In light of American Apparel’s horrendous Pride range, in which they claimed the A of LGBTQA stands for ally (
also, they seem very concerned with gay and lesbian people and not very bothered about other queer people – there’s more than just the homosexual pride flag), and the absolute shite I have to read about how aro or ace people are “basically straight” and “don’t belong” in the LGBT+ community (see the bolded plus), I decided to write this post. It’s born out of pure frustration and anger, especially when it’s the queer community itself trying to force other queer people out.
I’ll preface this with an explanation of asexuality and aromanticism for those who don’t understand.
If you take sexual attraction for example, and compare it to hunger, you can see how it works for an asexual person.
Asexual people in this example don’t feel hungry. They just don’t get it. Sometimes they won’t even understand how you could be hungry. They might eat for a variety of reasons, like boredom, curiosity, for their partner, or because they like it, but not because they’re trying to satisfy their hunger.
For demisexual people, it’s like they won’t feel hungry until they’ve really gotten to know the chef. It just takes them longer to be hungry.
Greysexual people might feel hungry, or they might not. Hunger to them can be occasional, or very rare, or only with certain people. They find it hard to define (hence the grey – it’s like a grey area).
Could you imagine growing up without hunger, thinking “oh maybe I will when I’m older”, or “maybe if I meet the right person”, but never getting hungry? Imagine how difficult and isolating that is. Imagine how alienated you would feel, how broken and abnormal, how you might try to fake it because of course “everybody gets hungry”.
That is why asexual people belong in the LGBT+ community.
It’s much the same for aromantic people.
The continued erasure of both asexuals and aromantics only serves to prove that we need to be in the LGBT+ community. “Straight” means heterosexual heteromantic people. Saying that asexual people who are heteromantic, or aromantic people who are heterosexual, are straight is exclusionary and wrong. I know that until fairly recently straight meant heterosexual, gay meant homosexual, bi meant bisexual, but now (some!) people are finally beginning to realise the romantic spectrum plays an important part in a person’s orientation. You can be gay and asexual. You can be bisexual and aromantic. If you’re straight you are both heteromantic and heterosexual; however if you are on the asexual and/or aromantic spectrums you cannot by the very definitions be straight.
It’s always seen as laughable when someone reaches adulthood without having had sex. This harmful attitude often leads to “corrective” rape or asexuals stifling their sexuality in a bid to be “normal”. The film The 40-Year Old Virgin is billed as a comedy, because it is sooooo funny, being a virgin past the “acceptable” age.
There are countless films and books centred around losing your virginity, usually “coming-of-age” narratives, because naturally humans only exist to have sex and you can only be considered a True Adult™ once you have actually had sex. There are probably about the same number of films based on not believing in love. Not wanting a romantic relationship is an abhorrent idea, did you know? Now think about how doubly difficult it is for aroaces – aromantic asexuals. If you’re not interested in sex, or you don’t want romantic relationships, there must be something wrong with you. If you don’t want either, well, then you must be a horrific anomaly that needs immediate resolving.
Playing It Cool is one such “romantic” film. It’s alright (mostly because of the cast), but I couldn’t help hoping that the character of Me would be revealed to be aromantic. The “I don’t do relationships” character in films and books always, always changes their mind once they meet some superior love interest. Bonus points if one or both is a manic pixie dream character. Needless to say (but I’m going to say it anyway so hopefully people get it into their heads) this is damaging. Not only to aromantic people, who are so often misrepresented, but to society, who learn to associate a lack of romantic feeling with negative character traits or with someone who needs the perfect person to “save” them from their anomalous state. The same goes for asexuals, who are taught they must have sex because everyone “has” to, or be ridiculed and caricatured for the rest of their life.
Asexuality is always attributed to robotic, cold people (frequently aliens, sociopaths and actual robots) or pure, innocent children. Aromantics are always connected to heartlessness, or believed to be clinical adulterers and philanderers. If you don’t experience romantic attraction you’re often painted as a dispassionate, unfeeling, relationship-jumper who just needs the right person to be “fixed”.It dehumanises and infantilises people by enforcing the idea that love and sex are human qualities and that by not engaging with them (even when it is something you cannot help) you are going against nature. How many years has it been since people starting spouting all that rubbish about how being gay is a choice? Do we really have to go through all that again with asexuals and aromantics?
Asexuality and aromanticism have been around for hundreds of years. You can’t just ignore them or try to erase them to drive your homosexual-centric narrative. Asexuals and aromantics are not straight at all. Ace/aros and demisexuals/demiromantics etc. aren’t straight even if they are in a relationship with someone of the “oppposite gender” – I use that term loosely – because they are not heterosexual AND heteromantic. It’s really not a difficult concept.
The A is not for ally.