Queerplatonic is not an aro term

Or, now that the clickbait title has got your attention, let me make that a claim with a little more nuance: to say that “queerplatonic is an aro term” is a statement that, if it is made, deserves to be qualified. And I’ll explain why.

[Note: this post has been crossposted to Pillowfort. Updated 3/8/19.]

This post is a response to one of the entries in the February 2019 combined Carnival of Aros and Carnival of Aces, a post entitled Communication Breakdown: Why we feel hurt & how to mend the gap. In that post, Magni wrote some of the ways that the ace community has ignored and betrayed aromantics, such as responding to anti-ace dehumanization with “but we can still fall in love.” The part that post I am responding to here is specifically the following excerpt, on queerplatonic relationships, under the header of Vocab Discrepancies:

Queerplatonic relationships are NOT romantic, though they can be sexual. I’ve seen people use it to mean a nonsexual-romantic relationship which is misappropriating a term by and for aro people.  While it is purposefully vague and anyone can use it, it must be remembered that it is for non-romantic relationships, and that it is an aro term.

While Magni does not cite specific examples, if people are using “queerplatonic” simply to describe romantic nonsexual relationships, then I am certainly with them in finding that perplexing.

In any case, the purpose of my post here is to use this quote as a jumping-off point for discussing the origins of “queerplatonic” — and, hopefully, prompting more discussion on what it has become and where we should go from here.

Note, for reference, lest I be mistaken for an “alloromantic ace” coming into this conversation: I’m approaching this topic as a gray-a who is quoiromantic, which for me is another way of saying that I do not have a romantic orientation. I recognize that romantic orientation is a useful idea for some people, and I decline to use it for myself. You can read more about what this means over at this compilation timeline I put together on the personal rejection of romantic orientation, which includes when and why quoiromantic was coined. That link may be relevant for understanding where I personally am positioned in relation to this, but if you go and look, you’ll find that timeline actually includes the very same post I’m about to discuss.

The first online usage of the term “queerplatonic” that I am aware of occurred in 2010 as a comment by Meloukhia on this DW post, “A/romanticism,” written by Kaz. From this information, I am deriving what we do know and what we don’t know about the origins of “queerplatonic.” In the post, Kaz starts out by discussing zer ambivalent, ambiguous feelings around crushes, romantic attraction, and romantic orientation, which leads into zer agonizing over how best to refer to a specific, real relationship ze of zers. I won’t quote the whole post, but here are some relevant excerpts to demonstrate the issue at hand (bolding added by me):

I mean, I was thinking of marrying my BFF because it’d make it easier wrt visa stuff, not because it was something I wanted. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to date her (or was dating her, for that matter), or call her my girlfriend (and indeed, I call her my not!GF these days because this whole area is still a giant big SO CONFUSED). I didn’t have any desire for the trappings of romance, and some of the things associated with coupledom actually seriously freak me out (there is this tendency for two people who are dating or married to present themselves or see themselves as a unit instead of two individuals in their own right, which I find disturbing, and the thought of it happening to me makes me want to flee to the other side of the earth). And, well, what the hell was romantic attraction anyway? […]

I have railed for a while about how society expects us to fit our relationships into these neat little restricted boxes, and these boxes are ordered. […] This clearly works for a lot of people, although I imagine that it may not work very well and may cause a lot of pain that’s not obvious looking in from the outside. It does not work for me. At all. In fact, sorting my relationships into these categories simply does not work for me. At all. The types of relationships I want? The types I already have? Are too cool for your puny boxes. […]

ALSO, I worry that by calling my relationship and desired relationship “in between friendship and romance” (which again feels a bit like I’m boxing it in) I’m trying to get relationship points from the hierarchy – that because I don’t want what I have with my not!GF to be dismissed as “just” friendship I’m calling it sort of romantic ish in a way in order to get some of the importance that gets accorded to romantic relationships in our society – when really I should be trying to break down the hierarchy altogether, point out that friendship doesn’t have to be “just”, and that there are more options than friendship or romance.

Some of the comments on this post discussed the aforementioned idea of ambiguous, outside-the-box relationships, and Kaz even elaborated on what ze meant here, which prompted Meloukhia to reply:

This is so frustrating because it feels like English forces me to define these relationships by something they are not, rather than what they are, and I loathe reverse definitions. Although I kind of like queerplatonic as a definer for the attraction I feel to my zucchini; it neatly avoids discussing the gender of either party involved, while emphasizing the idea that it is a deep (almost symbiotic in some ways) emotional connection that transcends what I think of as friendship.

So, to the extent that origins matter at all, queerplatonic emerged in this context, through these people, for this purpose.

With this background as a basis of comparison, let me revisit what Magni wrote on the subject of queerplatonic. In that section of their post, their claims include the following (paraphrased):

  • queerplatonic relationships are NOT romantic
  • queerplatonic relationships can be sexual or nonsexual
  • queerplatonic is an aro term
  • queerplatonic is a term by and for aro people
  • queerplatonic is a purposefully vague term
  • queerplatonic can be used by anyone

I’m not precisely sure how to understand all of these claims in relation to each other, but I’d like to focus on just one of these in particular: the assertion that “queerplatonic is a term by and for aro people.”

Because, well. Is it? I’m not so sure.

The first person I know of to use the word was Meloukhia. Is Meloukhia aromantic? If so, I don’t know how you would tell without hearing it from them personally. While, granted, I don’t know much about how to navigate Dreamwidth, it doesn’t look like they have anything public about their identity on their profile. To me, at the moment, whether or not they’re aro is indeterminate — and more importantly, doesn’t appear to have been mentioned in the foundational conversation. [Edit: see here.]

But set that aside for a second. The person who started the whole conversation there was Kaz. Is Kaz aromantic? That’s what the whole post was about: not being sure how to answer that question, and increasingly getting frustrated with the question itself. In a separate, introductory post, Kaz describes zerself as a genderqueer asexual whose romantic orientation is “divide by cucumber, i.e., does not apply, wrong question, wrong input, critical error, please reboot from start.” To me, in context, and in conjunction with zer a/romanticism post, this description expresses the same idea that others have referred to as quoiro or wtfromantic.

By saying this, I don’t mean to force a label on someone else but rather to draw a line of kinship… and to affirm that simply calling Kaz “aro” would be reductive and not entirely fair, in that it would definitely constitute forcing a label on zer that ze has not clearly chosen for zerself.

So in that light, what does it mean to call “queerplatonic” an aro term? I think it’d be fair to say that the queerplatonic concept has taken on an important role in aro communities. I think it’d be fair to say that it emerged in the context of talking about aromanticism, if not necessarily “by” aro people. And if we are basing our understanding on that original post, then I also think it’d be fair to apply the “queerplatonic” label to relationships where the answer to “Is this romantic?” is either ambiguous or unimportant — which does slightly contradict the stance that “queerplatonic” means definitively “not romantic.”

If that meaning of the term in use has changed — or how it has changed — is something I’m curious about. At the same time, to quote Kaz on the issue: the boxes, they are insufficient.

Queerplatonic is an aro term to the extent that being “an aro term” means being a term important to many aromantics, salient in aro contexts, and emerging from a personal discussion of aromanticism. It is not, however, near as I can tell, a term coined “by and for aro people.”

To me, what is most important about the concept is not its correct exact application, granting though that strongly divergent ones are puzzling. To me, what is important about the concept is its rejection of an entire societal schema of relationships — which is part of why it bothers me when I see a focus or emphasis on “attraction” as its basis. If queerplatonic is a valuable concept, it is valuable as a criticism (just one of many) of the sidelining and devaluation of friendships and non-familial, chosen bonds. If queerplatonic is a valuable concept, it is not because it looks at the available boxes in the schema and says “oops, you missed one.” If queerplatonic is a valuable concept, it produces that value as a vantage point for disrupting a schematic hierarchy of romance as a narrowly-defined universal ideal, always sought, always primary, always the sole vector of logistical partnership and domestic commitment, and all other peer bonds as inferior, transient, and disposable by comparison.

If queerplatonic is a valuable concept, it is valuable because it says “Is this romantic or not?” is not always the most important question.

If queerplatonic is an aro term in more ways than I have discussed here, then that is something I am interested in entertaining arguments on. If I have incorrectly identified the coiners (either which people they are, or how they identify), then I am interested in being corrected. If queerplatonic was (originally) not an aro term, but has become an aro term, or is being made an aro term, then I am interested in hearing about what that means and why. I am interested from hearing from aros and grayros about ambiguity in relationships, identity, and attraction in relation to (a)romanticism and the aro community. Because, if anything — if “queerplatonic” originally belongs to anyone on the basis of romantic category — then I’d say it’s not (just) an aro term: it’s (also) a quoiro term.

But I’m actually not inclined to claim it as by and for any one group over others, and I am willing to say that queerplatonic belongs to all of us.

So as long as we’re talking about being ignored: How was it, exactly, that queerplatonic became parsed as “an aro term”? How attached are we to that kind of framing? What is the place of quoiromantics in this wider source of tension so often framed as “the allorom aces versus the aros”? And, put simply: What’s next? With the ideological underpinnings of “queerplatonic” as a basis, and with amatonormativity as a target, where does our theory and praxis go from here?


19 responses to “Queerplatonic is not an aro term

  • Siggy

    I think you were beaten to the punch here, grzanka recently covered a lot of the same ground (and I saw it going around tumblr too).

    I’ll say the same thing I said there: Meloukhia == s. e. smith. Sciatrix also played a critical role in popularizing the term. I can find links to later commentary by Sci if needed, or just call her over.

    I also have an additional observation, which I learned in the process of organizing the carnival. In the same way that “ace” often means “asexual spectrum”, “aro” often means “aromantic spectrum”.

  • Laura G

    “And if we are basing our understanding on that original post, then I also think it’d be fair to apply the “queerplatonic” label to relationships where the answer to “Is this romantic?” is either ambiguous or unimportant — which does slightly contradict the stance that “queerplatonic” means definitively “not romantic.” ”

    This is my biggest issue with statements like that. And regarding grzanka’s post (which was excellent), I think this particular bit of commentary was what was missing from that post.

    • Coyote

      Thanks. From Siggy’s comment, I was expecting them to make basically the same points — turns out that they did a lot better sourcing than I did, actually — but they also sorta responded to the same general argument without… quoting or linking to a specific instance, which has its pros and cons (and I respect that choice, to be clear).

      Admittedly this outlook on QPRs reflects some renegotiation in even my own thinking, as well… Previously I would have been happy to define queerplatonic as clearly “nonromantic,” and that’s that… But that’s not exactly what’s reflected in the source material, per se. So in that vein, my approach here was less about resolving a binary of aro-vs-ace and more about highlighting an implicit sense of aro-vs-alloromantic.

      Also, I was aware before this point that people were using and defining “queerplatonic” in multiple ways, but until now I hadn’t seen how much it’d been kind of all over the place and unsettled from the beginning. Good to get some fresh perspective.

      (ftr, I was… surprised at smith outright saying QPRs “are not friendships.” I still think that’s a framework we ought to maybe revisit.)

      • grzanka/tost

        I see we had the same inspiration, though your thoughts did go in another direction, so that adds to the dialogue. I did approach it from the aro vs alloromantic in a way that means both that relationhips that aren’t clearly defined as romantic are non-romantic and that people who aren’t 100% sure they feel romo attraction belong somewhere on the aromantic spectrum. This is binarist view of it in part, true, on a post that talks a lot about the boxes not applying. I’ll have to think about it *thumbs up*

        • Coyote

          Hi! Thanks for stopping by, and thank you, too, for bringing in more context that I hadn’t been aware of. *thumbs up back atcha*

          Also… this post you linked… disappeared just today? …It was just yesterday that I was able to open it… o.o Unfortunate, since I was hoping to compile some more links on this subject.

        • Coyote

          Also, update: somebody linked my post in response to something else and Magni responded while not… seeming to acknowledge that part of it? huh? …Like, they wrote–

          Overall I think it’s analogous to the difference between cultural appropriation and appreciation? Alloromantic people need to acknowledge where the term came from, what it means, and not to speak over aros on what the topic.

          It’s a term by and for aro people and that should be respected; that being said, alloromantic people can use it if done respectfully. Arospec people are of course welcome to use it, and if quoiromantic people personally include romance in it that’s okay. But alloromantic people can’t steal it and say it’s for romantic nonsexual relationships because it erases us.

          Um. Sure. But it doesn’t sound like Magni read the link there, at all.

        • grzanka/tost

          OH GOD DAMN IT @ the link :/ I can somehow access it from google still, not sure how that works and screenshotted it (on the phone…) so if you are interested in the screenshots at least, pls write to me at bydontost@gmail.com :)

          I wonder how our understanding could differ because I started interacting with aro communities like 1.5 year ago and identities like greyro or quoiro were treated in general as aro-spec identities. From what I understand, it wasn’t always the case??

          As for Magni’s response, yeah, I’m not sure if ze wasn’t replying at a different point that the second person was trying to make…

        • Coyote

          It’s been archived at the Wayback Machine, luckily — although I appreciate your offer! I’m just surprised that it was there and then gone like that, just as I got into this topic again. Wild.

          Anyway, I’m not always super sure what people are meaning and what they’re not when it comes to talking about aro & the aro umbrella — and I know I’m not the only one.

  • Klaaraa

    Etymology matters, at least a Little, and queerplatonic has “queer” in it, which means, or “should” mean, that one of the opposites of queerplatonic is normativelyplatonic. As in, friendship/bestfriendship between People who like each other’s company and are Age-Peers and typically the same gender and have some emotional intimacy between them but are less important to each other than their respective romantic Partners if they have any. Queerplatonic is the opposite of that which means the opposite of any one or more of those aspects.

    • Coyote

      Hi — can you explain what exactly it is in my post that you’re responding to?

      • Anonymous

        To the General theme of defining queerplatonic through what it IS NOT. Sorry if I overstepped.

        • Anonymous

          Baby to the bearded philosophers here, but still this is something that is not talked about a lot, even by People who do like the word platonic and don’t find its multiple meanings limiting.

        • Coyote

          Oh, okay. I think I follow what you meant now. So! Queerplatonic as “opposite to normatively platonic in any one or more of its aspects.” Meaning an answer to “does it involve a degree of romance or not” isn’t a part of the ideal meaning, to you?

  • Linkspam: March 8, 2019 | The Asexual Agenda

    […] and coyote independently wrote about the history and ownership of the word […]

  • A Genealogy of Queerplatonic | The Ace Theist

    […] of the border warring, but you can find one such example here, which was what inspired the post “Queerplatonic is not an aro term.” And that post, in turn, was recently linked on Luna’s addition onto this Tumblr post by Pearl, […]

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