Why aro/ace spec characters are so important in books

Happy pride month!
Hey, everyone! I’m back with another discussion post and I’m super excited for this one. As it’s pride month, I figured this would be a fitting post to write right now! This is a topic that is really personal and important to me and I’ve been wanting to write this post for a long time. I hope I’m able to teach you all a little bit about this! Let’s get right into it.

I want to start by explaining what the aromantic and asexual spectrum is. The spectrum covers anyone who is not alloromantic or allosexual and, while there is no good way of describing the term allo, it basically means anyone who experiences attraction at a level which society seems to have dubbed ‘normal’. On the other end of the spectrum is aromantic and asexual, meaning someone who experiences no romantic or sexual attraction. More and more people are beginning to know of the words ‘aromantic’ and ‘asexual’ but the rest of the spectrum is still relatively unheard of. While I don’t want to turn this post into a dictionary, here’s a few aroace-spec identities and their meanings: (links go to the LGBTQA+ wiki pages)

  • Aroflux/aceflux: When someone’s sexuality fluctuates, however it usually stays on the aromantic spectrum. This means that they could feel entirely aromantic one day, somewhere in between another day, even sometimes feeling allo.
  • Demiromantic/demisexual: Someone who does not experience attraction until they form an emotional connection with the person. (does not mean that they’re attracted to everyone they experience the connection with – just that there’s the possibility)
  • Grayromantic/graysexual: someone who has experiences relating to being aromantic/asexual, including (but not limited to) experiencing attraction infrequently, experiencing attraction weakly and much more.
    Credit to LGBTQA+ wiki for parts of these definitions.

I highly suggest you check out these terms or the page for the aromantic spectrum or the asexual spectrum, which lists even more terms, if you are curious!

As some of you might know, I identify as grayromantic and asexual. However, I’d never even heard of the term grayromantic until less than a year ago. It was very confusing for me, before I’d heard of the term, because basically all of my friends had already figured out their sexualities, etc and I just…didn’t know. I had no idea how they seemed to know this, why I was so far behind. Even after I learned of the term for the first time, I was skeptical, simply because I’d never heard of it until that point. How could I be a sexuality that I’d only just heard of?
It took me even longer to realize I was asexual because of all the stereotypes that surround the sexuality–I had no idea what constituted as asexual and what didn’t and it made me not even consider that I could be ace until probably late December.

So, where am I going with this? How does this tie in with books?
Well, one thing that you might have noticed is that books have a bit of a blind spot when it comes to the aroace spectrum. There are very few books with aromantic or asexual characters, though there are certainly some, but when it comes to the rest of the spectrum, there is practically nothing. And honestly, I think this is why it took me so long to figure out my sexuality. I’d never heard of those words in my life, not even from books, where I’ve learned so many things. I’d never seen someone like myself in a book and that left me confused as to my sexuality.

This is why I think that we need more books with aroace-spec characters and just more diverse characters in general. There are so many people out there who get their knowledge from books or who turn to books to escape the actual world, and if someone is not able to see themselves in a book, it can hurt, if they know who they are already. If they don’t know who they are, it can leave them confused. Maybe I’m putting too much faith in books by asking them to teach me who I am, but I want to be able to put that faith in books. I want books to represent me, and I want books to represent everyone else who’s felt underrepresented in literature. Even if your story of a greyromantic superhero with a strong group of friends helps one person feel represented, or one person understand who they are, that’s enough. That makes a difference.

I cannot count the number of times I’ve seen tiny little aphobic things in books. Things that authors don’t even realize are aphobic, because maybe they’ve never even heard of the spectrum. Or maybe there’s something that suggests the main character is on the aroace spectrum but it’s never addressed–because the author doesn’t even know their character is on the spectrum. One quick example of this is when a character doesn’t get their first crush until they’re 17 or 18. I don’t know why authors do this, but my best guess would be that it makes it more interesting for the character to be navigating through a first crush, through these feelings for the first time. I know that the author does not intend for this to be this way, but it does feel rather disheartening for me, at least, to read these books.

Here’s a few books with aroace-spec characters that I have read and enjoyed! Almost all of these books have aroace characters. However, they’re all amazing books that I’d highly encourage you to check out!

Amazon.com: Summer Bird Blue (9781481487757): Bowman, Akemi Dawn: Books
Amazon.com: The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy (Montague Siblings,  2) (9780062795328): Lee, Mackenzi: Books
  • Dread Nation by Justina Ireland. The main character, whose POV this entire book is from, is actually bi, but Katherine, the other MC, is aroace. There was a great friendship in this book between Jane and Katherine (enemies to friends) and overall I really enjoyed this
  • Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman. I just read this book, finishing it less than a month ago, but it was really enjoyable! The main focus is more on grief, however the main character Rumi is somewhere on the aroace spectrum and it is explored at points in the book.
  • The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee. This book is actually technically the second in a series, and the MC is the sister of the MC of book 1, but honestly you could probably read this without reading the first one. There were some parts that were a little weird, mostly with the plot, and the fact that Felicity is aroace is not actually mentioned, simply implied, given that it’s set in the 1700s (or 1800s, I’m bad at time please forgive me).
Rick: Gino, Alex: 9781338048100: Amazon.com: Books
  • The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow. The MC of this book is demi and it’s a very good book overall. I was at first really nervous to read this because the premise sounds…super weird…but it was an awesome book!
  • Rick by Alex Gino. This is a middle grade book and a bit of a companion novel to the book George, but you definitely don’t need to read George to read Rick. It’s a book about a 10 or 11 year old who is questioning throughout the book and eventually decides he’s aroace. It’s a super sweet book and well written for middle grade readers, while still being enjoyable for those who read YA as well!
  • Loveless by Alice Oseman. There are a lot of mixed reviews on Loveless, specifically how the MC, Georgia’s experience is shown throughout the book. I, personally, loved it, though, and would encourage others to read it as well!

I was imagining this post to be longer but the words will not come so I will end here. I just wanted to let you know, that my comments and my email and my goodreads PMs are always open if you want to know more or if you are questioning. Seriously, do not be afraid to reach out to me about it, even if you are just writing a book character and want to make sure you get it correct (in reality, I will feel extremely honored that you went to me for this and also extremely happy that you care enough about this to ask me). Also I will forever love you if you have a WIP with an aroace spec character*. It doesn’t need to be a major character. Just a character. (or if you have a published book, I’ll love you for that as well).
*Obviously, there’s a few restrictions to my love….the character has to be represented well and also your book can’t be discriminatory in any way to ANY of your characters, you know, stuff like that.
Thank you all so, so, much for reading. Like I said before, this is a very important topic to me so it means a lot that you’d take the time to read this. I hope that you learned something and that you enjoyed this post.