Hello everyone! Today’s topic is “How to Talk to Aspecs as an Allo Person” (or anyone who’s tempted to question them, since some skeptics may themselves be aspec in some way without knowing it). (Allo being the opposite of the “a-” prefix, for those just joining me – meaning not ace and/or not aro.) If you don’t know much about aspec people, you’re probably tempted to ask questions. Which, depending on the person, can be okay, but also, a lot of us get asked a lot of the same annoying questions over and over. So, here’s a guide to help you determine if questions about someone being aro/ace are okay to ask, or whether you should stick to googling it later.
#1: Does the person seem open to questions?
Personally, I love talking about this stuff, so you can ask me just about anything. However, a lot of people don’t want to have to discuss it, and feeling like they have to have a TED talk ready whenever they talk about their orientation or identity is a big reason a lot of aspecs don’t talk about it freely. So before you ask anything, are you reasonably certain they’re okay answering questions? (E.g. they asked if you had them, or you know them well already and know they wouldn’t mind.) If you’re not sure, you can always just ask if it’s okay to ask them more about it or not.
#2: Are the assumptions behind your question logical?
Some remarks we get don’t really make a lot of sense when you stop and think. For example, most comments that center around asexuality or aromanticism as a medical issue to be fixed. Why is not experiencing attraction an “issue?” What harm is it causing? Generally when people feel bad about being aro and/or ace, it’s due to how society treats them for it, not an inherent factor in being that.
Or, “Aren’t you afraid of dying alone?” Now, some people are afraid of that, but, think about it. People get divorced. People rarely die at the same time, meaning you could have a great 5-decades-long relationship and still die alone if you outlive your partner. Friends and family are potential options for connection and support too. Having a partner is simply not the solution people think it is to concerns about dying alone.
Or then there are just some weird comments. For example, “You’re too pretty to be ace/aro!” If anyone here figures out the logic behind that one, please enlighten me.
As a note #2.5 following that, also consider whether it’s a question any typical person would be comfortable receiving even if they don’t mind taking questions. Lookin’ at you, folks who ask aces how often they masturbate. That’s just…weird to ask anyone if you’re not already having a mutual conversation about that kind of thing?
#3: Would the answer actually matter?
I was once drafting a compilation of all the annoying questions and stereotypes aspec people hear, and I realized that a surprisingly high number of them could be answered with “So what?” For example, the assumption/question that a person must be ace because of trauma, or the claim that “You’ll grow out of it someday” or “Your hormones are abnormal.” Regardless of the factual accuracy or lack thereof, those things just aren’t relevant really. People can be ace due to trauma. Hormones probably play a role for at least some people, given how much they do in our bodies. For myself, I can’t separate being aroace and being autistic. Some people’s orientation may shift in a few years.
None of that matters. One “cause” or experience of being aro or ace is not superior to another. The fact that I’m autistic does not make my lived experience of being aroace any more or less real than a non-autistic’s aroace experience. (And if you’re going off of how easy some things are to change, then refer to question 1 on whether aspec identities should be changed at all.)
#4: Would I say/ask this to a “normal” person?
By “normal,” I mean what society doesn’t make us label because it’s the norm: cisgender, heterosexual, allosexual and -romantic. Would you ask your allosexual friend “how they really know they actually experience sexual attraction?” Would you be concerned that your cisgender child was making an irreversible mistake by wanting to go through puberty instead of taking hormone blockers? Would you tell your cousin who’s talking about their latest crush that “they might grow out of having romantic attraction someday?”
If you find out someone is aspec (or any other LGBTQIA+ identity probably), and your reaction is something like “can they be certain of that?,” ask yourself if you’d question their orientation/identity the same way if it was a more socially accepted one. If the answer is no, then you likely need to question your own societally-ingrained assumptions about what’s “normal,” before you get too eager to question anyone else.
You may be thinking that this rules out a whole lot of common questions. That’s because…it does. You might be surprised how many of the questions or comments aspecs get are invasive, pointless, prejudiced, or simply annoying. You don’t need to know about people’s past. You don’t need to know what sexual acts they do and don’t engage in. You don’t need to worry about whether they feel bad about it, because if they do, I assure you that you can do far more to help with that issue by simply not implying there’s something wrong with them than by trying to get them to see a doctor.
That said, that doesn’t mean you’ve committed a horrible sin if you ask anything ever. Some of us like talking about ourselves and our experiences :P. If you know the person as more than a stranger, and want to know more details without being all “so tell me about your sex life,” you can always use more neutral “I want to understand more” questions such as asking what being aro and/or ace means to the person, how it’s influenced their life in ways they might want you to understand…that kind of thing.
Any thoughts, comments, guidelines, disagreements to add? Drop a comment :).