The Eagle Court‘s Ihrne from the perspective of queer people none too pleased with even the better Iteme royals. If you want a smart-arse abro trans dude with porokeratosis who loves fashion and gives traditional masculinity the middle (scaly, itchy) finger, Harper.
  • Early access to all Hallo, Aro stories.
  • Early access to all free Marchverse stories and books.
  • Early access to general aromantic posts, essays and articles.
  • Free downloads of all paid Marchverse short stories.
  • Sneak-peaks at forthcoming stories.
  • My gratitude undimmed until the ending of the world.

(Why porokeratosis? Because I’ve never seen a fantasy protagonist with my skin, and I yearn to show a character with the magical equivalent of my steroid cream collection.)

Patrons will get exclusive content (unavailable anywhere else) at least once a month, and my goal is to post something every week. I have a collection of short stories I’ve been working on just for patrons!

Continue reading “Patreon, Aro Arrows and Other Projects”