“Asexual” is not an umbrella term.
“Aromantic” is not an umbrella term.
“Ace” is not an umbrella term.
“Aro” is not an umbrella term.
A demisexual is not an asexual. A gray-asexual is not an asexual.
A demiromantic is not an aromantic. A gray-romantic is not an aromantic.
“Ace” is short for “asexual,” not for demisexual or gray-asexual.
“Aro” is short for “aromantic,” not for demiromantic or gray-romantic.
If you are not asexual, you have no right to call yourself by the terms “asexual” or “ace.”
If you are not aromantic, you have no right to call to yourself by the terms “aromantic” or “aro.”
It’s apparently popular online, particularly on that blue hellscape called Tumblr, for demis and grays to go around calling themselves “ace” or “aro,” and sometimes even “asexual” or “aromantic,” and defend this usage with the bullshit argument that “asexuality and aromanticism are spectrums and I’m on the spectrum and ace/aro are shorthand for the whole spectrum, so I can call myself ace or aro even though I’m not!”
I have no idea when this got started, but it needs to stop. It’s bad enough that we can’t even fucking agree on a definition of asexuality or aromanticism, as a collective group of aces and aros, and now we have to put up with demis and grays falsely identifying themselves as ace and aro?
There is not a single good defense for this. Not one. If demis and grays want to try telling me with a straight face that calling themselves asexual or aromantic is “more convenient” for them, all I have to say is that my identity is not here for your convenience. And the problems you create for me and other asexuals and aromantics by using our identities falsely are never, ever an acceptable price for us to pay–us, not you–for the sake of your convenience.
And here’s the other thing that nobody seems to want to acknowledge: if you’re demi or gray, you have another orientation, the one that actually describes who you’re attracted to. You’re straight or gay or bi. Which is why it’s fucking outrageous that you would go around calling yourself asexual or aromantic, because we–the real asexuals and aromantics–are not straight or gay or bi, sexually or romantically, and those of us who are both asexual and aromantic are completely and utterly devoid of the attraction you do experience. Which is the fucking point of the asexual and aromantic identities.
If you don’t want to publicly identify yourself as demi- or gray-, guess what? You can identify as straight or gay or bi, because that’s what you are. And the only people that need to know the details of your sexual or romantic attraction patterns, are the people you actually get involved with sexually or romantically.
And I know you’re going to whine and cry about how you don’t want the world to think you’re alloromantic or allosexual if you’re not and you also don’t want to just tell the truth about being demi or gray because people might make fun of you or blow you off or whatever. But that is not my problem, as an aromantic asexual who already needs to defend the validity of my orientation to allo* people who are predisposed to believe that all human beings want sex and romance at some point in life. If you’re demi- or gray- and you don’t want to actually have sex or date anyone, you can say “No” to people who come onto you. You don’t have to defend the “no” by coming out as demi- or gray-, and you sure as hell don’t get to falsely call yourself ace or aro instead. My identities are not “get out of sex and romance free” cards. And unless you live under a rock, you should know that allo* people do in fact turn down sex and romance when they’re not interested and expect to have that choice respected, despite not being demi- or gray- or ace/aro.
Demis and grays appropriating the asexual and aromantic identities has the same effect as people constantly reminding the world that asexuals can still have sex or that aromantics can still date: it gives allo* people the impression that they can, in fact, get what they want out of us. But the overwhelming majority of asexuals–actual asexual people who never experience sexual attraction or an involuntary desire for partnered sex–do NOT want to fuck anyone, in any context, and the overwhelming majority of aromantics–actual aromantic people who never experience romantic attraction or an innate need for romantic relationships–do NOT want to be romantically coupled and will not be comfortable if they are. And all of you demis and grays who don’t want to admit that you’re demi or gray, to others or to yourselves, make it that much harder for aces and aros to establish their natural boundaries and stand firm in them.
A demi or gray pretending to be ace or aro in between attractions or sex or romantic relationships, who then explains the attraction or sex or romance when it happens by saying that “Some aces can want sex and some aros can feel romantic feelings!” is being fucking duplicitous and disrespectful to asexuals and aromantics, not to mention incredibly inconsiderate. You are not ace, you are not aro, you are demi- or gray-, and that’s fine. If you got hangups about being demi or gray, that’s on you to work out; it is not on aces or aros to give up our identities for you to use. Especially when you are, in fact, straight or gay or bi, and your demi or gray identity describes how you experience attraction, not who you experience it toward.
I’ve heard about bisexuals calling themselves “gay” as if “gay” is an umbrella term too, and actual gay men and lesbians have made it clear several times that this is fucked up and unacceptable. “Gay” is not an umbrella term. If you are an aromantic asexual, like me, do NOT call yourself gay. If you’re a biromantic ace, you don’t get to call yourself gay. A bisexual is not a homosexual. “Gay” and “lesbian” are words denoting homosexuality. Bisexuals, biromantics, aromantic asexuals, and obviously straight people have no right whatsoever to use those identity terms. Period. If bisexuals and biromantics take issue with their own erasure in society, they can fight it by not pretending to be or calling themselves “gay.” Bi people calling themselves gay is harmful to real gay people, and that should be more than enough of a reason for you to not do it.
Maybe all this umbrella term bullshit comes from the word “queer,” which is used as an umbrella term and which is conceptualized by a lot of young people as a category that includes anyone who experiences same-sex attraction and/or who is trans. I don’t know and I don’t care. But gay, lesbian, ace, and aro are not umbrella terms. They have never been umbrella terms, and they never will be as far as actual gay, lesbian, asexual, and aromantic people are concerned.
I don’t give a single fuck what bisexuals, demis, or grays have to say about this. It is not their place to decide. They do not get to talk over gay men, lesbians, asexuals, and aromantics. Our identities belong to us. If we tell you that we’ve got a problem with you falsely labeling yourself using our identities, you need to listen.
While we’re here, let me tell you how I define asexuality and aromanticism, so that you know how those terms and their derivatives are being used on this blog.
Asexual – someone who does not experience sexual attraction or an involuntary desire for partnered sex (which cannot be satisfied with masturbation)
Aromantic – someone who does not experience romantic attraction or an innate need for romantic relationships that cannot be satisfied by any other kind of relationship
Someone who fits these definitions but who has a sex drive or masturbates or has participated in sex for an external reason or who has dated for non-romantic reasons is still asexual or aromantic. What makes someone ace or aro is a complete lack of attraction to others and a lack of internal, involuntary need for sex or romance, a need which is independent of other people’s desires or expectations. Basically, being asexual or aromantic means that you don’t have the desires or the feelings that an allosexual or alloromantic person has–which should be pretty fucking obvious, but there are enough aces, gray-aces, and demisexuals, aros, gray-ros, and demiromantics who think that the definitions of “asexuality” and “aromanticism” should be as vague and broad as possible, to the point of meaninglessness. And considering most of them fail to articulate what “sexual attraction” and “romantic attraction” are and refuse to take anything that allos* say about the matter into account, this attitude is a logical result.
Anyone who experiences attraction but not a need for partnered sex is gray. Anyone who experiences desire for partnered sex but not attraction is gray. Anyone who experiences attraction but not a need for romantic relationships (or who is repulsed by romantic relationships) is gray. Anyone who experiences desire for romantic relationships but not attraction is gray. The gray category covers a lot of different experiences, as I’m sure the allo- category covers a lot of different experiences. There is nothing wrong with being gray, and being gray is not less valid or real than being ace or aro.
I’m not going to waste my time trying to convince the online ace, aro, gray, and demi populations to adopt my definitions. You want to define these terms some other way, be my guest. But this is my understanding of asexuality and aromanticism, these are the definitions I use on this blog, and these are the definitions by which I understand whether other people are really asexual or aromantic. Sometimes, I’m of a mind to coin new terms that specifically apply to people who are asexual and aromantic, based on my definitions, because I’m fucking tired of seeing people who experience either attraction or desire insisting that they are ace or aro, on the grounds that words don’t have to mean anything or convey any useful or specific information or that words mean whatever the fuck anyone anywhere at anytime wants them to mean, nothing is real, PoMo bullshit blah blah blah. If I do think of some good alternative labels, I’ll post them. I, for one, want to be able to call myself something that clearly communicates to other human beings what I am, and I want to be able to find others like me as easily as possible. I should not have to specify that I don’t want to fuck or date every time I come out as aromantic asexual, and I should not have to wonder whether someone I meet who calls themselves aro or ace is in fact someone who never experiences attraction or desire for partnered sex/romance. So new terms may be in order.