Aromantic, often shortened to aro, describes people who do not experience romantic attraction, or if not strictly aromantic, little to no romantic attraction. One of the meanings of the A in LGBTQIA+ is Aromantic. Aromanticism is a romantic orientation and may involve forms of attraction that are not necessarily romantic, or interests in relationships that are intimate in other ways. There is no singular experience of aromanticism.
The aromantic spectrum, also known as "aro-spec", ranges from aromantic to alloromantic, referring to people who regularly and consistently experience romantic attraction. People within the aromantic spectrum are part of a community that has much in common. They may use the label aromantic as a close fit for their experiences or use other labels that further describe them.
As per the Split Attraction Model, aromanticism is the romantic-orientation counterpart for asexuality. However, aromanticism is not limited to asexuality, as aromantic people can identify as any sexual orientation without forfeiting their aromantic identity.
Aromantics are emotionally satisfied without a romantic partnership, instead, finding their needs are met with strong friendships. Aromantic people can still experience love and affection in different forms than a romantic relationship, as love can come from family, friends, colleagues, and sexual partners. Aromantic people can still express their love for their parents, friends, children, or others in their life, which is a valid expression of love; they're just not expression of romantic love. Moreover, what distinguishes romantic versus non-romantic feelings and behaviors can vary between individuals and cultures, meaning a romantic gesture for one person, regardless of their romantic orientation or lack thereof, might not be romantic for another person.
Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week, previously known as Aromantic Awareness Week, occurs annually the first full week after Valentine's Day. It was established in November 2014 for raising awareness and progressing acceptance of aromantic spectrum identities. It was moved to right after Valentine's Day for those in the aromantic community who had difficulty finding space for their experiences in such a universally romanticized event to come together and celebrate their own unique experiences.
Queerplatonic relationships is a close non-sexual, non-romantic relationship that is beyond what most would consider to be a friendship. It consists of emotional commitment and prioritization that is typically seen in a romantic relationship. People in queerplatonic relationships may be of any gender or sexual identity.
It may involve a greater degree of intimacy or commitment than a platonic friendship, but does not always include sexual or romantic elements. Queerplatonic relationships are not limited to the aromantic community; often including asexuals and those on the asexual spectrum, though it is not restricted to the a-spec community or any specific gender and sexual identities.
Aromantic traits and identifiers
Some aromantic people mention difficulty relating to the concept of "falling in love" or having romantic "crushes". The degree to which people experience such attraction is varied, as some aromantic people are married or have a partner. Others choose to opt out of anything coded as romantic or feel discomfort with the idea of romantic relations. According to Doctor Kristina Gupta, a professor of women's, gender, and sexuality studies, there are a few key signs one might be aromantic. However, aromanticism works in different ways for different people.
- Not finding the idea of romantic relationships appealing.
- Difficulty relating to stories about romantic relationships or finding them confusing.
- Having a physical attraction to people, but not developing crushes. May also present as not understanding why people behave they way they do when "in love".
- Developing strong connections with other people, but not wanting to do things associated with romance (i.e. sharing a bed, kissing, holding hands).
- Not finding any or most romantic plots in books/movies/media interesting or needed.
When supporting someone who comes out as aromantic, the first thing is accepting and believing their identity to be true. Supporting the relationships of aromantic individuals is critical in helping build a support system, and showing support even if the relationship does not follow cultural norms. Ensuring a queerplatonic partner feels welcome in a friend group or family setting is also important.
During the Qing dynasty of South China, there was The Golden Orchid Society. For 300 years, beginning in the early 1640s, this order of women stood against marriage. For many women, these heterosexual unions were restrictive, thrust upon them, and abusive. The Golden Orchid Society stood in opposition to society's expectations of the time, welcoming with open arms any woman looking to avoid the normative life.
It was practice for married women in China to comb their hair a certain way to say they were not available, so the Golden Orchid Society created "self-combing women". These women would wear their hair just as married women would, and a ceremony would be held to celebrate this choice. This practice was used by women who did not wish to marry or have romantic/sexual partnerships. It is likely at least some of them held similar feelings about romance and partnerships as many modern day aros.
In 1979, in her book Love and Limerence: The Experience of Being in Love, Dorothy Tennov spoke of limerent and non-limerent people. She, and other theorists, recognized that romantic and sexual love were not necessarily linked. Limerence is an outdated term for feeling romantic attraction, and non-limerent people were those who had never felt romantic love. This term "non-limerent" is a precursor to our "aromantic".
The term aromantic was first coined in an Asexual Visibility and Education Network discussion thread titled "Relationship Definitions" in June 2005. It was not until 2008/2009, on AVEN at least, that the term appeared more often.
The first proposed aromantic flag had four stripes. Green, because it is the opposite of red, the most commonly associated romance color. Yellow, representing platonic love, because yellow roses represent friendship. Orange, for grayromantics, because it is in between red and yellow. And black, representing alloromantics that "reject traditional ideas of romance". This flag was later changed because it closely resembled the Rastafarian flag, and because it had a stripe representing alloromantics.
Cameron Whimsy designed second aromantic flag and its modified version. Both are five-striped flags with shared top and bottom stripes, but the center stripe was changed from yellow to white. The meanings changed slightly with the center stripe change.
For the yellow "trial" version:
- Green: Aromantic.
- Light green: The aromantic spectrum.
- Yellow: Lithromantic.
- Gray: Grayaromantic and demiromantic.
- Black: Wtfromantic.
For the white "redesigned" version:
- Green and light green: The paired stripes represent the entire aromantic spectrum, with green representing aromanticism itself.
- White: The platonic stripe, representing the importance and validity of all non-romantic forms of love and relationships, including (but not limited to) aesthetic attractions, queerplatonic relationships and families, and friendships.
- Gray plus black: The paired stripes represent the sexuality spectrum, such as aroaces, aromantic allosexuals, and more.
There are several other symbols used to represent aromantics and aromantic love. One is an arrow, due to aromantic often being shortened to aro, which is pronounced the same way. Like asexuals, aromantics also use the symbol of the spades to represent themselves, and aroace individuals especially use the ace of spades.
Asexual is very commonly used in conjunction with aromantic, though they are two separate identities. Asexual is a sexual orientation in which an individual does not experience sexual attraction. Aromantic is a romantic orientation; they do not experience romantic attraction.
Some aromantic people also identify as asexual, though the terms are not used interchangeably. An aromantic asexual person does not experience either sexual or romantic attraction.
Grayromantic is a term on the aromantic spectrum used to describe individuals who experience romantic attraction very rarely or are somewhere in between alloromantic and aromantic. Grayromantic term can also be used by those who are questioning their romantic orientation. Some aromantic people use the term as an interim identity until they full identify with another, though others are comfortable with the term grayromantic as their romantic orientation instead of aromantic.
Nonamorous describes a person who does not wish to form an intimate, long-term partnership with others, whether romantic or platonic. However, not every aromantic is nonamorous. Some aromantic people are in long term committed relationships, and those who choose to pursue committed relationships sometimes use terms like amorous/partnering to describe that attitude.
Perceptions and discrimination
A misconception regarding aromantic individuals is that they do not feel love, but aromantic people simply do not feel romantic love and the desire to act romantically toward a partner. Aromantic people still experience emotions, desires, attractions, and forms of love that are non-romantic. Aromantics may or may not feel sexual attraction; not all asexuals are aromantic, nor are all aromantics asexual.
However, there are aros who do not feel any type of love, and these aros are referred to as "loveless aros".
Aromantics are misconceived as being cold or emotionally unavailable. Many aromantic people have strong emotional connections to other people, though the emotion is not inherently romantic. The lack of a romantic availability is not believed to correlate with emotional availability. They are sometimes labeled as "robots" or "lacking emotions", though both statements are not always correct. Aromantics place a higher level of value on friendships, as they can have their emotional needs met in a platonic way.
A person's dating history does not determine sexuality or romantic orientation. Aromanticism typically becomes noticeable around puberty, and is not the result of romantic heartbreak.
- Willbourn Lisa - Parahumans by John C. McCrae
- Nevian and Cal - The White Renegade by Claudie Arseneualt
- Rivka - A Harvest of Ripe Figs by Shira Glassman
- Georgia, Jess, and Ellis - Loveless by Alice Oseman
- Gwen Vere (allosexual and aromantic) - An Accident of Stars by Foz Meadows
- Arèn - A Broken Promise by Lynn E. O'connacht
- Wasp - Archivist Wasp / Latchkey by Nicole Kornher-Stace
- Claire/Claude, Denise Jalbert, Emmanuelle, Livia, and Yuri - Baker Thief by Claudie Arseneault
- A comprehensive list of aromantic book recommendations by queer author Claudie Arseneault
- Alastair - Hazbin Hotel
- Peridot - Steven Universe
- Caduceus Clay - Critical Role
- Lilith Clawthorne- The Owl House
- AUREA, the Aromantic-spectrum Union for Recognition, Education, and Advocacy
- Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week
- "What Does It Mean to Be Aromantic?" via VeryWellMind.com
- "What I'm feeling is valid and normal" - What it's like to be young and aromantic - an interview with two aromantic teens.