It's Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week
There's a memorable scene in the Netflix series "BoJack Horseman" where Todd Chavez, a character who identifies as an asexual man, takes a stab at explaining aromanticism.
"Think of it this way," he begins. "One could be A) romantic or B) aromantic, while also being A) sexual or B) asexual."
Keygan Miller, public training manager for the Trevor Project, a national organization based in California that is dedicated to ending suicide among LGBTQIA+ youth, defined the term in a straightforward manner: "Aromanticism is a romantic orientation that describes someone who experiences little to no romantic attraction."
Miller, who goes by the pronouns they/them, said it's difficult to estimate how many people are aromantic due to limited research on LGBTQIA+ identities.
"Because of societal expectations and stigma, it is likely that more people are aromantic than one might be aware of," they said.
This year's Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week runs Feb. 19-25. Everyone should know a few facts about this romantic identity.
Aromanticism vs. asexuality
Aromanticism is distinct from asexuality (or "ace"), though the two are often confused, Miller explained.
"Aromanticism commonly gets conflated with asexuality, which is a sexual orientation defined by the lack of sexual attraction to others," they said. "Not all asexual people are aromantic and vice versa. Aromantic people can experience sexual attraction and have sexual relationships, while asexual people can experience romantic attraction and have romantic relationships."
Importantly, aromanticism doesn't mean an inability to experience love.
"Remember, attraction does not equal love," Miller stressed. "Aromantics are still capable of forming deep and meaningful relationships with others. The only difference is that the levels of intimacy or behaviors of the relationship may not fit the conventional standards set by society."
Miller noted that, just like with any other orientation, aromantic people can have many different kinds of relationships.
"Aromantics may choose to be in committed, partnered relationships, while others may prefer to remain single and have platonic relationships with family, friends or chosen family," Miller said.
Like any sexual or romantic identity, aromanticism is a spectrum. Some aromantic people experience different levels of romantic attraction. Miller outlined the different terms people may use to describe their romantic identity:
- Arospec (short for "aromantic spectrum"). Someone who may experience romantic attraction occasionally, conditionally or in an otherwise nonnormative way.
- Greyromantic. Someone who experiences romantic attraction infrequently or weakly.
- Demiromantic. Someone who experiences romantic attraction to someone only after forming a strong emotional bond with the person over a period of time.
- Cupioromantic. Someone who desires a romantic relationship but does not experience romantic attraction.
"Folks may also attach other orientation labels to their identity, such as aromantic asexual, aromantic heterosexual, aromantic bisexual, etcetera, as a way to talk about how they experience sexual attraction differently than romantic attraction," Miller said. "It's important to know that regardless of how you identify, your experience is valid and you should never be ashamed or pressured to feel something you don't feel."
Coming out as aromantic
People who think they may be on the aromantic spectrum should check out Trevor Project's Coming Out Handbook, Miller suggested. It covers a wide range of topics to support LGBTQIA+ young people in exploring what coming out safely can mean for them.
"Coming out is an incredibly personal decision and there's no right or wrong way to do it," Miller said. "The key is to do it on your own time, whenever it feels right and safe for you. Unfortunately, coming out doesn't always go as we hope. If people don't react the way you wish, remember that it is not your fault and you are valid. No matter where you are in the process of discovering your identity, you deserve to be loved, affirmed and welcomed just the way you are."
How to support and celebrate aromantics
In observation of Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week, Miller explained how allies can support a partner, friend or family member who is on the aromantic spectrum this week and every week.
"Make a point to let the LGBTQ young people in your life know that you love and support them for who they are," they said. "We all—friends, peers and family—have a role to play in creating environments where LGBTQ people can feel safe and supported to thrive openly as their authentic selves."
Miller cited the Trevor Project's 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, which indicated that LGBTQIA+ youth who lived in an accepting community, attended an LGBTQ-affirming school or felt high social support from family and friends reported significantly lower rates of attempted suicide in the past year.
"Our research also shows that having at least one accepting adult can reduce the risk of an LGBTQ young person attempting suicide by 40 percent. Be that one accepting adult," they added.
Identity, Miller emphasized, is a very individual trait. Each person has their own understanding of their identity and what it means to them.
"But if we are aware of the generalities of identities, such as aromanticism, it normalizes these terms and creates a more accepting society where people feel safe and comfortable to live openly as their full, authentic selves," they concluded.