TL;DR: You don’t stop being aro/ace even when you’re having feelings that look, on the surface, strikingly similar to what allo people typically feel. Insert the usual caveat that this is about my own personal experience, other folks will have different takes on this topic.
So yeah, I came down with a crush recently, and decided to draw this little diary comic about it.
[For reference and clarity, I identify as demi/gray for both aro and ace. While I do want to be in a relationship, I don’t catch feels for very many people. I do experience sexual attraction, but that’s even rarer for me than romantic attraction. This particular guy referenced in my comic managed to set off both.]
On a surface level, there’s nothing new or original expressed in this drawing. Pretty standard set of anxieties and behaviors when you’re crushing, right?
And yet, for folks who are arospec or acespec, having what looks like a standard crush is not necessarily the same thing as allo crushing. This is not a dynamic I see talked about a whole lot, so I’mma talk about it.
By way of analogy, let’s say I did a drawing of a cis man and a cis woman who are clearly a couple, and indicate that they’re in a monogamous relationship. Nothing on the surface says that this is anything other than a typical heterosexual couple. Except, wait, what if both people involved are bisexual. Being in a monogamous relationship with someone of a different gender does not automatically reset either person to straight, nor can their partnership be accurately described as heterosexual. Neither person enjoys heterosexual privilege, and each person continues to experience and process attraction differently from someone who is straight.
By the same token, an aro and/or ace person experiencing romantic and/or sexual attraction does not automatically become allo. For my own part, the nature of this particular crush has caused certain allo things to make more sense to me, certain songs or movies or phrases or behaviors, but it feels very much like learning a second language: I just figured out the translation for one or two things that were utterly incomprehensible to me before (“Oh, maybe that’s why allos don’t seem to get bored of yet another rock song that’s about sex. Fascinating.”)
This crush does not at all mean that I will now be a typical alloromantic/allosexual from here on out. I still experience these feelings from a different vantage point, and bring a different set of past experiences to bear, experiences that many allo people have flat out told me make no sense to them (“What do you mean you weren’t aimlessly horny all the time in high school???”). I still approach relationships in ways that seem “weird” to allos. I still won’t be up to speed on attraction dynamics that are deeply intuitive to allo people, but that require translation for me to comprehend them.
And it’s not like I haven’t spent a lifetime trying desperately to understand all of this. I want to be in a relationship, a fact that a number of even my very close friends are shocked to learn, because I don’t perform the typical social signals around that correctly, I guess. And when allo people give me dating and relationship advice from an allo perspective, it most often feels like I’m being offered an array of cow tools. What I actually need (if I may spaghettify this metaphor) is an array of bat tools. They won’t necessarily look less odd, but they’ll at least be the right tools for me.