I’m a tidy autistic. Compared to most of my friends, my home is uncannily organized; my routines are rigid and often inflexible. When I last moved house, my new home was 90% unpacked within the first week and firmly lived-in by the end of the first month, thanks to packing my previous home with destination rooms in mind and having a new floor plan for my furniture worked out in PowerPoint a month before moving day. With tape measures, notes, and detailed pro/con analyses, I worked out the best places for my sofa, television, display cases, desk, aquaria, and each individual houseplant, along with which new items to order and where those would go. Waste is sorted immediately and removed on a schedule, and cups never accumulate away from the drying rack. Mess makes me anxious and staying on top of these things is both a gift for and the result of my executive function, not done for others but to keep my home liveable for me. I pride myself on that level of masterful order and accept the neuroticism that comes with it as the price of success.
I wouldn’t tell her, “you think you’re a boy, but you grow up to be a woman.”
All the world’s a stage, and autistic people are better actors than our detractors will ever know. The allistic majority operates by alien rules that most of us do not truly understand until we are nearing adulthood, and which seem arbitrary and pointless even then. In the meantime, our traits are unwelcome in their spaces and they respond to them with vitriol, ostracism, and violence. To exist in public and maybe even have friends, most of us learn one pivotal skill: masking. We master hiding many of the traits that define us, restraining stims, concealing enthusiasm, and imitating social niceties that do not come naturally. The mask becomes instinctive, unwanted and unnatural but nevertheless automatic.
And sometimes, that has me looking pretty sus.
It was ordinary people who told me my soul would burn when I told them I am an atheist.
It was ordinary people who kept me from recognizing my gender until my 20s.
It was ordinary people who promoted a level of homework that devoured my free time for most of high school.
It was ordinary people who saw everything about me that was not useful to them and demanded that it change.
It was ordinary people who kept me feeling excluded, misunderstood, and feared until I was an adult, and sometimes still.
It was ordinary people who lied to me for fun and jeered at me for believing them.
It was ordinary people who made the world too bright, too loud, too messy, too much, and told me I was wrong for noticing.
It was ordinary people who made it so that, when I am frustrated or scared enough, I stop feeling my hands.
As a treat for my readers, here is the first three scenes from my in-progress novel, Never Alone, as they currently stand. Enjoy!
CN abusive relationship, abusive parenting.
If there is one accusation that the allistic world likes to inflict on people like me, it is the idea that we do not care. Our norms flout theirs, our preferences are alien to them, our interests do not align with theirs, our emotions do not work like theirs, and to each of these, they levy their curse: you don’t care. They fling a tiresome welter of robot and reptile and cold and computer and alien at our feet, each a stiletto aimed at the part of us that is willing to believe them. Their only idea for who and what we are denies our humanity.
When I see the same accusation leveled at one of the most impressively competent and compassionate portrayals of our neurology in popular media, Princess Entrapta from She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, my irritation turns to icy resolve.
It turns out you can just give presentations even if you’re not in school anymore.
If someone had told young me that, someday, she’d not only learn to love being in front of crowds telling them about her areas of interest or expertise, but that she’d miss these opportunities once they were no longer common, she would not have believed them. But life takes us in surprising directions, and four years after I completed my studies, the aspect of being a graduate student I miss is the chance to be on stage. But the great thing about being a huge nerd is, we all feel the same way.
Enter the presentation party.
I didn’t used to think of myself as a person who listened to the same song over and over again in emotionally trying times. A good look through my actual listening habits forced me to re-evaluate that image of myself, because…I actually do that a lot. My usual music habit is still to put my entire playlist on Shuffle and skip over anything that doesn’t suit my mood, but when my mind is sore and my heart ailing, it’s time for something that feels right, 15 or 20 times. Lately it’s Zard’s version of what is better known as Dragonball GT’s theme song by Field of View, but over the years, it’s been many, many different things.
There are two comments that are rarely far off when self-proclaimed allies encounter anti-queer politicians.
“I bet he’s secretly queer.”
“I hope he ends up with a queer kid.”
Naïve, ironic, and insensitive in the trademark way of ignorant would-be allies, these comments rankle deeply. Much has been written about how the first of the two effectively assigns all responsibility for society-wide anti-queerness on queer people and absolves from same the straight people who invented and perpetrate it, so today’s topic is the other one.
In case you’ve been in a beautiful fantasy world for the past few years, I have a sad truth to report: the world is, just, full of allistic people. Not only that, but despite their comically overstated deficiencies at staying organized, attaining intense mastery of niche topics, and being at all bearable to be around, they control almost everything. Learning how to deal with their bizarre needs is a necessary life skill for the rest of us, and I came to learn what I have about how they operate from a still more noisome source: narcissistic, emotionally abusive parents.