QPR Misinformation Is Not an Appropriate Vehicle for Aro Community Building

A post about the history of QPRs, why people are arguing about it, and how I learned that’s not what they’re actually arguing about at all.

In this post, I’m going to be tackling this topic in three parts:

1) What are people saying? 2) How is that misinformation? 3) How is that a proxy?

[This post has been crossposted to Pillowfort and linked to on Arocalypse.]

For those just tuning in, I’m writing this now because the topic of QPR history has recently been revived again. When I recently encountered this reposted essay, I recognized it as one that had previously garnered some critical responses, so I sent in the link to the latter commentary. That chain of events led to this post, this post, this getting reblogged, and this being added onto the end of the essay repost. [Edit: the user in question has since deleted those posts and apologized.] Me discussing these posts with others led to Siggy creating this post and Laura G. making this post, which in turn generated threads between Laura, Magni, Sennkestra, & Aropanalien that you can read here, here, and here. [Edit: more threads that have happened since here and here.] I don’t expect everybody to read all that, but there it is, just for the record.

What are people saying?

People are saying a lot of things on this topic, but for the purposes of keeping this post focused, I’m going to narrow in on a particular kind of statement about the origins & history of “queerplatonic,” as a term. This particular kind of statement involves 1) saying queerplatonic did not come from the ace community and/or 2) overemphasizing an aro focus/connection in its origins. Some examples of this include the following:

How is that misinformation?

To evaluate these statements, I first have to ask: what does any of this mean, in practical terms? Hypothetically, here are some things which could serve as bases for those kinds of conclusions:

  • If the earliest participants in QPR’s development all identify as aro
    • or identify more strongly with aromanticism than asexuality
    • or if there were quantifiably as many aros involved as aces,
  • If the earliest participants in QPR’s development consider aromanticism their main point of commonality,
  • If the earliest posts (2010-2012) reflect a consensus that that QPR is “for aro people,” whether exclusively or just primarily,
  • If the earliest participants, in describing what happened, refer to that original starting grounds as “the aro community”
    • or even “the aro ace community”
    • or do not refer to it as “the ace community,”

…then, in those cases, I think we could conclude something like the above.

The problem is that none of that is supportable.

Here’s what we do know and how I think it’s safe to understand it. The term “queerplatonic” originated in a conversation between Kaz and Meloukhia (aka S.E. Smith) on Dreamwidth in 2010. This was on a personal blog, not a community forum or other designated space that would make things clear cut. However, I think the following considerations are important to take into account: 1) how people talked about it at the time, and 2) how people who were there have gone on talk about it now.

At the time, QPR (as a term) was not necessarily treated as more aro than ace. For example, in 2011, Meloukhia (the coiner) published a post that talked about queerplatonic in the context of asexuality. In that post, ou wrote “Asexuality has its own language and terminology” as a preface to introducing the word “queerplatonic.” I think referring to it that way could be critiqued, but this summary is a recounting of events as they happened, not what I want to have happened.

In the present day, people who were there affirm that it was, in fact, the ace community that QPR originated from. For instance, Kaz, who does not consider zerself aro, refers to its origins as “the ace community” — and ze does not appreciate being retroactively coopted. Sciatrix, who was a present at that original conversation and played a role in helping the term to spread early on, also refers to its origins as the ace community. In fact, she has even described the aro-exclusive account of QPR as erasing its actual history. See also this thread where she talks about this, explaining, “It is gross to see the conversations within my specific community appropriated away from its context, and having it labeled aggressively as not belonging to the specific community context that all of us would have described it as coming from at the time.”

Note: it’s important to remember here that this is not simply an “aces vs. aros” conflict. I will not stand for referring to the people in the wrong here simply as “aros,” because in fact, there are also aromantic and grayromantic people who have been showing up and stating in no uncertain terms that they don’t support the misinformation. In that light, it’s also an aro intracommunity conflict — a situation that involves aros disagreeing with aros about how to talk about the ace & aro communities both. So I’m putting it on the record here that I appreciate the importance of that, and I don’t want people in the comments railing against “aros” at large when there are so many aros doing good, honest work on the subject.

So those are the facts as I understand them. Although the origin story of queerplatonic is complex, we can confidently say that 1) QPRs originated in the ace community and 2) the aro-focused revisionism on this subject has been misleading, at best, and outright inaccurate at worst.

Problem is, I don’t expect everyone involved to actually care about that level of nuance and detail, because as I’ve come to understand, much of this whole debate is actually a proxy — a stand-in, a substitute — for a different conversation entirely.

How is this a proxy?

It’s become clear to me now that sometimes, people involved on this topic neither know nor care that they are speaking over the people they claim to represent, because in actuality, their investment in the topic is driven by one thing: seeking aro validation. This was something brought to the forefront for me over the past couple days as I waded knee-deep into trying sort this out. I’d initially been approaching the conflict as a question of fact — when as it turns out, sometimes, it’s actually a question of values.

Take another look at some of the things I’ve already linked in this post:

For more on this topic, I recommend the February 2019 Joint Carnival, Siggy’s post in the aftermath, and aro complaints about ace communities.

You can read it in their own words, but I will summarize it like this:

A lot of aros have been hurt by amatonormativity in the ace community. In the context of this hurt, they are looking for affirmation of their identities and experiences as legitimate, valuable, and important. They want to hear more aces say “Amatonormativity in the ace community is not okay.” They want to hear more aces say, “The ace community has sometimes failed aros, hurt aros, overlooked aros, spurned aros.” They want to hear more aces say, “Aros deserve better.” And you know what? All of those things are true.

This is the implicit yearning underlying QPR revisionism.

So I am making this post in order to point out this one very important thing:

By practicing QPR revisionism, people are not actually addressing what they’re trying to address. And I am not just railing against “the ends justifies the means” here — I’m saying “these ends are important enough that people should try using more effective means.” Instead of fixing the ace community, the actual effect this has is that that now, some aces associate aro advocacy with speaking over others about their own life experiences, denying aces our own history, and objectifying other people as a means to an ends. This does not serve the actual goal.

And that actual goal is important. I want to see & contribute to progress on that goal.

Unfortunately, it can’t be all take and no give, because an honest conversation about aro-ace community relations needs to involve some honesty about how the aro community itself has made people feel unwelcome, too. That includes me, but not just me. I just happen to be part of the visible tip of the iceberg, speaking for myself but also relaying what I hear spoken in whispers, private messages, and viewlocked posts.

Aros who are gunshy of the ace community, I know you’ve been burned before, so I understand if you don’t believe me when I say this: Some of us are ready to listen.

Are you?

18 responses to “QPR Misinformation Is Not an Appropriate Vehicle for Aro Community Building

  • aceadmiral

    (lol we have to get a better way of communicating because while you were sending me an ask about this post existing, I was here trying to figure out how to say something privately to you. But for want of a better venue, I’ll just say it in public but in parenthesis so everyone knows not to read it. Of which the contents are: I need to think about this a little more before commenting (ha), because I conceptualize the situation slightly differently but I’m not sure if the difference is relevant to this specific situation as opposed to a larger issue. However, I am grateful you wrote this and in any case would like to express that gratitude regardless.)

  • luvtheheaven

    Thanks for bringing up this angle of all of it! I am really thinking about this in a bit of a different way now…

    • Coyote

      It’s something that took too long to come into focus for me, but after talking to somebody about this a lot over the past couple days, at this point I’m convinced this is the culprit. The reason that clarifying points of fact doesn’t seem to work or get anywhere? is because for one group, that’s not really what’s in question in the first place. I hope it serves some use to try and really bring that to light.

  • Linkspam: November 8th, 2019 | The Asexual Agenda

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  • Rachel

    One parallel that I’ve noticed is that in the perverse logic of Tumblr, the coining and origins are essential for both “ownership” and being a beneficiary of ideas. Ergo, if QPR is an ace community concept, then aros have no right use/comment/participate/benefit from it. Hence the revisionism. No, I don’t agree with this, at all, but it’s in the background and perhaps a motivating factor?

    • Coyote

      I’ve wondered some about this, and I’m not sure I can assert a definite link, but I do have a theory that the bloggers practicing QPR revisionism might be (partially) influenced by bi/lesbian debates over butch/femme terminology, among other things. However, the people disputing that revisionism — the people pointing out “no, it was the ace community” — have also been emphasizing that that doesn’t make it ace-only & that anyone is free to use it. That’s why you’ll see people in that camp acting very bewildered that this is even an issue — why does it even matter who coined it, when nobody’s trying to gatekeep just for aces, anyway? …So in that light, asserting an aro community origin story, as a way to say that all aros can use it, would be a solution to a problem that doesn’t even exist.

      • assignedgothatbirth

        “I’ve wondered some about this, and I’m not sure I can assert a definite link, but I do have a theory that the bloggers practicing QPR revisionism might be (partially) influenced by bi/lesbian debates over butch/femme terminology, among other things.”
        I’d say conversations around cultural appropriation are another big one, ESPECIALLY for a community so focused on Tumblr. There is an absolute obsession on that site of almost exclusively white people who are oppressed in some way on having completely ownership over experiences that are not actually exclusive to that group. Some examples of so-called “appropriation” I have seen:
        -aces stole the purple in their flag from bi people
        -people with mental illnesses that are not BPD cannot possibly relate to any symptoms of BPD, so therefor they should never reblog posts that are meant “for” folks with BPD
        -aces stole allosexual and #actuallyasexual from autistics
        -the great “queer” debate
        -the angled/oriented gray debate
        -debates over what to abbreviate “Maladaptive Day Dreaming Disorder” too bc apparently acronyms can only have one meaning I guess
        -an honest to God trans Nazi complaining about nonbinary people stealing trans culture

        You’ll notice how none of these have anything to do with the original usage that deals with race…

        And I think ultimately this is just a symptom of identity essentialism as well.

  • aceadmiral

    Well, but, the pressure of the current environment to “prove” you’re a “real” group and not just a “mogai hell” or whatever means you need to have history, and ideas, and hardened defenses. Even if everyone in the aro commnity was 100% cool with being associated with the ace community, we undergo the exact same attacks on our “legitimacy” except more visibly, so it’s not like there’s much to gain there, and every bit of conditioning from the past at-least eight years says pithy and politically impactful wins over true every day of the week. (See also: the pictures from the 70’s of the college group using “asexual”; the line that “A is for asexual not allies” fails to walk) This general climate means it doesn’t actually matter that we’re all saying, “please use this term with our blessing” because… the assumption baked in is that that’s not a possibility. Especially in this most recent round, OP all but flat-out said it and there was a follow on conversation where the assumption was explicitly brought up. And given that “the aro community” as constituted was born into this lake of flames, I think it’s pretty understandable, if terribly misguided.

    • Coyote

      hm. You raise a good point there. Especially with that example where someone wanders in confused and immediately gets the wrong read on the situation. So, I guess you’re right — could be there’s some age-as-legitimacy/appeal to tradition motivating the rhetoric there. I just…. really wish people would stop and question that, instead of proceeding full speed ahead in demonizing the ace community as a bunch of thieves.

      (Also, for the record: did you see this?)

      • aceadmiral

        I had not (nor the follow up), but nice to see they learned nothing :|

        • Coyote

          Oh I don’t think they learned nothing. They did delete the earlier posts and apologize, after all.

        • aceadmiral

          To refer to the distinction you so expertly made in this post: they may have gained some knowledge, but they gained no wisdom. The post you linked showed they are still framing this being “wrong” when *checks notes* literally all of us went out of our way to challenge that framing (including me doing it explicitly for fear it would not occur to them, the proverbial fish, to check their water). There is a post before the first retraction where they claim to be a “ye olde” aro ace, which if that were true you’d think they’d be able to uh, remember? how we used to be one community? and therefore aros do have a historical inheritance? but nah. And then the post where they say they regret becoming “ammunition” as though this is some kind of game of one-upsmanship or military conflict. And the pièce de résistance: at the top of the blog is that (excuse me) garbage post from the joint aro/ace carnival.

          Like, my actual response to this post, that I have been composing in my head all day but then I was tired and I’ve actually been in bed for an hour ugh I am really sleeping after this, but: my actual response is that as much as understanding this grievance’s origin or perpetuation might be useful on a smaller scope, the real “apology” they need to give is not to me, or you, or for being “ammunition;” it is for taking the negativity that they feel, right wrong or indifferent, and putting it back out into the world instead of doing right by themself and by aros and making the world better. That means looking at the value and implications of something before you say it; it means examining your feelings and being honest about your biases and your shortcomings; it means making the conscious decision to show kindness and to not assume bad faith or sinister motives; it means being kind to themself and not asking themself to get publicly involved in things that are going to be distressing or hurtful; it means showing humility, even and especially when trolls are at the door; and honestly a lot of the time it means shutting up.

          Like, that comment you got Way Back about being an “Ace Outsider” where the person was mad that we “left [them] to the sharks” has really stuck in my craw (although that may have not been the context; part of living my own advice is not clicking on all the examples of nonsense you link) because: we told you not to go! So! Many! Times! And I know that because I was told not to go. And like, yeah, to a certain extent, do they just reblog your post out the blue to get mad about “identifying as a television station”? Unfortunately, yes. Do I have all the answers? Goodness, no. All I can control is my own actions, and what I need to be able to say to live with myself was that I did the best I could to take the negativity that was dealt to me and put out constructive, positive things to break that cycle. You want to beat the sharks, kid? Well, this is what I’ve got.

          ….Sorry, I was going to write that a lot more eloquently and less, ugh, salty? (hence why I was going to bed instead of farting something out), and now I most certainly will not sleep… but maybe since it’s not a post on my blog I won’t wake up to find it’s gotten completely out of hand go to SLEEP Californians! ….zzzzz

        • Coyote

          And then the post where they say they regret becoming “ammunition” as though this is some kind of game of one-upsmanship or military conflict.

          Yeah, I…. wasn’t quite sure what to make of that.

          Like, that comment you got Way Back about being an “Ace Outsider”

          You know, it feels strange to realize I wasn’t the only one personally irritated by that. It’d come to mind again recently due to unrelated things, and I’d gotten to wondering if the comments I’d made about it at the time must’ve seemed overly bitter.

          All of this is bringing up really under-discussed intracommunity dynamics that need to get talked about, which is why I really wish this post had kicked off more of a conversation here….

          Still, I hope sleep does not evade you.

        • aceadmiral

          You know, it feels strange to realize I wasn’t the only one personally irritated by that.

          ????of???course???? Like, I know I’m pretty extreme in my take on community, and I feel naive every time I say it, even though I do genuinely believe it, but like, what would the point of me be otherwise??? What would be the point of any of this?? Honestly, I don’t even have a That One Person who I secretly hate but keep it to myself here, which is pretty unusual because I am a crab.

          which is why I really wish this post had kicked off more of a conversation here….

          Precisely why I decided I had to come back and stare at this post.

        • Coyote

          I’ll take that as, uh, a vote of confidence. Thank you. ^^

          Speaking of the deafening lack of many participants here… this post has been linked on Tumblr here and also here, so those are available for reblogging, if you feel like it. And for @ing people.

          (Also, I can delete your first comment, if you want.)

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    […] is insufficiently accurate, and then, later, this annotated timeline, and then, still later, a more detailed response to the misinformation. It was both stressful and invigorating. I mean, don’t get me wrong — the reception on […]

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