What does it mean to be Aromantic?
By Sassafras Lowrey
In the week after Valentine’s Day, scrolling through social media feeds, it can feel like everyone is in a romantic relationship. Although many people enjoy and seek out the feeling of being in love, for other people traditional romantic or lovey things just aren’t that exciting. If you find yourself perplexed or just not interested in romantic interactions, you aren’t alone!
Aromantic- not to be confused with aromatic (smelly things!)- is an identity term that refers to people who don’t, or don’t often have romantic attractions to others.
What does it mean to be Aromantic?
Aromatic, sometimes shortened to aro, is generally defined as an individual who doesn’t have romantic feelings or attractions to other people. Some aromantic people are also asexual, but others aren’t. For some people being aromantic might look like not developing crushes on people. Other aromantic people just don’t feel connected to the experience of falling in love. Before finding out about aromatic identities many people who are aromantic might feel confused about their identities or feel like there is something wrong with them because much of our culture centers on the idea that romantic attractions are natural and individually experienced. Because romantic relationships are so centered and normalized in our culture, especially at this time of year, it can feel isolating to be aromantic identified.
It’s a Spectrum
Aromantic, like other identities, exists on a spectrum and each person’s individual identity is going to be unique. Some people who identify with being on the aromantic spectrum may never experience the feeling of getting a crush on someone or having romantic desires. Other people on the aromantic spectrum (sometimes referring to themselves to be demiromantic) form romantic attractions to people after there is already an established emotional bond. Some aromantic people never get into relationships with others, while other people on the aromantic spectrum might form a variety of relationships based on different sorts of intimacy than romantic attraction. While some aromantic people are also asexual, other aromantic identified people identify as allosexual. There is no right or wrong way to be aromantic and each person’s experience will be unique. Each person’s unique experience of aromanticism is valid and should be respected.
So, You’re Single? Dismantling Misconceptions:
Unfortunately, there are a lot of misconceptions about aromantic identities. Aromantic people aren’t interested, or aren’t often interested in romantic relationships with others, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t form close and intimate relationships with people. Aromantic people aren’t robotic or lacking in emotions, we just don’t generally get crushes on people and aren’t necessarily interested in traditionally romantic interactions. One of the stereotypes or misconceptions that exists around aromantic identities is that anyone who is aromantic must be single and uninterested in getting into relationships. While some aromantic people may choose to not pursue relationships, this isn’t universally true. Romantic attraction is just one aspect of most relationships, and it’s very possible to build healthy and rewarding relationships rooted in other forms of connection and intimacy.
Celebrate Aromantic Awareness Week:
Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week is observed February 19–25th. This aromantic pride week is a global opportunity to celebrate and recognize the spectrum of aromantic identities and people who identify as aromantic and has been celebrated since 2014. You can of course (and should!) celebrate your aromantic identity 365 days a year, but this week is a great opportunity to center your identity. If you don’t identify on the aromantic spectrum, you can take this week to learn a little more about the diversity of human sexuality, including people who identify as aromantic!
About the Author:
Sassafras Lowrey’s novels and nonfiction books have been honored by organizations ranging from the American Library Association to the Lambda Literary Foundation and the Dog Writers Association of America. Sassafras’ work has appeared in The New York Times, Wired and numerous other newspapers and magazines. Sassafras has taught queer writing courses and workshops at LitReactor, the NYC Center For Fiction and at colleges, conferences, and LGBTQ youth centers across the country. You can find more of her written works, including her edited collection exploring LGBTQ+ youth homelessness entitled Kicked Out, on her website www.SassafrasLowrey.com.