This was written for this month’s blogging carnival on the theme of “The relationship between the aro and ace communities“. Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week is also next week.
Some time last year, I mentioned offhand to my then-fiance that I was gray-romantic. He expressed surprise. So that’s embarrassing. Did I not mention that part?
I’m not sure when I started using the word “gray-romantic”, but I always thought of my sexual and romantic orientations as matched, so it’s been an obvious corollary of gray-asexuality for almost a decade. There’s the split attraction model, which allows people to separate out sexual and romantic attractions and orientations, but there are also a lot of people who can’t really distinguish between the two–like me. I identify as gray-asexual because I don’t experience sexual attraction in normative patterns, and I’m not sure if it even “counts” as sexual attraction. And my romantic attraction is in an identical situation, by virtue of being identical as far as I can determine.
So why didn’t I talk about it? The rise of aromantic communities (and my experience helping to launch the Carnival of Aros) gives me cause to reflect back on this with chagrin. Maybe I should have talked about my romantic orientation more?
Now that I am trying to talk about it, I realize that I have so many thoughts going in different directions, a sure sign that I’ve ignored the topic for too long. Allow me, dear reader, to make some scattered points.
1. The split attraction model
When people in ace communities say they’re homo- or gray-romantic, typically they’re trying to say that their romantic orientations are different from their sexual orientations. This implies a certain set of problems, such as navigating romantic relationships without sex. And that’s not me. So when asked, I usually just say I’m gray-A, and leave my romantic orientation unsaid.
Although I came up with this strategy independently, from what I’ve read, and this is a common thing. For instance, asexuals who don’t use the split attraction model might identify as asexual and aromantic, and others might not adopt a romantic orientation at all, identifying only as asexual. It is a bit unfortunate, however, how it leaves my romantic orientation a mystery.
2. Being an aro-spec person in a romantic relationship
As someone who has talked about aces who like sex for quite a while, I have some mixed feelings about how we are represented. It’s constantly said that some aces like sex, but there’s very little discussion of what our experiences or issues are. So it feels like we’re taking up so much space, and all the space is being squandered on mere affirmations of our existence. So you might say I’m rather reluctant to broach the topic of aromantic-spectrum people who want romantic relationships.
Hi, I’m aromantic-spectrum, and I’m in a relatively conventional romantic relationship. My romantic orientation was important earlier on, because I don’t experience crushes, and my husband initially had to adjust for my different emotional responses. But it isn’t so salient to our current relationship. And that’s about all I have to say for now.
3. That one blogger
On the subject of the arospec community, I feel I must bring up The Thinking Aro (aka The Thinking Asexual). In the years from about 2013-2016, The Thinking Aro was one of the few notable bloggers off of Tumblr who wrote extensively about aromanticism. And I hated her blog. A lot of people did. The complaints were numerous. She had decided that “cupioromantic” was unsalvageably problematic. She engaged in victim blaming of ace survivors. She praised very close friendships by making scornful remarks about all other kinds of relationships. And later on she became more extreme, arguing that asexuality should be separate from LGBT, and also separate from gray-asexuality. This was all personal to me, as a gay gray-A, gray-romantic, cupioromantic-adjacent survivor who really doesn’t want close friendships.
And the worst part is, I’m not sure why anyone should care if they weren’t there to see it. The Thinking Aro was just one blogger with idiosyncratic views. She was not representative of what the aro community is like now, quite the contrary. But for a while, especially for those of us in the off-Tumblr blogging scene, The Thinking Aro was what aromantic discussion looked like, and it was a huge turn-off. So now that I’ve had my little rant, I can say my last goodbyes to the legacy of The Thinking Aro. The aro community is better than you.
4. The necessity of space I don’t need
For those of us on the ace and aro spectrums, each of us decides for ourselves whether one is more important than the other. As for myself, the main element of my ace experience is that I don’t experience crushes, and well aren’t crushes mostly a romantic thing? So sometimes I think that I would have put more emphasis on gray-romanticism rather than gray-asexuality, if only there were more discussion on that topic a decade ago. The rise of the aro community gives people that option, and I’m excited to see where it will go.
But I’m not sure the aro community is for me anymore. As I’ve said, I’m in a romantic relationship, which renders a lot of discussion simply irrelevant to me, or even unfriendly in some cases. I also don’t particularly want to be “affirmed”. But it is not clear that it should be the goal of the aro community to be “for” me. I am old and established, I do not need anyone to make room for me.
But consider me an eager observer. I will be using the Carnival of Aros to discover new blogs to follow, and I am excited to learn more.
[Update 3/11: The Thinking Aromantic corrected to The Thinking Aro. Not sure how I missed that one.]