[Note: this post has been crossposted to Pillowfort. Updated 3/19/19.]
Since I’ve been thinking lately on the topics of those-who-struggle-with-labels and the process of getting new terms to take root, I decided I’d put together a brief timeline of one specific subset of that: disidentification with and personal rejection of romantic orientation.
Featured in this post: the coinage and meaning of wtfromantic, the subsequent coinage and meaning of quoiromantic, some discussion over competing definitions, and a sampling of personal reflection posts on the topic demonstrating its continued relevance over the past eight years. Formatted by year, with select text excerpts in blockquotes.
- In this dreamwidth post, Kaz wrote about questioning eir romantic orientation, including the following reflection:
[M]ore and more I feel like the whole concept of a romantic orientation is asking me to define myself in terms of boxes that just don’t apply – hence my constant back-and-forth not feeling comfortable with any of the options ending with me making my very own – that asking me “so what’s your romantic orientation?” is simply the wrong question.
- Sometime during this year or before, Sciatrix of Writing from Factor X coined wtfromantic, as appearing in this post, Writhing in the Throes of Unrequited Like:
I’ve been thinking a lot in terms of my romantic orientation lately. I keep seeing things that invite me to discuss them based on whether I identify as romantic or aromantic, for one thing.
The trouble is, I’m not always entirely sure what my romantic orientation is, or even how to define romantic attraction to begin with. I have asked a lot of people to explain how the difference in feeling is so I can tell, and I haven’t really gotten anywhere. I don’t actually expect to any more at this point, to be honest. […] So okay, I tend to identify as aromantic when I’m feeling easily categorizable and wtfromantic when I’m feeling frustrated and cranky.
- Toward the end of the year, she wrote about it again in this post, A Set of Affections Difficult to Characterize:
I’ve written a lot before about how frustrating I find the concept of romantic attraction. It seems to me to be poorly defined, a lot of the time, and people have a hard time articulating the difference to me, and I’ve largely given up attempting to understand it. I’ve also largely given up trying to shoehorn myself into traditional categories of romantic orientation and have begun identifying as “wtfromantic.”
- Adding onto a post by Ace Admiral, Sciatrix elaborated on the concept of wtfromantic:
I have a romantic orientation, I think, there’s something going on there, but it’s so confusing to actually define that I end up sitting back and going “oh god this is way too complicated to fit into an actual label” and end up staring into the whole system like a deer in headlights. Hence making up “wtfromantic,” because I have a tendency to make up words when the current ones don’t fit.
- The same year, Sciatrix responded to a deactivated tumblr user’s question about the term:
I should mention, I made that term up in the first place largely because I was frustrated with my attempts to understand what exactly constitutes romantic attraction (or specifically romantic relationships, even), especially given that every single person who was clear on the difference that I asked reacted to the question of clarification with confusion and incoherence.
So I got a bit aggravated with the whole question, threw my hands up in the air, and said I was going to identify as WTFromantic henceforth.
- This is also the year that Cor/epochryphal coined quoiromantic, here, for spoken pronunciation reasons (quoi is pronounced like kwa, which is quicker to say that wtf). You can find some further conversation on that idea here.
- Two years later, Cor noted that people were finding the term quoiromantic useful and put together a consolidation post, explaining the origins, meaning, and purpose.
- However, not everyone got the memo, and you can see here with Cor trying to correct some misdefinition.
- That same misdefinition is also what led to an anonymous messenger trying to coin a new word for the original concept directly in response, which I bitterly find hilarious.
- Because of incidents like this, Cor responded here on “cannot tell the difference” and later put together this post, A Note On Quoi, to address the issue.
- Quoiromantic and wtfromantic both featured on a list put together by Effi, Words for those who struggle with the concept of romantic attraction.
- This same year, Trudy at Gradient Lair also wrote Rethinking Romantic Orientation and Attraction Types as “Required” Identifiers:
I totally accept that romantic orientation and attraction type delineation are very helpful for many asexual people. I simply don’t find them as helpful anymore.
- Wtfromantic was also referenced in a post by Ace Admiral, entitled Ultraviolet, in which they wrote:
I’m pretty up-front about my lack of romantic orientation affiliation, and about the reasoning behind it. I have given up because it’s a lot of work for no gain, and I’m not sure if having a word to apply to myself would make my life any better or easier anyway. But, if you press me, the word I feel not-comfortable-but-most-comfortable with is “wtfromantic”
since mehmantic never caught on. Seeing it included in the aro spectrum really took me aback because even though I’ve never thought of it as romantic, I haven’t thought of it as aromantic either. I thought it was more a conceit that some people just need to take themselves off the board.
- In an addition onto that post by Ace Admiral, Sciatrix wrote:
Are people thinking of “wtfromantic” as a distinct identity? I’d always thought of it as more of a catchall, like “I’m sick of trying to distinguish between these things, and I’m somewhere where it doesn’t make sense to set a strict distinction between romantic and nonromantic relationships based on attraction, so I’m categorizing my relationships based on something different.”
- Sennkestra, working on the AVENwiki, asked Sciatrix for more info on wtfromantic, and this is part of what she had to say:
So I threw my hands up, said, “fuck it, I’m not aromantic, I’m not homoromantic, I’m WTFromantic” more or less as a combination joke and snide remark. And to my surprise people seemed to like the word and people started using it. I can’t speak to where it’s gone from there, but when I came up with it I intended to imply a frustration and a confusion with the essential concept of romantic orientation. I’m very loose about the way I talk about my own romantic orientation—it’s not the right dimension for me to categorize myself with respect to other people, I think. So when I use that word it’s usually when I’m in a cantankerous, irritated, your-categories-don’t-work-for-me mood.
- Meanwhile, Cor’s still issuing clarifications posts about quoiromantic, saying Quoi- is Not “can’t tell,” and elaborated on that here.
- People are still misdefining it though.
- Cor wrote another post — nd, grey, and coiner of quoi — which includes this note:
i sympathize a lot with sciatrix, coiner of “wtf” as an identity; both of us are nd and specifically autistic, and we both coined wtf/quoi to mean “this supposedly clear orientation/attraction makes no sense, wtf. quoi, what even.”
- That same month, luvtheheaven also wrote a post entitled My “wtfromantic” identity label has become very significant to me, which includes this paragraph:
I have been strongly identifying as wtfromantic over gray-romantic because I think the “wtf” accurately expresses so much that the gray doesn’t. Gray implies some middle ground, halfway points, etc… it implies a lot of things to me that I don’t think I am. Maybe I have been wrong to assume that gray means any of those things. But “WTF” expresses more of where I’m at – confusion, frustration, etc.
- Cor got an anonymous message about the term quoiromantic, allowing co to address the breadth of meaning, and the anon later returned with a followup message.
- Vesper lamented the persistence of the romantic vs. platonic dichotomy, in a post that starts off like this:
that feel when you finally have a use for relationship terminology, but none of it makes sense to you because all of it is predicated on the assumption that you subscribe to the dichotomy of “romantic” vs “[queer]platonic”– not to even mention the equally taxing concept that is “alterous”.
- A few months later, they also posted a video that includes this announcement:
i’ve said this before on Tumblr, but it’s time to make it “official” on YouTube: i don’t identify as biromantic or panromantic anymore.
in fact, i don’t identify as “-romantic” anything anymore.
Sci started using the term wtfromantic roughly sometime in 2011, not even intending for it to catch on, but it the concept struck a chord with people. Cor coined quoiromantic in 2012 as a more pronounceable alternative. Since then, the term has been defined and redefined in many ways, but the fact remains: romantic orientation is not a universally useful concept, even for aces, and the continued expectation for aces to identify with one (and the resulting frustration of those for whom that doesn’t work) has maintained the issue’s relevance over the years.