Thoughts on Coming Out as Aro

It’s Aro Spectrum Awareness Week.

The prompt for today is:

Friday, February 19: Write about your coming out experience. Was it tough to come out? Did you have to explain your identity on the spectrum to people? Do you have any advice to give to other aromantic and arospec people who have yet to come out? Alternatively, have you come out as aromantic or on the aromantic spectrum? What are some hopes that you have when/if you do?

You know, I think there have been only two times I ever came out to anybody who was not a member of the asexual and/or aro community.

One time was when my my mother was reading The Invisible Orientation. She was a bit overwhelmed with the complexity of the concepts used in the asexual community, including the ideas around romantic orientation, so she came and asked me which, if any, of these labels applied to me. I told her I was aromantic. Fortunately, since she was reading the book, I did not have to spend much energy explaining to her the definition of “aromantic”. Thankfully it was not a big deal. If anything, it was helpful, since it helped get the notion out of her head that I was interested in dating and partnering up in any sort of conventional sense.

So, based on that experience, my advice to people who want to come out is … have some kind of aro-101 material at hand that you think your intended audience will be receptive to. For example, my mother was more receptive to The Invisible Orientation than she was to websites. That said, she was to a large extent receptive to The Invisible Orientation because she had known for years that I was asexual. That was plenty of time for her to wrap around her head that, yes, I really am asexual, and thus develop a genuine interest in learning more.

The other time was at Manga Bookshelf, but since nobody commented on me coming out at aromantic, it was a very anti-climactic way to come out.

The biggest barrier to me coming out as aro to more people is that I do not want to go into exhaustive aro 101 if I do not have to, and without aro 101, I don’t think people would understand what I was saying if I said I was aromantic, and what’s the point if people don’t have a clue what I’m saying?

The long term solution to this, of course, is more aro education and awareness. Cheers for Aro Spectrum Awareness Week!

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My Mom’s Been Reading The Invisible Orientation (Part 2)

Here is Part 1.

Ever since my mom started to actually talk to me about asexuality (which was about a month and a half after I returned to North America) she has been very focused on dating. She told me I could start an asexual dating website as a business – I pointed out to her that asexual dating websites already exist. When she asked me about them, I told her I never bothered to register at any because I am not interested in dating. My mother interpreted it as ‘not interested right now’ rather than ‘not interested at all’, and I wasn’t prepared to have a long serious discussion with her about it, mainly because I’m not entirely clear what I want. She also seemed to think of me going to ace meet-ups as a way of *ahem* shopping for asexy dates, and she usually asks me if I met anyone I really like after a meet-up.

Fast forward to my mother reading The Invisible Orientation.

She came to me, and said that the most striking thing she found in the book is that asexuals can date non-asexuals, and that the writer does not recommend that asexuals only look for asexual partners (note: I have not read that section of the book, so I do not know whether my mother is accurately representing what Julia Sondra Decker says). I replied ‘Well, of course’. It turns out that my mother was under the impression that a) of course I’m interested in dating and b) that asexuals can only date other asexuals. She said that internet dating is a wonderful thing for niche groups, and that I would have to find an asexual partner through the internet because it would be too difficult otherwise.

This is where I had to say straight out to my mother that I do not want to date.

And I don’t. I’d like to form some kind of chosen family at some point. I’m not sure how I’ll try to do that, but it won’t be through ‘dating’. I have never felt any inclination to date anybody, except in circumstances when the word ‘date’ is being used very, very loosely (I had a friend who I would go on ‘dates’ with, but a ‘date’ was simply anything we decided to do in advance together at a specific time, like go to the Wanhua District of Taipei. She is heterosexual).

Even though I’ve told my mother before that I don’t want to date, I don’t think she actually understood what I was saying until just then. Maybe she still doesn’t understand. We’ll see.

She also said that one of the most interesting parts of the book is the list of novels with ace characters. She asked me if I had read any of them. I have only read Quicksilver. My mom went ahead and got a bunch of these novels from the library, but I think most of these books are not her cup of tea (she hasn’t said much about them).

The Invisible Orientation has been a helpful book. It is a lot easier to hand it to my mother than to try to educate her about asexuality myself. It has also sparked dialogue, especially about this issue of dating where she had some misconceptions about myself and I avoided talking to her about it because it was easier to avoid the subject and I only had a vague notion of the misconceptions she had. I am very glad that this book exists.

My Mom’s Been Reading The Invisible Orientation (Part 1)

For those who don’t know, The Invisible Orientation is the book about asexuality by Julia Sondra Decker which was published last year.

I’ve only skimmed through the book, and just as I’ve expected, I’m not in the target audience. It is mostly stuff which I already knew.

My mom, however, IS in the target audience. And she’s been spending a lot more time with the book than I have.

After I returned to San Francisco, she’s become a lot more interested in asexuality than she ever has been before. The background is, when I first came out to my mom, she said I was just a late bloomer, and a few months later I moved to a different continent and had only limited contact with my mom for a few years, and never discussed asexuality with her during this time. I do recall that, at the time of my departure, she had seemed to have already accepted to some degree that I was asexual.

She has tried to learn about asexuality on the internet but … well, let’s just that the internet is not a suitable venue for my mother to learn about asexuality. I have given her some Asexuality 101, but there is a limit to that because a) I don’t like giving people Asexuality 101 in general and b) it is particularly difficult with my mother because there is a lot of personal history, expectations, feelings, etc. – and we both have to get through that in a way which is not harmful to our relationships – which makes it more complicated than giving Asexuality 101 to a stranger. She actually asked me if there was a book about asexuality, which was the perfect opening for me to tell her about The Invisible Orientation.

One of her first reactions was “This book is like reading a dictionary”. At the time, she held a book which I’m guessing (but am not sure) is a romance novel, and I said “Uh, I think that’s the wrong book.” And then she said “I mean the asexuality book – I started reading this because I’ve had enough of reading about word definitions today.”

That is definitely one of the reasons why The Invisible Orientation is more helpful than the internet for educating my mom – even in organized book format, it was tough enough for her to get the hang of the terminology. On the internet, with its plethora of disorganized sources, it was overwhelming for her.

She eventually got through that section of the book, and then confided in me “When I heard you were asexual, I had two thoughts. The first was that, as you get older, and have more experiences, you may find that you are sexual. I’ve given up on that.” [I think coming out to her shortly before leaving North America was brilliant timing on my part] “But I still have my other concern, and that asexuals are so rare, 1% of the population, it’ll be hard for you to find a partner.”

To be continued.


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