Sometimes I wish I weren’t aromantic. At various points in my life, I have wished this. Unspoken, because it is unspeakable: I would that I were not, that I were something else. I have fought so hard for so long to create understanding and pride and well-being about myself as an aromantic in an alloromantic world, and yet this is a secret that I have never shared: sometimes, even as an adult, even more than a decade after I first called myself aromantic and realised I wasn’t broken, realised I didn’t have to dread being broken or un-broken or broken in… sometimes I wish I weren’t aromantic.Continue reading Sometimes I Wish I Weren’t Aromantic
I’ve written before about the Korra finale, about how my elation at Korra and Mako not getting back together turned into my stomach bottoming out when Korra and Asami held hands, that I immediately felt guilty about being upset by something that would be groundbreaking for so many people, that I wrestled with whether I was allowed to feel upset that the ever-increasing hope of Aang’s successor finishing her show single was suddenly dashed. And I decided that I was allowed to feel upset, and I decided that I was allowed to talk about being upset, but only if I paired this with being explicit about how important it is that Korra and Asami held hands and stared into each other’s eyes, how important it is to me and to my friends and to strangers across the world that there is canon bi rep. There was zero possibility that Korra was aro and yet I had built up this hope that she could be happily single for the final episode because that is all I can ever hope for on television and that is fucked up.
But you know what? If in the comics Korra and Asami weren’t together, if the cartoon canon were changed and they had never held hands, they had never stared into one another’s eyes in a direct mirror of the wedding scene, if they were platonic besties? I would not be happy with that. I would not celebrate that. I would not call that a victory for female friendship rep. I would not say “isn’t the fluidity and journey of sexuality so important?” I would not tell women who are attracted to women that they should be happy about this. I would not tell them to shut up, I would not tell them “but this Korra is not that Korra”, I would not refuse to hear and boost their concerns, I would not write articles about how wonderful and important and nuanced this female platonic-only friendship is to me and to everyone without even mentioning that this is queer erasure and that this has hurt others. I would not go “fuck you got mine” at the erasure of a character’s canon queerness.
And you know what? If Jughead in Riverdale turns out to be aromantic and allosexual I won’t proclaim that a victory for aros. I won’t call that a win. I won’t tell aces that their pain at being erased doesn’t matter because fuck you got mine. And if Jughead in Riverdale turns out to be aroace but touch-hungry and romance-hungry, that’s not a victory either.
Strange Horizon’s Queer Planet special (a month of queer-focused fiction, poetry and non-fiction) has begun, and one of this week’s items is my column, “Did You Mean ‘A Romantic’?” which talks about growing up as an aromantic in a amatonormative world, highlighting some of the media which has scarred me and some of the reactions and realisations I’ve gotten throughout life.
This is my first non-fiction sale! And the title is from before “aromantic” became a term Google knew and that was the standard search correction suggestion.
When I was a teenager I wrote an epic fantasy that was inspired by the fantasy I read and liked at that age. It wasn’t very good. For a lot of reasons! But I enjoyed it and I wrote a lot about the main characters. And then I decided that two of them should have children, because that’s what happens in epic fantasy. :v
One of their children was the first asexual and aromantic character I ever created, when I was 16 I think it was. However, at that age I didn’t know those terms. I didn’t know those orientations. I was them, of course, but I didn’t know; I didn’t have the language or the confidence or the support to know.
At first he was going to be a rakish dandy, he was going to flirt and scandalise and have liaisons. That didn’t last long; I’m not even sure if I wrote anything of that version. The second attempt at characterisation, however, stuck. He was still attractive, but he was cold and difficult to like, pessimistic and acerbic and spiteful, shy and angry and depressed, unimaginably gifted with magic but self-loathing and without a teacher. Things, finally, went horribly unfixably wrong for the main characters and though his conception delayed matters, when he was young his mother was taken out of space and time, his father fell apart without her and became distant from this youngest son. And then things got worse, as they did in everything I wrote around that time, and most of his extended family were killed. And then things continued at their worst and his best friend betrayed him, and fell in love with him. He got his revenge, but it came with a high cost, and then, ah. And then he was betrayed by goddesses who had cared for him and protected him. Gods who decided he needed to grow up. Goddesses who bewitched him and a female friend into having sex. And after a time perhaps it did work, for as the story rolled around to the next few generations he gained godhood and a happily ever after with one of the very same goddesses.
One friend drew fanart of him, naked but with a nebulous Ken doll-like groin void, and I couldn’t explain why it made me so uncomfortable. Another asked me to write about when he lost his virginity–that aforementioned rape, but of course that wasn’t a connection I had made back then–and I did so with a fade-to-black, and I couldn’t explain why it made me so uncomfortable. Of course, I couldn’t explain why most of the books I read or why most of the films and TV shows I saw made me so uncomfortable.
I didn’t know how to write an aroace without giving them a reason to be aroace. A traumatic, broken, pitiable reason. And then he was raped and then he stopped being aroace because he found the right person.
Imagine what kind of aroace characters I’d be writing now if I hadn’t stumbled across certain webpages.
(Not to say aroaceness can’t stem from trauma or that they would never coincide–just that at that point in my life I had no idea what I was, that I was okay, I couldn’t understand/explain what I didn’t want in my life and what I did want in my fiction. I was mirroring the only understanding I had at that point: people who don’t fall in love are ill and cruel and pitiable and monstrous.)