Losing The Map

For the Jan 2021 Carnival of Aros theme “Stories”:

What is a story you want to tell? What is a story you no longer believe? What is a story you feel is harmful? What kind of story do you want to see?

Take this theme anywhere you want to go. Tell a story, real or fictional. Complain about a story, or a recurring theme in stories. Analyze the story line of a movie or fanfic or a podcast. Create an adoptable character sketch for another writer to use.

Summary: A personal story about struggling to write romantic depictions, and in which losing a map showing romantic territory is not the same as already having a map that needs to be labelled Aromantic.

Edited to add (3 Feb 2021): The Round Up includes “a personal story about realizing aromanticism”, but I assume that’s being used in a very broad sense. I feel like I’ve ‘lost’ my alloromanticism more so than realized aromanticism. I also use ‘quoiromantic’ and do not use ‘aromantic’.

Continue reading “Losing The Map”

Deprioritization

Carnival of Aros theme for October 2020: Prioritization. Host: @jay-aro (tumblr).

Question: Do you have a different orientation you prioritize over your aromanticism? What about gender identity?

Question: How entwined is your orientation and gender?

From “Growth (& sharing a poem)” for the Jan 2020 theme ‘New’:

I don’t necessarily combine gender musings with aro musings, for example, and especially when it’s far more obvious in my daily life while closeted on the gender front, I just don’t prioritize finding out I’m under the aro umbrella in the same way that other aro bloggers seem to.

From “I Redact Myself” for the March 2020 theme ‘Aromanticism & Gender’:

Honestly, I don’t really connect my gender experience and aromanticism, whether that involves using arogender or not. […] Maybe the aro part is just still too new, relatively speaking. Maybe there’s still some lingering guilt over being a young trans person desperate for breadcrumbs of love because I was so used to hearing stories about how it was too difficult for a cis person to ‘deal with that’ and I would be lucky if anyone stuck around despite my transness. Maybe it takes too many spoons to be this introspective during a quarantine.

I don’t doubt that I could draw connections between different gender experiences and my [fill in the blank] orientation if I were to strike up a conversation with someone and we got around to more probing questions, but on a surface level, no. I started stumbling around on figuring out I wasn’t cis years ago, and I’ve had to cope with being closeted for a few years now. Personally, my gender will eke out a higher priority for me when compared to most orientation related questions because I’m so much more aware of the discordance.

Question: Do you use the split attraction model? Does your identity feel split between romantic and sexual attraction or not?

I find the focus on a singular Split Attraction Model that often prioritizes the presence or absence of romantic and sexual attraction as the means of designating romantic and sexual orientation to be a sideways approach to talking about attraction, orientation, and identity. (Some folks add in other types of attraction, but this question appears to reflect the prioritization of romantic-and-sexual orientation labeling when talking about the Split Attraction Model, so I’m not going to touch on other types of attraction.)

I’m not saying that it’s an unhelpful model for everyone, and I’ve still wound up using this model with other people regardless, but I find it a bit simplistic to go: If yes to attraction, then go to this orientation and that identity. For example, I experience sexual attraction, but due in part to fluctuating intensities and types of gender dysphoria (that would be the genderfluidity, for new readers), I don’t find that the mere presence (or an accurate internal detection) of attraction communicates an exact sexual orientation as identity to someone else.

I’m aware that people have used ace labels for reasons other than a mere yes/no to sexual attraction [“A Condensed History of Asexuals Arguing with Asexuals Over What Asexuality Is”], but I’ve also encountered bloggers who don’t take that into account when talking about aces, allosexuals who also use ace terminology, those who could use ace terminology but who identify as allosexual, those who use both ace and allo to describe their experiences, and folks who don’t want to label (or disclose) their sexual orientation. It’s not entirely helpful for communicating with other people, but both of the following sentences feel true: Yes, I experience sexual attraction, but my orientation is more gray-ace and I identify as allo. Yes, I experience sexual attraction and my orientation is allosexual, but I’ve given up on disclosing how I identify as a specific extra label (whatever-sexual) within certain aro contexts.

While I can find words to label my experience of romantic attraction and sexual attraction (and I have been able to use varioriented descriptions in the past), I don’t have a sense that my identity is split, really. I did the Questioning and the bi/pan/poly/omni ‘what am I?’ cycling when I was younger, and the simple answer is that I’m not straight. I’m queer, and I’ve gone on to find some more specific words that might help someone to understand my queerness, but ultimately, my identity is queer.

Question: If activism is something you’re interested in, how does your aromanticism play into that? Is aro activism something you focus on or are interested in?

Not particularly, and no.

Question: How important is aromanticism to you?

I’m not aromantic, so aromanticism has no personal level of importance to me. If you’re wondering how important being able to label romantic orientation is to me, I’d say that it’s occasionally important, but not most of the time.

Question: If you’re on the aromantic spectrum, how does that impact your identity? Do you ever use the label “aromantic”, or just your arospec label?

I don’t use ‘aromantic’, have gotten away from ‘aro-spec’, and sometimes use ‘aro’. I might be considered underneath the aro umbrella (depending on if quoiromantic is included), but some of the tri-labeling conversations concerning oriented aroaces in the summer of 2019, in which aros who were greyro or somewhere along the spectrum instead of ‘pure’/‘endcase’/zero romantic attraction Aromantics were considered less aro (and thought to prioritize any romantic attraction they experienced), has left me a little lukewarm to talk of an aromantic spectrum. The aro umbrella and using ‘aro’ doesn’t carry the same perception of a spectrum with those who are ‘more aro’ on one end and other aro identities being ‘too close’ to alloromantics on the other end.

(I used ‘aro-spec’ because I also find it a bit hard to read ‘arospec’, ‘acespec’, ‘aplspec’, ‘aspec’, and the like, especially when a lot of these spectrum words show up in one text. I might personally be fine with rephrasing to talk of an aro umbrella, but at the very least, I try to add a hyphen or a space between all these ‘a’s and ‘spectrum’ because the spectrum phrasing seems too popular to change. And yeah, I am aware that it’s a character saving abbreviation, but that doesn’t magically make it easier for me to read.)

Question: Hypothetically, if you could only choose one label to come out as, what would you choose?

1) Why should I continue to prioritize the idea of ‘coming out’ to others? There’s a reason why I shared a link to a pdf about Inviting In on National Coming Out Day.

2) I’ve been non-straight and non-cis for years, so I’m not entirely sure how vague or specific this hypothetical question is. Only one label for romantic orientation? Only one label for romantic and sexual orientation? Only one label for some sort of orientation, even if it’s not romantic and sexual? Only one label for communicating attraction to other people? Only one label for communicating who I’d be willing to do [insert activity] with?

3) I am queer.

May Carnival of Aros (DIY)

A Carnival of Aros Call for Submissions went out on May 15th centered around “DIY” [Do It Yourself]. {A tumblr crosspost will go up after the deadline to prevent link confusion.}

What I had penciled in to write about: Knitting.

What I got sidetracked by: Digital flags appear to be created without considering how difficult, if not impossible, the colors used are to find in physical materials like yarn. (Mentioned in a Pillowfort post about flag culture.)

What I inevitably wound up contemplating: The global SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, how not everyone accepts an event as trauma, and how quarantine may provide the push to question certain aspects of amatonormativity or one’s identity.

What I wrote: “Thoughts On Aro Diversity & Trauma”.

tl;dr Trying to research the history and usage of a so-called uncommon identity (per AUREA glossary organization) is difficult. I don’t actually know that anyone will question amatonormativity or their identity during quarantine and/or this pandemic in any way that may relate to the aro community, and I don’t know if they’ll actually find any terms from the aro community useful. Despite speculating on a term that I wish I could’ve found when I was questioning, I don’t think creating a new label is necessary because the underlying desire could be addressed with exposure to a range of aro narratives outside of a static ‘I’ve  always been aro’ perspective.

What felt relevant, but I couldn’t really think of a way to naturally work into my already long and rambling post: A Pillowfort post about glossaries. There’s some interesting comments, but I particularly pulled out this to quote from the post itself, “There’s really something to be said about glossaries […] and how they obscure the internal development, debates, diversity, and complexity around particular identities, in favor of quick sound-bite definitions”.

What I still have not written: Anything about knitting.

Thoughts On Aro Diversity & Trauma

This is going to be a long post, so I’m sharing the headings and a summary before placing most of this post under a cut. Headings: Defining Caedromantic, Caedromantic Usage, Relevance of Caedromantic Usage, and A Proposal To Those Still Reading.

The definition of caedromantic has been split from the section on usage precisely because of the impression that there are additional usages that may affect how people explain and think of caedromantic outside of copying the definition. The section on relevance ties in the element of the coronavirus pandemic as a global trauma that may (or may not) lead to questioning amatonormativity and aspects of identity, while being an example of something that someone may not specifically say is a trauma or result in thinking of themselves as a trauma survivor. The final section returns to caedromanticism, thoughts about a word for ‘used to experience romantic attraction but no longer does, yet does not explicitly require tying that to trauma’ from the prior ending, and has a new ending.

Please note: The original ending with questions regarding feedback and whether this would be useful to the community has not been included in full. Instead, I stripped the questions down to explain how I shifted from thinking a different (potentially new) term would be useful to thinking that the core issue was a matter of lack of diverse narratives.

Continue reading “Thoughts On Aro Diversity & Trauma”

Let’s Be Alone Together

As of this writing (May 5th), I have not seen anything about a Carnival of Aros theme for May, but I’m using the Carnival of Ace “Quarantine” questions to pre-write something vaguely aro-ish.

Regarding personal lifestyle changes and ‘sheltering in place’ with particular people (in my case, family):

I’ve done #coronablogging, have various posts across accounts, have vented to close friends, and have a private document for the truly private venting. In some ways, I was already living a rather housebound life before everyone needed to follow a Stay at Home Order, but it’s been difficult dealing with a very particular relative who was used to leaving the house multiple times a week to socialize (and now comes up with unnecessary reasons to go to the store). No, this is not a request for anyone to comment about this, joke about hiding her car keys, or whatever.

For those who don’t regularly read my content: At this point, I’m tired of explaining how I might be vulnerable to Covid-19 complications. I’m tired of being reminded that there’s ‘a lot we don’t know’ about Covid-19, so I might be exaggerating the danger I face. I know it’s not your fault that I’ve had to hear X from news stories, deal with Z offline, and all that, but quite frankly, there are some details that I don’t want to rush to post in a public online space right now.

On to actual questions.

Are there people you’ve lost contact with? Relationships you’ve maintained over distance?

Let me see . . . The last time I interacted with a friend face-to-face in the same physical location had to be sometime in May of 2017 (approximately 3 years ago). For some friends, the last interaction would’ve been August of 2016 (3 years and 9 months ago). If not earlier in 2016. So, I think I can say that I’ve probably lost contact with a lot of IRL people before the quarantine, and I’ve had to grow accustomed to non-IRL interaction already.

Honestly, some friends that I text, IM, email, and otherwise have communicated with online for the past few years would probably not realize the degree to which I self-isolated myself before now. In an effort to not sound too depressing, I have been checking in on some friends with a little more regularity since I wasn’t sure how well they were holding up with losing jobs at the start of this. (For the non-regular readers, that would be jobs in the theatre industry.)

Not everyone’s been laid off. Some people from undergrad went into different careers (including nursing), have side hustles, or are (un)lucky enough to have day jobs that have now been deemed essential. Understandably, they’re too busy to chat, but I mostly liked their FB posts as interaction anyways. So, it’s not terribly different during the quarantine. I will admit that I haven’t been that great at checking in on strictly online friends, but that’s mostly around not feeling close enough to ask about how they’re doing.

Are there any projects you’ve been motivated to work on? Or projects that you can’t motivate yourself to work on?

A post about how wording is not happening. A post that touches on the fickleness of stress-researching but being unable to write one fic and unexpectedly writing another. I can point to drafts of to-do lists from January where I really wanted to make progress in certain fics that have been percolating on the ‘haven’t updated’ backburner for about 2 years, but yeah, that’s not happening right now. “Spinning in Squircles” touches on not being able to write in situations outside of fanfic and how I started following new solarpunk blogs (back around the situation with 45 and Iran in early January), which deal heavily with mutual aid efforts. (A coincidence IRL, but if I were to write that in something, that would probably be called heavy-handed foreshadowing.)

I have a half-written WP post on how I put too much time and energy into certain efforts at the end of March and beginning of April leading to a corresponding downswing (maybe not severe enough to be a burnout) sitting in my drafts. I have done a few things during quarantine, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I’m making progress on a project. I hit one of those potentially hypomanic periods in the first week of March right after the Daylight Savings Time change, though, so I have ideas. I just have to find the realistic and achievable ones.

What would you like to see from aro communities and activists right now?

No offense, but after realizing there wasn’t a Carnival theme for April, I sort of didn’t think about the aro community until I started looking to see if there was a May theme. Aro bloggers are still blogging, communities are still doing their thing, and activists are doing activism. That’s great. Keep doing your thing.

I’m just doing my best to survive a global pandemic and to remember to add posts to my tumblr queues before they run out. I don’t expect the aro community to wait for me to be ready to engage with it again. Have I thought of linking to something about polyamory and communication during quarantine for an aro perspective? Have I thought about personally returning to old Carnival themes within the context of quarantine (f’ex, Aloneness)? Sure, but I’ve also had to deal with a variety of trauma responses, maladaptive coping mechanisms resurfacing, and some particular quirks of my mentally ill brain.

On the one hand, I know some people find it helpful to share what they’re going through, and that may extend to wanting to meet certain emotional release needs with a community. On the other hand, I know well enough to say that I’m not comfortable with being that messy in public. I’ve been having issues with having a shorter fuse and rediscovering anger, I’ve been lowkey dissociating, and I’m very tired of the alcohol jokes/reactions. If it weren’t for the fact that I would need to exchange money I don’t have with someone, I would’ve probably done something incredibly reckless and impulsive already. (Btw: “Safer Drinking During Desperate Times” has some tips if you want to keep drinking, but you’re a bit worried about how your drinking habits have changed during quarantine.)

Keep doing your thing, aro community, and I’ll catch up when I can.

I Redact Myself

A prosetry poem written for the Carnival of Aros March 2020 theme “Aromanticism and Gender” [Call for Submissions]. ((ETA (April 9th): Round Up. Cross-posted on tumblr here.))

You’d think that I’d have a timeline I could roughly copy and paste when explaining my gender journey, but I don’t. I’ve got years logged into questioning and re-evaluating my gender, and it predated any quoi/greygro/aro-spec questioning. Honestly, I don’t really connect my gender experience and aromanticism, whether that involves using arogender or not.

“I don’t necessarily combine gender musings with aro musings, for example, and especially when it’s far more obvious in my daily life while closeted on the gender front, I just don’t prioritize finding out I’m under the aro umbrella in the same way that other aro bloggers seem to.” – Jan CoAro entry.

Maybe the aro part is just still too new, relatively speaking. Maybe there’s still some lingering guilt over being a young trans person desperate for breadcrumbs of love because I was so used to hearing stories about how it was too difficult for a cis person to ‘deal with that’ and I would be lucky if anyone stuck around despite my transness. Maybe it takes too many spoons to be this introspective during a quarantine.

Title: I Redact Myself

scattered across the web like bones – old accounts, journal posts filled with questions, old aliases and usernames filled with experimentation, word docs and google docs filled with research and steps and links and money estimates (and fear and uncertainty and compromises) and venting, old wordpress posts and tumblr bios filled with terminology and pronouns and changing news (different from one blog to another) – i don’t know how many gigabytes my gender has taken up

i string together vertebrae – a wordpress post here, a tumblr draft there, google docs hidden away from judgment with new words to roll around on the tongue – but i can’t excavate all of the little pieces from the mud and wash away the evidence of other (i loved her and him and them, i was allo, i wanted to partner, i wanted someone to love me, i wanted someone to be brave enough to admit they loved one of those)

tarsals and ribs and a skull hung up – Here is a creature with a fossilized heart, who used words we cannot print today to adorn its plumage. It was a product of its time. It was – on display for the scrutiny and approval and condemnation and acceptance and exclusion of others (words deleted on the screen, erased from the page, buried and written over in the heart)

i hide the baby teeth in a jar – i hide the past away in the lost corners of the internet, the untouched posts and drafts, the forgotten spaces of a hard drive where it will draw dust and fade away into the silicon sands of time (is that better than crystallizing into a cyberghost that’s caught in the links of another’s post, ancient drama, an archived post torn from a large book) – i hide the bones in the past so my skeleton can slumber in the closet undisturbed by the present-future (i redact myself)

-fin-

Growth (& sharing a poem)

CoA prompt for Jan 2020 – “New” [Call for Submissions] [tumblr crosspost] [Roundup]. The tumblr post was on 9 Jan 2020 and the link included in the roundup; this post has been scheduled after the roundup. (As of now, the Carnival of Aros WP hasn’t released its Call for Submissions or Roundup links, so both go to the direct posts from ~aro-neir-o.)

1) New things you have learned since discovering aromanticism (about yourself, about aromanticism, about other arospec people, about the queer community in general, etc.).

I’m not sure to what extent having to interact with family that involves re-closeting myself has created a temporary and/or artificial split in how I approach aspects of my identity. I don’t necessarily combine gender musings with aro musings, for example, and especially when it’s far more obvious in my daily life while closeted on the gender front, I just don’t prioritize finding out I’m under the aro umbrella in the same way that other aro bloggers seem to. Maybe it’s the fondness for sideblogs where they’ve made the choice to prioritize their aroness in that space, but I alternate feeling like a lurker and feeling like I’m intruding where I don’t belong. It’s not quite as dire or pessimistic as the phrase ‘rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic’ suggests, but I guess I’m at a stage where other things have to take a higher priority for now.

I’m not trying to get some sort of reassurance that I can include myself in the aro community with this. (I figure someone would’ve asked me to stop writing submissions for the Carnival of that were the case.) It’s more that I’ve realized that not every group or community is made up of 200% committed Ride Or Die people, even if said group is considered young and relatively smaller than more established groups. I’m under the aro umbrella, but as an example, I’m just not going to be at the forefront of aro community leadership or education efforts. I don’t have the time, energy, or in-person capabilities for certain types of community building like that, y’know?

2) New things you have learned since interacting with the aro community (about yourself, about aromanticism, about other arospec people, about the queer community in general, etc.).

It’s mildly annoying when I interact with an allo-allo person who assumes that something I’m doing platonically is romantic, but I have to work on stopping myself from reacting too quickly (out of a place of hurt) when aros do it. I’m afraid a somewhat public post about my perspective of greyro included that type of a knee-jerk reaction, but I’m hoping to do better in 2020.

3) New experiences you’ve had since learning about aromanticism and/or discovering your own aromanticism (e.g., new types of relationships, new types of feelings, new vocabulary that you found described you, new conversations you’ve had with others).

Confession: When I was first trying to figure out if I was somewhere under the aro umbrella at all, I came up with a term that I felt encompassed my specific experience. It kinda, sorta has overlap with a few other terms that I’ve seen a few times (definitely not often), but I’ve honestly never felt like sharing that term would actually accomplish anything in the aro community. It might lead to someone creating a flag or something, but I just don’t see it catching on or being helpful.

Other: I really like the idea of crafting a relationship through collaboration with my friends (not related to QPPs or waverships, but inspired by that level of intent to talk about where the friendship may be going), and I know at least a few of them have already figured out some of amatonormativity’s side effects. Occasionally, some aro vent posts come across like alloromantics are fine and peachy with amatonormativity, but from a personal level, a few of my friends are frustrated with the unevenness towards valuing friendship, too. It’s just that picking up on this doesn’t actually counteract amatonormativity or make any sort of relationship maintenance easier in the face of it. And as much as certain posts have gone around saying that the aro community digs in deeper and more in-depth into discussions about amatonormativity, relationship conventions, and whatnot, it’s not exactly easy trying to figure out how to talk about this with people outside of the aro community.

4) New aro or aro-coded content you have come across that you want to share or critique.

A poem titled “what does love feel like?” by @opaline-words [link to original tumblr post]. For those who don’t want to open a new tab or window, the poem is shared below (hyphens added to maintain line breaks because formatting won’t play nice with me right now).

what does love feel like?

is it the wit or the whimsy;

the pull or the repulsion;

the handle or the edge

of the knife?

you walk through the dog park

devoid of dogs,

or

you walk yourself to the car

in the rain,

and

you have no idea.

you can’t remember

or

you never knew.

One of the first things I told my friend, ~opaline-words, after this poem crossed my dash back in Oct 2019 was that it had aro vibes. From the first stanza: “what does love feel like?” (literally one of the first discussion points that questioning aro folks go through), “the pull or the repulsion” (romance repulsion or lack thereof), and “the handle or the edge | of the knife?” (the interplay of societal expectations around romantic love hurting aros versus feeling like you’re hurting and/or manipulating people).

From the second stanza: “the dog park | devoid of dogs”, which I think resonates with feeling the distinct lack of what’s expected, and for those struggling with feeling like a social failure, a feeling that gets into purposelessness. However, I would caution against a depressing interpretation of uselessness in “you walk through the dog park” because a dog park isn’t necessarily restricted from humans walking through it. I can see a certain kind of repurposing or twisting of conventions that reads more like the greyro or otherwise spectrum/umbrella portion of the aro community.

From the third stanza: “you can’t remember | or | you never knew”, which makes a certain part of inner-me go chef’s kiss. I personally resonate with feeling like I’ve ‘lost’ my ability to detect romantic attraction, and while I could write down memories of crushes in November’s CoA post (an extent of literal memory remains), I do feel like a certain part of me can’t remember how to decipher romantic attraction. I can’t say that it’s a universal aro experience, but I figure it may also resonate with others. I can more clearly see the aro feels for the ending thought “you never knew” and the last line of the second stanza “you have no idea”, particularly for the aromantics who haven’t experienced romantic attraction (handle/end-case).

I don’t want to say that this is the only reading of ~opaline-word’s poem that anyone can have, but I had to get the initial impressions out of my system, and I wanted to have some context for why I’m reblogging this poem in the latter half of February and including an aro tag on it.

Aro Community Wishlist

CoA prompt for Nov 2019 – “Aro Community Wishlists” [Call for Submissions] [tumblr crosspost] [Roundup]. The tumblr post was on 1 Dec 2019 and the link included in the roundup; this post has been scheduled in January 2020 in the hopes that will avoid link/pingback confusion. (I’ll try to remember to update later with the Carnival of Aros WP or user’s roundup link.)

A by no means exclusive wishlist:

Resources: For mental health professionals.

Despite previously internally freaking out about disclosure to the intake counselor, I actually stuck with simply answering questions without diving into explanations. I vagueblogged about it, but it would just take a little tweaking to phrasing on their questionnaire to reduce the mental translation.

Q: How long was your last [context: romantic] relationship?

Thanks for assuming that I’ve had one. Now, instead of filling in the amount of time, I have to add an answer the system wasn’t prepared for.

Q: How many intimate [translation: sexual] partners have you had?

Please just cut to the chase if you mean sex because intimacy isn’t exclusively sexual, and I’ll wind up with a different answer than what you’re trying to ask if I pick apart what an intimate partner means. (My first thought was emotional intimacy after having a question where I had to answer if I had someone “as a support”, but I can overshare emotional shit with far more people than I’ve “been sexually intimate with”.)

I would also appreciate if I knew I could mention quoi, greyro, or the aro spectrum in passing without needing to walk the therapist I’ll be assigned (for the actual counseling) through basic terms. I made a point of asking for an LGBTQ-aware therapist in order to hopefully avoid that for basic trans terms, but I honestly don’t know what they’re going to know yet.

Resources: For other health professionals.

It kind of depends on the area in question if a medical person really needs to grok a-spec identities or could get by with introductory knowledge, but if someone’s intake questionnaire only asks me about sexual orientation, I would ideally like to know they’d understand my answers if I were honest. This whole five answer deal doesn’t give me a lot of faith – 1) Hetersexual, 2) Homosexual, 3) Bisexual, 4) Other with space to write in, and 5) Choose not to disclose. I must admit that I wouldn’t really expect every medical specialist to ask, but if I have to get referred to someone dealing with sexual health, I really wish someone could offer them some training or something.

(Please not that I used ‘a-spec’ on purpose here. I know aros don’t want to be lumped in with aces while forming a separate community, but if we’re talking about updating that intake questionnaire and general awareness, someone should also be brought in to cover the ace part. As much as the split attraction model isn’t helpful for some a-spec people, it provides a quick way to explain why anyone is even trying to talk about aromanticism when the question was about sexual orientation. And fixing the gender choices under that section (also vented about). Like, thanks for the attempt, but please, actually do the LGBTQIA+ friendly thing right.)

Intra-Community: If general aro spaces are set up to be romance free for the romance-repulsed, what do the romance-confused do?

It’s where the quoi in the greyro/quoi really shines through, but I struggle with how I’m supposed to warn for romo [link] or contribute to something like RomoAlert [link]. Granted, some of these questions are community level works in progress, but when romance is a nebulous, ‘red-orange, qamuSHa’,  4i’ situation, it can come across like it’s horribly easy to set off romance-repulsion and make fellow aros uncomfortable. [qamuSHa’ means “I love you” in Klingon, which is being used as ‘language I assume the reader also does not know’ in the metaphor.]

Intra-Community/Subgroup: So . . . those quoiromantic folks?

It’s one thing to opt out of interacting with specific romance-repulsed users, but if I extend non-interaction to general aro spaces, I wouldn’t really have much of an aro community to interact with. It’s possible that spaces that make room for romance-favorability might be easier to navigate because I won’t be setting of someone’s repulsion on accident, but that doesn’t really solve the larger issue of how to handle quoiromantic interaction within aro spaces. (Not to mention that romance-favorability is sometimes talked about as if it’s a small, confusing, practically mythical section of the aro community, so telling quoiromantic people to just go hang out with the romance-favorable aros doesn’t actually come across as helpful.)

At least on tumblr, there’s a lot of pride merchandise and including quoi in aro-spec lists, so I’m writing from the assumption that quoiros are supposed to be included in the aro community. (See “(What) does the aro community want (with) quoiros?” [link] for a more uncertain take.) I’m not entirely sure where else people who don’t jive with romantic attraction, don’t understand it, and may not be able to differentiate it from other forms of attraction are supposed to go. Maybe quoiros could chill with the idemromantics, some of the nebularomantics, who knows how many others. *shrug* But, like, what will the aro community do?

I’m not saying that quoi/greyro people like myself should take over the limelight and be the focus of general aro resources, but sometimes, there’s a feeling akin to thinking your carpool group will remember you (you have a designated seat in the back and everything) only to realize that they’re rushing to your location because the driver forgot you. I don’t want to become the driver of the carpool just so I’ll get remembered, y’know? Mostly, I don’t want to feel like an afterthought that’s inconveniencing others with last minute accommodations, or something along those lines.

Subgroup: Aros who may experience hypersexuality.

I know I’ve seen acknowledgement (#positivity), but that doesn’t feel the same as actually addressing hypersexuality. Hypersexuality is talked about separately from allo/ace as self-identifiers because it’s not a sexual orientation, so a hypersexual aro may be allosexual, asexual, gray, demi, etc. However, when it comes to how aro community spaces are talked about, discussions of sex and sexuality can get roughly sorted under alloaro, so it’s likely a hypersexual person of any sexual orientation will utilize alloaro resources unless sex related discussions are not designated as happening in solely alloaro spaces.

~ Do aroaces want their own spaces for any discussions of hypersexuality in the aro community? Do they want to utilize ace community spaces? What about aros who aren’t comfortable with and/or don’t use the allo/ace division? I’m honestly not sure, but the impression that any aro who needs a space that allows sexual discussions is an alloaro means the seemingly common reassurance that alloaros aren’t “using” or manipulating sexual partners can fall flat.

Now, I am *not* saying that all hypersexual people, across the board, do in fact use and manipulate people, but it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see how hypersexual aros can be portrayed as an example of a negative stereotype or be misinterpreted as attacking alloaros if they come in with questions or concerns about manipulating people.

~ How do hypersexual aros balance talking about negative symptoms/side effects/episodes, which may for example involve impulsively hooking up, with the need for alloaros to have an environment that’s affirming of such experiences?

~ How do hypersexual aros balance talk of management tactics (celibacy, reducing sexual encounters, etc.) with pushback that a less than welcoming attitude is bringing in sex negativity, or accusations that an ace is trying to take over the conversation?

Hypersexuality doesn’t always manifest as partnered sex, but it’s the most immediate example that I can think of that intersects with common alloaro talking points. Also, I must admit that I’m not 100% sure to what extent flirting and romantic impulsivity are tied to allo-allo expressions of hypersexuality (in which starting a new romantic relationship is tied up together with the sexual impulsivity), or romantic impulsivity is a possible manifestation of hypersexuality that’s not separated out in most resources.

(It’s only been through brief mentions in personal perspectives from others describing their (hypo)mania that I’ve seen some specificity about romantic impulsivity (focusing on flirting), but I’m not aware of any of them being on the aro spectrum. I’m also not sure how separate this may be for others who experience hypersexuality.)

The Baggage of Love

CoA prompt for Dec 2019 – “Love” [Call for Submissions] [tumblr crosspost] [Roundup]. The tumblr post was on 31 Dec 2019 and the link included in the roundup; this post has been scheduled after the roundup to avoid link/pingback confusion.

Family

In terms of feeling (personal experience) and topic (impersonal), there’s an iceberg when approaching familial love (and the lack thereof). I don’t have the spoons for poking at the effects of our parents’ lives on us, divorce, growing up in an essentially single parent house, or the fragility of familial love, usually framed in terms of acceptance, around queer and trans identities. Other people have written about the popularity of the Found Family trope in queer fandom, intergenerational trauma, and all kinds of family stuff, and I am but a simple blogger. I do remember that it was first with my family that I was exposed to the concept of love and saying that I loved them, and when push comes to shove, it’s not uncommon for stories to default to parental love as an important element of a character’s story (‘at least their family will always be there for them’).

Familial love can be fraught with complications of our own parent-child or caretaker-child baggage (if grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. raised us), but I suspect there are some aros who would say that it’s a different flavor of love from what’s talked about in relation to aromanticism. The whole offspring thing is a whole ‘nother can of worms that could be a separate CoA prompt, but I can see child rearing being separate from the alloromantic relationship elevator in a way that isn’t incompatible with being aro, even if co-parenting is usually presented romantically in most media. (At least, off the top of my head, I associate it with ‘becoming a step-parent’ narratives, but that doesn’t mean non-romantic co-parenting isn’t out there.)

Friends

I know I’ve seen it cross my dash about not emphasizing platonic love over romantic love or over emphasizing friends as a means of ‘aros are still human’, but I didn’t save links for an idea of how discussions about prioritizing friendship have been happening. On the one hand, I can understand how uncomfortable and alienating this can be for aplatonic aros, but on the other hand, I spend most of my time in the allo-allo world with people who clearly prioritize romantic love over friendships, so it feels like I don’t actually experience very much prioritization of friendship. I don’t mean that the aro community shouldn’t be cautious of prioritizing platonic love and relationships. It’s more of a personal balancing act, but I’m not quite finding the right words for what I want to say right now.

(Aside: When I think of love that hasn’t been otherwise specified, I think of the middle school banter with some of my friends – something like a minor inconvenience leads to “I hate you” “Aw, I love you, too” – juxtaposed against feeling blindsided in high school that, apparently, I’m misleading others if I say ‘I love you’ to a friend. Unbeknownst to me, I was dating someone for about two or three months in 9th grade because of that. I think of wanting to tell someone that I was proud of them facing one of their fears during the course of that day’s work (“I love you for trying”). I think of reassuring friends that I care about them.)

When I think of just the word ‘love’, I think of an amorphous, unspecific feeling love that seems to reasonably include friendships. Some posts that were probably meant to stay personal/venting posts from aro bloggers use love to mean romance, but sometimes, that feels about as restrictive as allo-allo people assuming I must be dating a friend in order to say love. I may not feel as comfortable saying it out loud anymore, but I still love my friends in a way that’s hard to name or specify any further yet isn’t romantic.

So-Called “Puppy Love”

I feel like I’ve explained this before, but I have memories of crushes that have faded and become hard to translate to present/future perceptions. One of my past rounds of shadow work was specifically aimed at recovering from a crush on a friend ending our friendship, and I’ve always been embarrassed to talk about it, particularly as the final straw that set off one of my depressive episodes in high school. ~ One of those overperforming emos writing sad poetry about an unrequited crush? The emotional dysregulation of experiencing the first major heartbreak and becoming a depressed teen stereotype? ~ It was cringey before calling things cringey was a thing. (Also, please don’t go looking for my middle/high school era DA account where that’s been immortalized.)

In hindsight, I can recognize a whole bunch of comparatively minor crushes were probably more based on aesthetic attraction because they didn’t actually come with the same type of ‘butterflies’ and daydreaming about hypothetical futures. The crushes that were more substantial and had to be accommodated were more likely on friends, and it faired better to just wait out the feelings with no disclosure. I can think of at least one occasion where I was semi-aware that my crush was aesthetically based and I didn’t actually want to date him, but that awareness didn’t come along until undergrad. The last situation I definitely call a crush was in Sophomore year of undergrad and involved a friend, who in the past year found out about it and wasn’t upset or anything. (Shout out to friendship that can survive accidentally revealing that time I had a crush on her because she follows my tumblr.)

The Lightning Incident (as I so creatively refer to it) was this random, out of the blue event in my (I believe) Senior year of undergrad where my brain just kinda blanked, I felt internally giddy, and I just forgot how to speak while a cute girl I didn’t know was talking to me. Like, I just mentally shut down a bit and wandered away from the salad bar in a daze. For sheer experience on my end, I’m including it here, but I’ve still never been sure if it was a crush because my brain forgetting how to talk is incredibly counterproductive to interaction (and hasn’t happened before). I felt incredibly nervous talking to her during future conversations, but it didn’t quite feel the same as what I’ve experienced as a crush before. (I’m also 99% sure she never picked up on any of my internal weird feeling experiences and hasn’t found out since then, so yay me for keeping a lid on that.)

Love is a Four-Letter Word

Originally, I had something about hearing the line attributed to this section from a cartoon villain and the presentation of an inability to love in some form as a shortcut to villain coding planned, but then, in the midst of ‘pre-headache brain static’, I remembered a line from a post, “M is for the lack of madness | Called love that others see” (‘Aromantic’ acrostic poem). For a certain amount of aros, it’s probably just a relatable line, and they don’t necessarily give it much thought. I still haven’t been able to figure out how I feel about equating love to madness. On the one hand, there’s somewhat of a literary tradition, so it’s not exactly a new idea:

“Love is merely a madness and, I tell you, deserves as well a dark house and a whip as madmen do, and the reason why they are not so punished and cured is that the lunacy is so ordinary that the whippers are in love, too” (As You Like It, Act 3 scene 2, No Fear Shakespeare link).

On the other hand, I have complicated feelings around the idea because of my own mental health issues. But if a crush ended a friendship that was important to me in high school, and it was tied up with depression, doesn’t that make it sorta relatable? Maybe for someone else, but I wind up thinking about the ashamed teen who couldn’t explain what was wrong in such a way to be believed and get help because it was ‘just an unrequited crush I would outgrow quickly’, and the isolation of not being able to talk to anyone about a same-gender crush that didn’t help the depression. I may not have had to face homosexuality being listed as a paraphilia, sexual orientation disturbance, or other listing in the DSM, but that didn’t necessarily mean it was a supportive atmosphere to reach out to ‘trusted’ adults.

I don’t have the energy to poke at other relevant details around my mental health right now, but there’s a certain knee jerk reaction to feel uncomfortable with the implication that an element of a romantic, sexual, or otherwise specified orientation may get people called crazy. I know aros are usually trying to joke about alloromantics (punching up, as it were), and no one wants to disclaimer their posts for every little thing. It’s entirely possible I’m overthinking this, and it’s bumping up against other baggage (around gender therapy and not being ‘too mentally ill to be believed’, for example), but I would rather not have ‘love is madness’ be a thing that people try to fold into permanent aro infrastructure. (The use of ‘love’ to mean ‘romantic love’ might also cast too wide a net and people who use ‘love’ non-romantically might think they’re being included.) If someone wants to call me ‘mad’, I’ve got brain shenanigans and symptoms to use as justification instead.

“not gay as in happy, but queer as in i love you”

There’s something about the first half of this post [link] that seems suited for spoken word poetry, and I don’t know how to translate my feelings into a written reply or commentary. However, I want to end with this because it scratches a hopepunk itch, and since I’m wrapping up this post on New Year’s Eve 2019, I feel like I could use a little hope for 2020. Maybe love is a messy concept that’s broad and narrow, felt by everyone and felt by no one (depending on each definition), and carries only as much meaning as you give it. Maybe love has no inherent feeling that’s universal, and it’s all down to action and inaction, like radical kindness. (I don’t know.)

Pre-Therapy Isolation

CoA prompt for Oct 2019 – “Aromanticism and Aloneness” [Call for Submissions] [tumblr crosspost] [Roundup]. The tumblr post was on 30 Oct 2019 and the link included in the roundup; this post has been scheduled after the roundup to avoid link/pingback confusion.

The first draft got unwieldy with a metaphor about dog and cat ownership (including comparing romance repulsion to a dog dander allergy and aplatonicism to a cat dander allergy), and the second draft got a little bogged down by thoughts on offline community spaces (perhaps better salvaged for another prompt).

The third draft (titled Let’s Be Alone Together) unpacked that the focus on living alone in some aro reblog chains brushes up against cultural and familial baggage about the failure to live independently and self-reliantly from one’s family signaling a failure at being a real adult, which means I haven’t really been coming at the discussion objectively in the past.

Fourth time’s the charm.

Therapeutic Context

I have bounced around from draft to draft and tangent to tangent this past month in part because other issues have required a higher priority ranking in the mental queue. Among the various topics brought up with/by my new general practitioner [GP] during this month’s follow-up was counseling intake, which will feature a bunch of questions off a template and hopefully some relevant questions about the diagnosis I’d like to confirm (or figure out my symptoms are actually from X) over a few appointments.

(For non-regular readers, I haven’t had health insurance since undergrad ended in 2016, so there have been a few changes to the identities I tote around. The Counseling and Psychological Services [CPS] offered on-campus did include therapy, but I’m not quite a good fit with Grad students who change every semester and require reintroductions, re-explaining, and ignoring personal details when I just don’t want to bother with an LGBTQIA+ primer. My last therapy visit with CPS that wasn’t a ‘the semester started’ drop-in was in the later part of the spring semester of 2015.)

I did ask to not be paired with someone who’s never had a trans patient before because I’m just not up to walking my therapist through the bare bones of Trans 101, but I won’t really know their familiarity with LGBTQIA+ basics until the first intake appointment in November. It’s possible they might know some identities but not all of them, and I may still need to break out a little 101 even for relatively more established identities (ex. nonbinary). However, the most relevant of my letters collected for this post is the A for aro-spec (specifically quoi/greyro), which is currently the most recent personal identity (2019) and, afaik, the youngest community when it comes to awareness.

Aloneness, Isolation, and Loneliness

On a literal, physical level, the prospect of going to therapy doesn’t really fit with being alone (“having no one else present”) or aloneness (“a disposition toward being alone”). But it edges along a nebulous mixture of talking about being alone, geographic isolation, and possible loneliness or isolation. The bridge connecting this nebulous alone/isolation idea with being aro-spec and facing intake for counseling:

Talking about being alone. It’s going to be a smidge related to context for past events, but it’s like a cloud on the horizon that I’m trying to ignore when it comes to talking about the future and/or future goals. I’m going to have to admit that it’s currently unwise to live on my own to someone’s face, so I don’t want that to be a goal of our sessions. Like, I’m really going to have to admit that my symptoms have gotten bad enough in the past that I would rather plan on having a roommate than risk being a danger to myself again.

The geographic isolation specific to living in a rural area that’s not exactly the intended ‘local’ area for the closest LGBTQIA+ resources and communities, especially if you get a-spec specific. It can range from some resources not being applicable when you live in a different county to inconvenient differences in meetups (it’s great to only have a 5 minute walk to a coffee shop for a casual meetup for the locals, but if I live over an hour’s drive away, I expect something a little more substantial to justify the driving and need enough advanced notice to actually drive there).

It doesn’t really feel like loneliness, but it doesn’t quite seem like a type of isolation, and it’s just this mixed feeling that I’m not going to have a choice but to be a teaching moment because I’m going to be the first aro-spec patient for this therapist. True, I have no way of knowing how many other aros are in this area, but unfortunately, I have no way of knowing if I’m the only aro-spec person around. It feels unbalanced and isolating that I can’t just walk in as an individual, and I now have to be careful as an ambassador of sorts.

Convergence of Mental Illness & Aro-spec Identity

Based on a quick search of Arocalypse, I wouldn’t go so far as to say this is a unique feeling to me, but that greyro pov post included revealing my connection between my mental health and feeling like I’ve become aro-spec. (Link covers why I’d rather not directly link to the post in question, namely personal growth. With a dash of embarrassment.) And yes, I said that I feel like I’ve become aro-spec instead of feeling like it’s been a static identity that I’ve always had.

I think the life events I went through – most strongly noticed after surviving suicidal shit – were the equivalent of the body prioritizing heating the core instead of the extremities in extreme cold. The vital to living parts of me made it through.

My ability to correctly interpret romantic attraction when signaled in media? It’s not impossible, but it’s usually particularly scripted examples. My ability to correctly interpret romantic attraction signaled in other people? I still have a chance at getting that right, but it’s not guaranteed. My ability to correctly interpret romantic attraction when I might be experiencing it? Nope, that didn’t make it through. It’s like a fixed red-blue-purple color array that’s suddenly showing orange. It’s like looking down at your phone one day and realizing everything’s been switched to a language you only know a limited amount of (for me, Spanish). It’s like trying to wrap your head around imaginary numbers after you thought you were keeping up in Algebra II.

At this point, romantic attraction is a rather distant memory and feels like it happened to a different person. I’ve made peace with not knowing if I’m orange or red-orange, and I could stumble through figuring out more words in Spanish, but I don’t think proper management of my symptoms will “restore” what’s been lost. No amount of talk therapy is going to unlock those memories, and the right medication isn’t going to lift the fog of confusion. Maybe red-orange is close enough to red to count (non-normative romance factoring into maybe, sometimes experiencing something close to romantic attraction a la greyro), but I don’t want to pretend I know what i means.

Disclosure

I don’t want a therapist to get sidetracked by “fixing” me because I’m alright chilling out here on the aro spectrum. Maybe I’ll be able to live on my own at some point, or maybe I’ll have a roommate. Maybe the stars will align and I’ll find someone who’s alright with me being red-orange and mostly confused as long as we figure out each other’s love language(s), so to speak. Maybe I’ll have a collection of friends, but I won’t ever really partner with someone. I’m not sure. Those questions are too complicated and too far off into the future for me to answer when I’ve got to douse the embers my brain decided to light in its resident dumpster before they grow into a full fledged fire.

However, based on my experience with CPS, I need to be prepared for questions about my relationship status. Their intake process included screening for domestic violence, if my memory serves me right (single = skip that section), but I also remember a soft inquiry into who might be involved in my support network where it was relevant to establish that I had friends but no romantic partners to warrant referring to my significant other. Just based on the preliminary paperwork that’s a copy of what I had to fill out for GP, there’s a section for choosing from their offered gender and sexuality options [includes Other and lines to write in responses].

I didn’t really feel like getting into a ton of detail with GP, but it feels different when it comes to counseling and eventually a psychiatrist consult. If I’m going to compile a bullet point list of my identities, offer brief explanations, and point towards aro resources, I’d rather get that all out of the way in the beginning. Once it’s all on the table, I don’t have to dance around topics or play the rephrasing game where I avoid coming out part way through an answer. Maybe me offering up AUREA can make it a little easier for the next patient who’s aro.

Maybe I don’t want to ignore or downplay my connection to an online aro community, as tenuous as it may be at times, because I feel a little less alone. I don’t have to frame changes in romantic orientation as being broken. I have an alternative narrative for being the heartless monster who’s a bit too cold and less than human. I don’t have to take the negative impression that an inability to romantically love someone (or an unclear answer) means that any sexual attraction, desire, or activities amount to manipulative ‘using’ as truth. (The social connection to a community can be used to whack a self-isolating brain.)

Ultimately, prepare for disclosure, so I don’t feel caught off guard or forget differences in how resources define a word and how I relate to it. I can play it by ear during the intake process, and if I don’t actually want to disclose to the therapist, I don’t have to.