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My Aromantic Journey: What It’s Like to be Queer and Not Understand “Love”

A Black person reclines on a grassy hill. Their medium-deep skin glistens in the sunlight. They have short cut coily hair. They are wearing a white graphic tank top and dark grey pants.

When I was a teen, our culture made me believe that I was a monster.

It wasn’t because I was an autistic, non-binary, transgender child who had never felt comfortable in a girl’s body. It was because I was raised in an extremely conservative Christian family, and there is something even worse than being trans among religious zealots… Something more “sinister.”

As a child, I could not understand the concept of love. I heard the word “transgender” — at least in whispers — but I never heard the word “aromantic” while I was growing up.

In my teenage years, I was sure that I was alone in the world. Our global culture is obsessed with the idea of love. For many people, love is the meaning of life and the driving force of the universe. Love stories follow us everywhere, from fairy tales our parents told us to classical literature we read in school. Love is the main topic in most popular songs. Love is the essence of Christianity and many of the world’s religions.

But what if all of this talk of love doesn’t apply to you? Are you even considered a human being? I dreaded asking myself these questions.

It wasn’t just that standard romantic relationship with dates and candlelight dinners seemed boring for me. The word love itself was confusing. It’s often used to describe various, sometimes conflicting models of behavior — people even use “love” to justify abuse.

I first met another person who shared my not-understanding of love when I was seventeen years old. We met on social media in a group dedicated to our favorite sci-fi show. We are both autistic and have a lot in common. I was thrilled to finally meet someone like me.

She was living in Saint Petersburg, Russia. I was living in Donetsk, Ukraine. She is the closest I’ve ever felt to another person. Now, she is my wife. We legally married in Denmark, and it was a complicated journey. We were living in Saint Petersburg back then, and Russia did not (and still does not) recognize same-sex marriages. But we made the trip to another part of the globe not because of “love,” but because of the legal protections that marriage would give us in any country that recognizes same-sex unions.

LGBTQ+ activists often use the importance of accepting love in all its forms to lobby for same-sex marriage rights. For some reason, many activists believe that you need to have “proper” feelings to deserve equality. This belief demonizes us —aromantic people — even more. Honestly, it was much easier for me to come out as a trans-masculine non-binary person than to speak about myself as openly romantic.

It wasn’t until the last six years that I felt that mainstream perceptions of aromantic people started to improve. There are still a lot of misconceptions about us. For example, people incorrectly assume that all aromantic people are asexual, neurodivergent, or queer. This might be true for some of us, but not for all.

Thankfully, we’ve started to get more visibility. There are more groups for aromantic people online and off. I finally see books about aromantic life on bookshelves. I’m delighted to see the new generation of teens going to Pride with aromantic badges, and I hope they never face the same discrimination I did. The new generations of aromatic youth deserve better.

Even with these improvements, aromanticism still feels like a somewhat taboo topic, but it shouldn’t be. There is nothing harmful or wrong with being aromantic. We deserve the same respect and happiness as everyone else.


Writer Ayman Eckford poses in front of a rocky beach.
Ayman Eckford
Ayman Eckford is a transgender autistic person, freelance journalist, and LGBTQ+ activist. They were born in Donetsk, Ukraine, and now living in Sheffield, UK, as a refugee. They write about human rights, gender issues, and disability justice. Follow them on Instagram at @ayman_eckford.