This overdue entry was going to be for the October 2015 Carnival of Aces: Aromanticism and the Aromantic spectrum.
Aromanticism as a concept was identified early on in the asexual community’s history, but not always under that name. Looking back at the early parts of the asexual community’s history, romantic attraction or the lack of, is described as one of the dimensions of the ABCD Types model, but the lack of romantic attraction wasn’t always named.
Many terms have also come and gone in popularity. Before aromanticism was named, asexuals who experienced romantic attracted identified as either straight/gay/bi asexual, or hetero/homo/bi-asexual. This AVEN poll from 2003 about romantic orientation, refers to the romantic orientations by these older terms that have now fallen out of favor, and aromantics were called “asexual asexuals”.
Some AVEN threads from 2004 are the first I’ve seen mention aromanticism under that name, and define it as the lack of romantic attraction. This thread from November 2004 described “romantic orientation” (“affectional orientation” was also used early on), and mentioning that asexuals whom don’t experience romantic attraction should be called “aromantic”.
The National Coalition for Aromantic Visibility (NCAV) states:
“Before the NCAV, the only information on aromanticism widely available was provided by AVEN, the Asexual Visibility and Eduction Network, and as such, applied to only a portion of the world’s aromantics.
We threw this place together in hopes of providing a previously unavailable resource to everyone on the aro spectrum…” (NCAV home page)
This points to the possibility that aromanticism was first identified as a concept in the asexual community, but I feel like I can’t say for 100% certain. With as many parallels that the asexual and aromantic communities have, I’ve wondered if there are aromantic sites that are at least as old as AVEN, even though they might not have used the term aromantic? Surely there must have been at least some sites about and for people who felt alone in a world where romance was expected of everyone? I tried to find any, but I wasn’t successful. I don’t know if there just aren’t any aromantic sites that old, or if I just wasn’t searching for them the right way.
It seemed for a long time that aromanticism was something limited to asexuals. If there’s a turning point for when the aromantic community started to be recognized as its own, and start to branch off from the asexual community, it was in 2010 with NCAV’s launch, which was created to support aromantic asexuals and non-asexuals.
Interest in an aromantic sub-board on AVEN was sparked in 2011, shortly after the approval of a gray-asexual and demisexual sub-board. One of the reasons for interest in it was to find aromantic non-asexuals, since they are under-represented. Another popular reason was of aromantics feeling marginalized on AVEN, or in asexual spaces in general, since it seemed like there was too much emphasis on asexuals wanting to seek out relationships that aromantics felt erased.
There were several threads about an aromantic sub-board in 2012, making it a popular idea, but ultimately it was rejected, and its rejection was controversial. This controversy also spilled into tumblr, and it was one of the first things I found out about the asexual and aromantic communities. There was talk about there being an unwritten rule in most asexual spaces that a “good asexual” desires romance. These were primarily aromantic asexuals frustrated over feeling marginalized. I thought it was a problem that anyone is feeling marginalized within asexual spaces, but I didn’t partake in that discussion, because I didn’t know if I experienced romantic attraction or not, and didn’t strongly identify with any romantic orientation so I felt like it wouldn’t have been my place to unless I was sure that I didn’t.
It’s not like aromantics were never allowed in asexual spaces, but there is still a continuing problem, described as “just like everyone else, minus the sexual attraction” where desiring romantic relationships is seen as a way to “normalize” or humanize asexuals, but the implications make aromantics feel dehumanized. Though much less common than it used to be, are aromantic non-asexuals being stereotyped as only caring about sex, and I find it troubling to see one group that lacks one type of attraction perpetuate stereotypes about another group that lacks a different kind of attraction, and that isn’t even getting into the fact that not all non-asexuals even want sex.
As of the past year or two, an aromantic/aromantic spectrum community has grown a lot on tumblr. I expect a lot of discussion about aromanticism to still be in asexual spaces, because of the overlap, in people who are both asexual and aromantic, and the overlap in experiences between the two groups. That is important, but it’s also important that the aromantic community also has its own spaces to discuss aromanticism specifically, how it intersects with their sexual orientation, to discuss the issues they face as aromantics, in order to reach out to asexual and non-asexual aromantics alike.
I think it is to be expected that the aromantic community uses many of the same concepts that the asexual community does (In English at least; aromanticism may be identified differently and use different concepts in different languages, although I don’t yet know of any aromantic communities that aren’t in English); they’re useful concepts, but the aromantic community should also become a more distinct entity in its own right.
I don’t know if the aromantic community will ever have its own counterpart to AVEN, a very large, long-lasting forum with a lot of static content, although about aromanticism specifically. That might not be possible; AVEN was one of the earliest asexual sites that happened to outlive all of its few competitors to become the largest part of the asexual community. In contrast, the aromantic community started to separate itself rather late, and is still be in the process of branching out.
Looking forward, what direction would you want to see the aromantic community take? I think it’d be nice if the existing forums about aromanticism were more active, and if there were also blogs outside of tumblr about aromanticism. Tumblr’s format is effective at reaching out to others; it’s effective for advice blogs, but makes it very difficult to have any organized discussions.