LGBTQIA+ history month: You might be on the aromantic spectrum if…
February is LGBTQIA+ history month. At DIH we decided to publish 8 articles in this period that cover all the identities in this acronym – lesbians, gays, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual/aromantic persons and other identities under +. The articles do not necessarily talk about history, they are just a short insight into some interesting facts, persons or otherwise connected to the specific sexual orientation or gender identity.
Aromanticism can be really hard to figure out, especially since we’re often not sure what “romantic attraction” is supposed to be. Namely, people who experience romantic attraction find it difficult to describe, because they “just feel” it, and people who don’t experience it, well.. don’t experience it.
The basic of thinking in this direction is differentiating romantic and sexual orientation. Sexual orientation describes who we are sexually attracted to, and romantic orientation describes who we are romantically attracted to, or in other words, with whom we fall in love. This is easiest to understand for those of us whose romantic and sexual orientation are not the same, for example:
- Vita is homoromantic and bisexual. She can be sexually attracted to people of more than one gender, but falls in love only with people of her own gender.
- Jan is asexual and heteroromantic. He doesn’t feel sexually attracted to anyone, and falls in love only with people of another gender.
- Saša is aromantic and pansexual. They can be sexually attracted to people regardless of their gender, and doesn’t fall in love with anyone.
Of course, there are many more combinations.
The absence of romantic feelings in relationships is heavily stigmatized. From early on, we are taught that seeking and finding a romantic relationship will be basically our main goal in life. We should want to do everything with this person, the relationship should be monogamous and preferably heterosexual, and definitely a priority above all other connections we have. This norm is called amatonormativity. Besides excluding all people on the aromantic spectrum, amatonormativity puts harmful norms on all other people, relationships, friendships and other connections as well. More about amatonormativity here, here and here.
Because of amatonormativity, it is difficult to discover whether your romantic orientation is on the aromantic spectrum, as the experience of romantic love is supposedly natural and central to all. Based on this blog post, here are some “signs” that many people on the aromantic spectrum relate to, and might mean something to you.
- When you discovered the word “aromantic,” it felt like something finally clicked into place for you.
- Identifying as aromantic makes you feel relieved, free, happy, or more like yourself.
- You have trouble telling the difference between romantic and friendly feelings.
- You’ve never had a crush on someone, or fallen in love, or you’re not sure if you’ve ever had a crush on someone or fallen in love.
- You have doubted whether crushes or love really exist, or if they’re just cultural constructs.
- You find romance boring, annoying or upsetting when it appears in fiction, even if it’s written well.
- You once thought that having a crush on someone meant you admired them or really wanted to be their friend.
- You thought crushes were something you consciously decided to have, and selected an acquaintance or celebrity to be your crush, because everyone else was doing it. Then you forgot which acquaintance or celebrity you were supposed to have a crush on.
- If you’re not asexual, a “friends with benefits” relationship sounds ideal to you.
- You have trouble relating, or feeling involved, when your friends discuss their romantic relationships or romantic feelings.
- Falling in love doesn’t seem very exciting to you.
- You don’t understand why people do ridiculous, irrational or over-the-top things in the name of love.
- You don’t understand why finding someone sexually/aesthetically attractive would lead you to want a committed relationship with them.
- Or, maybe you sort of understand those things in an abstract way, but you can’t really relate to them.
- When a romantic relationship gets serious, it makes you feel cold, distant or uncomfortable.
- Getting a romantic partner feels more like fulfilling an obligation, or something you’re supposed to do, than something you’re really enthusiastic about.
- Your romantic partners always seem to be way more into the lovey-dovey stuff than you are.
- A likable person suggests having a romantic relationship with you, and you’re indifferent to it – you’re open to trying it, but you won’t get disappointed without it. Other people may find your indifference bizarre or think you’re giving off mixed messages.
- You have felt guilty about not loving your romantic partner as much as they loved you, even though you sincerely cared about them and wanted to love them back.
- You have felt suffocated, repressed or tense in a romantic relationship, even though you really liked your partner and they hadn’t done anything wrong.
- When your last romantic relationship ended, you felt relieved and free more than you felt sad, even if your partner broke it off, and even if you liked them very much as a person.
- You’re more excited by making a new best friend than by falling in love.
- You wouldn’t mind marrying your best friend and spending your life with them, even though you’re not in love with them.
- You’d rather spend Friday night with your friends than going out on a date.
- You want a best friend much more than you want a romantic relationship.
- You are either oblivious to other people flirting with you, or feel uncomfortable or threatened by it.
- You are sometimes perceived as flirtatious when you only meant to be friendly.
- You recognize whether something is romantic or not by comparing it to other gestures, words and signals that your culture has taught you are romantic, rather than “feeling” the romance of it intuitively.
- When you say or do romantic things, it feels like you’re following a script or copying romantic things you’ve seen elsewhere, rather than something spontaneous and natural to you.
- When thinking about what sort of person you’d want to date, your criteria are identical to what you would want from a best friend.
- You have trouble imagining romantic activities that you would enjoy, unless those activities are also fun or interesting for you on a platonic or intellectual level.
- You feel like your closest friends and/or queerplatonic partners are better at fulfilling your emotional needs than romantic partners would be.
- You would rather be huggy, cuddly or emotionally intimate with all of your friends instead of reserving your intimacy for just one person.
- You avoid going places where people are likely to flirt with you, such as bars, parties, nightclubs, and concerts.
- You’re not sure why other people enjoy romantic stories; you usually just find the lead characters to be annoying, boring or dysfunctional.
- You like the idea of having a big wedding celebration more than the idea of actually marrying someone.
Discovering and identifying your sexual and romantic orientation is a personal process and impossible to “prove”. These are just generalizations. They won’t apply to every aromantic-spectrum person; and some non-aromantic people will have some of these things, too. Having any of the experiences listed above is not proof that you’re aromantic, nor are you any less aromantic if few of them apply to you. But if you’ve been trying to figure out your romantic orientation, and a lot of these sound really familiar to you…then it may mean something.
For many aromantic people, the discovery of the concept of aromanticism was the first way our feelings and ways of experiencing and expressing love were described in a way without the undertone of something being very wrong with that. For the first time we are able to talk about romantic orientation, that is real and valid, instead of saying we are heartless, cold, superficial or indifferent towards other people.
Inside the LGBTQIA+ activism there is an often accent on people of all sexual orientations being able to experience romantic attraction in the same way heterosexual people do (“love is love”, “same love, same rights”…), which is true for the majority of the LGBTQIA+ community and stressing this has been an important step towards achieving more rights and respect. Having said that, it’s a fact that this excludes aromantic people, who are invisible, often forgotten and many times there are doubts (from alloromantic people) whether aromantic spectrum people even belong in the LGBTQIA+ community. We need better allyship.
Read up about amatonormativity and how it affects out lives. Opening up the discussion about the absence of romantic attraction offers a lot of possibilities to reassess and think critically about things we believe about love and romance – about monogamy, valuing friendships, the institution of marriage and couple privilege, (queer)platonic relationships and much, much more.
This article couldn’t possibly cover everything there is to cover. We invite you to read and explore more about the aromantic spectrum and amatonormativity; besides those linked in the text above, here are more sources.
- aromantic: wikia
- 7 facts you should know about aromantic people
- helpful sources for coming out
- Amatonormativity: The One True Love Complex
- 5 myths people believe about aromanticism that just aren’t true