This article is a special contribution by guest writer Mia Kellner. If you have a story you would like to tell, we at Her Campus St Andrews would love to hear it. Please email us at [email protected] to submit your piece for consideration!
At the age of five, I remember telling my mum that I would never get married or have children. She laughed it off, probably thinking of my declaration as little more than a stubborn childhood phase – like my Hello Kitty obsession or fear of Heffalumps. I stood my ground, adamant that I would not change my mind when I got older, or ever, in fact. Flash forward 14 years later, and not much has changed. The only difference is that I now have actual terms to describe what I struggled to articulate as a child: I’m aromantic asexual (aro ace, for short).
If you don’t know what those words mean, I don’t blame you. The attention the media gives the orientations is sparse, if existent at all. So here’s a quick summary: asexuality refers to when an individual has little or no sexual attraction to others; aromanticism is the same but with romantic attraction. Although conflated for years, romantic and sexual attraction are not the same thing. Some people’s sexual and romantic attraction matches up, or some may only feel romantic attraction, but not sexual attraction, and vice versa. In other cases, a person might not experience romantic or sexual attraction to anyone.
I really wish I had known this when I was younger so that I could have started to put the two and two together, and realise that I might not be straight after all. Throughout primary school, I cycled through various crushes on boys. I wrote my initials beside theirs in a heart, fantasised about future dates and marriage proposals. I gazed upon my enfatuees from afar, and secretly hoped that I would be seated next to them in class. Still, I had no inclinations to act upon my fantasies. I just liked the idea of them, the version of romance that I had created in my mind. This was the first sign.
Then there was high school. As my friends started abandoning the group for boyfriends or identifying as bisexual or pansexual, I told them: “I don’t want to be in a sexual or romantic relationship with anyone, because they’ll just get in my way.” Essentially, a reworking of what my five-year-old self had said. When asked if I was asexual, I immediately replied: “No, I’m straight, I’m just not interested in relationships.” That sentence should have sent my aro ace alarm bells ringing, but at the time I didn’t think much of it.
It was around this time that I showed my aro ace identity in actions, not words. I became an avid feminist, renounced any sexual objectification of another person, and scorned romance. Nikola Tesla and Joan of Arc, two historical figures known for their celibacy, were my role models. I recoiled from books that were overtly romantic or sexual, and even swore an oath to Artemis, the ancient Greek maiden goddess of the hunt, that I would renounce sexual and romantic relationships for life and embrace chastity. It wasn’t a difficult decision. And while not all those on the aro and ace spectrum are celibate, this is a major part of my personal identity.
At sixteen, I finally told my family that I was aromantic and asexual. As was to be expected, they doubted the validity of the orientation, and didn’t believe that it was real. I didn’t really mention it much after that. For the next three years, I tiptoed around asexuality and aromanticism, doubting whether I was in actuality either of those labels. Changes were subtle. I wrote about asexual representation for a writing internship. I read through numerous Wikipedia pages, articles, and books about asexuality and aromanticism. Come second year of university, I changed my sexual orientation on my student records to “Asexual.”
It was only recently this year that I actively started identifying as aro ace and accepted my identity, feeling that maybe those labels could apply to me, and I wouldn’t be a fraud if I used them. Slowly but surely, I’m becoming more open to discussing my orientation, and even displaying it – I am currently writing an article to raise aro ace awareness while wearing an asexual pride headband.
Conversations about sexual and romantic orientation and identity will always be complex, but they can be easier to understand. I hope that by telling my story, a drop in the ocean of the aro ace community, I can help ameliorate that struggle.