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Editorial: This Valentine’s Day, remember your a-spec friends
February 17, 2023
“Love is in the air,” as the expression goes. It’s all about hearts, flowers, chocolates, Cupid and anything else you would associate with Feb. 14.
But even as the seasonal aisle at Wal-Mart transitions from pink to green and Hallmark cards move on to graduation day, the idea of romance and sex being “universal” still permeates our daily lives. If you turn on the radio, a love song will come on. If you go to the movies, you’re guaranteed at least one cheesy romance side plot. If you pick up a copy of the Daily Egyptian this week, you’ll see the “sex issue” because it warrants a special edition dedicated to it.
Obviously, those are there for a reason. Many people do experience and desire romantic and sexual attraction. But for those who don’t, like me, it feels alienating and isolating.
I am asexual, which means I experience little to no sexual attraction. I am also aromantic, which is the same thing, but for romantic attraction. These are two separate concepts, and I just happen to fall under both categories. Some do, some don’t. It all varies between individuals, and no two people are the same.
What does this mean? Well, I’ve never had sex and don’t really want to either. I’ve also never had a “relationship” in the way that most people would use the term. I’ve not had a crush and still don’t quite understand what that even feels like.
Asexuality and aromanticism both exist on spectrums, and encapsulate several different identities. For example, using the prefix “demi-” (i.e. “demisexual”) changes the meaning to refer to when attraction only exists after developing a close emotional connection.
There are so many different identities that fall under the “a-spec” umbrella that it would be impossible to list them here. Sometimes, someone can fall under one of the labels and not even know it, because this unfortunately isn’t very common knowledge.
With all that being said, how is my life different as an aromantic and asexual person? Well, as I alluded to earlier, it means that I’m left out of what many consider to be a “universal” experience.
Imagine it like romance and sex are theme parks, but you’re not really into roller coasters, so you pass. It’s nothing against the park; it’s just not your thing. All of your friends are amazed to find out that you haven’t been to what they consider to be the coolest place on earth.
“How can you not have gone?” they ask. “Anybody who’s anybody has done it.”
You go on social media to see people posting about how cool the rides there are and how much fun they’re having. You listen to music and hear nothing but advertisements for the theme park. Your parents keep asking when you’ll be bringing home season passes.
This analogy sounds ridiculous, but that’s just how it feels. To be left out of something that’s supposed to be the ultimate experience, but you just don’t get the hype.
Aromantic and asexual erasure is not only common, but very easy to accidentally take part in. Something as simple as “you’ll find the right person eventually” can be very hurtful and damaging, even though the person saying it usually means well. As a general tip, if you replace “ace” with “gay” and it sounds homophobic, it’s probably aphobic as well.
I’ve also had people say “your life must be easier because you don’t have to deal with” all of the complications that come with romantic and sexual relationships. That’s a nice way to look at it, but with the above kept in mind, it isn’t exactly sunshine and rainbows.
The thing that bothers me most of all is how people have devalued relationships outside of these two types. Platonic, familial and any other types of relationships are just as valid and worthy of your time and energy. They are the strongest connections I can make with someone, so I hold them in high regard.
Unfortunately, others don’t always feel the same. I feel that I will always be pushed aside by friends in favor of a romantic and/or sexual partner. To some, the idea of just being “good friends” is heartbreaking and even insulting; in my world, it’s the best thing you could possibly be.
I love my friends. I love my family. I love everyone around me. Ever since I realized that I don’t experience romantic and sexual attraction, I’ve viewed the world and my place in it in a totally different way. I’ve discovered how much those other bonds truly mean to me. I just wish that others felt the same way.
In an ideal world, everyone would be accepted for who they are and taken as they wish to be. We would have no need for labels and groupings and spectrums; everyone could just exist and do (or not do) what they want as long as they aren’t hurting anyone.
Sadly, we aren’t in that world. People are constantly ostracized for being different, no matter how much of an impact it actually has. A lot of times, it’s intentional, but just as often, people leave minority groups out without even thinking about it. In the case of the a-spec community, many people don’t even realize it exists.
Maybe you do experience romantic or sexual attraction. Maybe for you, it’s the greatest feeling in the world. There’s no shame in that, and you shouldn’t feel bad about it. But you should remember those who don’t and those who are left behind when those experiences are put on a pedestal.
This Valentine’s Day, remember your a-spec friends. Remember those who are often forgotten this time of year. Value your friendships, and tell the people you care about how much they mean to you. Your love for others doesn’t stop at a partner or spouse.
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