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"I’m not shallow, I’m aromantic, and I’m not confused, I’m ‘bisexual’."

Imogen identifies as bisexual and aromantic. She tells us about her struggles to accept and understand herself growing up, how others react to aromanticism and how she stays on top of her wellbeing. Read her story here:

I’ve always been very lucky to not struggle with my mental health on a day to day basis but I’m bisexual, and I’m also aromantic – meaning, I experience sexual attraction but not romantic attraction. This can make staying mentally well a challenge, so I’ve developed my own support systems.

Aromanticism isn’t something I was taught about at school, or heard about from my parents, and I grew up understanding that everyone fell in love eventually.

When I was a teenager I used to think of myself as shallow like a puddle, because I couldn’t see what all the fuss was about – butterflies? Didn’t feel them. Unrelenting first crush? No; I wasn’t fussed. This messed with my self-image, and made it really difficult to accept myself, especially as I got older, and sex-ed at school framed sex in terms of an expression of a loving relationship, with everything else being lesser. In such a relationship focused environment, the pressure to ‘perform’ made me anxious. At first I tried to reciprocate romantic feelings in relationships to legitimise my attraction and felt awful when it wasn’t really how I felt. I didn’t mind the actual dates and enjoyed getting to know people, especially if I found them attractive, but I actively dreaded the time when people would express an attachment.

The ‘L word' felt like empty words, pressure and obligation.

In fact, as I get older it still feels that way, despite my coming to understand and accept (with the support of the Ace and Queer communities, and a few friends) that I’m not shallow, I’m aromantic, and I’m not confused, I’m ‘bisexual’.

I’m out and open about my bisexuality at work, and with family & friends. But aromanticism isn’t well understood, and often leads to bi-phobic behaviour too – I hear a lot of “when you meet the right person”, that I’m more likely to cheat on my partners because I’m not romantically attached to them (couple this with the stereotype that bi people are more likely to cheat and this is an inevitable conversation in every non-platonic entanglement!), that I’m “commitment-phobe”, that it’s “because I can’t make up my mind”, that maybe I’m not bisexual if I’m not romantically attracted to my partner(s) so I’m not ‘out’ to most of my friends or family, and certainly not at work.

Each relationship I enter comes with a constant question of if, and when I will let them know, and if I am obligated to do so. Every family event comes with the question of if I have met that special person and will settle down.

People who accept my bisexuality often erase my aromanticism and make me feel like it isn’t a valid part of my identity. 

On top of this, I see the different anti-LGBTQIA policies and laws being passed around the world, and worry about what might happen in the future.

This can have quite an impact on my mental wellbeing if I’m feeling low. I’ve developed different ways to stay well, and really leaned on those support systems I do have in place:

I feel super lucky and privileged that I haven’t had to experience the same kind of hatred, danger, judgement and violence so many people in LGBTQIA+ communities have, and that my family have for the most part been accepting, but I’d also like to think in the future, it will be easier for everyone to stay well, regardless of their identities, because we will accept them all and put less pressure on people.

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