Think “aromantic” is just the latest queer buzz word? Think again. Aromantic people face serious inequalities every day
Aromanticism isn’t a word that often comes up in conversation. There are few services or groups for aromantic people. Yet, aro people exist and are up against every day structural inequalities in silence.
Society’s ideal is still one of toxic monoamory. There is an intrinsic belief that everyone will find that one person they will love – even within the queer community. Queer rights though, just generally focus on finding that one person of the same gender. For aros, there’s a void in activism which means an entire community’s concerns aren’t being addressed.
There are huge financial penalties in life for those who don’t experience romantic attraction. Some aromantic people do enter relationships, but some don’t. For those who don’t desire romantic relationships there’s a price aro people literally have to pay for their identities. Aromantic single people are excluded from the tax breaks married people have access to. Aromantic single people also face a larger financial burden throughout life compared to alloromantic people. Aro single people can’t split rents or household bills. Our society is arranged to economically benefit those who pair off for life. The impact is profound as not only do aromantic people often face more day-to-day expenditures for going solo in life, but that means they can put away less for their pensions. This can leave huge anxiety for aromantics about whether to just enter relationships and conform to society’s expectations because the future alone is so daunting.
No rights for queerplatonic relationships – or non-married relationships
A huge complaint about certain relationships being prioritised is that co-habiting couples have fewer privileges than married couples. It’s an apt point (one often made by allocishets) but this barely scratches the surface. It’s not just romantic co-habiting couples that face inequality, but all non-married relationships. This extends to polyamorous, queerplatonic and alterous relationships (“alterous” simply means somewhere between platonic and romantic). Queerplatonic relationships are routinely dismissed. Alloromanticism is held as a virtuous concept and so the idea of queerplatonic relationships are seen as less than ideal.
People can’t really get their heads around relationships that aren’t alloromantic – or at least relationships that don’t centre alloromanticism – and that means that our system shuts out queerplatonic relationships.
From that lack of understanding around different types of relationships, springs the fundamental inequalities around having children. Access to adoption, fostering, IVF, surrogacy are all made more difficult for aromantic people, especially if they are single, polyamorous or engaged in queerplatonic relationships. For those couples who can conceive a child, there are still barriers. Many don’t understand aromantic people and think they’re heartless, which can mean parents are isolated, children face stigma and there is increased scrutiny of how aromantics can possibly function as parents (and the answer is: aros are just fine, actually).
There have been some cases where best friends have adopted together, suggesting that our ideals around the formation of families are changing slightly. Yet, these are still the exception to the rule. There’s a long way to go until two monogamous, alloromantic people aren’t the dominating face of parenthood.
Attempts to ‘cure’ aromantics
It’s well documented that whenever people don’t understand a sexual or romantic identity, there are attempts to cure that queer person. Such attempts can range from verbal actions, perhaps “you just need to find the right man”, physical coercion (including, but not limited to, sexual assault) and even by the weaponisation of therapy. There’s a long history of therapy being used to try to ‘correct’ queer people’s identities.
Aromantic people are put under immense pressure to be alloromantic. The idea that aromantics can’t, or rarely, experience romantic attraction is often conflated with misconceptions around psycopathy which present ideas of aromantics as dangerous and needing to be fixed. The obsession with trying to get to the bottom of aromanticism creates mental health disparities. Aromantics grow up in a society that is set against them which can cause a risk of anxiety, stress, isolation and loneliness. Yet, if aromantics seek support, the romantic orientation is so misunderstood that there is an incredibly slim chance they will be able to find a therapist that focuses upon supporting aromantics (as opposed to ‘curing’). Furthermore, even trying to seek support around being aromantic is something most NHS staff aren’t trained in. Queer training often gets little investment, and the only identities that get even glimpses of acknowledgement are gay, bi and trans identities – and care around LGBT people is often still appalling. Mental health support just is not accessible for aromantics.
Aromantics aren’t absent of an identity – or of oppression. Being aro is not a cause for shame, but the inequalities that exist in society for aromantics are. These barriers are likely to remain in place for decades if activism doesn’t embrace a more inclusive and widespread approach.