Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Big Open-Ended Question: On Loving and Accepting My Asperger’s

Magenta has written "The Big Open-Ended Question: On Loving and Accepting My Asperger’s" on The Toast.

The words always stood out ominously: “Tell me about yourself.”
Any time I met potential new friends or went on a date or had a job interview, that’s when I’d get into trouble. Sooner or later, there would be the big open-ended question. Sooner or later I’d have to talk about myself.
I would try and start off by listing and explaining my interests, and then after a while I might say, “Well, I’m a little awkward.” If I were drunk, maybe I would be a little more daring and say, “I’m bad at socializing.” But even if that went over well—and I was constantly afraid of the day it didn’t, the inevitable day when what I hoped would come off as endearing would backfire—I might want to say more, but feel profoundly afraid of doing so.
I always felt the constant spectre of the unsaid, of wanting but not knowing how to disclose who I really am. I can’t quite pinpoint the exact moment when I started feeling uncomfortable with who I was; I guess it’s when I realized that simple friendship and even just talking to people was hard for me. I couldn’t tell you at what point I diverged from the rest of the people on my Facebook feed, when they all started getting photographed at pool parties and baby showers that I wasn’t invited to, while I posted selfies and funny subway ads. It is common knowledge that making friends can become harder as you get older and are forced to find your own group – when you’re not at school among your peers, all day, every day. I am aware that I’m not the only person who gets anxious and sad when thinking about her social life (or lack thereof). But for me, much of the anxiety and sadness stems from the feeling that all of this is beyond my control.

Representation (2014)

Louise sent in this entry for ASDay 2014, from Tumblr blog MindTheLSpace


I’m currently reading some reviews for a book containing a character with Aspergers. I haven’t actually read this book, so I don’t know whether it’s any good, what the portrayal of the autistic character is like etc, but nonetheless, some of the patterns in the negative reviews are troubling me. 
One, that the main plot of the book centred around a divorcee looking for a new partner, with the ‘son with Aspergers’ plot being secondary. Some reviewers seem very surprised that this is the case, and several saw it as a negative. This is despite the fact that the author specialises in romance, and the blurb isn’t in any way misleading about what the central plot is. 
Two, that the book is written in a very light-hearted, jokey tone. Several people are claiming that this is 'inappropriate’ of otherwise 'weird’ for a book where one of the main characters is autistic. 
Three, a handful of reviewers complained that the book didn’t give enough 'insight’ into what it’s like to raise an autistic child. 
So basically, if a book contains a prominent character on the autistic spectrum, the book must be: 
1) Entirely about the ASD. More specifically, about the negative effects ASD has on both the individual and the individual’s family. 
2) Written in a serious tone, because autistic people can’t be written about in a light-hearted way. 
3) A substitute textbook with something to teach non-autistic readers. 
To strip that down:
1) Autistic characters can’t be incidentally autistic, or 'just there’. 
2) ASD is always sad, and serious, and difficult. There’s never anything to be light-hearted about. 
3) Autistic characters should serve an educational purpose. They can’t just be there in their own right. 
So, to extrapolate (some of you may say extrapolating a bit too far, which is fair enough.): 
1) Autistic characters can’t be standard characters. They’re the exception. A point has to be made of them. 
2) Autism is a tragedy. A perpetual tragedy for both the autistic person and everyone who spends more than five minutes around them. This puts us straight into the 'Disability as a tragedy’ narrative, which is a huge, huge issue, and one most disability campaigners want to get rid of. 
3) Disabled people exist only in relation to non-disabled people. Again, this is a very old and very fucked up narrative, which most campaigners would like to see consigned to history. 
I’m not for a single second suggesting that all these reviewers were actively thinking “How dare the author make jokes, disabled people are tragic and terrible!” as they wrote down their thoughts. What they were probably doing, however, was writing down the expectations and subconscious beliefs that the world around them had, in numerous subtle ways, encouraged them to have. Ideas about disabled people being 'other’ in a negative way. 
I find the ideas presented above very damaging. Because to ourselves, we’re notthe other, but that’s the only way we ever get to see ourselves portrayed in the public eye. Our lives, generally speaking, contain positive and neutral emotions as well as negative ones, so it’s strange for us to think of our entire beings as something that has to be written about in a death-bed tone. And thinking of ourselves as tokens or vehicles, existing purely to educate non-disabled people, is faintly disturbing. 
Disability discourse needs to change, and representation of people like us, as opposed to representation of Our Condition 101, is so, so important. 
(This is the book in question, along with the reviews I’m reading, if anyone’s curious) 

Autistics Speaking Day? (2014)

Liese sent in this submission for ASDay 2014, on her Tumblr Waking Up to Live.

Trigger Warning for mentions of bullying, social pressures, self-taught "quiet hands".

Autistics Speaking Day?

Participation Post 2014

I should have had this out earlier. For that, I apologize.  But here are our 2014 Participants!

Amy Sequenzia, If You Walk on Issy's Shoes (see trigger warnings) 

chavisory, When I hear you say
Ben Edwards, Ten Examples that Show Violence Against Autistics is Alive and Well in American Culture (see trigger warnings) 
Stimmycat, Glimpses of unseen autism
Hannah B on being autistic, not okay
Haley Outlaw (My) Autistic History
n8chz The real reason I'm an anagorist
Alice Hewitt, Cages (see trigger warnings) 
Bigger On The Inside, ASD, ASD and ASD (see trigger warning)
Jane Strauss Âû, Insult or Compliment?
AutismDogGirl, Autism speaking day there is just to much to say
Emma Goodall, Hyperfocus as a useful tool
Daniel Obejas, Communication Shutdown or Autistics Speaking Day: Which will you celebrate?
Trebled Galaxies, Thoughts of the Neurodivergent Twin
FeministAspie, Human
Catsidhe, To Whom Am I Speaking?
ischemgeek, Autistic ways of reacting
Amanda MillsAmanda Mills (@NaturentheCity on Twitter) , Pride (and Shame)
Becca, I'm Tired
Abby, Being an Unperson
Kristin Guin, To all my fellow autistic people
Kit Mead , Autistic Pride and What You Need to Know (See Trigger Warnings)
Timotheus "Pharaoh" Gordon , The State of the Black Autist
Neurodivergent K, It's Autistics Speaking Day & I have not much to say

Ole Ferme l'Oeil Un Lieu pour nous/ A Place for us

Morénike Onaiwu Speaking Truth to Power
R. Larkin Taylor-Parker, Hope Says 'Yes'

We had no entries by allies for 2014