For Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week 2021, we collaborated with AUREA to create a collection of resources to help us understand aromanticism better. We also created an interview series with aromantics. This is one of the four fantastic identities we met.
We spoke to the beautiful soul Constance about their identity and experiences for Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week.
This is what they had to say:
What is your name?
Constance. I’ve been thinking of changing it forever, but I think we’ll stick with that? Alternatively, just C. works, too.
What are your pronouns?
They/they/them and he/him/his.
If you feel you belong within the LGBTQIA+ community, what labels do you identify with?
Aro and asexual, and non-binary or agender, depending on how specific I want to or can be in a specific space, or on whatever I want to... emphasize, I guess? Alternatively: 95% not thinking about gender and 5% thinking about it? I guess somewhat bi, but I don’t know what suffix to put after that. Bi without a suffix?
How did you find aromanticism?
I think I found out about it around the same time that I found out that people could be ace, and I was starting to look into that more. I wavered between gay, straight, and bi for a while and was trying to find a word to use to identify myself, as nothing really fit. I ended up obsessively googling it and eventually found asexuality.org, which also talked about aromanticism.
I think I accepted I was aro without really even thinking about it? Before I’d thought things were very black and white; like, I thought I couldn’t be ace because I wanted to hold hands with some people, or I did in middle school, but I started learning around then that it was a ton more complex than that. Conversely, I also just give less of a crap now, I think, so I don’t worry about labels much—although I also use them a lot when writing. Somehow, that feels different?
(That’s also kind of just an interesting way to phrase it, ‘finding aromanticism.’ Very quest-y.)
What do you believe are some misconceptions about aromanticism?
All of them, I guess! Conceptions, that is. I feel like, if anyone has any conception around aromanticism, it probably isn’t correct? Not to sound pretentious? I mean, I’m still figuring it out, like, this week. But it also feels a bit like almost no one I know, even if they know the term ‘aro,’ really has a sense of what it’s like—or maybe they’re just unsure as to how I define it for myself?
There’s the obvious one, that people who are aro are cold. Sometimes people associate you with characters in the media that you may not wish to be associated with. When I told my siblings about being aro ace they immediately thought of Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory.
Being in a relationship or two, I had one of my partners say they were totally cool with me being aro but, at the same time, if I didn’t want to interact with them in the way they wanted me to, they accused me of being inhuman or asocial. We never really got to a compromise there.
Thinking of the relationships you’ve had so far, what have the dynamics been like being an aromantic person involved in ‘romantic’ relationships with alloromantic folk?
With my first relationship, my partner was really into traditional romantic stuff, being intimate and together all the time, whereas I get my energy from being alone. So, any area where we didn’t reach much of a compromise, and I maybe didn’t do a great job communicating what I wanted or needed. Maybe in part because aromanticism and the feelings I associate with it are hard to explain in general? I did enjoy doing romantic stuff sometimes, maybe just for the novelty of it, buying flowers and making mix CDs for people, but, when it came to expressing affection, or whatever you want to call it, it got a lot more difficult.
My second relationship was more matter-of-fact; we’d both said that we might be feeling romantic feelings towards one another, but we broke up a couple of weeks later. But it was nice how straightforward the whole thing was. I got to just say no, and that was it.
Have you told many people that you identify as aro?
I think no… which is weird because I think most people I go to school with know that I’m trans—because of my pronouns—or they know I’m ace because a lot of my research and writing is about ace stuff. I think ace comes up in conversation more somehow, or maybe it’s easier to make jokes about it or something, whereas aromantic doesn’t come up as often.
I think the friends I’ve been in queer organizations with or known for a while know that I’m aro. It’s not something I’m as open about, maybe because I don’t know how to bring it up or easily explain why they need to know. I tried to explain it to my dad a bit, and he’s still under the impression that I’m bisexual—but he supports me? So, that’s something? I appreciate it.
Advice for someone who wants to come out, whether it be any identity, and are looking for a safe person to share their information, what qualities do you recommend they look for?
My first thought was that I have a lot of friends who wear pride flags and bracelets, like my first roommate in undergrad. (Crap, we’ve been friends for 6 years.) When I first met them at orientation they were dressed in all black with rainbow bracelets on. It’s not really a quality, but if they’re wearing a pride flag, maybe they’re cool?
I’ve had friends before—or have friends, present-tense—where we’ve gotten to the point where I’ve told them a decent amount of weird crap about myself that they could make fun of me for, and they haven’t, so I think it’s easier to come out to people like that. And then again, some people have really surprised me. I’d mention being ace or aro, and I’d be shocked if they were actually cool with it.
Is it hard to talk about aromanticism?
It’s hard to talk about because you get this awkward standstill where when you tell someone, like they don’t get it, but they don’t really ask, and you can’t totally explain it, and you’re both unsure about how to bring it up again. I feel awkward being like, ‘I’m really aro, let me make a joke out of it real quick.’ It doesn’t feel easy to talk about so lightly. You worry whether the person you tell will think it’s something that’s actually real or a descriptor that could apply to many people and doesn’t actually matter. It’s hard to describe as a whole what ‘aro’ is and is like. It’s definitely something we/I feel and identify with, but it’s hard to put it into words, especially if you don’t have the space for thousands of them.
How can someone broach the topic of aromanticsm with an aro person?
My first thought is to make it something that is not in-person or synchronous. If it were a message, email, or a text, that would give the person time to consider their response regardless of how or what you ask. It’d allow them to figure out how they want to word stuff exactly. It can be easy to mess up definitions if you try to explain things on the fly. And definitions feel really important.
It’s also really cool when people are genuinely interested and aren’t afraid or awkward talking about it. You know, seeing it as a positive thing and not just an awkward obstacle or disorder or something. It’s nice when people do want to hear the answer to what they’re asking.
Also try googling ‘aro’ first, so you’re not going in with totally no idea. (Not that conversations about aromanticism are, like, haunted caves or something.) That might also let you ask some more in-depth questions re: aromanticism if that’s your deal.
What is one thing you’d like to tell the world about aromanticism?
I think I want to emphasize that it is important. Which sounds very simple—but I think I see aro mentioned occasionally on the fringes of and alongside asexuality, and it would be super cool to just see people using the word ‘aromantic.’ Particularly people who aren’t aro themselves. I’d like other people to see that I can be really happy being alone, or being alone with my cat, or going on a date with myself. A lot of it really involves so much joy, not being in a relationship, and I don’t feel like that side of aromanticism gets emphasized enough. I think of it, sometimes, as the equivalent of wanting a partner and having one. I don’t have a partner, and I don’t want one right now, either, and it’s very cool that those two things match up. I’d love to see a full-length film about aromanticism—just two hours of someone exploring their aromanticism with some real character development. I want to see it emphasized that aromanticism is a really great experience, not a lack or a loss. Maybe not even two hours would be enough for that.
Do you have any advice for someone who is questioning or coming to understand that their gender or sexual identity might be different?
My approach was to do a lot of research and make side-by-side charts to try and work out which term fit. I had one friend who would often tell me to go with the flow, with whatever term was my thing, and I couldn’t think like that a few years ago, but it’s kind of slowly become my approach to things, for better or for worse. So many the identity terms we use are words we’ve created to describe experiences, and it’d be difficult for a handful of letters to be 100% accurate and really describe things. Terms are superfluid and can be broad and encompass a lot of different feelings. You might not be sure what you are, and that’s really cool.