Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo

There’s an “A” in LGBTQIA+ for a reason! With Pride month fast approaching, everyone’s getting ready to celebrate and embrace their gender and sexual identities, but there’s one particular label that doesn’t receive as much attention as it should: the aro/ace identity. But, what does aro-ace mean? And what’s the difference between the two?

Like the LGBTQ+ umbrella, both aromanticism (aro) and asexuality (ace) have their own spectrums, consisting of a set of micro labels that help people narrow down what exactly it is they’re feeling. Unlike having to figure out where one’s attraction lies, the process for those on the aro-ace spectrum has to do with identifying if they even have these kinds of attractions, making it more difficult and confusing to decipher. 

My friend Abby*, who identifies as aromantic, once told me how she sometimes feels like an outsider. Despite understanding herself better, it’s strange to be surrounded by allosexual/alloromantic people — or those who feel romantic and sexual attraction — especially when friends and family are always asking when she’ll start dating. As someone who’s never experienced romantic attraction growing up, she felt taken aback when someone commented how “insane” it was to never have a crush. 

“I thought I had a crush when I was younger, but it was more like I just enjoyed being around him; I didn’t actually want to do anything romantic with him,” she shares. “Romantic media and societal expectations made me think what I was feeling must be romantic, especially since he was the opposite sex and most girls around him liked him that way.” 

The AroAce experience is one that’s complicated to understand, and even when you adopt the term, it can feel isolating, especially since aro-ace people make up 1% of the population. However, it’s important to stay educated and informed about the many types of folks you’ll encounter in life. 

So, what does Aro-Ace mean?

Identifying as aro-ace means that you identify as both asexual and aromantic. Being aro-ace is highly nuanced, and whether the aromantic or the asexual label — or both — apply to you, it’s important that we are aware of what exactly the “A” in LGBTQIA represents (it does not stand for ally).

What Is Aromanticism? 

The aromantic label is probably the most difficult concept to wrap your head around, especially since what people consider “romantic” is subjective. However, when we think of romance, we generally think of going on dates, kissing someone, holding hands — these tend to be packaged deals when it comes to being in a romantic relationship with someone.  Though, for the aromantic identity, this attraction isn’t something they feel. 

Aromantic, or “aro” for short, describes people who don’t feel romantic attraction, or those who feel little-to-no romantic attraction toward any gender. This might also mean that they don’t have any interest in establishing romantic relationships, though this isn’t always the case. While adopting the aro label, there’s also a range of attitudes that an aro person can use to describe the limited romantic attraction they may feel: positive, neutral, and repulsed. 


Things that helped me realize that I’m Aromantic 💚🤍🖤 #aroweek #aroweek2023 #aro #aropride #aromantic #aroace #lgbtqia #aromanticawarenessweek how to know if you’re aromantic? – am i aromantic? – what is aromantic? – what does aromantic mean?

♬ Selfcare-demo – Bella Moulden

For example, an aro-positive person might enjoy the idea of romance for others, but they don’t necessarily want that for themselves. Likewise, aro-neutral people don’t have any strong feelings toward romantic relationships and gestures; they just know it’s not their cup of tea. As for repulsed, the idea of romance is a complete turn-off — it’s a total no-go, and it’s not something they can imagine for themselves. 

And a quick note, being aromantic does not mean you are incapable of loving someone. There are different kinds of love, like familial or platonic, and it doesn’t mean they can’t create meaningful relationships with others, nor does it mean they can’t be in romantic relationships. This is a common misconception about the aromantic identity, and each aro person has their own experience with the label that can vary from others on the spectrum. 

What is Asexuality?

The asexual label is also a complex identity to understand, and societal attitudes toward sex vary according to cultural and religious values. Some don’t believe in premarital sex, while others view hook-up culture as a societal norm, especially among college students. Although, one thing is for sure: society expects everyone to have sex eventually, and being a virgin is, in some ways, looked down upon. So, when someone claims that they don’t feel sexual attraction, heads are sure to spin. 

Being asexual, or “ace” for short, describes people who feel little to no sexual attraction toward any gender. Like aromanticism, this also means they aren’t interested in establishing sexual relationships, though this isn’t always true, as ace people can have sex without having this attraction. Similarly, attitudes toward sex can be broken down into sex positive, neutral, or repulsed. For instance, if someone is sex-repulsed, the idea of having sex might disgust them, and they might also feel uncomfortable with explicit media. 

When it comes to this label, there are many misconceptions that invite inappropriate or invasive questions for those on the ace spectrum. Providing that sex is often a taboo subject, having to divulge one’s explanations about their sexual attitudes and behaviors isn’t something an ace person would feel comfortable doing. So, to clarify some of these misconceptions, being ace doesn’t mean that your sex drive is nonexistent; of course, people have varying levels of libido, and just because you’re ace doesn’t mean your libido is always at zero. If anything, ace people can still have sex and even masturbate or have sexual fantasies.  

Additionally, being ace doesn’t mean you’re choosing not to have sex; that’s called celibacy, and that’s a conscious decision. Likewise, being asexual isn’t inherently linked to a fear of intimacy; sure, you can feel apprehensive about having sex, but it comes down to whether or not that initial sexual attraction is present in the first place. 

Sofia is a third-year Writing & Literature major at UCSB. In her free time, she enjoys watching anime, playing video games, and drinking chai tea.