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On Being Queer and Aro Ace

A bunch of people I work with did an online conference recently, and we had a session on asexuality and other stuff. There's a person called Sennkestra, who [described thinking], 'Maybe I'm just bisexual, but really, really bad at it.' That was my experience as well.

I was one of those people who just went through university and never dated anybody. And at some point, you sit with that and go, 'Maybe the reason I haven't dated anybody romantically is that I don't actually want to that much (and therefore I haven't been proactive about it).'

I think a lot of people have an idea of what asexuality looks like that does not look like me. I like BDSM; masturbation is a thing for me—and just finding people erotic. I was not what I imagined asexuality was. And I felt... not exactly too sexual, but not asexual enough. Not what the image of that was that I had.

When I figured out that I was ace, I had come out of something like a relationship. Sex was a thing that either happened dysfunctionally or did not happen in that relationship. There was always a feeling of, 'I feel very wedded to being capital-q Queer, and very into boys, and all of that.' And yet I always had this anxiety, because—ace people feel differently about sex, [but] I was somebody who was always just very averse to it, and was in denial about that. And the more I woke up to it, it felt like there was this tension, because I think queer people (and in particular bi people) are imagined in very sexualised ways. And that was a thing I just had to sit with for a while.

I think it was early 2015 I just down and did the googling, and went to AVEN (which is the organisation that we have), and all of the Tumblrs. That realisation—that I was ace—was a big freight-train-hitting-you realisation I just had to sit with. And I remember thinking, 'Maybe this is what being gay is like for other people.'

I'm kind of aware that I tend to jam people's gaydar a little bit—at least at first—because, in whatever way being ace and [aro] feeds into things, people will sort of tentatively go, 'Do you have girlfriend? ...or a boyfriend?' I sort of enjoy being frustrating and complicating, and leaving people more confused than they were to start with.

There's a lot of people—including friends, at points—who I've heard go, 'Why are the asexuals now in the LGBT acronym? They're not gay or straight. They're just nothing.' And it's like, I see why you imagine us the way you do; [that's] not us. The behaviour of people who don't like ace and aro spectrum folks is very similar to TERF behaviour: it's always 'this is the way that I imagine your life looks, and I'm going to critique that, instead of talking to you and engaging with the reality of your experience.'

I'm getting on three years of being in an awesome relationship. We use the term 'queerplatonic', which means 'not sexual or romantic, but very clearly not just friends'. And that has been a really validating experience. I feel a lot less conflict between the different things that I am now than I have before.

Most people have this idea that you're either 'just friends' or you're in a romantic relationship, and there's no way of being 'more than friends' that isn't romance. But for us, we love each other a lot and say it a lot, but I don't really relate to the experience of being 'in love'. I hear people talking about butterflies and obsession, and that's not really what I feel; but I do really love being around him, and we are physically affectionate and spend a lot of time together, and say that we miss each other when we're not [together]. That does not feel like 'just friendship' to me. (In public, I never know if people are going to read me and my partners as just-friends or as a couple, when we're actually neither of those things.)

If you have relationships that are nonsexual and not traditionally romantic, it's kind of hard to plug the idea of monogamy into that. If you're in a sexual relationship, then not having sex with anybody else is very clear; if you're in a romantic relationship, it's a little more fuzzy—but to the extent that being in love with somebody is quantifiable, you can talk about not feeling that for other people. When your relationship is platonic, and essentially 'friendship, but, like, more'—what does emotional monogamy mean? You can't only form close emotional connections with one person, and if you could, that would be a really abusive relationship. So it's more like that concept just doesn't factor in for us.

I see this tendency sometimes on Twitter and Tumblr and all of those places, where there's kind of this desire to pin down every possible nuance of your identity and have a very, very long list of things. And I think that can veer into a pathologising, taxonomising, museum-exhibit view of queerness, which isn't necessarily healthy. But at the same time, that can be really empowering and useful. It feels like a kind of resistance, I guess is what I'm trying to say.