Art By Mikael Hilapo
Art By Mikael Hilapo.

Playing the wild card: Finding love in aromanticism and asexuality

Love can come in many forms. For aromantic and asexual individuals, the expression of love and connection in various forms can be equally as meaningful as romantic love.

By Renee Aguila | Friday, 22 March 2024

The concept of love is often thought to be bound to the fairytale-like romance people usually know, with the ideas of soulmates and destiny intertwining. However, love nowadays transcends that as it is ever-changing and doesn’t have to be bound by romantic or sexual relationships as seen in aromantic and asexual individuals.


In a series of interviews with The Benildean, some aromantic and asexual individuals shared their experiences and perspectives on their identity. From navigating their everyday relationships to debunking common misconceptions, these individuals shine a brighter light on what it means to love and be loved. 


Diving into the spectrum 

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, aromanticism is defined as experiencing little to no romantic attraction to anyone, specifically relating to the absence of romantic feelings towards individuals. Meanwhile, Britannica describes asexuality, as the lack of sexual interest or attraction. It's important to note that while some asexual individuals may still desire romance, aromantic individuals may or may not experience sexual attraction. Additionally, individuals can identify as both aromantic and asexual.

For an ID121 Multimedia Arts student who goes by the name of “Fruitbat,” she imparted her experiences as an aroflux and aegosexual individual. According to the Oxford LGBTQIA+ Society, an American LGBTQIA+ welfare society,  as an aroflux,  one's romantic attraction fluctuates in ranges of strong romantic attraction to no romantic attraction at times. On the other hand, as an aegosexual, Elyssa Helfer, a clinical sexologist and sex therapist, describes this as a disconnect between oneself with the subject of sexual arousal. This means that for aegosexuals, they can experience sexual attraction but can have little to no desire to engage in sexual activity.  


With that in mind, Fruitbat emphasized “My romantic orientation fluctuates from being allo to aro at multiple points and have experienced sexual attraction but no desire for sexual intimacy.” Meanwhile, ID120 Multimedia Arts student, “Cly” also emphasized that “It’s a spectrum [being aromantic or asexual] some ace people could still engage in sexual activities without actively desiring it, being ace doesn’t always mean you’re also aro and vice versa, etc.” 


As being aromantic or asexual has a wide scope, coming to understand and embrace the identity doesn’t come without its nuances. “Jill,” an ID122 Animation student imparted that “For a while, I thought I was bi [sexual], but I realized that my feelings about romantic actions were tolerant/ neutral and not an actual want.” 


Similarly, Cly also realized “Knowing that there were other people out there who felt the same way and were just as confused as I was when I first realized I was aro/ace made the discovery less alienating.” There’s a sense of community and satisfaction garnered from finding people who share similar experiences and having one’s feelings validated.  


Weaving hues of relationships and expressions 

Furthermore, relationships aren’t as different to what most people would believe for aromantic and asexual individuals. “I feel like I’ve always lived a life that prioritized platonic love and relationships, and while, admittedly, there was an initial gloom with discovering I was aro/ace, I never felt the need to let my priorities go out of order for the sake of fitting in with traditional relationship dynamics,” Cly underscored.


Meanwhile, when the conversation on relationships is brought up for Fruitbat, she usually airs out “I just ignore the topic and simply leave it as ‘I want to focus on my career.’” 


On the other hand, Jill brings up the difficulties of growing up in a traditional household. “My parents also want me to get married one day, of course, but because they are religious and Asian, they’d rather that day be very far away. It’s [also] kind of unfortunate that I can’t be as physically intimate with some of my closer male friends though, since it’s seen as inappropriate.”


In terms of celebrating and acknowledging love, aromantic and asexual individuals are still capable of expressing their love for others even if it’s not romantic in nature. Fruitbat mentioned that instead of celebrating the month of love as Valentine’s Day, she celebrates the holiday with her peers, “I celebrate galentines where I spoil my friends.” Similarly, Jill expressed, “I’m a big fan of platonic love. A lot of my favorite characters are also married, but in a way where they are clearly friends before they are spouses. I think love is a very inherent thing really, it’s kind of hard to draw a line. I celebrate it usually by just hanging out with the people I’m close with.” 


Certainly, love can be found in a variety of forms. From loving characters to friends, the idea of it is open to anyone and everyone who wants to express it. Aromantic and asexual individuals should not be deprived of such love due to their identities. 


Dispelling shades of challenges and misconceptions

However, communicating one’s aromantic and/or asexual identity still comes with its challenges. Cly shared their experiences stating, “Back then, anytime I’d mention I was aro/ace I would always be met with a confused look on the other person’s face. Fortunately, information regarding asexuality and aromanticism isn’t that uncommon now, but it doesn’t make situations wherein I’ve had to turn down romantic or even sexual advances any less unpleasant.”


They also raised that “It is frustrating though when people's go-to response to me stating I’m aro/ace is ‘I just haven’t found the right person yet.’ Trying to explain that it’s not emotions and standards, but it’s just how my brain is wired has always been difficult.“


Conversely, Fruitbat weighed in, saying that “The fact that I’m not a complete aroace is difficult to explain not just for outsiders but [also] within the [LGBTQIA+] community.” This is once again due to aromanticism and asexuality being both on a diverse spectrum and outsiders have not fully understood how such individuals can still be aromantic but have sexual relationships, asexual but not be interested in romantic relationships, and other similar alignments on that spectrum.


Furthermore, she also raised some common misconceptions aromantic and asexual people face. This included the notion “We do not have the capability to feel as strongly for a person as romantics do. There are terms like platonic (for friends) and alterous (for undefined feelings),” as Fruitbat stressed. Jill presented a similar point by saying, “That they cannot find people attractive. That they have zero attraction. That they cannot love.”


Cly also distinguished further the difference between being aromantic and asexual through the misconception that both identities are constantly linked. “If you’re ace then you must also be aro, vice versa,” they mentioned. 


Pulling an ace for safe spaces

This also brings one to the question if there are established environments that are open and inclusive for aromantic and asexual individuals. Upon being asked about Benilde being an inclusive environment to express one’s orientation, Fruitbat voiced out that “It [Benilde] has for the most part, though I have my gripes with it.” 


“Benilde has always been inclusive in my eyes, no matter your sexual orientation or gender preference. There’s no specific practice per se, but I’ve found that other Benildeans are accepting right out of the bat whenever I mention I’m aro/ace, with some classmates even being already familiar with the terms, a feat that’s usually unheard of in my personal experience,” Cly acknowledged. 


With those insights in mind, Jill hopes people attempt to learn more about aromanticism and asexuality. “I [still] find plenty of people attractive. Asexuality is a spectrum. My feelings do not represent the whole,” they declared. Fruitbat asserted a similar notion that “I wish that people knew that everything lies in a spectrum and we must be welcoming to all.” While for Cly, they added, “Everyone has varying experiences and preferences regarding it. (And that we aren’t emotionless robots!)”


Reshuffling perspectives

As aromanticism and asexuality in the Philippines are ostracized, this calls for not only allies but also queer community members to be more open-minded. To better support aromantic and asexual individuals, Jill simply suggests, “Mostly understanding to be honest. We may not like the same kinds of things or feel the same way, but my identity is just as valid as yours.”


Cly also pushes forward for people to “Research and listen to aro/ace voices, much like how you would better understand and support other [LGBTQIA+] individuals. There’s not much currently, but consuming media with aromantic and asexual characters could also help, since most of them were written by people who understand aromanticism and asexuality or are even aro/ace themselves.” 


Both aromanticism and asexuality are often overlooked and misunderstood by mainstream society. By taking the time to inform oneself on not only those identities but also other queer identities and expressions, we can better foster understanding, diversity, and dismantle misconceptions surrounding the queer community. 


Love, in general, shouldn’t be limited to a particular group of people or holiday. Aromantics and asexuals are capable of experiencing deep connections with others and that is something outsiders should realize. Anyone and everyone can give all the love they can give in their own way of expressing it.

Last updated: Friday, 22 March 2024