Guest writer Indiana Lee discusses how aromantics are overlooked and how they can shout their Queerness from the rooftops
The LGBTQIA+ community is inclusive, loving, and accepting of almost all sexual orientations and gender identities. As Peter Minkoff explains, the very idea of “queerness” radiates acceptance and inclusivity. Identifying as queer allows anyone who doesn’t identify as heterosexual to find a meaningful yet fluid label to describe themselves.
However, aromantics have been overlooked in the LGBTQIA+ community and beyond. Aromantics may find themselves feeling awkward at events and conventions, being treated as though their sexual orientation is somehow less valid or “not queer” at all.
Overcoming this requires education, empathy, and a better understanding of aromanticism and sexual orientation in general.
It’s Not a Phase
No LBTQIA+ person or ally would ever tell a gay or lesbian individual that their sexual orientation is “just a phase.” Doing so is clearly homophobic and undermines that individual’s core identity. However, aromantics are often met with skepticism and accused of being in a phase.
Being aromantic is different from choosing to be single. Aromantics aren’t just looking to avoid relationships — it’s part of their identity and isn’t experienced as a choice.
As Dr. Jennifer Pollitt, assistant director of gender, sexuality, and women’s studies at the University of Temple, explains, “A person who identifies as aromantic is someone who may experience sexual attraction but doesn’t experience romantic attraction”.
Dr. Pollitt goes on to explain that there can be “a huge difference between orientation, behavior, and identity.” This means that the “sexual or romantic behavior you engage in does not necessarily correlate with the identity that you’re using to describe your experiences or orientation.”
Recognizing these distinctions is important, as it helps aromantics find connections within the LGBTQIA+ community. Validating aromanticism is also important for the health and well-being of aromantics. Acceptance and understanding can even help queer patients find the right therapist for themselves. This is particularly important today when more folks are looking for support from therapists who understand the challenges that the LGBTQ+ community faces.
The LGBTQIA+ community has been oppressed and marginalised in different forms across the centuries. This history of abuse and repression is difficult to unpack but necessary to learn about if we wish to live in a more inclusive, accepting society.
However, some aromantics find that their identity is disparaged by allies and the LGBTQIA+ community based on the idea that aromantics haven’t “suffered enough ” for their identity. This is echoed by aromantics like Casey, who reminds us that “suffering isn’t the basis of being queer.”
Instead of thinking along exclusionary lines, aromantics deserve to be cherished and included in celebrations of queerness and identity. This doesn’t need to come at the cost of any other gender identity or sexual orientation, either. By recognizing and respecting differences, we can still fly the flags that proudly state “love wins” while simultaneously recognising that some folks don’t feel, or are disinterested in, romantic love.
Recognizing and respecting differences is a key tenet of queer theory and activism in the LGBTQIA+ community. Understanding how to navigate the world with respect and tolerance for those who live differently from ourselves is essential if we want to advocate for a fairer, more inclusive society.
This idea applies to folks who identify as aromantic, too. Just as a lesbian in a loving relationship cannot intrinsically understand the experience of an aromantic person, an aromantic person cannot necessarily understand the experience of any other member of the LGBTQIA+ community.
Rather than seeing this difference as a division, it should be a reminder that LGBTQIA+ experiences of the world aren’t homogenous. The LGBTQIA+ community isn’t monolithic, and everyone experiences their gender identity or sexual orientation differently. We can come together in celebration of solidarity, but only if we’re working from a position of acceptance and understanding.
How To Help
Many aromantics are great at self-advocacy and care about engaging with the wider LGBTQIA+ community. But, just like any oppressed or misunderstood group, they may benefit from support from allies and nonprofit organizations.
Nonprofit programs can improve aromantic awareness by engaging in fundraisers and community support. Pet therapy can be offered to folks who benefit from additional support and art programs can be offered to aromantics who wish to express themselves and/or their identity through the arts.
Folks who have recently discovered their aromanticism may benefit from mentorship and guidance. Non-profit organizations can act as important mediators to help aromantic individuals get in touch with reliable, trusted sources of information and experience.
Aromantics have long been overlooked in the LGBTQIA+ community. Folks who identify as aromantic are told that their sexual orientation is a “phase” or that they have not “suffered enough” to be part of the community.
These prejudices can be overcome by taking an inclusive approach to all sexual orientations and recognizing that difference is a fundamental part of being LGTBQIA+. Folks who are aromantic can find support through non-profit organisations and seek the help of therapists who are specialized to work with queer patients and the challenges they may face.