There’s lots of discussion surrounding the use of labels, especially in the aro and ace communities. This is my experience and opinion on how they are best applied. I use the split attraction model, which divides attraction into sexual and romantic.
My first step on the road to realizing I’m aro/ace (aromantic/asexual) was accepting my asexuality, although I still thought I was heteroromantic. This immediately required an acceptance of the split attraction model that I still believe in. Later on, I started to reconsider my “crushes” and found that they had different circumstances than most people’s. This led me to look further into the various descriptors of romantic attraction. While I didn’t try each of these, the list includes things like fray-, akoi-, quoi-, demi-, and autochoris-. The list goes on and on.
Some might call these silly, splitting hairs, or an attempt to be a special snowflake. I ended up using aro/ace, a more accepted one. But I don’t think I would’ve gotten there as soon without looking into these labels. They helped me see that there’s more ways to experience attraction than whatever your friends feel or what the media shows you.
Labels in general are descriptions of an experience, not the other way around. Each person’s experiences are unique and likely aren’t shared exactly by anyone else. In my opinion this means labels are only useful to figure out what you are experiencing if they lead you to find resources. They are not rules on how you are supposed to feel. For example, I’ve tried dating since figuring out my current set of labels because I wanted to be close to someone, who happened to have a crush on me. It didn’t work out because of my orientation, but it was definitely worth the try, and I would have missed out on it if I had stuck to my labels. However, labels are very helpful to find a network. Sometimes you need support, advice, or just a person to talk to who understands what you mean. It’s a lot easier to say the closest approximation to what you feel rather than describing it every time.
When it comes to interactions, labels should only be used to self-describe. It’s good to understand yourself, but nobody else should try to dictate how you identify yourself. They only need to know how you feel about them. To the aforementioned person, I told her I’m aro/ace, but when we talked about our relationship, I never used a label. It’s important to be honest and leave nothing out when doing this, but it leads to better relationships than simply using someone else’s experiences to describe yourself.
Whatever labels you choose to use, remember that who you are is more important than what you are. You love who you love how you love, and how you describe that is entirely up to you.
– Cate S.
I didn’t really consider the idea that I wasn’t straight until 8th grade. By then, I had already had two “crushes.” How a crush feels is never explained to anyone because supposedly everybody feels one by the end of middle school. That makes it pretty easy to misconstrue. I just knew that I had a really good friend, who was a girl, and I really enjoyed being around her. Sounded spot-on.
One night my sister, cousins and I were playing truth or dare. A lot of the truth topics were about crushes and stuff, and my two (male) cousins started talking about what it feels like when they see a hot girl. I said that I had no such experience. They seemed to think I was some sort of a saint, but my sister asked if that meant I was asexual. I laughed about it but looked it up that night. A lot of the stuff was pretty relatable. There were loads of stories about people who had experiences like me but didn’t hear about asexuality until they were much older. I’m lucky I figured that part out so early.
Of course then I thought that would be the end of it – I’m ace, but I had crushes on girls. Heteroromantic. Easy. But then I started digging into the ace community on tumblr. They had all sorts of other labels for every type of attraction. I thought a bit about a few of them, but didn’t really consider them too seriously until much later. Still the idea that I wasn’t a “completely straight ace” lingered.
Fast forward to the beginning of my sophomore year of high school. I had identified as a heteroromantic asexual for about a year and a half, and told around five close friends. I had had three “crushes,” all on girls. Then I started thinking about my friendship with another guy. How I felt about him was stronger than how I felt about any of those three girls. For a moment I wondered if I was attracted to men, but I asked myself what I actually would want in a relationship. The list included things like sharing cool stuff in life, being able to rely on them, having fun with them, and being able to be chill with them. That sounded an awful lot like friendship. I summed up my ideal relationship as “forever roommates” and realized that applied to several of my friends. None of them were what crushes were supposed to be.
I looked up “what does it feel like to be aromantic” and found a list of ~50 things. I personally related to over 40 of them, and one of them used the wording “forever roommates.” It couldn’t have been a more perfect fit. Looking back, it seems pretty obvious, but that’s compulsory straightness for you.
The year since then has included no crushes (now that I understand them) but one attempt to date. While it was fun, it showed me that even someone who is perfect for me isn’t going to change the fact of who I am. I understand that sexuality can be fluid, but for the moment I’m proud to be an aro/ace.
– Cate S.
On May 20, 2017, STORM Robotics hosted its first annual FIRST Compass, an event where teams can give or watch presentations about different subjects in robotics. Representing LGBTQ+ of FIRST, Jaye and Sean presented this slide show to help teams in the MAR region and MAR itself learn how to be more inclusive to LGBTQ+ FIRST participants.
Since numerous teams seemed interested, LGBTQ+ of FIRST is sharing this presentation for all FIRSTers, especially those outside the MAR region and those who missed the event.
Every LGBTQ+ students deserves a welcoming and inclusive environment.
OMG I honestly felt like I was the only asexual in first thank you so much for sharing your story Ive been coming out to my team over time and its been really hard since they all kind of just brush it off as a joke. Ive been making jokes and references to it too because im too awkward to try to explain it to them. Its been a kind of difficult time and I just wanted to tell you how much I appreciate this blog and that post. Thank you.
Aw, I’m sorry to hear about your team situation, but thank you for the support! It means a lot.
Hey Guys! This is a general LGBTQ+ in STEM presentation I made for Purdue FIRST Forums. I encourage people to use this presentation to educate their teams and coworkers on all things queer! The presentation also includes helpful LGBTQ+ resources.
Link to presentation Here
About LGBTQ+ of FIRST
LGBTQ+ of FIRST is an organization dedicated to raising awareness and acceptance of LGBTQ+ participants in FIRST Robotics. LGBTQ+ of FIRST was started to spread visibility of the LGBTQ+ community within FIRST and help teams become safe spaces for their members.