The intersection of sexual orientation and being an autistic woman: The normalizing project

Content Warning: The following text includes internalized ableism.

 

I want to tell you a story. It’s about an autistic girl growing up without a diagnosis or any other word to accurately describe herself. By the time she’s five, she’s well aware of that she isn’t like girls are supposed to be. She’s loud when she’s happy, she can’t control her impulses and interrupts people and she responds to unfairness with a great load of emotions. She’s kind of a pain in the ass to stressed teachers who tell kids lies in order to make them obey.

As she grows up, our girl’s life tends go go from one extreme to the other. One day her teachers are praising her for being so smart, the next day she scores zero on her math test. Somehow she manages to get kind of good grades, despite struggling so hard to just attend classes in school. By the time she’s thirteen, she sees herself as arrogant and unintelligent.

On top of this, she has become aware that her sexuality doesn’t seem to follow the logic it’s supposed to. She has a secret crush on another girl in school, but she has a hard time knowing if she’s bisexual or a lesbian. The whole concept is kind of hard to relate to. It’s kind of hard to understand her friends too, to be honest. She doesn’t like most of them, the only reason she spends so much time with her friends is because her parents has told her to. Our girl really wants to belong and some of her friends are actually nice, but most of the other people in her school are annoying.

When our girl is fourteen, she hardly goes to school anymore. She’s too tired in the morning, too overwhelmed to be able to stay in school the few times she actually manages to drag herself there. She’s depressed because something is wrong with her but she has no clue what it is. She’s just wrong. She’s just a bad person. This escalated abscence leads to a phonecall to her parents. When they find out that she’s not going to school, they are angry. Since she doesn’t have an obvious problem with drugs or bad parents or anything else that counts as a real reason for needing help, she’s being told to get herself together. This lazy attitude has to stop.

Our girl pulls herself together. In order to force herself to school, she has to stop being this generally kind of faulty person who obviously can’t do anything right. Her life turns into the project: To Become Normal. She writes lists on what to say and how to act. One of her friends, a guy that she actually likes to have as a friend, becomes her boyfriend. Not because she’s in love with him, but because she has to push all the weird things about herself away. She attends school as much as possible, hangs out with her boyfriend and a few other friends, does most of her homework, and plays the part as the normal girl. In fact, she plays it so well that she suddenly becomes popular. It lasts for a year, then she can’t keep it up anymore.

The interesting thing about this story, is that the pattern will continue. This was the first fifteen years of my life and the following fifteen years followed the same pattern. I try to play the part as normal, fail after a while and collapse. Every time I try to pull myself together, I end up in a relationship with a cisman for while. After a couple of months I can’t do it anymore, end the relationship, engage in different kind of queer constaltions, mostly with women while still trying to make my life work, collapse, starts dating a cisman and repeat.

I’m not saying that I’ve never really wanted any of the cismen, because I was very much in love with one of them. I’m just noticing that the idea of a traditional relationship with a cisman seems to be a part of my desperate claim to pull myself together every time I have collapsed. It has been a part of trying to become normal, again and again.

I’m an autistic parent and the parent movement scares me

I’m struggling with how to deal with the movement of parents to neurodivergent kids. On one hand, I’m a parent to an autistic kid and I need help to fight for a better society for disabled children. I can’t fight that battle on my own. On the other hand, I’m autistic myself and when I see all the ableist views that the parent movement presents over and over, I feel so hurt. I can’t be a part of them, I can’t silently stand beside them when they talk about neurodivergent children as burdens.

I know that they are struggling. I know that many of them are exhausted and depressed because of the fighting they have to go through just to get their kids basic things, like a school that doesn’t traumatize disabled children and accessible healthcare. I know that all these parents are fighting for their own and their children’s lives because of a very ableist society. They are probably doing the best they can.

However, they are promoting ableist views. Most of them don’t promote the voices of neurodivergent people. Over and over, they listen more to each other than to neurodivergent people who are trying to bring some first hand information about the experiences from growing up as neurodivergent. They take part in engineering a discussion that is dominated by abled people talking about disabled people. Where disabled people’s experiences of violence from the police, teachers and other people who are in an obvious position of power, is focusing on the parents’ perspective. A discussion that is deeply dehumanizing, where for instance autistic children’s horrifying experiences from schools turn into a discussion about how expensive they are to society.

Every time I see one of my autistic friends trying to engage in a conversation with them just to be dismissed as not important enough to listen to, I get paralyzed. My conscience is clear: the right thing to do is to stand up for my autistic friends. But I freeze. I find myself staring at my screen without a clue about what to write. I freeze because it scares me. Because how will things ever change when the people fighting for a better society for neurodivergent people are so ableist themselves without even acknowledging it?

Abuser

CN: Abusive relationship

The other day I was suddenly reminded of the existence of my former abuser. It’s seven years since our relationship ended with a big drama, but it’s still very hard for me to refer to her as an abuser. I know that’s what she was, it’s just really hard to accept it.

When I was reminded of her the other day, it hit me that her words was one of the reasons for why I blamed myself so much when I got ill. She had told me that I wasn’t capable of certain things that I wanted to do, and she was very clear about how much she disagreed with certain choices I had made for myself. When I got ill in ME I thought I deserved it. I thought it was my fault, that I was the one to blame since I had done something wrong. I didn’t think that my choices were wrong but she had manipulated me into thinking that I was a bad person for making choices about my life that she didn’t agree with.

It’s truly difficult for me to grasp how deep the concequences of this relationship were. I still feel fear whenever I think about her.

(Not) Dealing with Ableism

Content Notion: Internalized ableism

 

 

I don’t cope well with facing ableism every day. I spent thirty years thinking I was a bad person, and as awful as that was (is), it’s at least something I’m used to. I’ve practised blaming myself. Over the last years this has changed and it’s a good change in many ways, but I sometimes think that it was easier to deal with life when I thought that most of the bad stuff that happened was my fault. This might seem weird but there’s actually a logic to it.

If something is my fault, it means I’m in power to change it. This is not true but it’s what I always assumed. Every time I had a meltdown in school, screwed up a relationship or didn’t manage to pay my bills it was something that I thought I could fix by just stop being so lazy.

Now when I see things differently, it doesn’t seem like problems are easy to fix any more. Experiencing sensory overload in the waiting room to see my doctor, despite wearing sunglasses and earplugs? Not that easy to fix. A couple of times I have actually asked if the music could be turned off in waiting rooms but a lot of people moving, their phones ringing and the flickering lights from the ceiling is really not anything I can change. Crying my eyes out because somebody is disappointed with me not attending their birthday party? When I have told the person repeatedly that parties with a lot of people are hard for me and that I’m too ill to be able to handle the drive to their house and they still insist on celebrating with 50 people in their home, then it’s not in my power. Not being able to pay my bills becauseĀ a company sends me a bill on paper even though I chose to get it emailed (to be able to copy and paste the numbers) is really not my fault either. Or more commonly, not being able to pay my bills because the energy I hade reserved for it was spent on emailing my kid’s school to make sure my kid will get necessary adjustments that we already have agreed on.

I spend a lot of the little energy I have on trying to change things. I’m doing what I can to change society, schools, healthcare and so on. But facing ableism every day means facing a lack of power every day. It means facing that I can’t protect my kid. It’s too hard and I still haven’t figured out a way to cope with it.

I envy people who can get divorced

This will not be nice. This post will reveal a side of me that I’m deeply ashamed of.

A person that I know is going through a divorce. She and her partner are both agreeing on that it’s what they want and there is no big drama, but of course it’s still hard. A lot of practical stuff with moving, legal stuff, emotional stuff and in the middle of it having to be strong and supportive for the children involved. I don’t for a second believe that it’s a walk in the park.

And still, I envy her. Because she can have a divorce. She can take care of herself and her children financially and practically. She doesn’t have to stay in a relationship she’s unhappy with. She doesn’t have to choose between her children or leaving an unhappy relationship.

I’m not saying I want to break up with my partner. Considering if this is a relationship I want to be in or not is not an option. I don’t have a choice so I fight to not ask myself that question.

It’s called oppression. It’s called ableism.