Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week Series: Day 3
by Claudie Arseneault
You know how ships go. Two people interact and have great chemistry, and suddenly fandom is all over them. They have a ship name that’s a mash-up of their two names, your tumblr dash is filled with them kissing and holding hands and being cuties, and the wild headcanons and alternate universes just keep coming. And why not? Look at them get along. They’re just perfect for each other, right?
Here’s the thing: perfect for each other, for me, does not systematically mean romance. My experience of fandom (and most of the LGBTQIAP+ community), however, is that there is absolutely no room for it. Don’t even dare—you’ll be called homophobic if it’s a gay pairing, and you’ll be told no one cares if it’s m/f (I’ve yet to see what happens with nb characters, but probably option a). And listen, if you’re going “FRIENDSHIP” on pairings like Asami and Korra, or if you insist Pearl and Rose weren’t quite clearly romantically and sexually into each other, then yeah. Sit down and examine yourself. But that’s not what is going on.
What happens is that our desire for strong friendships or queerplatonic relationships in book and on screen is taken as us invading a space. Taking away from others. As if our headcanons can’t coexist! As if there isn’t room for everyone, and we just belong less. Ironic, considering queer people are friends with each other all the time. People actually clamour for that, then turn on us when we ask for aromantic representation and non-romantic dynamics, or when we see ourselves in already existing characters.
Romances are great. They’re necessary to a lot of the community, but while they bring huge contributions to normalizing and validating several queer identities and relationships, the overwhelming amount of romance (and sex, if you’re asexual to boot) in LGBTQIAP+ literature and television can really worsen our situation. It’s like the world doubling-down on telling us we’re broken and will never be happy.
The aromantic community needs room for its friend-shipping. I need to see people like me in relationships I crave–with friends, family, queerplatonic partners, mentors, name it! Heck, I’d love an aromantic character in a romantic relationship that acknowledges attraction does not equal behaviour, and that our community is a wide spectrum of identities. Or, if the characters are loners, then I need to see them happy with that, comfortable in the contacts they have, because it is their choice. I need people to acknowledge there’s no obligation of romance when two characters hit it off, and that their friendship isn’t “just” friendship. There is no just. There is only deep, beautiful, meaningful relationships which mean the world to me and my community.
I mean… have any of you read The Gentlemen Bastards series? Have you witnessed the depths of trust between Locke and Jean? These two know without the slightest doubt–with the tiniest bit of hesitation– that the other will always be there for him. Their friendship is one that bears no secrets because, really, they know each other too well for that shit. And if taking care of each other involves a long showdown of just how much of an ass you’re being? They’re here for that. And yes, I know how shippable Jean/Locke is. But the closeness of the pair, the perfect mix of friendship and brotherhood that binds them and drives so much of the plot–that has always been such a precious core of the series to me (beyond the amazing cloak & daggers, twisting plots I mean). This is the kind of friendship I aspire to: one that weathers to worst storms and emerges even truer, deeper, and more beautiful.
Which also brings me to another point. I do try to write this kind of relationship, and I think people should be especially careful when they project romances upon an aromantic writer’s friendships. I’ve experienced this a handful of times already and it leaves me deeply unsettled. It’s one thing to ship, another to insist it must be. Your enthusiasm and love for my characters warms my heart, but it leaves me with one impression: that you don’t think this friendship, whatever form it takes, is sufficient–that it isn’t good enough. And once again, I see where the priority goes.
So that’s my message. Value our narratives. Our community is the constant subject of ridicule, erasure, and dehumanization. When you support our headcanons and our friend-ships instead of considering them lesser than their romantic counterparts, you tell us we are real, you tell us we belong, and you tell us we matter.
Today is the release day of Claudie Arseneault’s newest book, City of Strife. You can buy a copy here!
Bickering merchant families vie for power through eccentric shows of wealth and brutal trading wars. Unspoken rules regulate their battles, but when an idealistic elven lord provokes the powerful Myrian Empire, all bets are off. They are outsiders, unbound by local customs, and no one knows how far they’ll take their magic to dominate the city. Nobles and commoners alike must fight to preserve their home, even if the struggle shatters friendships, destroys alliances, and changes them irrevocably.
City of Strife is the first installment of the City of Spires trilogy, a multi-layered political fantasy led by an all LGBTQIAP+ cast. Fans of complex storylines criss-crossing one another, strong friendships and found families will find everything they need within these pages.
Claudie Arseneault is an asexual and aromantic-spectrum writer hailing from the very-French Québec City. Her long studies in biochemistry and immunology often sneak back into her science-fiction, and her love for sprawling casts invariably turns her novels into multi-storylined wonders. The most recent, City of Strife, comes out on February 22, 2017! Claudie is a founding member of The Kraken Collective and is well-known for her involvement in solarpunk, her database of aro-ace characters in spec fic, and her unending love of octopi. Find out more on her website, or follow her on twitter!