Asexuality and aromanticism are two different identities under the LGBTQIA+ umbrella. Though they have been found to be slightly less common than other identities, it’s important to understand the difference between them and the nuances of identifying as ace or aromantic.
The LGBTQIA+ spectrum covers a wide range of sexualities and gender identities, and because everyone is different, everyone experiences their own sexuality or gender identity in a unique way. There is really no umbrella definition for these identities, learning the general concepts behind them can help us to have compassion and understanding for those with differing identities from our own.
By strict definition, an asexual person is a person who does not experience physical attraction. However, asexuality is often more complex than this simple definition. Essentially those who identify as asexual or “ace” have a different relationship with sexual attraction than people who don’t identify as asexual would.
According to The Trevor Project, it’s important to remember that asexuality doesn’t mean abstinence because of a bad relationship or religion. It’s not celibacy or sexual repression, nor does it have to do with loss of libido, fear of intimacy, or inability to find a partner. Those who identify as ace can still fall in love, choose to have sex, have a family, experience arousal, and more. People who are asexual can still have active sex lives, be in long term relationships, get married, and have kids. They can also abstain from sex entirely. It’s up to them.
Some useful terms to learn when familiarizing yourself with asexuality are demisexual, Grey-A, or queerplatonic. Demisexual requires that you form an emotional connection with someone before experiencing sexual attraction. Grey-A refers to those who fall between asexual and sexual. And queerplatonic refers to the experience of a non-romantic relationship with an intense emotional connection beyond that of a friendship.
An aromantic (or aro) is a person who doesn’t experience romantic attraction. It is important to separate the aromantic identity from asexuality. A person can be sexual and aromantic or romantic and asexual, or they can be aromantic and asexual. Like asexuality, aromanticism can be complex. Being aromantic doesn’t imply an inability to have close relationships. Aros can form close attachments with friends and family and even platonic partners.
This is where the term queerplatonic comes in. Queerplatonic is the term for the common type of relationship an aromantic might enter. These relationships require a level of deepness and intimacy that other relationships might require. Queerplatonic partners can live together, share financial and domestic responsibilities or have a family together.
It may be common for aros to be perceived as cold or ‘emotionally immature’ people. However, according to Stonewall U.K.’s “5 things you should know about aromantic people,” aros are “just as capable of the full range of human emotion and feeling as alloromantic people (people who do experience romantic attraction).” Aromantics are often amazing friends, partners, and family members.
Society leads many to believe romantic love is a requirement for a happy life. “However, aromantic people usually don’t have this desire and are able to get all the love they need from their friends, family, and pets,” according to Them.