When I talk about being an Asexual Aromantic, one of the questions I get asked most (right after “Do you, not aces in general but you specifically you can tell I mean it’s you specifically because I’m leering and emphasising YOU in the question with a distinctive change in pitch, masturbate?”) is “why bother to talk about it if you just want to not-do something?”
The general expectation of these people being, of course, that the only thing which makes Asexual and Aromantic life different from that of sexual and romantic persons is that you just “don’t do” certain things. While some of this stems from genuine confusion over how a lack (for very deep want of a better word) of something can be such an issue. The humorous part of me just wants to reply to that by bringing up how difficult maths with Roman numerals was in comparison to the Arabic numbering system with their impressive invention of the ZERO (a mark to represent a number that was literally nothing), or how vacuums work and changed the world. I would love to leave it at that.
But I can’t. I can’t because for every person who genuinely doesn’t get it, there’s another two who ask the same question aggressively. Not asking because they don’t understand the fuss, asking because they – on some, most likely subconscious, level – blame the Aces and Aros for coming out and making a point of their existence. Asking because they think that we’re making something out of nothing and that if we all just kept our non-interest to ourselves we wouldn’t be discriminated against, or harassed, or – y’know – raped and told to be grateful that our attackers tried to “fix” us.
But that’s not how it works. The modern, global, society is in love with love. It is hypersexualised. It is not a place in which an Ace or an Aro (not the same thing, guys!) can slide under the radar.
What radar? You know which radar. The family gathering “Have you found someone yet?” radar. The girl/guy talk “Did you think X or Z was hotter?” radar. The causal chit-chat “Oh you’re single-that’s-the-same-as-available-don’t-worry-you’ll-find-someone-oneday” radar. The “Are you sexually active? Please don’t lie I’m your doctor I need to know” radar. The “Why didn’t you think it was sad that they didn’t get together in [fiction]? Do you WANT to be a crazy cat lady?!?” radar.
And if you’re thinking “But those are all just every day normal conversations”: yeah. That’s the point. Colleagues chit chat about their family lives. Family members and friends want to know when you’ve found someone and how it’s going because they “Just want you to be happy” – a happiness which fits very snugly into their own desires but is completely inappropriate for yours and which they will force you into whether you like it or not. Friends talk about their love lives, and their sex lives, and make “friendly” jabs about you if you don’t join in.
If you’re an Ace or Aro you can get away with dodging these questions …for a little while. But these are people you see regularly. They notice if you’ve never “found the time/the right person/aren’t ready for that right now”. They can count. And they can remember. And then they get PUSHY. “I know this guy/girl who’d be perfect for you!” “I’m just trying to help!” “Do you WANT to end up a crazy cat lady?” “That’s [your name], they’re a prude. Or maybe a sociopath. Or something.” “But whyyyyyy. I just want to fix you! WHY WON’T YOU LET ME FIX YOU!?!?”
…On and on and on.
No one should have to spend their life dodging questions like that. No one should have to suffer from anxiety or start conversations already planning escape routes. No one should have to feel dread at a gathering because they know that That Question is coming for them, sooner or later.
We live in a society where Romantic (which is generally conflated with Sexual) love is considered the highest good, the most important relationship, and the only thing that really makes life worth living. If you admit to not being into that, you’re told you’re broken. Or a serial killer.
And if that makes you think that coming out or not is irrelevant, let me make one thing clear: there is a huge difference, for Aces and Aros, between coming out by force – having to stumble through an explanation that you’re not really into something but not having the right words, which everyone around you will treat as a negotiation or a challenge – and coming out by choice.
Being able to just say “I’m asexual” or “I’m aromantic”, or “I’m an asexual aromantic” is a HUGE deal. It’s not a stumbled, confused attempt to explain something the other person has no concept of and no reason to consider it a concept. It’s clear. It’s simple. It’s a fact. It’s not a challenge. It’s not an apology. It’s not a mistake. And it’s NOT UP FOR NEGOTIATION.
It’s the difference between having to say “Um, well, Team A has not scored yet so, um, their score is well it doesn’t exist. Not like they aren’t playing but they haven’t got any points. Not necessarily in the minuses but less than one. Is less than one a thing? Um, no, not a half. Like …neither half?” or just holding up a scorecard with a 0 on it.