5 Aspie Stereotypes

does-mayonnaise-cause-autism_b06c955fce1

Taken from: http://www.socialmemegenerator.com/user-submitted-memes/does-mayonnaise-cause-autism/

[Description: Patrick Star, an anthropomorphic star fish from the TV show Sponge Bob Square Pants, is raising his hand. The meme is captioned with the phrase, “Does mayonnaise cause autism?”]

This is purely an opinion piece and I’ve edited it too much to try  and not make it sound whiney.

I’m don’t claim to be an expert on Autism, it’s just what I’ve lived and am trying to figure out. I am writing this piece because I’m trying to articulate how I experience Autism and maybe raise consciousness on the lack of conversations around neurodiversity.

I’m using the phrase, “Aspie” to describe folks on the Autism spectrum because I don’t know what other word to use that is more succinct than, “people with Autism” or “Autistic people”. I’m aware that Aspergers has some differences from Autism as a whole. I’ll change my language when I find better language.

  1. Aspies don’t feel emotions.

aaeaaqaaaaaaaaepaaaajdewmtzjmjy5lwvknzmtndvmny05nwy0lwyyymi1odm5zgnknq

Taken from: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/autism-saliva-testing-john-macey

[Description: A black button with the text, “AUTISM – 10 years ago 1 in 1,000, 5 years ago 1 in 500, Today 1 in 88. SCARED Yet? (we were scared when it was 1 in 100!) ]

Ever since I was a small child,I felt like I had too many emotions to be contained in this fragile mortal flesh. It feels like my heart soars when I connect to words and music and it feels like I’m floating above the clouds. I feel and express a host of emotions that play across my face. I don’t really hide much from the world. I also do a lot of care work both for myself and for people around me that I think goes completely unacknowledged. (Transmisogyny intersection?)

All my fellow Aspie friends also feel many emotions. Many are like me and often feel too many emotions. Sometimes we get overloaded and it may appear that we don’t feel anything when in reality, we’ve just retreated inside ourselves to cope. I like to think we live in a different world from neurotypicals. In my head, the world is a lot more straightforward. Everyone is truthful, earnest, understanding, and usually caring and supportive. Unsurprisingly, I’m pretty vulnerable. I’m easy to take advantage of and to hurt. I’m often taken advantage of and hurt by others. I still have dreams, wishes, desires, and goals.

I’m still a human at the end of the day. I just wish people could remember this and treat me more like one…

2. Aspies are only good for their, “special interests”

When I was a baby queer teenager in high school, I felt hopeful and cherished by my community. They believed in me and said that I’d do amazing things. Back then, I presented androgynously/sometimes read as male or transmasculine. No one knew that I had Aspergers (although I suspected it). I felt valued for my knowledge, desire to do community work, and my bright, flamboyant personality.

Over the years I’ve lived in Toronto, I’ve felt rather lost and under appreciated. I transitioned and gained a diagnosis of Aspergers, and I noticed that I’m treated a lot more differently than I was prior to this change. It’s incredibly difficult to untangle where this form of ableism starts and where racism, sexism, transmisogyny, homophobia, and fatphobia meet it. All I know is that I feel like I’m not taken very seriously by many folks, and I have fewer opportunities than white cishet dudes who are Aspies or white neurotypical trans women.  I present to the world as a woman, but not just any woman, a trans woman who is bleeding queerness everywhere, is fat, and mixed race. I feel like I am only valued for my “special interest” of academic queer/feminist/crip knowledge but only in an, “this is very inaccessible to community, you’ll do fine in academia” kind of way.

I am more than an academic. Yes, I’m eccentric and always am thinking, but I know my language is usually clearer and better articulated than a number of more socially accepted white/neurotypical/thin/non-trans women queers. I’m interested more in experiences in reality right now and not so much on the “possibilities” or “transcending”. I wish academics who are fawned over by queers would quit talking abstract and look at the world around them. Why am I the “inaccessible” one?

3. Aspies aren’t good with social interactions and should be doing work that has minimal interaction with people.

For some strange reason, I’m often encouraged to go do work where I don’t need to interact with others much. Apparently, all Aspies are introverts and are happy as such.

My dad says that from the moment I learned to talk, I never stopped. I was a highly precocious and verbal critter. Language and words are how I survive. Since my deficit is non-verbal, of course I make up with it with words. I have many years finding tactics to survive. Even if I’m all kinds of socially awkward, I depend on other people around me. I learned how to support folks and be supported by them in return because it’s absolutely necessary to my survival. I need to process with people constantly to deepen my understanding of what goes on in my life. It’s like how I caption all images. Talking with people (especially those I trust and cherish closest to me) paints a better image of the world around me. Since I do this constantly, I usually have a pretty good intuition for advice and support.

The problem is we are taught as a society to be independent and to not depend on others. We are supposed to produce nuclear families and bow down to the colonialist c(r)apitalist man-god. Some people don’t want to deal with me and they want to shove me into the back room out of sight. This is really bad because it cuts me off from my network. I’m a constant threat to c(r)apitalism because I create relationships where I depend on those around me and do whatever I can to support them.

It’s still devastating when I find out (from another person) that someone doesn’t know how to “deal with someone with my disabilities” and would rather work with someone more neurotypical.

4. Aspies are broken and puzzling.

ribbonstorywtwb

Taken from: http://wrongplanet.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=106323

[Description: There is one of those cancer ribbon things with a puzzle piece pattern in solid red, yellow, royal blue, and cyan. To the side of the ribbon is another, larger periwinkle blue puzzle piece with text on top of it. The text says, “The Autism Awareness Ribbon – The puzzle pattern of this ribbon reflects the mystery and complexity of autism. The different colours and shapes represents the diversity of people and families living with this disorder. The brightness of the ribbon signals hope – hope through research and increasing awareness in people like you.”]

Eurgh. I can’t. I just can’t. This is where I’d cue the song, “I am Not a Robot” by Marina and the Diamonds.

I feel profoundly uncomfortable with the dominant knowledge production related to Autism. The “experts” are likely non-Autistic, neurotypical medical practitioners (especially psychologists and psychiatrists) and secondarily, parents of children with autism. (There are some amazing doctor and parent-advocates, but also a lot of horrible ones…) The message they are sending is clear. My Autism is a disorder. There is something inherently wrong with me that needs to be cured or erased. I’m difficult to understand and not really a whole person.

There’s been a lot of panic around vaccinations causing autism. Obviously, this assumption is untrue like how having a queer uncle/aunt doesn’t make your child queer or that studying the size of brain  determines who is considered “civilized” and “intelligent”.

We have highly organized trans and queer movements that are fighting against the pseudoscientific justifications of bigotry, but where is the solidarity with Aspies? Where are the Aspie community leaders especially those who have a social justice/anti-oppressive background? I know of Temple Grandin, but she is not a part of my communities nor does she feel reflective of the kind of knowledge I identify with.

5. Aspie differences signify them as less-able than neurotypicals.

autism_0001_op_800x499

Taken from: http://awareuk.homestead.com/Autism.html

[Description: A host of small simple drawings depicting human (read: male) figures doing various things. The drawings each have a caption about signs to look for to spot an Aspie. The drawings say, “Displays indifference. Joins in only if an adult insists and assists. One sided interaction. No eye contact. Variety is not the spice of life. Indicates needs by using an adult’s hand. Does not play with other children. Talks incessantly about only one topic. Lack of creative pretend play. Bizarre behaviour. Inappropriate laughing or giggling. Echolaic, copies words like a parrot. Likes to spin objects. Can do some things very well, very quickly but not tasks involving social understanding.”]

Wow. Is this from the 1950s McCarthy era? This graphic is reminiscent of the “signs to spot a gay/lesbian” PSA’s. I’m really disturbed by it. This only further cements who is producing knowledge on Autism. Just the kind of language used is judgmental and unsympathetic. As with all bigoted myths, there are grains of truth here, but the way it is framed says that Aspies are not normal, acceptable, or cherished. The fact that I meow and make a host of little squeaks/squawks doesn’t mean I’m not highly intelligent or that I don’t have the wisdom and experience to run community events.

I spend a lot of time thinking and processing everything from what a conversation might have meant, parsing together how to structure One Direction fan fic that centers translady!Zayn, to developing ideas on how to further intersectional theory, or fantasizing about a group of scantily clad, oiled and muscley, privileged dudes carrying me around on a golden throne. (If anyone knows a bunch of guys who would love to do this, PLEASE hit me up. <3)

My primary issue is not how I interact with the world, but how the world interprets me. As I’ve discussed in past points, I’m just not seen as cherished and skilled as neurotypicals to pay, to become a leader, or to date. Those who do and cherish me as I am do not treat me like there’s something wrong with me but that there is something wrong with the world. They understand this.

Below is a more accurate depiction of what it looks like when I struggle with less-than-understanding people. It gets across the point that I have a lot of thoughts going on and that I am thinking about my possible actions. (It also demonstrates a gap in the services for Aspies. They’re primarily directed towards children to “cure” them of their differences and are run by non-Aspies. There is already a model in existence to remedy this through the existence of queer and trans groups/services, race/ethnic, and/or religion-based and run spaces. *hinthintnudgenudgwhackwhack* #Advocacy #NothingWithUsWithoutUs)

postcard_autismandcommunication

 

Taken from: http://thelittleblackduck.com.au/lbd/communication-difficulty-and-autism/

[Description:  The image is entitled, “communication and autism”. There is a logo in the bottom right hand corner of three white ducks and a dancing black duck in the middle with the words under them, “the little black duck http://www.thelittleblackduck.com.au .

Two simply drawn figures with light coloured skin are talking. One of them says, “Hi, how are you?” and the other says, “The Moglev Train in Shanghai is the fastest train in the world”. The first person has a thought bubble that says “huh?” There are numerous thought bubbles. Pointing towards the first person, they say, “Interpret hand gestures, interpret facial expressions, interpret body language, maintain eye contact”. The thought bubbles connected to the second person say, “I don’t know what to say next, I don’t understand what you are saying, I need more time to process this information, their voice is too loud it really hurts my ears, I don’t know that script but I have to respond,keep body calm use appropriate gestures, are they going to touch me? I don’t like being touched, that freckle on their nose looks like a train, I feel uncomfortable when people look at me, I’m nervous the little noises I make help me feel calm, do I know the appropriate script to respond with, what are they trying to tell me, what is the appropriate response?, is this a good or a bad thing? are they happy?, am I giving too much information or not enough?, I like trains. I am comfortable talking about trains, What are the appropriate physical gestures?, I am not comfortable moving my body like that”.

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