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Explore the spectrum: Guide to finding your ace community

October 27, 2018

Asexuality and aromanticism both occupy the A in the LGBTQIAP+ acronym, alongside agender. These terms, however, are only a few of what are known as “a-spec” (asexual spectrum) identities. The identities that fall under the umbrellas of asexual, aromantic, and agender are many and varied, and almost as diverse as the greater LGBTQ+ community itself. Here, I’ll go into some of the lesser-known identities that fall under the categories of asexual and aromantic.

Note that this is by no means an exhaustive list; there are dozens of other identities that fall under the a-spectrum. While this may seem excessive to some, for many people having these identities is extremely important. It allows them to cast light on experiences that would otherwise be ignored or scorned, and helps them to find communities that they identify with. If someone finds a microlabel that fits the experience they haven’t been able to qualify or quantify, it can alleviate feelings of brokenness or unbelonging.

Before we dive into definitions and descriptions we need to talk a little bit about the Split Attraction Model. The Split Attraction Model (or SAM) was first coined by asexuals and aromantics in order to better describe and explain their identities to both themselves and others. What the SAM does is splits sexual and romantic attraction into two separate things. This means that for every sexual orientation, there is a romantic orientation counterpart.

This means someone who is aromantic may still identify as pansexual, heterosexual, homosexual, demisexual, or any other sexual orientation, without giving up their aromantic identity. For asexuals, this means that they can identify as panromantic, heteroromantic, homoromantic, demiromantic, or any other romantic orientation and not forfeit their asexual identity. This helps asexuals who don’t identify as aromantic, and aromantics who don’t identify as asexual to qualify their experiences. While the SAM was initially created by a-spec people, it can easily be used by people who are not asexual or aromantic. A person can be pansexual and homoromantic, for instance, which means they are sexually attracted to people regardless of gender, but only romantically attracted to people of their same gender.

Now, let’s take a look at some a-spec identities and unpack what they mean.

Asexual

Asexuality is probably the most well-known of the a-spec identities. Many people who identify with one of the subcategories of asexuality will use asexual when talking about their identity in public because it’s the easiest to explain. A simple definition that I use is: Someone who does not experience sexual attraction towards anyone. It’s important to remember, however, that attraction and action are not always the same: some asexuals may be repulsed by the idea of sexual contact and won’t engage in it, but others may be sex-neutral or sex-positive and will have sex. Some asexuals have a libido or will masturbate but won’t be open to sex with someone else, while others may not have a libido but will have sex with a partner because of the sense of connection that comes from it. Everyone experiences their asexuality differently, so it’s important not to make assumptions about an asexual person or their experiences.

Aromantic

Aromanticism is what could be described as the romantic-orientation counterpart to asexuality. Similar to asexuality, someone who identifies with a subcategory of aromanticism may simply call themselves aromantic because it’s simpler and easier to explain. The definition of aromanticism is, simply: Someone who does not experience romantic attraction to anyone. Like with asexuality, an aromantic person may still choose to engage in a romantic relationship, or not. Many aromantic people will enter into what are called “queer platonic partnerships” or QPPs. These partnerships are, as the name implies, platonic in nature. One might have the instinct to compare this idea to having a best friend, but that isn’t accurate. A QPP will have the same level of commitment as a romantic relationship. They may live together, have children, or even get married. Major life decisions are made jointly. The only real difference is that the relationship is platonic, rather than romantic.

Grey-Asexual/Greyromantic

Grey-asexuality and greyromanticism describes anyone who falls in some area between being asexual and sexual, or aromantic and romantic. This identity is especially idiosyncratic, as the experiences of grey-asexual/greyromantics can vary wildly. People who identify with either of these labels can include (but are in no way limited to), people who do not normally experience attraction but do sometimes, people who experience attraction but have a low sex drive, and people who can enjoy and desire sex or romantic relationships but under very limited and specific circumstances. The identities to follow can all fit underneath the grey-asexual or greyromantic labels if the person identifying with it chooses to.

Demisexual/Demiromantic

Demisexuality and demiromanticism are subsets of asexuality and aromanticism, respectively, as are the rest of the identities on this list. Demi is French for “half,” and was first coined to describe a person who does not experience attraction to an individual until a significant emotional bond has formed. This works off of the idea of primary attraction and secondary attraction. Primary attraction is attraction to people based on first impressions, such as appearance or how they smell. Secondary attraction is attraction to people that develops over time, and forms out of the relationship one has with a person, and their emotional connection. This can be applied to both romantic attraction and sexual attraction. Demisexuals or demiromantics do not experience primary attraction, but do experience secondary attraction.

Reciprosexual/Recipromantic

Reciprosexuality and recipromanticism describes someone who does not experience sexual/romantic attraction to someone until they know that the person is attracted to them.

Akoisexual/Akoiromantic

This identity has been through several name changes, and may also be called akoinesexual/akoineromantic or lithsexual/lithromantic. Akoisexuals/Akoiromantics may experience sexual/romantic attraction, but that attraction fades if it is reciprocated.

Aceflux/Aroflux

Someone who is aceflux or aroflux has a sexual/romantic orientation that fluctuates along the spectrum between asexual and sexual, and aromantic and romantic. Some people who are aceflux or aroflux will always stay within the asexual or aromantic spectrum, while others may occasionally fall outside of it.

For more information on asexual and aromantic identities, check out the Asexual Visibility and Education Network and the Aromantics Wiki.

Morgan Pasquier is a GLAAD Campus Ambassador and a senior at the University of Washington, Tacoma studying Psychology. They are an avid traveler and hopes to visit every continent someday.

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