Baby Steps in the Right Direction

So, I watched an episode of “God Friended Me.” It involved a woman and her autistic son. I believe the portrayal of the autistic son was realistic, albeit there were several stereotypes I have to point out.  

Let me say, first of all, that I liked the casting of the family. The actors were black. Personally, I do not see enough diversity in the casting of autistic people, especially since people tend to think we all are white males who look and act like Sheldon Cooper. We’re not clones; Hollywood and Television City tends not to see that for the most part. Personally, I want more diversity in autism portrayals.  

So, let’s talk about some stereotypes. The first stereotype I came across was that the child was nonverbal. I know nonverbal autistic types exist. The truth is, most of us are verbal – quite verbal in some cases, but I digress. It’s mostly a stereotype. A second stereotype is that the child has extraordinary talent – a savant trait, if you will. Now, it was not explicitly named, though it was heavily implied. I don’t know how many of us have a real savant trait, but I hear it’s not the majority. Finally, there seemed to be a sort of “magic key” stereotype that also creeps into many portrayals of mental illness as well. Why do they do the “magic key” thing anyway? Most of the time, it does not work. 

Maybe I’m being too hard on stereotypes. The actor was not portraying an autistic meltdown, for example, and the child was finding his own way to communicate, which is often a foray into more traditional avenues of communication, such as the child’s smile.  Maybe having one or two stereotypical behaviors helps identify the character, as long as there is truth to them; the lack of empathy stereotype is wrong and harmful, though. It may be some time before we get a real, authentic portrayal that offends few.  

After saying all this, I still believe “God Friended Me” took steps in the right direction.

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Womanhood: Life in the Lions’ Den

Wracking my brain, I have become more and more convinced that there might be a metaphor for the life a woman faces, that a man can relate to. I think that metaphor is this: Womanhood is life in a lions’ den. Think about it: Lions are bigger than you, stronger than you, and can overpower you and kill and eat you, and there’s little to nothing you can do about it. Now imagine those lions are trying to constantly have sex with you, whether you like it or not. That, my friends, is womanhood in a nutshell. Think about it: trigger a lion and he could kill you. Trigger a man and he could kill you. Some lions view humans as meat. Some men view women, as, well, meat.  

I could go on and on. Now do you understand why women would be terrified in a room of men? It’s a lions’ den!

All the Ways I’m Not Sheldon Cooper

Now, for some Godforsaken reason, when I come out as autistic to some people, they suddenly see this:

4830_sheldon_cooper.jpg

And they will NOT STOP COMPARING.

Since I have to spell it out, point by point, I am going to. All questions will be rendered to Captain Obvious, standing over there.

 

  • “You’re in my spot” – Sure, I have a “spot.” But I’m not entirely going to yell at people for sitting in it.
  • Extreme Arrogance and Self-Superiority – “The Big Bang Theory” seems to equate autism with arrogance. I’m not arrogant. As a matter of fact, I have to be told on a regular basis that my voice and life matter.
  • Reacting in the Worst Way – One of the hallmarks of Sheldon Cooper, and sitcom characters in general, is that they react to criticism in the most dramatic way possible.
  • Empathy – Sheldon Cooper, in this aspect, is a false stereotype. Autistic people have empathy, and the fact that I have to tell you this well into the 21st Century vexes me to no end. In many online tests, and by people in the know, I have been told I am an empath. I may not express my empathy in “reading between the lines,” but I literally take on emotions of others. There is almost no boundary. I often hold back tears when someone else is crying. Anyway, I have also taught myself on such important things as facial expression and sarcasm – while Mr. Cooper sees no need to do the same, even when he really needs to.
  • Sex/Gender – Sheldon Cooper is male. I am female. I and my fellow female autistics have been told by many professionals that we don’t exist. News flash, autism researchers: autistic women and girls exist! Autistic people of color exist, too!
  • Savanthood – Apparently, Sheldon is a savant in physics. I have been told I am one in spelling and grammar. Not everyone is a savant, though. And not everyone is a physics savant.
  • Physics Snob – Now, Sheldon is a physics snob. He looks down on other forms of science. I do not.
  • Executive Function: Cooking – Can you imagine the high amount of money the group in general spend on takeout? I can cook, and pretty well, too. Sure, I have the occasional takeout, but I can fix quite a few meals, too. Even from scratch.
  • Changes – I can deal with changes in relationships, hairstyles and even food, among other things. Sheldon cannot.
  • Bathroom Schedule – I go when I need to. Sheldon needs a schedule.
  • Diagnosis – I am officially diagnosed autistic (on paper). Sheldon is not diagnosed. At all.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. So stop comparing me to him.

Kentucky Representative Race: Amy McGrath and….. Who?

This is about the race for a seat in the House of Representatives. The two major candidates are Amy McGrath, Democrat, and Andy Barr, Republican.  

Now, here’s the thing. I know Lt. Colonel Amy McGrath is running against Andy Barr. If we were to go on the political ads, we know about Amy’s look, supporters, military record, fundraising support, similar candidates, possibly everything you might be able to display about a candidate. 

But all we know about Andy Barr, her opponent, is that he voted party line 98% of the time.  

There seems to be very little told about Andy Barr.

That’s the trouble with running solely attack ads. It seems like you yourself have nothing to offer. I suspect that is not truly the case. Is Barr putting all his political eggs in the incumbency basket? I don’t get it. People are tired of “politics as usual.” That’s why they voted for Donald Trump. They knew he was not a politician. It seems to be translating into a loss of power for incumbency so far.   

And that’s a potential misjudgment for the incumbent. Think about it.  

The Problem with Comparisons

An autistic person of color recently brought up a really valid point: many times, when persons of color bring up racism in the world, and even in autistic circles, many white people come up with “But you can’t condemn us! We’re LESS RACIST than neurotypicals!” or some other self-gratifying comparison. Here’s the problem with comparisons: they expose that you’re still affected by the same thing as the person you’re distancing yourself from! If you’re “less racist,” you’re still racist. If you’re “more open-minded,” that doesn’t mean your mind is completely open. You can’t excuse yourself from improvement. Just because you’re ahead of somebody in the race, it does not mean you are at the finish line. Self-improvement and tolerance are marathons, not the long jump. There is still work that needs to be done. Hitler was and is not the only Nazi, David Duke is not the only member of the Ku Klux Klan.

My Relationship with the Mask

Masking autism is nothing new to me. There is a public persona, and there is a private persona.  

It’s not to say that nobody wears a mask at some point. I believe everyone wears a mask to hide their pain. The autistic person’s mask, on the other hand, is much more encouraged to be put on because their private persona is literally vilified. They are taught that their private, and therefore true, persona is a weirdo, a freak, and has no place in this world. 

I’m no stranger to this treatment. Even my sweet nephew called me a freak in anger at one time. People throughout my school years taunted me, teased me, mocked me, and finally excluded me. Even people I thought were my friends. In truth, I spent the last day of school walking home. Alone.  

This is why I developed a mask…too late for high school, though. A mask worthy of the so-called compliment “But you don’t look autistic!” A mask made of body fat, smiles and social graces which has caused people not to think I am autistic. Finally, I was accepted, but not happy. I was polite; but I was not real.  

The mask has saved me from countless taunting and exclusion from my peers, for the most part. It has made me a few friends. Until my late thirties my mask was worn firmly on my face, to the point that I did not know where I ended and the mask began. It was as if my mask had taken over and become my skin. 

But the mask has worn out its welcome. It has gotten some sort of sand or gravel behind it and is hurting my face.  

So, by starting this blog, and healing through therapy and support, I have slowly peeled the mask off, along with some layers of dead skin, to heal and develop the thick skin I was supposed to have years ago. I need to get real. I need to heal.  

I am now working on integrating the public and private personae. I have not arrived at the point where I can take the mask of fully yet, but I am getting there. One day, I’ll finally be able to be myself, fully. I will not need a mask anymore.  

Speaking Out and Blame

You may be wondering why I haven’t spoken out against separating children from their parents at the border. Well, I’ve been in a fight with someone very important about it. Make no mistake, I believe that separating the children from their parents, who usually have little to no choice in the matters of their parents, was a horrible idea.

However, I am square in the middle of Trump Country, where many people here tend to act as though Donald Trump died on the cross for you, and God raised Donald Trump from the dead. (No on both counts; that was Jesus.) I had to engage many people gently, even some very close to me. I had to simply had to agree to disagree.

Now, I know that they were illegal immigrants, which complicates matters. What I do not know is whether it will soon be illegal at all for people of color to immigrate now that Trump is president. I firmly believe Trump is telling his supporters that “illegal immigrants” and other persons of color are to blame for their lot in life, which is not entirely true.