Sunday, February 19, 2017

How I Discovered I'm Aromantic

This post is for Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week, which takes place the week after Valentine's Day. I will try to post something aromantic-related every day during this week. (No promises, my executive dysfunction means I very well might fail.)

For this purpose, I'll be using this list of prompts, unless I have another idea for one of the days. The prompt for today is:

Write about what your aromantic / aro spec identity means to you. This can include your experience finding the identity that feels the most right to you, and can absolutely involve disclosing what your identity is (though, of course, that is not required).
OK, so I'm comfortable disclosing my identity. I identify as cupioromantic and aromantic. How I came to describing myself that way is a complicated story.

When I first identified as asexual, I didn't see a distinction between sexual and romantic orientation. In fact, one of my first posts on this blog about romantic attraction was speculating if romantic asexuals were confusing touch hunger for a desire for romance.

One of the comments on that post, by Seth Nicholson, actually gave me the first clear hints that romantic attraction is more than just 'wanting to be very, very close to someone and also have sex with them'. He (if I got the pronoun wrong, I apologize) pointed me to the concept of limerence. At the time, I read it, thought it sounded strange and unlikely, and set it aside. I continued to treat asexuality and aromanticism as equivalent, though I stopped openly casting doubt on romantic orientations.

Around the same time, I heard the "if you don't get what romantic attraction is, you probably don't feel it" claim, often said to people who are trying to figure out what romantic attraction is, and quite frankly, it really annoyed me. Firstly, how do you know I'm not feeling romantic attraction if I don't know what it is? (I know a lesbian who, as a teenager, apparently mistook non-sexual/non-romantic feelings for guys as being sexual & romantic, and made the opposite mistake about her feelings towards other girls. So allos can very much be confused about whether or not they're feeling attraction, too.) And secondly, that still does nothing to answer what romantic attraction is, or if it even exists.

But shortly after that, a moderator on an LGBT forum accused me of "trying to push asexuality on others" because I'd suggested it to a couple people who were questioning their orientation and seemed to meet the definition. He told me asexuality wasn't ''scientifically validated" and refused to even read the several peer-reviewed studies I found on asexuality. He was my first encounter with an acephobic LGBT person (as best I recall, he was a cis gay man), and his actions, as well as the fact that he was a moderator and none of the other moderators seemed to see any problem with him harassing me, led me to abandon that forum and essentially the entire LGBT+ community. I was so burned by this that even hearing mentions of LGBT people upset me - for example, I couldn't read one of my favourite series of books because they had a bisexual vampire and a gay wizard as major characters. So I shelved the whole question for a long time.

Just recently, I went to my town's first-ever Pride parade, and had a wonderful time. This sparked off a renewed interest in sexuality, which led me back to asexuality and aromanticism.

I was watching Ashley's Mardell's wonderful video series The ABCs of LGBT, specifically her episode Everything Asexual and Aromantic, when I thought "am I greyromantic? Is greyromantic a thing?" So I went to look into romantic orientations some more.

I think part of me knew I wasn't greyromantic, because that requires feeling at least some vaguely romanticish feelings, and nothing about romantic attraction sounded like me. (The Ace of Hearts series, featuring a homoromantic asexual, helped clarify that - while Allister's sudden crush on Rhys is adorable,  it's also an experience I find completely foreign.) And yet, when I read many aromantic people describing their attitudes towards romance, I didn't relate to that either, mainly because I'm not romance-repulsed. I knew I could probably be happy being in a romance, as long as we never, ever have sex.

When I came across cupioromantic, I thought "maybe that's me". But the first thing I found when searching for it was The Thinking Asexual's critique (which is now marked private, for some reason, but you can find further thoughts on the same topic by them here). And while I didn't agree with their critique, it still put me off the term a bit. So I gave the whole thing careful thought, including asking people on Arocalypse about it (the thread is here), and those wonderful people were the ones who convinced me that I really could be comfortable calling myself cupioromantic. And of course, cupioromantic implies I'm also aromantic, though I still wasn't completely comfortable calling myself aromantic because I'm romance-favourable.

Ironically, what made my finally, firmly claim the aromantic identity was reading arophobic and acephobic comments by a commenter on this blog, and deciding to claim "cis aroace" as a descriptor for myself mainly out of sheer defiance. Like Alyssa Hillary, I'm a bit of an imp when it comes to stigmatized identities that apply to me. And if someone tries to bully me into not acting a certain way, my first instinct is to do it even more. Especially if I have absolutely no respect for them as an individual.

Since then, I've also figured out that aromanticism affects my life more than asexuality does, and I have thrown myself wholeheartedly into advocacy around aromantic and asexual issues. Including doing this aromantic spectrum awareness week thing!

And now, my brother really wants to play Age of Empires with me, so I'm signing off.

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