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”

New Community Term: Dia Aro

In the last twelve months or so, it’s become common to see folks scrambling for a term that conveys the meaning of “someone on the aromantic spectrum who doesn’t solely describe their aromanticism as ‘aromantic'”. “Aro-spec” was for a time beginning to be used this way, in the sense of “I’m an aro-spec ace”. Now, I’m seeing an increasing number of posts where the community is deciding that “aro-spec” includes all aromantics.

On the one hand, some of us have a need for a word that includes aros like me–aros who additionally use terms that aren’t “aromantic” to describe our aromantic identities. On the other hand, the alternative “greyromantic” (in its use as an umbrella term) doesn’t include everyone who feels that general aromantic spaces and terms are unable to encompass our needs because of the way we identify our aromantic identities and experiences.

When idemromanticism and my shape of nebularomanticism mean I am not greyromantic, but the general aromantic community’s approach to content and representation leaves me feeling alienated from my own community and even the word “aromantic” because it assumes a relationship to and understanding of romance and romantic attraction I don’t have, how do I find connection and support?

Let’s be real, here: “aromantic” is a broad term that encompasses us all. General aromantic community spaces, however, tend to focus on a few ways of being aromantic, particularly the kind that doesn’t require additional identity terms to explain how we experience or navigate romance, romantic attraction and relationship behaviours.

I am not greyromantic, but when I am lumped together with end-case aros as though that interpretation depicts my aromanticism, all I feel is how different–and unwelcome–are my experiences with regards romance and attraction. I have more in common with the greyromantic community than I have with most end-case aromantics, despite not being one of you. I need a way, therefore, to connect with other aros who don’t fit the standard end-case aromantic experience without misidentifying myself, a word that can’t be conflated with “aromantic” or “aro-spec”. A word not quite as wonderfully broad as “aromantic” or “aro-spec” but a little broader than “greyromantic”. A word that lets other people identify us without leaving cupioros and idemros under the “end-case aro” label as though the reasons we claimed those identities don’t matter enough to be worth distinguishing.

Continue reading “New Community Term: Dia Aro”

Ask: Aromantic Characters Without the Word

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.

An anon asks on Tumblr:

Do you have any advice for writing aromantic characters without explicitly using the word “aromantic?” I’m personally an aro person, but I am writing a fictional story that uses language that does not yet have words for “aromantic” (furthermore, “bisexual” or “demiboy” or other LGBTQ+ labels that have been around for a while). I have tried a few different methods of getting orientation and identity across but I’m curious about your thoughts. I want my representation to be explicit as possible.

For me, anon, it boils down to showing. Getting a good handle on the difference between showing and telling is essential in my opinion, both for good writing generally and for good writing of marginalised characters. There are times when it is appropriate to tell the reader something while never showing it, of course–factual information and scene transitions, like the passing of time or quick observations, are often best told. Identity and identity-related experiences, though, should be shown as much if not more than they are told.

Done right, folks familiar with “aromantic” as a concept will label your characters themselves without your using the word in-text. If they don’t already know the word, your showing will still contextualize that experience when they happen across it. Readers, even some alloromantic readers, will go “oh, that’s that character in X-book!” in the same way aro-specs related to Keladry of Mindelan and Jughead long before anyone got to naming them as aro. If this happens with characters who are not intentionally written as aro, I promise you it will happen with your characters, anon. Readers are smart and you know what you’re writing about. You do not have to worry about this.

Remember that an alloromantic’s inability to see an aro character is amatonormativity, not a lack in authorial depiction.

With regards telling and the use of the word “aromantic”, the idea that we have to go to extremes to explain or clarify a character’s aromanticism for an unknowing audience is in itself an amatonormative one. (Consider, for contrast, how narratives treat heterosexuality!) While it is difficult for us to let go of the need to explain, especially when aromanticism is not well understood, it’s important to recognise that need to explain and label is another shade of marginalisation. Furthermore, a culture that doesn’t have such history of marginalisation might not have any need to label at all. In a setting absent amatonormativity, telling the reader within the narrative that your character is something that doesn’t need to be identified in-universe can feel intrusive, so it may be that telling as a tool for communicating aromanticism is not in your current toolbox, anon.

How much telling you require also means considering the needs of your audience, because your intended audience will determine the amount of telling, explanation and exposition required. You’ll label and explain aromanticism for a mainstream audience very differently than for an a-spec or aro-spec one. Decide who’ll get the best from your work and target your degree of explanation and exposition at that audience. The more exposition, the reduced chance of misinterpretation, yes, but too much can alienate an aro-spec readership who just wants to see an aro knight slay dragons over another 101 tutorial.

Continue reading “Ask: Aromantic Characters Without the Word”

Ask: Ace Identity and the SAM

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.

An anon asks on Tumblr:

To be honest, in the past I was on the exclusionists’ side with the SAM (Split Attraction Model). It’s harmful! Stop forcing it on people! Attractions don’t need to be separated like that! Even though I myself am technically aroace. I was angry because I felt like I was being erased and spoken over in the ace community. I felt like I was being forced to separate my romantic and sexual attraction when they weren’t separate. It made me furious that I couldn’t make a post or comic calling myself asexual without some ace commenting, “no, asexuality is actually x aces can do/feel y that’s not what asexual means!” As if I’m confused.

So basically I hated that the SAM was forced on the word asexual any time someone used it. I’ve somewhat changed my mind recently: I now understand that splitting attraction is crucial to some people, but I do think we need something else because I can also understand genuine reasons why some are adverse to it and feel like its forced on them. There has been concern with using existing terminology and splitting them into romantic and sexual attractions.

Maybe instead of doing this we could create terms that are shorter and mean the same, combining the two attractions into one distinct identity. For example, a panromantic asexual is, uhh, tresexual? Not the real alternative–just to show what I mean. Arosexual or aseromantic could be umbrella terms for aspecs who feel one type of attraction and not the other. I’m not saying we should abandon the terms we have now.

Like I said, I’m not against the SAM any more (I’m sorry I ever was) and definitely think anyone can identify how they want. But I think we as a community need labels that are more concise and convey more information. I think it will make it easier for aspecs to find people that are most like them instead of just one part.

Just so folks know: you (general you) don’t need to insist to me that you’ve changed your ways. You don’t need to prove to me that you’ve learnt better. You can just say “I no longer believe that” and leave the conversation there. I dislike the purity culture tendency of having to constantly demonstrate one’s growth and resulting apology in order to reveal a less-palatable truth about the people we were, and I’m not going to demand it of the people who are doing the risky and dangerous thing of revealing their past in conversation with me.

We can’t grow as a community unless we talk about the beliefs we held and why we held them. We will fail in outreach to others if people don’t feel safe to talk about their history–we will fail to learn the unspoken undercurrents of why harmful attitudes are compelling. Folks who have learnt and changed are a vital bridge between two sides, and I think any requirement to constantly apologise or offer up reassurances for making a mistake long after is only going to stop the people we most need to hear from talking to us.

And oh is this a reason we need to better discuss and understand.

Continue reading “Ask: Ace Identity and the SAM”