I’m hoping that typing this out will help me figure out what I’m feeling.
I suppose I’m feeling something of an assault to my own right to existing as a person; not a physical person, mind you, but more like my own person.
Before I even get started with the story, let me make my usual disclaimer. I do not in any way seek to speak for autistics, as a group. I speak for me and only me. Secondly, in no way whatsoever do I blame or even have ill will toward the people involved. I am certain they meant me no discomfort. I can’t even say that I’m uncomfortable… I’m just thinking out-type (you know, as opposed to out loud?).
As per usual Wednesday mornings, staff and I went to church for the huge women’s bible study. Think a hundred women (which means lots and lots of chatter, which when combined with the fluorscent lights makes Lydia want to disappear, you know?). But really, I haven’t found a woman in the group who isn’t nice. I only really know maybe a dozen, but today when my staff locked her keys in her car, one of the ladies I kind of know offered to drive us downtown (45 minutes away, easily) to pick up keys from her husband. Luckily, the music director at church, who is a man and stronger than staff and I, figured out a way to open the door, and all was well. But yes, people are much, including these women, are really, really nice. Not fake, not at all. Genuine as can be.
When we’d first realized the keys were in the car, which was locked, we went into the office. A lady in the office (I know who she is but don’t want to identify her) said that she heard I’d given a fantastic presentation Monday and wondered if she could just see my new book. I handed it to her, and she said that she knew nothing about autism and what were the symptoms?
I explained the triad of impairments (social, communication, behaviors/interests).
“Then you must do really well because you seem fine to me.”
With that, I launched into my usual explanation of how trust me, that anyone who knows autism can tell, and that people who don’t know autism can tell after some time with me, and that really, I’m great at “faking it” for short periods of time, like I was right then.
“Don’t we all fake it? Sometimes if I’m sad I come to work pretending to be happy.”
That’s what sat wrong with me. I couldn’t figure out why. I thought, and thought, and thought.
And then I realized… it’s one thing to say, “I feel sad but I will act happy.” But to say, “I”m autistic but I try to act typical” is completely, totally different. It’s denying what you feel (I feel ugly, I feel like having three gallons of ice cream, I feel angry at you)… versus denying who you are, often to avoid discrimination.
I’m partially black, but I’ll act white.
I’m gay, but I’ll act straight.
I’m Jewish, but I’ll act like I’m a Christian.
It makes me ache for people who, throughout history, had to deny their identities. I don’t at all mean that we’re past all that kind of discrimination now. People are turnd upon for their skin color, sexual orientation, and faith everyday in this world.
And that’s what I do everyday, also to avoid stereotypes and discrimination. I’m autistic, but I act typical. You might say that it’s a choice… but I know how I’m treated when I act like “me,” so if I want to fit in, I have to act.
The question remains: Is it worth it?