Sunday, June 20, 2010

Sigh...Binaries.

Binaries? Yeah, I'm generally not a fan. That's one thing I've come to learn since identifying as asexual. For a while now, I've been wondering if I really had an "affectional orientation" that I would be able to coax out with enough thought. A lot of other asexuals seem to know so easily whether they're romantic or aromantic (and beyond that, which gender(s) they are attracted to if they are romantic). But I recently realized that the reason I couldn't figure it out was because the romantic/aromantic thing is a binary I don't fit into. I'm neither, both, or somewhere in the middle. I am, for lack of a better word, grayromantic. No, it's not a term I'm looking to popularize, but I think it's one that will make sense for those who are familiar with asexuality.

Like the gender binary in mainstream society, the romantic/aromantic binary seems to be intuitive for most people in the asexual community. That it informs so much of our internal dialogue on asexuality can make people who don't fit into it feel like their experiences are even further outside of the ordinary. Just like there is no clear demarcation at the end of "asexual" and the beginning of "sexual", there is no such clear line for affectional orientation, either.

It's a uniquely asexual issue, I know, and maybe not a very important one. But it gets me thinking about our labels-- do we define ourselves by a dictionary definition, how we feel about ourselves, or what most affects our lives? I think that is an important question, for any orientation (or other label), although it might only be able to be answered by the individual. If you went by what asexuals would call a "dictionary definition", I guess I would be hetero-romantic, since I experience romantic attraction towards men (I also like long walks on the beach, candlelight, etc). However, I don't feel hetero-romantic, probably because my romantic attraction towards men has not influenced my life very much. I'd like to be in a romantic relationship, but not just for the sake of being in one. If I ever had a hetero-romantic card, then it has truly expired due to lack of use.

So since I don't try to date men and never really have, what real difference do my fleeting attractions make? Putting a romantic orientation in front of "asexual" would also just sound strange to me, when the "asexual" part is so much more important to my life. The most accurate term for me, I think, would be something describing my confusion with the whole concept of "romance". Now, what was I again?

This post has a second and perhaps even third part, so stay tuned.

(Also, one week until the Pride Parade! Eeee!)

12 comments:

Rebekah said...

I am less than one week away from my first Pride activity (my city's Pride Festival is this coming Saturday), and I am really excited, even if I'm just going as a spectator and there isn't anything related specifically to asexuality.

In regards to the content of this post, I can relate a great deal. I've had what could be considered infatuations on people, but it has never even gone into "flirtation" territory, and nor have I ever wanted it to - so, technically, I think I would qualify as heteroromantic because I've felt attraction, but I prefer to think of myself as much closer to aromantic because such attraction doesn't mean anything to me; I don't want a relationship, I've never gotten close to one, and I don't plan on trying. And now it's been about two years since such an infatuation, and, looking back on them, I think I saw them as much closer to romantic attraction than they actually were because they were categorically different from the generic platonic feelings I have for most of my friends, but there was nothing specifically about them to qualify them as romantic outside of that very difference.

SlightlyMetaphysical said...

Ok, so you very quickly got to thoughts I've been waltzing around for ages. I am now officially greyromantic.

My quick definition of my romantic attraction is "Could go both ways, probably won't." I really tried to figure it out, but I think the whole idea just isn't innate to me.

Ily said...

Yay, people can relate! I had a feeling y'all were out there, but it's not something I've seen talked about much. Slightly Metaphysical, I'm glad to be of service ;-) It's not innate to me, either.

Rebekah, that's cool...the first time I went to the Pride Parade (as a spectator) I was pleasantly surprised. Usually I don't like crowds, but it was kind of amazing how happy to be there everyone seemed. If you want to relate to it asexuality, well, you can always hand out pamphlets (there are some in the VisEd forum of AVEN)... ;-)

Jicca said...

I understand what you mean I think. I first thought I was aromantic, then homo-romantic but now I'm dancing around what you're saying. I think romantic is useful for those who find it useful. It's easy for them to express themselves to a comfortable level. I suppose for many people like yourself it isn't enough. It kind of expresses it but then kind of doesn't.
Personally I'm not quite sure what type of relationship I would like and whether or not that is a romantic relationship.
Perhaps it's a little like gender binaries and some people just go 'nope, I'm not any of those. I'll make up a word to fit myself but it's just me.'

miller said...

I thought of myself as aromantic until my last relationship. Now I think it's all a muddle, and that I don't fit into the binary.

The trouble is that for me, romantic and sexual attraction are linked. Therefore, the extent to which I fail to fit the romantic/aromantic binary is the same extent to which I fail to fit the sexual/asexual binary.

ghosts said...

Yeah, I'm not that big on the aromantic/romantic terms either. I suppose I could probably fall under the "heteroromantic" category, but I guess I waffle back & forth on whether the concept of romantic attraction really makes that much sense to me.

I can of course recognize when I'm attracted to someone on some level, and obviously that attraction doesn't always lead to the same desires & relationships (ie, you're attracted to your friends in some way). But what exactly does romantic attraction mean? There are a lot of different possibilities as to what form our relationships can take, so to me it seems unlikely that there's an all-encompassing romantic attraction. If you can see yourself forming a very close, intimate relationship with another person, I think there are a lot of cultural expectations & pressures as to what form that relationship takes & how you express that affection (& limit it towards other people).

kaz said...

Yay, other in-between people! I have repeatedly been doing my head in trying to figure out "whether" I'm romantic or aromantic, sort of used "sitting on the border" as a stop-gap measure and then... figured that this was actually what I was! Because I *do* have feelings for women in a way I don't for men, and want things of them that are not part of the standard friendship package, I *don't* want the standard dating package (even sans sex). I want things from both! And I don't want things that are considered essential parts of one or the other, as well!

I've been quietly IDing as demihomoromantic (one of, Google tells me, two people on the internet...) but doing more research tells me that people are using demiromantic in a similar way to demisexual, e.g. romantic feelings ensue after the close friendship is already there, and that's not right either. Grey-homoromantic? *sighs* (I do want to emphasise the /homo/romantic part because that is the part I am actually very clear on, because that is an important part of my identity and because I think most people who just hear "greyromantic" will default to hetero or maybe bi.)

Also, I just went to my first ever Pride parade... so wish I'd bought one of those asexuality T-shirts. But it was fun, if rather noisy. :)

Ily said...

Thanks for all your perspectives!

(Ghosts, can I nag you about your zine, zine, zine while you're here?)

I don't think I would be considered demiromantic either, since I didn't have a prior emotional connection to the people I was attracted to. Sure, there was stuff I liked about the people, but it wasn't like we were emotionally intimate or anything.

ghosts said...

I know, I need to finish the zine! I think part of the problem is just doubting whether I need to/should be doing it. Because I'm often questioning why I go to AVEN or identify as asexual because I don't always look or sound like an asexual - so am I really? And so on. I'm just a bit worried about falsely calling myself asexual & confusing people out there, so I've lessened my involvement with the community over the past year or two.

Mage said...

Yeah, I've been thinking about this lately, too. Technically I am panromantic, but I've only ever been in unrequited love and am totally clueless about how romantic relationships work. I occasionally pursue romantic interests, but I guess I'm not doing it "right" or something because I always fail miserably. Plus I have no interest in entering into a romantic relationship with just anyone who comes along, my attraction is always towards a specific person. So I think I'm greyromantic because I have crushes, but not the same drive as other romantics... Ah, the journey of self-understanding.

SlightlyMetaphysical said...

Ghosts- just wanted to say that I completely understand that feeling, I get it too. I don't have any advice, but I know that many times you've spoken up in the past, on AVEN, etc, I've felt happy that there was someone else with similar questions, and I wondered if you'd work the same.

Ily said...

...because I don't always look or sound like an asexual - so am I really?

That's the kind of question that's at the heart of this post, I think. If you don't feel that you're asexual anymore, that's one thing. But what do asexuals look or sound like, anyway? Most people will probably be confused when they first encounter asexuality (even I was), no matter how "typical" your experience is. I hope you stay involved, whether you're sure of your asexuality or not-- just one woman's opinion :-)

Mage, I can relate to your experience (unrequited! as far as I know), although I've never tried to date anyone that I had a crush on. Which was weird, because I wanted to be in a romantic relationship. I haven't really had a crush on anyone since I realized I was asexual, though. No clue if that's a coincidence or not.