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?
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:
- (2013) “I disagree that it’s the ‘asexual community’ – ‘zucchini’ and ‘queerplatonic’ were coined by the aromantic community, not the asexual”
- (2018) “Queerplatonic is a primarily aromantic community term, not an asexual community term”
- (2018) Comic depicting an asexual flag taking “the concept of QPRs” from an aromantic flag and taking credit for it
- (2018) “Queerplatonic is a term invented by the aromantic community primarily for aromantic people”
- (2018) “queerplatonic is a term coined by arospec aces – so i hope none of you think queerplatonic is a term for alloromantic aces”
- (2018) “queerplatonic originated in the aromantic community.”
- (2019) “[QPR is] a term by and for aro people”
(2019) “QPRs stem from the aro community. Not even the ace community, the ARO community.”
- (2019) “aroaces coined qpr”
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:
- “Your community has demonstrated a pervasive lack of meaningful support for the most significant part of my queer identity.”
- “The ace community is complicit in helping to perpetuate misconceptions about aros.”
- “Aromantic people feel left out of their own communities.”
- “I emphasized aromantics because aromantics are the primary victims of a sort of historical erasure.”
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.