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Do you feel comfortable in ace gatherings?

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I was at a science fiction/lifestyle convention this weekend (Arisia in Boston) and there was a meeting that was listed as an asexuality, and a-spec gathering. Aro was listed in the description, so I went.

However, as a non-ace aro, I felt really out of place. I was diametrically opposite the majority of people in the room, who were romantic ace. There were some ace-aro as well. I was the only allo-aro there... 

Have others had this kind of experience? Is there a better way to go about that? or do we just need to find more people to create our own groups?

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For what it's worth, I think feeling a bit alienated by the contrasting experiences of other group members is always going to a problem in large mixed groups like general "a-spec" groups (whether you're an allosexual aro, asexual aro, or asexual ace) - for example, just within the general ace groups I'm active in, both aro aces and romantic aces often feel out of place when conversations they can't relate to as much come up (and that's without getting into things like gender and racial and other demographic differences) - but there's also not really any way to completely avoid that; it's just a consequence of being in diverse communities. That said, I imagine this is definitely especially exacerbated when some groups are numerically overwhelmingly larger as it probably is for many allosexual aros joining general aspec groups. (for a parallel, this is also a common issue for, for example, ace or trans or ethnic minority folks in LGBT groups - even if the rest of the group is doing their best to be great allies, there's a limit to how comfortable you can get when 90% of the people around you have experiences that are diametrically opposed on one axis or another).

I think the best answer is to (also) have more specific groups and gatherings (whether they are general aro groups, or specific allosexual aro groups) that focus on specific sub-groups and can focus on their experiences without having to worry about competing needs from other groups - but the hard part is finding enough people who are capable of and willing to lead them. Most of the people I know who run general "ace and aro" meetups know they're an imperfect stop-gap for a lot of allosexual aro people, but keep them going in the hope that having at least some kind of networking opportunity set up will eventually bring together enough people who can help make something more specific in the future.

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EDIT: I looked up the actual event because I was curious, and I'm not necessarily a fan of the current wording, so I think that changes my perspective a bit - I'm not sure all my comments above apply in this case; I think my actual answer is that, while some amount of feeling uncomfortable or alienated is inevitable in umbrella groups that cover a lot of diverse experiences, I don't think that's what happened here - there are definitely actions that organizers can take to better run joint, interntional, and inclusive a-spec or ace&aro umbrellagroups, that don't seem to have even been attempted here.
 

Quote

Asexuality-Umbrella Meetup: Asexuals are defined as people who do not experience sexual attraction, but this can take many different forms for different people: romantic asexual, aro-ace, gray-A, demisexual. Attendees identifying anywhere on the asexual or aromantic spectrums are invited to share a safe space and speak freely about their experiences in fandom and elsewhere. (To maintain a safe space, Allies are asked not to attend.)

 

While I think there are a lot of groups that are honestly embracing becoming full ace & aro umbrella spaces, as I mentioned above, I don't think they've quite made it that far here - any attempt to be a full "A-Spec" or "Ace & Aro" gathering would require including that phrasing in the title at a minimum. The current wording is problematic because even though the second to last sentence seems like it might include allosexual aros, the name and first sentence certainly make it seem that it's really more focused on asexuality - and unclear whether they actually meant to include allosexual aros (and were just unprepared) or if that was just an accidental inclusion when they were actually just trying to cover the full a/romantic spectrum of asexual people specifically. So I wouldn't be surprised if the organizers themselves were not really prepared for how to actively include allo aros either :( 

 

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Anyway, my advice for anyone organizing joint ace/aro meetups, is that it's important to at a minimum give all groups included equal billing in any event names or definitions, and to have active plans for discussion questions, icebreakers, etc. that can actively include all experiences (aromantic aces, romantic aces, aromantic allosexuals, etc.). 

Or alternatively, if you are organizing a just ace meetup, and want to emphasize that it's open to both romantic aces and aromantic aces, then use that kind of phrasing rather than just saying "open to the whole aromantic-spectrum" - because it's important to remember that that spectrum includes lots of non-ace people too!

 

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As an attendee, meanwhile, if you feel comfortable reaching out, it might be good to raise that concern with the organizers and get them in touch with other groups (like TAAAP, maybe) that have more experience working with both aces and aros so that there could be an opportunity to make things more clear or more inclusive in future years, if this is a recurring event.

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I should mention that the moderators were totally welcoming, and understood my discomfort, etc. 

 

But yeah...

Also, I was able to put in a plug for arocalypse (although I think I pronounced it aropocalypse... hopefully people can find it...)

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Being aro-ace I don't fell this kind of discomfort, but I think @sennkestra had a point with the analysis of how they phrased that. Reading the first sentence, it is exclusive to ace people for me. Then the second is confusing, because it seems to includes aro, so you don't really kno if they juste meant "aro and ace" without thinking you could be aro and not ace, or if aro allo are welcomed and wanted there. Which probably explain why you were the only aro allo : fom what I read here, this is not the first time that aro allo don't feel at ease in events that are supposed to be for them too, because there is not things about aro allo specifically in the end. So they'd probably won't go after reading a presentation like that because experience prevents them to do it.

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18 hours ago, nonmerci said:

So they'd probably won't go after reading a presentation like that because experience prevents them to do it.

I personally probably would have thought "Oh, an ace gathering" and stayed away. As a white cis male heterosexual romance neutral aro I haven't experienced much discrimination (yet) and probably "look" completely straight. I would just have gotten looked at and wouldn't have known what to talk about anyway.

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1 hour ago, Tagor said:

I personally probably would have thought "Oh, an ace gathering" and stayed away. As a white cis male heterosexual romance neutral aro I haven't experienced much discrimination (yet) and probably "look" completely straight. I would just have gotten looked at and wouldn't have known what to talk about anyway.

We didn't really talk much about discrimination per se. We talked a lot about frustrations, and unmet expectations (our own, our families, our friends, etc), and those I think map pretty well onto aro as well, just DIFFERENT frustrations... 

So, I didn't feel uncomfortable, the way I would have at a LGBTQ+ gathering. 

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People have tried to be open so far but I felt out of place in face-to-faces with asexuals a few times.

First because it felt like a matchmaking meeting for asexuals while I am quite averse to dating and dreading courtship even more.

Also I'm afraid that I may have been too 'sexual' in some of my comments. I hope that my bluntness did not offend anyone. I will remember that I need to watch what I say in inclusive spaces.

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It might be worth organisers reading this.

I think a big problem here is that many (possibly all) "aspec" organisations started off as "ace".

Something previously mentioned in the & Aro thread.

 

This is also likely to self perpetuate. Since allo-aros are unlikely to stick with such organisations.
 

On 1/21/2020 at 7:35 PM, sennkestra said:

Anyway, my advice for anyone organizing joint ace/aro meetups, is that it's important to at a minimum give all groups included equal billing in any event names or definitions, and to have active plans for discussion questions, icebreakers, etc. that can actively include all experiences (aromantic aces, romantic aces, aromantic allosexuals, etc.). 

The latter is likely to be more difficult than the former. Possibly falling under "chicken and egg".

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