The 50th anniversary of the “decriminalisation of homosexuality” has been met with pride and jubilation by many in the queer community, as well as respect for those who were never granted any freedom at all. It should be a moment of unity, but instead it’s a time fraught with tension for those overlooked.
The focus on homosexuality largely erases and ignores the experience of bisexual men who were also prosecuted. Queer women may never have found themselves formally criminalised, but still they were persecuted and yet their stories have been wiped from history.
There are still those within the queer community who are never accepted as queer enough. The spin of “love wins” every time there’s a queer victory does real damage to aromantic people. The queer community can feel as oppressive to queer people as wider society – only some identities get recognition. Those who don’t serve the community as a political prop get tossed aside.
Romantic love is not the gold standard of life. Not everyone has to experience it, and if it is experienced it does not mean that suddenly people become better than their former selves. The belief that we must all strive for love, that it makes us better and happier is infinitely harmful.
“I just want you to be happy, you deserve to have someone who loves you”
It is one of the most painful yet most well-meaning statements soaked in queerphobia that aromantic people have to sit and grin through. Not everyone wants love. Some aromantic people (and some who aren’t) may even be repulsed by romance. For greyromantic people, it’s simply cruel. Do you not think we have searched for love simply to shut the world up?
Everyone everywhere says that love saves the world, it’s what separates us from animals and it’s what gives us validation. These lies play with people’s sense of identity. Greyromantic people may find love, but to tell them they must or that it will make things better means that they’re forced to carry around the weight of expectations of society. Vulnerable greyromantic people are forced into a desperate hunt for love because our identities are always wrong. We’re dangerous for not experiencing romantic love. We’ll cheat. We have no feelings at all. That is how we are judged, and so many find themselves in romantic relationships not out of desire but out of a desperate attempt to assimilate. How is that a queer revolution?
Romantic love is then forced upon people. It’s not something that’s left to be explored, embraced or shrugged off in our time or our own way. Love is weaponised against us.
When society judges people by how comfortable they are in relationships, their longevity, and their Instagram value then aromantic people are simply the misfits of society. We’re the freaks nobody wants to listen to. Forget that aromantic people can have romantic relationships and nuanced relationships. Erase the fact that aromantic people may endure emotional abuse and manipulation for not being loving enough. Those who can’t love easily and deeply are told they are wrong, no matter what happens to them.
It’s in almost every Hollywood story. The Joker might just be saved if only he could truly love Harley (because fans conflate aromanticism with psychopathy and believe that love can cure everyone from every flaw and monogamous romantics never ever commit abuse). It’s not just Disney. Rogue One was hailed as revolutionary because the girl did not get with the guy as the world was ending. It was ground-breaking because romance is always assumed and lays thrust upon fictional characters, just as it is forced upon everyday lives. Most songs sound utterly pathetic too. Nothing makes me more proud of being greyromantic than having to endure the lyrics of Ed Sheeran and know I won’t experience whatever he’s attempting to sing about.
Anniversaries are important if they remind us of why there’s a time we’d rather leave behind. They should heighten the desire for progress – but when it comes to aromantic identities, unless you’re on Tumblr, there is no support or acknowledgement of us at all. We need to start teaching the full spectrum of sexuality in schools so young people don’t feel pressured into romantic relationships. We talk about sex, so let’s talk about feelings too.
Stephanie Farnsworth is a freelance writer and journalist. Her writing focuses upon identity and intersectional feminism.