You may have seen diagrams such as the Gender Bread Person or the Calgary Sexual Health sexicon that shows the difference between our gender expression, identity, sexual orientation, and romantic orientation. Those diagrams demonstrate for us the scale of how people fit into what society historically thought were binary choices.
When I took my first workshop on this topic, I was quite lost when it came to the concept of the aromantic. I can only assume I am not alone. Let’s celebrate Valentine’s day with a look into what I have learned on the topic of the romantic orientation continuum.
First, a little glossary of terms thanks to the Asexual Visibility and Education Network WiKi page:
Aromantic: An aromantic is a person who experiences little or no romantic attraction to others. Romantic attraction is an emotional response that most people often feel that results in a desire for a romantic relationship with the person that the attraction is felt towards.
Biromantic: Biromantic describes a person who is romantically attracted to two sexes or genders.
Gray-romantic: A gray-romantic (grey-romantic) is a person with a romantic orientation that is somewhere between aromantic and romantic. For example, a gray-romantic may: Experience romantic attraction but not very often. Experience romantic attraction, but not desire romantic relationships. Desire relationships which are not quite platonic and not quite romantic.
Demiromantic: A demiromantic is a type of grey-romantic who only experiences romantic attraction after developing an emotional connection beforehand.
Heteroromantic: A heteroromantic person is a person who is romantically attracted to a member of the opposite sex or gender.
Homoromantic: A person who is romantically attracted to a member of the same sex or gender.
Lithromantic: Lithromantic is a term to describe a person who experiences romantic love but does not want their feelings to be reciprocated. Lithromantic people may or may not be ok with romantic relationships. Some accept reciprocated platonic love, or even romantic love, but does not find it necessary in a relationship.
Panromantic: A person who is romantically attracted to others but is not limited by the other’s sex or gender.
WTFromantic: WTFromantic (or Quoiromantic) is a term to describe a person on the aromantic spectrum who does not see the lines between romance and friendship. Other definitions include: cannot define romantic attraction and therefore do not know whether they experience it, have emotions between platonic and romantic attraction, or want to be in a queerplatonic relationship.
Other A words to consider
Agender and Asexual were also new terms I needed to learn on my journey so let me define those as well. If we think of gender and sexuality as a continuum, we have to consider the non-existence of gender or sexual attraction.
Asexuality as an identity is defined someone who does not experience sexual attraction. Unlike celibacy, which people choose, asexuality is an intrinsic part of who someone is. There is considerable diversity among the asexual community; each asexual person experiences things like relationships, attraction, and arousal somewhat differently. Asexuality does not make anyone’s life any worse or any better, they just face a different set of challenges than most sexual people. Asexuality is distinct from celibacy or sexual abstinence, which are behaviours, while asexuality is generally considered to be a sexual orientation. Some asexuals do participate in sex, for a variety of reasons.
Agender (also referred to as “gender-neutral”) is a term used to describe a person without gender. This person can be any physical sex, but their body does not necessarily correspond with their lack of gender identity. Often, these people are not concerned with their physical sex, but some may seek to look androgynous.
The list of terms that can be used to describe gender identity, sexual and romantic orientation, and gender expression can be overwhelming. It can also be scary to know how to address someone who doesn’t present in the obvious 1940s male and female archetype. The most important thing you can do to put everyone at ease is to ask people how they would like to be addressed. Which pronounces would they like you to use? As for their sexual or romantic orientation, you probably don’t need to know that about someone unless you are going to be in a sexual or romantic situation with them, in which case all the consent basics apply including asking them clarifying questions.