On the Road to Being a Real Woman 

I’m not going to lecture you on what constitutes a real woman or a real man. What I’m going to do instead is share with you a realization about what being a woman is, as opposed to being a little girl, in a new aspect. Now, I’ve been critical of the general societal perception that thin is in. I’ve even gone so far as to call the skinny girls of the world “broomsticks” out of sheer jealousy. But this morning, something inside of me changed. It’s not my attitude toward thin is in. It’s my attitude toward the girls and women who fit this particular image. I’m not hateful towards them anymore. I have no reason to tear the thin ones down, simply because they are thin. It’s not their fault they’re thin and therefore beautiful by society’s standards. Just because they were born lucky, doesn’t mean they stay that way.

There is no need to tear a person down, because they’re perceived as having more value than you. It must be hard for them, too, because of this perception that you have to compete.

I’ll admit it. I’m fat. I can’t compete. But knowing this frees me to find the inherent value I have inside myself. There is a purpose to my existence. If there was not, I would not be alive. Believe me, those who love me have fought to keep me on this planet, even though I have had a strong desire to leave at times in my life. Yes, I have had to fight my own desire for suicide. But I have won. To paraphrase Alice Walker, I may be poor, I may be fat, I may be ugly, but I am here.

I’ve also learned that I can get a man on my own, without having to compete with anyone. A real man won’t make you compete. Boys want women to feel insecure, to compete and focus on them, as if the woman is his mother. Boys need mothers. Men need women. Which brings me back to the real woman.

A real woman is not that hard to spot. She is the one who builds women up, not tear them down. She can stand on her own without a man. She can want and desire a partner, but she does not need one. A real woman works on her healing. Trust me, the world wants you to be a girl, because girls are controllable. That’s why the world works to break you as a girl, to freeze you – keep you as a girl. Girls wallow in their hurt. You can see this in earlier posts.  Trust me, I have not quite made it to being the real woman. But I have taken a step toward it.

What Does Autism Look Like Anyway? 

When I reveal that I am autistic, or my mother does, we often get this response: “But you don’t look autistic!” Yes, I do. I got my formal diagnosis from the UCLA Medical Center as a child. Do you think I would lie to you? Why don’t you believe me? What does autism look like to you?

According to popular media, autism is usually depicted by a white cisgender male, and usually a child. They are often portrayed as some sort of savant as well. That is an extremely narrow and stereotypical view of autism, and it is not helpful when you reveal it to people to spread understanding among them.

Is it because I am a woman? I can assure you, autistic women exist. They often go into adulthood without their formal diagnosis, often waiting until their fifties to get this diagnosis, often when researching their own children’s or grandchildren’s diagnosis. Just because we are a smaller group does not mean we are nonexistent. That is just ridiculous to think.

Is it because I am an adult? Usually autism is given a child’s face. Also, that person is in meltdown or other extreme distress. We are not always having meltdowns. Meltdowns are usually caused by a trigger. It could be a sight, sound, smell, taste or touch. If you need something to compare the trigger to, look not further than an addiction. Or PTSD. Or various other dynamics which involve avoiding triggers to stay sane.

(The following does not apply to me, but this is often a reason people do not “look autistic.”)

Is it because of my race? There may be more formal diagnosis among white people, but there is also an existence around every known society. I recently saw an episode of Chicago Med with an autistic doctor played by somebody who was black. (Yes, I do say “black.” It’s perfectly OK to see what race a person is. What is not OK is to assign a lesser or greater value to that race.) I applaud Chicago Med for that casting choice. It gives a sort of face to an entire race of autistic people not represented in media. Not to mention that most races are given say, one token representation, and it certainly is usually not with neurodiversity. You usually have to be white for that.

Is it because of my gender identity? Is it my sexual orientation? I could go on and on about how a narrow stereotype locks many people out of perceptions of autism, or various other conditions for that matter.

(Back to what applies to me again…)

Open your minds, people. Autism is not equipped with a specific physical “look” or “act” to be obvious. A specific facial expression or profile does not exist in the autistic spectrum.

When one specific trait, such as autism, is used to describe a group of people, try not to be surprised when the traits not used to describe them vary widely. It would have to call on other traits to be mentioned in common to get a grasp of the people you are describing. Don’t put people into boxes. They don’t fit.

Women and Clothes

Wear a hijab. Don’t wear a hijab. Wear a bikini. Don’t wear a bikini. Be sexy. Don’t be a slut. Be smart. Don’t be a bitch. (Yes, I went there.) Show some skin. Don’t show that skin. Is it any wonder women get confused as to what they wear in youth, and screw it all to be comfortable in old age? I have noticed that to those in power, fashion is important on a woman.

Have you noticed that women are not allowed to wear the same amount of clothes that men are? If you’re in a conservative nation, you wear more clothes – ranging from longer skirts and head coverings to the all-covering burqa seen in the Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. If it’s in a more secular country, it’s less – sometimes a lot less.  The trouble is, do any of these people in power know what women want? Do they even care?

Religious codes aside, there is a lot of ignoring what women actually want. Maybe it’s the fact that since they are, well, women, they are made to feel less than true citizens. It’s even worse if you have a different skin color, or a disability. For example, there is a movie about disabled sexuality called “Yes We F**k” because people still think those of us with disabilities do not. Plus, there is also the stereotypes associated with women of different colors than, say, the palest Northwestern European, which still dominates world media to an extent. (It’s almost a game of “How Much Do You Look Like a King of Britain?” where only the most resembling can even get to the final rounds.)  Anyway, the trouble with all this is that women who do not feel they can stand up to this grievously high, white, able, etc. level of beauty are left out as if they are not even human. A dark-skinned woman in a wheelchair is barely recognized above apes, for example.

What does this have to do with clothes? Simple. They put inordinate amounts clothes on darker skin, less “abled” bodies, unskinny bodies, and female bodies in general. And somebody somewhere is going to go crazy and berate them for the amount of clothes they are going to wear anyway. Is it any wonder women who are older get tired of it all? Because it is too taxing on the young psyche, let alone the older one.

So, screw all the mixed messages, because you’re not going to please everybody. Wear what you want, because that’s all that matters. I just want to know that the clothes you wear do not make you less of a person, no matter what everyone else says.

 

Women and Girls: Autism’s Lost Tribe

There is an oft-repeated statistic concerning the ratio of boys to girls with autism: That ratio is 4-to-1 in favor of having boys. I happen to think that particular statistic is not true. Many women with autism are diagnosed later in life, often in adulthood, and many after learning of the autism in their children. So, why are we being diagnosed so late, and so few in between? I believe that since the industry is male-dominated, there is bias towards males in the theories, diagnosis and treatment in relation to autism itself. For those reasons, girls and women with autism often become a lost tribe in diagnosis and treatment.

I was one of the lucky ones, to receive a diagnosis in childhood. I was told to be “a little autistic, a little aphasic…” And by sheer luck, fate, or as we put it, the Grace of God, my mother was able to diagnose autism in me. Here is how my mother puts it:

The first time I heard “autism” was up in Fresno. They said to me “you don’t want to give the diagnosis of autism.” I said “without the label, how was she supposed to receive help?” I fought with the label until she was in fifth grade. I had to go to fair hearing to get your diagnosis accepted – and they still did not acceptance….the label of autism was worse than death. There was no hope until I met B.J. Freeman at UCLA, to get your true diagnosis.

A little background on her statements: We lived in Fresno, California when I was six. I was eight when my mother met B.J. Freeman. I was ten in the fifth grade, held back for a year for “social growth.” The only teacher to take my mother seriously was my RSVP teacher my senior year, and only after an embarrassing incident involving my backpack, but that’s another story.

I still consider myself one of the lucky ones, since I received my diagnosis before adulthood. Most women begin their autism journeys with self-diagnosis. There are harmful biases towards males in the theories, diagnosis and treatment in relation to autism in women. We become a lost tribe.

The biases in diagnosis are the most subtle, because more attention goes to the boys due to the more aggressive “masculine” behavior preferred on boys…but not too much. Let me explain: in this culture, boys are believed to be more aggressive, more assertive, and allowed to be more belligerent in their behavior. However, there is a cliché about “proper” behavior: “Children should be seen and not heard.” So, when boys are given leeway to be belligerent, the autistic ones are more likely to be disruptive. I observed an autistic boy in kindergarten. He was accepted to be what I never really was allowed to be – loud. Girls, however, and supposed to be “sugar and spice and everything nice.” We are taught that quietness, passiveness, and going along to get along are virtues. Quietness is rewarded. The autistic quietness and passiveness are rewarded. We mimic behaviors of neurotypicals, too. Simply put, girls are rewarded for being introverted, a stereotype of being autistic. Since “children should be seen and not heard,” the boy attacking another is going to get more attention than the girl sitting quietly and staring into space.

The theories of autism are even more male-biased. Autism has been described, even by an article in Time Magazine, as an “extreme male brain.” Now, this “extreme male brain” theory is due to less empathy, better performance at analysis, and more masculine interests. However, theories must be taken with a grain of salt. They must be analyzed in the current 4-to-1 boy-to-girl ratio of medical diagnosis. Since more boys are diagnosed than girls, the data will obviously skew in favor of the boys. More research into autistic females is needed.

So, in light of biased diagnosis and theory, the treatment is going to come more easily to boys and men, than it is to girls and women. We are finding more and more girls diagnosed in adulthood than boys. The trouble with that is, later diagnosis leads to limited success. The results are clear: Girls and women with autism are more likely to be severely limited in romantic relationships, while boys and men are more likely to find romance and marriage. Even I myself, at age 38 as of this article, am living alone with my mother. My computer is my primary source of interaction with the world. I am also extremely resentful towards most of the Tustin Unified School District of Tustin, CA, for not taking my autism seriously. Due to my troubles in socializing, it took an apology from a former schoolmate to even begin accepting Facebook friend requests from my former schoolmates-and that was only after I explained some of my behaviors. (Check out “Facebook and the Mellaril Nightmare” for background on that.) Also, so many of us, myself included, have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder for being raped, abused and manipulated by neurotypicals we should not have trusted. (Fortunately, only abuse is in my history, not rape. Again, lucky.)

I hope I can call for more research into the signs and symptoms of autism as shown in females, because we need it. I may have to donate my body to scientific research in order to contribute further, because I don’t think enough is being done to recognize and treat autistic girls and women. We are falling far behind our male counterparts, and I don’t think it’s really our fault.

Seesaw Living Hurts Us All

Pro-black is not anti-white. Pro-white is not anti-black. Pro-woman is not anti-man. Pro-disability is not anti-abled. Why do I have to explain these things to people? All I ever want is to make our society equal. Trouble is, most people do not see the potential of a society which counts everyone as equal, and really judges people by the content of their character. They only see a society which caters to Western European powers – in other words, how much do you have in common with Prince William of England, or with Donald Trump? To add on to this, those who have a lot in common with Prince William or Donald Trump are paranoid of other people who want a level playing ground, because they think life is a seesaw-that one person has to be down in order for another to be up. This kind of thinking is wrong, and inaccurate. Sure, the Western European, Able-Bodied Man has an advantage by his power, but it does not have to come at the expense of those who are not them. Due to my Christianity, I believe this type of societal oppression is quite sinful, because we all came from the same family. We are all related-we can all produce children from each others’ races, for example. Everyone should have an equal chance to prove themselves – I was raised to believe this.

In current society, there is a complicated web of classes and statuses, which can make one’s head spin, but certain things can raise your status to the next level:

1) Money

2) A penis at birth

3) Light skin and Western European features

4) Full use of all your body

5) Heterosexuality

6) Western European Religion

7) Western European Ethnicity

8) Neurotypical Function (Not Autistic, for example)

Of course, this is not an exhaustive list. Now, I know there are controversial mentions above. The point of those is, even if you morally disagree with a person’s choices, that does not lock them out of love and respect. If you’re Christian, for example, Jesus Christ said “Love your enemies.” There is no excuse for not treating a person with love and respect.

Now, back to the seesaw mind. Using the above statuses reduces life to an Us and They dynamic, where in order for Us to be up, They must be down. As you can see, if They move up, it will bring Us down. The trouble is, when you are pro-Us, you are anti-They. For example, pro-black is assumed to be anti-white. Pro-woman becomes anti-man. In this Us and Them dynamic, no one can be equal, and no one can get ahead without harming another. But I believe there is a better way.

Humanity, I believe, should not be divided and put on a seesaw. Humanity works best when everyone can advance everyone, so that no one gets left behind. Besides, do you think you can handle the paranoia that comes with the Us and Them dynamic? I have not seen a single human being live well when divided away from other human beings. People crave companionship, and if all the people you can get it from are somehow unacceptable, you will be one lonely person. I hope this opens your eyes a little, as my eyes continue to open to the false notion of the seesaw dynamic.

Why I Care

I get it. I am a white woman. In that, I am privileged, to a degree. I am also autistic, but I did not receive the controversial Applied Behavior Analysis therapy, nor did I get other types of “therapy” such as restraint and seclusion. I am also fat. Let’s face it. I am 4’ 11” and a size 20. There are some things which give me a certain amount of privilege, plus a very loving and accepting mother, and a father who loved me the way he could. Now, with all of this going for me, why do I care about the person with skin darker than mine, the person in the wheelchair’s dignity, the fellow autistic who was abused? There are a myriad of reasons why. I am compelled to be concerned about my fellow man and woman, and understand why they might have a degree of mistrust toward me. I get that. As I explore these reasons and troubling, unfair and often untrue stereotypes about this type of person or that type of person, I also get my eyes opened to some pretty stupid and cruel treatment of others by people I am familiar with. For instance, one of my friends a couple of years ago got offended by another woman talking about her and her race as “you people” negatively. I’m not sure if that other woman’s eyes are opened yet, but my eyes definitely are.

It is wrong, and visually comical, to try and set a type of people into a narrow box of behavior. Let me give you an example from my own life. A stereotype of autism is that we are all skinny white men who are proficient in math and cannot grasp intangible subjects, like love and fashion. I have only met one person who could wholly fit the stereotype, and he was not autistic. Besides, my family taught me how to love, and What Not To Wear demystified fashion for me. Let me also tell you something: I am not a skinny man. Have you been reading this? If so, I applaud you. We have a saying among the autistic community: If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism. I swear, other people think we have a hive behavior or a hive mind or something. We do not all react to everything the same way.

We all are members of different cultures and families; we all, however, have one thing to set us in common: We all have human hearts. We cannot live without our hearts. We have an innate sense of right and wrong as well. Our differences are so many, yet there are so many things we have in common. Besides, those in power love to point out the differences of the oppressed to keep them fighting each other, so they can stay in power. I’ll wax on that another time. Let’s come together among our commonalities so we can help each other and do what’s right. That is why I care about others who are different from me, because those differences are minor in comparison to the fact that we all have human hearts.

#YesAllWomen, but #NotDisabledWomen: The Hypocrisy of Ableist Feminism

I guess my autism makes me less of a worthy woman in the average feminist’s eyes. I mean, one of the primary arguments of abortion is for women to abort their disabled children. The stereotype is that disabled people are all need, and no contribution. Of course, Helen Keller was both deaf and blind, but she spoke just fine. Should we have gone back in time and killed baby Helen Keller? Nobody could have known if she was able to verbally speak at age 7, when she was just learning to sign. When I hear about people with disabilities being aborted, I get so angry, because I believe life is just as precious, no matter what it brings. Perhaps disabilities, in most eyes, means you are less of a person. It’s the whole “strikes against humanity” thing I keep talking about. Do you not realize there is a painter out there who only painted with his left foot – and he was truly talented? Also, a composer wrote symphonies only for the left hand to play? What terrible things are often discounted and ignored simply because their creator was disabled.

And what about sexuality? My mother keeps telling me that I do not need a man to survive in this world. At some level, I wonder if it’s because it’s feminist-egalitarian thinking, or if it is because of my autism. Even though there are countless types of sexualities out there, with just as many people, I on some level feel I am denied this. I mean, I have a regular, vibrant sexuality waiting under this for a husband to discover. But nobody wants to marry me, or even admit they are attracted to me, once they find out I am autistic. It’s often an argument to discourage suitors that my enemies use. Is disability really so bad?

Also, there is the basic argument of killing people with disabilities, before or after they are even born. Yes, I am including abortion in my talk of killing people. It’s your choice whether to go through with it, unless you live in, like, Texas or something, but it’s often encouraged in cases of, say, Down Syndrome or other genetic conditions. Also, once they find out which genes cause autism, don’t you think they will encourage abortions in those cases, especially with Autism Speaks cure mongers encouraging them? As I see it, my life is in danger! People like me are in danger! There are so many women being aborted and killed, with the blessing of feminists everywhere, all because they are disabled! So many daughters and sisters getting the ax because some parent could not handle it, and people are siding with the murderers! I hope they are ready to answer to God for siding with murderers. Believe what you will about God, but to even the unbelieving, know this: it is the dead who are keeping score, whose blood cries out from the ground for justice.

I hope I have opened your mind to the possibility of considering a disabled woman as much of a woman as an abled woman. That was my hope. To me, I am fighting for my life.