February’s theme for Carnival of Aces is “cross-community connections.” I wasn’t planning on writing a contribution for it, but now I’m inspired to write a very informal and largely personal post that happens to qualify.
I’m an asexual who is committed to lifelong celibacy, despite having an active libido and (as far as I know) next to no sex-repulsion. I don’t understand or empathize with asexuals who have sex they don’t want to have, who think that they should be willing to get fucked for romance and love, who buy into sexual society’s message that wanting/having/and liking sex is the only way to be normal and liberated. I’m of the opinion that if you’re at all uncomfortable with sex, even if you aren’t repulsed, you shouldn’t do it. I think there should be far more sexual people going celibate in mixed romantic relationships with aces than there are. I think there should be far more aces who challenge sexual people they date to become celibate, instead of folding to the expectation that it’s the ace who’ll be making the sexual sacrifices without question. I think there oughta be more romantic aces who choose to stay single until they meet someone willing to have a nonsexual romantic relationship than there are and an active, community-wide interrogation of the idea that romantic relationships are the end goal into which aces should be pouring all of their social energy into.
I’m aromantic. I’m romance-repulsed. But I also want long-term, domestic friends I can have committed, intentional relationships with—friends who don’t date other people because they too are perma-single aromantics. I’m an aro who wants a lot of sensual, affectionate, physical intimacy in my close friendships: someone who loves to cuddle, who would like to kiss my passionate friends sometimes, who likes skin to skin contact and hugs and general physical closeness with people I’m emotionally attached to. I’m an aro who is capable of very deep, intense love and emotion, however rarely it happens.
I refuse to date romantic people in order to access love, intimacy, affection, attention, and value. I don’t see anything appealing about romantic relationships at all. Romance and people whose lives revolve around it are irritating at best. At their worst, they make me want to buy an island in the Caribbean and live there alone. It doesn’t matter if they’re sexual or asexual. It doesn’t matter if they’re monogamous or poly. It doesn’t matter if they’re fucking or not. Romance supremacy is romance supremacy, and nothing is more repellant to me. I don’t feel the need to play nice with romantics, whether in ace spaces or the world at large; I’m not going to tip toe around them to keep them comfortable in their assumption that they’re the normal ones and their way of organizing and creating relationships is the default because it’s natural or objectively the best. I’m never going to let them rest easy in their shitty friendship practices or their narrow-minded worldview concerning the nature of human relationships, behavior, and feelings.
I’ve seen romantic aces demonstrate romance supremacy in their words and actions, in education and visibility efforts as well as in online ace spaces. I’ve seen them express beliefs and feelings about romantic relationships as compared to friendship that are no different than what I typically expect of romantic-sexual people. Aromantics may make up one quarter of the asexual community—a pretty damn high number—but we’re still ignored, dismissed, misunderstood, and disrespected. In the end, it doesn’t matter what your sexual orientation is, when it comes to being an asshole in the name of romance. And even putting the assholery aside, there just doesn’t seem to be much about romantic aces that I can relate to. I’m years past figuring out the complexities of sexuality and making peace with my own asexuality, so all the basic level shit that new asexuals often talk about isn’t personally relevant to me. And all the noise romantic aces make about dating, living in dysfunctional or challenging romantic relationships, breaking up with romantic partners over sex, longing for their dream romance isn’t just irrelevant to me, it’s annoying. As annoying as it would be coming from sexual people.
Even politically speaking, I’m at odds with most of the asexual community once we get past the message that asexuality exists. For a long time, I’ve observed in the asexual visibility movement a certain degree of wanting sexual society to validate us, wanting to be accepted as “normal,” wanting to assimilate into their world without changing it much. I realize that once romantic aces get basic education about what asexuality means out of the way, their goals amount to finding romantic relationships that work for them, often with sexual people. They use romance as a way to normalize themselves in the eyes of sexual people, just as some try to win acceptance by reassuring sexual people that aces can still fuck (for “love”). I’ve got absolutely no stake in any of that shit, nor am I on board with the messages themselves.
I’m a relationship anarchist who doesn’t fuck or do romance. If polyamory is a lifestyle on the margins of American society, relationship anarchy is in the margins of polyamory—especially my nonsexual, nonromantic relationship anarchy. I’m happy to report that some polyamorous romantic-sexual people acknowledge the validity of nonsexual love and include nonsexual relationships in their own polycules. Some romantic asexuals are poly, and some aromantics (sexual and ace) are poly. But it seems that most poly people are very sex-centric. Furthermore, my relationship anarchy is a far cry from polyamorous romantic-sexual couples in open marriages who often practice a kind of hierarchical poly and categorize their romantic relationships vs. friendships just as normatively as monogamists do. Romance and sex are still the king and queen of most poly people’s lives, and nonromantic/nonsexual friendship is still an afterthought.
I’m a butch, but not a lesbian. I’m also a genderqueer nonbinary person who’s trying to sort out my complicated feelings about my chest while deconstructing any internalized femmephobia I may have. I’ve recently started to think about the fact that I, like so many others, have been attempting to break out of the gender binary while continuing to observe its rules. I want to be read and respected as masculine, as butch, as nonbinary, but I don’t think I want to have to bind my chest or make all feminine markers off-limits on my body. I don’t want to buy into the farce of masculinity as the neutral default. I don’t want that to be my androgyny, but I don’t know if any other androgyny can exist in the world at large where the gender binary is everywhere. Mostly, I’ve decided that this conundrum is less about my gender identity and more about learning how to let go of the desire for other people’s validation. Good to know that’s still something I have to work on.
Whether or not asexuals and aromantics belong in the LGBTQ community for their asexuality and aromanticism (not their corresponding romantic and sexual orientations) is a question that people still debate and fight over. I’ve long felt like asexuals specifically don’t need to latch on to an LGBTQ community that is sexual at its core, made of people who aren’t much different than heterosexuals in this regard. I acknowledge that there are homo-, bi-, and panromantic asexuals, many of whom will date LGBTQ sexual people and even fuck those people or marry them. But the way I see it, asexuals as a group have very different needs, experiences, and goals than queer sexual people do as a group. I acknowledge that there are aromantic queer sexual people, but how welcome they are in the LGBTQ community that is dominated by romantics remains to be seen on a grand scale.
I was around to witness the firestorm of anti-asexual hate explode out of the LGBTQ community online during its first wave, and I guess that encouraged and solidified my own aversion to unifying the asexual community with the LGBTQ community. I know that there are plenty of LGBTQ sexual people who welcome asexuals and aromantics into their own lives, personal communities, and spaces as fellow queers, and that’s cool of them. But I’m still not sold on the idea of lumping aces and aros in with the LGBTQ romantic-sexual people of the world. When sex and marriage are increasingly centralized in the mainstream LGBTQ/Gay Inc. political movement and in the lives of the more privileged (read: white, cis, middle and upper class) romantic-sexual queers, it’s hard for me to see what the average asexual or aromantic person has to gain from inclusion in that movement and the queer community itself.
Furthermore, I’m never going to allow anyone to forget that LGBTQ sexual people, the same as their heterosexual counterparts, are the abusers and rapists of asexuals who try to connect with them romantically. They are also fueling the engine of amatonormativity in our culture, drinking the Kool-Aid of romance fantasy no less than straight people and abandoning the truly queer family configurations and lifestyles that used to be all LGBTQ people had as a source of love and support, before they had the option to get on the straight path to the nuclear family. They can herald the empowerment and liberation to be found in fucking freely as queer people (disguising compulsory sexuality as sex positivity), then in the same breath turn around and slut shame aromantic queers who don’t want to date them, marry them, or fall in line with the homonormative image of the monogamous, romantic same-sex married couple that puts straight people at ease.
On a personal level, I’m in a strange position because the world and even my own queer friends usually look at me and see someone queer. My gender makes me queer, my relationship style makes me queer, my sexuality makes me queer, my politics and beliefs make me queer. It’s not even so much a conclusion they reach after running an in-depth analysis. It’s more instinctual: even if strangers can never guess that I’m an aromantic asexual genderqueer person, they can often tell I’m not heterosexual. There’s something very not-straight about me, even just visually. I think that they usually just mistake me for gay; after all, most people only know about straight and gay as categories, forgetting about other queer sexualities, being ignorant of asexuality and aromanticism and gender identities other than cismale and cisfemale.
But I don’t feel queer. I don’t see myself as queer. Not really. Queerness seems to be all about sex and romance, about desires and dramas that I will never experience, about lifestyles that don’t include people like me and relationships like the ones I want. In my eyes, the world is divided into people who center romance and people who center friendship, and most queer sexual people, being romantic, fall into the first group no less and no differently than the vast majority of heterosexuals. Friendship doesn’t factor into heterosexuality or homosexuality, into being straight or being queer. Even friendship that goes far beyond what it’s supposed to be relative to romance. Even friendship that is physically intimate and emotionally passionate.
In terms of my queer qualifications, it doesn’t matter who I love, who I live with, who I make commitments with. It doesn’t matter if I kiss, cuddle, and caress people I love, and it doesn’t matter who those people are or what their genders are. It doesn’t matter that I reject monogamy, marriage, and the nuclear family. It doesn’t even really matter that I’m a nonbinary butch that can confuse strangers regarding what my gender is. If I’m not fucking and falling in love, if I’m not claiming the labels “gay” or “lesbian” or “bisexual,” if I’m not taking steps to change my body into one less gendered or at the very least doing everything I can to hide my assigned sex, I’m not queer enough to be queer.
And beyond the fact that I don’t need or want partnered sex to be part of my life, I also don’t have much in common with other asexuals, 75% of whom are romantic. In fact, I feel closer to aromantic sexual people than I do to romantic aces, even the aro sexual people who need to be sexually active pretty much all the time. It’s funny: I don’t relate to most asexuals who spend most of their time in ace spaces moaning about romance and how hard it is to date when you don’t like sex, and I also can’t personally relate to aromantic sexual people when it comes to the particular difficulties of having a sex life while avoiding romantic relationships. Fortunately, aromantics seem to share a lot of common feelings about friendship as the most important and appealing thing in life, regardless of sexual orientation, but the fact is, in aro spaces, there is a certain division between aces and sexual people. In many ways, it’s easier to be aro and ace, than it is to be aromantic and sexual. There are struggles that sexual aros live with that I will never have to deal with. And there are some sexual aros who would still like to center sexual relationships, even if nonromantic, in their lives rather than nonsexual friendship. It’s easier for me to feel connection with aros generally, including aro sexual people, than it is with romantic aces….. But ultimately, it’s only other aromantic asexuals who I fully belong with. And even there, it’s the aro aces who aren’t dating, who embrace their aromanticism, who want queerplatonic friendships and won’t bother trying to masquerade as romantic.
I’m the asexual in a world full of sexual people, and I will not fuck you. I’m the aromantic in a world full of romantics, and I will die before submitting to normative romantic relationships as a way to access love and priority. I’m the genderqueer person who doesn’t fall into the male-female binary, the butch with big tits who occasionally wears nail polish or leggings or eyeliner. I’m the relationship anarchist who centers friendship in my life.
I’m an outlier, any way you slice it. And to some degree, it’s the intersection of all these different identities—asexual, aromantic, genderqueer, butch, relationship anarchist—that places me in the margins of each individual community. It’s easy for me to see the fractures in these communities, easy for me to recognize that there isn’t any cohesion or unity across the board, that there’s more internal rifts than anyone wants to own up to. I do feel a sense of kinship with people who are LGBTQ and people who are asexual and people who are polyamorous. But ultimately, the community I want for myself is a community of permanently single aromantics whose lifestyles and value system reflect the same prioritization of friendship that I feel. Their sexual orientations and gender identities don’t matter much to me, in comparison to their singleness and their aromanticism.
I feel like an ally, a supporter, of all these different groups of people that I share certain traits with. But I don’t feel a sense of complete belonging with any group, except the aromantic asexuals who are like me.