Queer Activism Must Be For Aromantics Too

If aromantics aren’t safe in the queer community, then the community has failed.

The move to embrace wider queer equality has been resisted by some. Dropping terms such as “LGBT” in favour of “queer” and/or “gender romantic and sexual diversities” has been met with criticism from those who wish to gatekeep the community and only have some identities recognised. This is no clearer than with the treatment of aromantics.

Aromantics are constantly erased in discussions around queer identities. If you’re not familiar with the term (and given the lack of visibility it would be no surprise), aromantics are people who don’t experience romantic attraction. Aromanticism is also a huge spectrum; for example, there are greyromantics who rarely experience romantic attraction, and demiromantics who may only experience romantic attraction to someone they’ve made a particular emotional connection with. There are many other aro labels, because it’s an incredibly varied and diverse identity.

To be truly inclusive as a community then we have to do more than just say “queer” instead of “LGBT”. We need to be truly queer. That means talking about issues that intersex people face, examining life beyond binaries, recognising pan identities as well as bi, and talking about asexual and aromantic identities. It means constant advocacy on behalf of the whole queer community, including for greater funding and support services for ignored queer identities.

The A does not stand for ‘ally’. There are two A’s and they stand for asexual and aromantic. Stop making aro and ace people fight for scraps of recognition. Aromantic people do face oppression, discrimination and harm in society. You may not know it but that’s because erasure is so prevalent there are barely any studies or research focused upon what aro people face. Talk to aro people though and it’s a different story.

“The A does not stand for ‘ally’”

Aro erasure is prevalent, and to the extent that if aro people reveal their identities, then multitudes of questions are then delivered which are usually invasive and treat aromantics as a strange curiosity. Romantic identities are often assumed for people. There’s little dialogue around what happens if a person doesn’t experience romantic attraction. The assumption in society is usually heteromanticism, but we have at least gotten better at talking about homoromanticism and biromanticism (although society also often takes for granted the fact that for many people their sexual orientation and romantic orientation don’t necessarily align). Our media, our stories, our conversations around relationships all focus on the idea that romantic love is a value to be achieved and that romantic relationships somehow make us inherently better. For aromantic children that means they’re told straight away by society that there’s something wrong with them. This is a type of queerphobia, specifically targeted towards aromantic people.

Our language often forces aromantics to remain silent. Even messages designed to be supportive can be queerphobic. The idea that we just need to find the right person, or we will settle down one day, implies that there’s something broken with us or that we will be better off down the line with romantic love. It’s wrong and laced in hate, no matter how sweetly the person says it. It’s also no surprise when our media forces alloromanticism on every single character. Fandom ships are amazing but just once it would be nice to see an aromantic person (whether single or not, because we can still have relationships) celebrated for who they are. We don’t all need romantic love.

“Our language often forces aromantics to remain silent”

Aromantics are regularly told that we experience no discrimination because we can choose not to have relationships. It’s a nonsensical argument that overlooks the fact that single queer people still face queerphobia. Furthermore, aromantic people are at risk of intimate partner violence and can experience threats of “corrective” rape, along the lines of that aros just need someone to fix them (in a similar way to what many asexual people experience). Violence against aro people is real and needs addressing.

There are also conflations with aromanticism and psychopathy. Aromantics may not experience romantic love but that’s completely separate to being a psychopath. It’s pure ableism. The stigma around aromanticism is so huge that aromantic people may never come out, or may face emotional abuse or manipulation within relationships if they do as partners may demand proof of their love. Any false beliefs that aro people are more likely to cheat are also smears. Aromanticism doesn’t equal amorality.

It’s not about #LoveisLove but about supporting and empowering all queer people, whether they love or not, whether they experience sexual attraction or not or whether they’re cis or not. By making the movement about love and sex and not identities and queerness, aromantics and many others are being excluded from a community they have a right to. Prejudice against aromantics is every bit as queerphobic as prejudice against any other member of the community. If we really want to support all queer people it’s time to do just that.

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