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 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 arrangements, 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.

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