Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Examining Nontypical Behaviors Part II: How To Behave In Public

Hi! See, I said I would be back, and here I am, I am getting better at this already! So again, I’m going off my own limited experience, and that of my friends, so if I miss something, or it’s different for you, please do add it in comments for me. This concerns the way non-neurotypical*, and also otherwise disabled people are talked about, and around, and most often at, and never really *to*.

Myth 2:  Non-neurotypical people don't realize they are behaving inappropriately, and if you tell them, they will stop.

Fact: Okay, this one's a bit dicey, if I'm honest. (And I always am, haha.) Imagine this for a second: You're invited to a fancy dinner party. You get all dressed up. When you get there, everyone else is dressed in their nicest clothes too. But when you sit down at the table, and the salad comes, there's no cutlery. People are eating, in their fanciest clothes, with their fingers. So you start doing it too, slowly and carefully, and trying not to look like you've never done this before. Then there's spaghetti and meatballs, and no cutlery. And then everybody starts eating with their fingers. They're all making a mess, sauces dribbling down their chins, clothes all stained with tomato. You're looking around, confused, for a minute, and you don't want to do it, you really like these clothes, but you think, "Oh well. Everyone else is doing it, must be fine." So you start eating with your hands. And you're getting into this, and getting comfortable, so that by the time dessert comes, you take one look at the big chocolate cake and you think, "Awesome!" And, completely missing the tiny dessert fork, you stick both hands in it. While everyone else looks on in horror. Because the fork is right there, and surely, you're not an animal.

That is how it feels for a non-neurotypical person all the time. Just when we think we have a handle on how things work, the rules change. We have to learn one set of rules for family and home, and one set of rules for the super-religious aunt who comes to visit once a month. We have one set of rules for the people we work with, but another for the boss. One set of rules for a boyfriend or girlfriend, another for casual friends, another for close friends. And to add to that, people who know about the diagnosis treat us different, from people who don't know, from people who actually understand what the diagnosis is, etc. So emulating other people? Is out. It is exhausting.  For you, it comes naturally. And we see that every day, but we don't see how you are doing what you are doing, and you can't tell us, if we ask, because it comes naturally to you. Just because you watch the same magic show 100 times, doesn't mean you're going to work out how to do the tricks. Some things we will remember, some of the time, but each time we make a new friend, meet a new person, find ourselves in another situation, what you call ‘common sense’ changes. Reminding us might help at that second, but it’s not likely to stick. Sorry.
This ties nicely into myth #3, which is one of my personal favorites, as it applies to any person, when they are friends with or working with, or tangentially aware of a person with ANY kind of disability or mental illness. Which I will get into sometime next week!

Still haven’t mastered actual deadlines. But I’m getting there!

* My love tells me there are better words to use than non-neurotypical, as it centres neurotypical as "normal." and so my language may offend people. I am, however, stubbornly atypical in all things, and like it that way. So the rest of you can go ahead and be typical, while I am over here playing with the fun crowd!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

In Which I Embark On Something New

I have a hard time with this blog, because I talk too much. It's the exact same problem I have with Vampires. It's TOO LONG. I cannot possibly get it all right. So I decided, about a month ago, to chop it into smaller pieces, and then publish those pieces independently. It's working out really well. I don't want to shoot myself in the foot, but Book 1 is almost finished. So I think I will try to do that with this blog. Chop up longer posts into more manageable pieces.

To that end, I begin a series of blog entries.

I've been thinking a lot about Asperger's syndrome. Specifically, I've been thinking a lot about the fact that I don't have it.

I think.

I mean, I think I don't have Asperger's syndrome, if it's a syndrome in and of itself, but it's entirely possible my Cerebral Palsy is masking Aspergers syndrome, or I have a more severe form of Asperger's, which explains how I am able to do things most people with Cerebral Palsy cannot do. I am thinking about the fact that Cerebral Palsy is a catch-all term for brain damage causing muscular spasms and limited movement, and though it is considered to be a single thing, it is actually a collection of symptoms as many and varied as the ndividuals who embody it, not so much a condition but a symptom of a condition, in and of itself, and that we did not know that for years, and that Asperger's is similar, and also has similar symptoms, and it may be that I have Cerebral Palsy that behaves as Asperger's does, because similar parts of the brain are affected. And much of the time, I am thinking about the fact that I have an obsessive personality, and I will never never never know for sure who and what I am, and how, and sometimes, that has the ability to drive me more crazy than I am. I mean that literally, I sometimes sit and have panic attacks, not because there are things I can't fix, but because there are things I will never know for sure are actually broken. Sometimes.

But not all the time. Now that I can, with comfort and confidence, write about people with disabilities (I flatter myself to think that it is comfort and confidence that I am writing with, when it is, actually, simply the age-old "writing what you know"), I tend to write about nonspecific disabilities. Christine, for example, in the Damn Vampires, believes she has a rare sleep disorder called narcolepsy, when what she has is a strange virus, which is slowly turning her into a vampire. Last year's Nano, which I may or may not work with later on, featured twins, one of whom was decidedly not neurotypical, though no specific diagnosis was ever presented. I thought, particularly when writing this character, that might be considerably problematic. Part of the problem of being a person with a disability, is legitimizing that disability for other people. But the fact is, there is still a person under every diagnosis. And while I can appreciate the importance of a diagnosis in a medical sense, or in the sense of knowing what to do and what to expect, and certainly in the sense that society will hate us if there is no discernable reason to pity us, in a sense of intergration with wider society, a specific label does more harm than good.

This is what has me thinking about Asperger's. Because lately, it has been showing up a lot in the media, and usually, it's under the guise of "A guy who is a complete asshole but doesn't mean to be, and is totally antisocial/doesn't feel anything." And I feel, not only offended, as we're coming to the realization that it is not just a "man's condition" and also not that simple, but I feel a bit like we're all jumping the gun here. Nice as it is to see Asperger's portrayed at all (though generally by neurotypical people, which is. Oh, I could rage for several pages), it's a bit like what happened when psychiatrists uncovered schizophrenia and dissisociative identity disorder, and thought for years they were the same condition; we suddenly had a bunch of movies about the poor little crazy people, who killed because "the voices told them to do it," as if "voices" was, not only the defining characteristic of a person with the condition, but the only characteristic. Same with OCD. Until very, very recently, like, in the last five or so years, any film or television show, or vague mention in the media of a character or person with OCD, that person's only two symptoms were repeated handwashing, or repeating himself or herself (usually himself. For some reason, crazy women fail to illicit sympathy. Funny, that.) In fact, I had a friend with OCD who was germophobic, and as sensitive as I tried to be to her condition, whenever I had an issue of my own, she simply refused to believe I had OCD, because as "everyone knows" all OCD patients are germophobic. So all this saturation in Asperger's is a two-fold thing for me: Firstly, I think it's lovely that we are being shown non-neurotypically, but, as with most disability portrayals, they're not at all accurate, and I think, in about ten or fifteen years, we're going to be a bit embarrassed by them. At least I hope so.
So, as far as I know, I don't have Asperger's, and I'm not going to claim that I do. But I am not neurotypical, and I have many friends who are not neurotypical, and some of them have Asperger's, and some of them don't. And some of them have a diagnosis they will share, and some don't. But I did want to write a few helpful tips about the incredibly wrong assumptions neurotypical people tend to make about "others." So here goes.

1. Myth: Non-neurotypical people will say rude things, but it's okay because they don't mean it.

Fact: There are three parts to correct in this little untruth. Non-neurotypical people are not rude by nature. It's just our brains are wired differently than yours, and it's a bit exhausting for us keeping a filter all the time, and so sometimes, things slip out. Once, after a fight with a friend, where I told her I would not accept her apology, since I knew it was just an excuse to never talk about the argument again, I was proud to tell my mother I had not been rude. She told me I had been rude. I was absolutely flummoxed. I insisted could
not possibly be rude, since I hadn't actually said anything insulting, and what I had said, was true. She said, "Just because something is true, doesn't mean it's okay to say." To put this in perspective, I was not five years old at the time. I was 27. Further, apart from while I am having a panic attack, I never say anything I don't absolutely mean, and from what I have learned from friends, and from reading, that is fairly normal. Also, you should know, that some people who are not neurotypical can still be assholes. We are people. Each one is different. It's okay to dislike someone, even if they have a disability. It is not okay to dislike someone because of their disability, but is also not okay to like them for it.

Does anyone else get really annoyed at the fact that people think you don't mean what you say? Is anyone else getting a bit sick of the cliche "guy who says random rude things" under the excuse of Aspergers, in the media?

More later!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Stephen Fry Probably Doesn't Think I'm A Freak (But A Lot Of Other People Do)

Warning 1: This is not technically a rage post. But I got a bit angry, so there's some swears.
 Warning 2: I squee a bit over Stephen Fry in this, but then I also said some not nice things about people that I admire quite a bit. I was as kind as I could be, but I don't want to hear any whining about it in comments.
Warning 3: Trigger warning for short, frank discussions of non-physical sexual harassment and some sexual coercion. Again, I kept it short and sweet and with a minimal amount of detail, but if it's the kind of thing that will upset you, please proceed with caution.

Okay, so recently I learned, along with everyone else, that Stephen Fry is in a happy celibate relationship. And then I whooped really loudly and ran around the house going, "ONE OF US! ONE OF US! ONE OF US!"

I wish I was making that up. Seriously.

Truthfully, I have loved and respected Stephen Fry for a long time, and this just brings the Ace Spectrum that much higher up on the "Things that are awesome" list of the universe. And I know a lot of people are like, "He said CELIBATE, not ASEXUAL." And I know for those of us in the community, that is a serious distinction, because it implies that Stephen Fry could change his mind, and we are not going to. But I'm counting it, because, at least according to the article, he's fairly sure he's not going to either. Also, I don't think that distinction matters so much anymore. Like, when I first realized this was a THING, I thought asexuality was a group of people who did not want sex or relationships, because that's what I was. Then there were people who did not want sex but did want relationships, and I felt a bit like the freak, again. Then there were people who did not want sex, but then did actually meet one person they were attracted to, and did that still count? Then there were people who felt attraction, but not at a physical level, and what did that mean? Then there were people who had considered themselves sexuals, but due to some sexual trauma, did not feel sexually interested anymore. And every time, there was this debate about who is a real asexual? And every time, the community came back with arms wide open going; a real asexual is someone like us. Stay as long as you need. Take some cake for the road. So, while Stephen Fry does not identify as an asexual, and I do not know if, when he said, celibate he meant something closer to asexual, what I do know is that he likely does not think I am a freak for what I do (not) do in private. Which makes me feel good, solid, more rooted to the world, and a tiny bit more awesome because, lets be honest, Stephen Fry is awesome. Which is something I appreciate, because, as it turns out, most of the other people I admire do in fact think I'm pretty weird. And, again, for the sake of honesty, can I just say, it's really starting to piss me off.

David Tennant gave an interview where he said "I don't think the Doctor is neccessarily asexual, just a bit, you know, sexually unaware." Hmm, David? The Doctor is a 900 year old supergenius who spends most of his time in the company of women who are obviously in love with him. I think he's fully aware of what sex is, at least as far as any outsider could be.

Stephen Moffatt made a joke about what hard-core Dr. Who fans believe would and would not happen in the French Revolution, which is ostensibly about historical accuracy, but is actually a thinly-veilled comment about the then well-accepted fact that the Doctor is asexual, on an episode of Doctor Who Confidential - For the record, I loved "The Girl In The Fireplace." What I hated was that since that episode the TARDIS has had an invisible, "You must be able to provide THIS much sexual tension to ride this ride" sign on the outside the door.)

Stephen Moffatt again when he admitted that though the Sherlock Holmes stories are pretty clear on the fact that he is not interested, there is no real proof that he is asexual, and he would not write it that way when he didn't want to, because it would be boring. right, because another last-minute love story has never been done before, and will be a complete surprise.

Benedict Cumberbatch gave an interview where he said that it's really cool when his fans send him like, riding crops and stuff, because it means they're huge fans, but when fans approach him and say "Thank you for making asexuality look cool." it's weird, because he doesn't think Sherlock is asexual just... busy. Ben? When someone thanks you for not making them feel like a freak, it is not nice to turn to your friends and go "what a weirdo." while they're in earshot. We may be one percent of the population, but we're a big chunk of Sherlock's fanbase. There are plenty other roles that are not asexual icons, if that would make you more comfortable. Trust me, I know.

Then of course, there was that episode of House. I swear, I loved that show before the whole thing became about who was getting laid by whom. Now I'm just glad it's over.

And what is annoying about all this is that the absolute ignorance, which we have been dealing with all this time, has given way to something darker, meaner, and with teeth. Because we are not being ignored anymore, because we can't be. So instead, we're being mocked. And all the discrimination that people will tell us we don't experience is starting to come out in full force. So before it gets really ugly, while we're still pretending it's coming from a place of misunderstanding, not a place of hatred, I  just wanted to ask one thing.

What EXACTLY do sexuals think "real" asexuality is?

I am genuinely curious, and for all the inappropriate questions I have answered about my sexuality, I think I deserve a few answers myself, so please, comment. Because I cannot speak for other asexuals, but I took on this label, when I did, because I didn't have one, and everybody else thought I should. Because when I told people, "I just don't get how this is so important." I was told that one day I would grow up for real, and I would become sexually aware, and then I would understand. When I said, "I've just got better things to do." I was told it's okay to be a lesbian, this is the 21st century. When I said that I was too busy to even think about it, I was told that I really should make it a priority, or else people would think I was weird. Every time I told people there is nothing wrong with me, I'm just not interested, I was told that normal, healthy straight people did not feel that way. My sexuality was the source of family concern, and the gossip of my friends and peers. Inquiries were made, genuine inquiries, on whether I had ever been sexually assaulted, or when I thought I might grow out of this, was it because of the brain damage, or did I at least masturbate? (I really fucking hate that question. Sexuals actually ask that question expecting an honest answer. I meet my friends boyfriends. They try to get me to go on a double date with their friends. My friend says, "no, she doesn't do that." and when we explain what that means and why, without fail, eight times out of ten, "do you at least get off?") When I repeatedly expressed disinterest, or when I go so far as to say the whole process was made too much of, and was faintly disgusting, I was sexually harrassed. And I'm not even talking about the times when people would snicker and go, "Pfft, you just haven't had me yet." I'm talking about the times I'd be having what I thought was a heart-to-heart with a friend, and he would smile sweetly, put a hand on my shoulder, and say, "Why don't we just try something, and you can tell me if you like it?" The times I would be asked, by female friends, to at least give a guy a chance, any other girl would be happy for the attention. (See, Benedict. I sympathise. I don't like it when I'm mistaken for one of you either.) Or one memorable occasion, with a guy who swore he was over his crush on me, he invited me on a trip with himself and his family, and when we were short of beds, they suggested I just get in with him, we're all adults here. Apparently, he'd told them we were seeing each other because it was "just easier to explain."

In short, we have this label because you, sexual people, made it perfectly clear we are not like you. We have this label because in a world so sex-obsessed, we needed a line of defense, because it wasn't so long ago that too busy, not feeling like a sexual being, not interested, don't want to wasn't fucking good enough to call yourself straight (or gay, or, for that matter, a fully functioning adult). So now we have this, and its ours, and you don't get to pretend that it's not just because you've suddenly realized it's not that you really didn't think it was possible, it's that you really don't want to have to think about it. It's like if you're homophobic and your best friend is gay and in order to get comfortable with it, you tell people, "No, it's not like he's gay, it's just that he thinks dudes give the best head." Or when you say to a friend who comes out to you, "Are you sure you're not just bi?" (And how much I hate that bi has become quasi-mainstream,  as long as it reinforces the idea that you really can choose to be attracted to whoever. I'm all for fluid sexuality, but this myth that 'everyone is a little bi' is damaging, firstly to actual bisexual people, whose sexuality is often discredited based on that, but also by those people who identify as bi because they are uncertain about an accurate description, or are afraid of how they will be treated. And also, quite frankly, to people like me. Best case scenario is they use that definition, like we sometimes do, to offer some kind of explanation when required, worst is they get to use it to beat their 'open-mindedness' over the heads of other people, whose sexuality is not as fluid. Sorry to burst the bubble, but there is just nothing on the planet that applies to everyone.)

My point is I don't get bogged down in the actual label because it feels like siding with the same people who want to tell me how we're so rare we can't even be measured. And any time there's anyone who says, in any capacity, "This is a real thing." I get really freaking excited. Because the level of denial is getting ridiculous. I don't know what I personally did to deserve the treatment I got, because it certainly wasn't that I was so irresistable everyone wanted to sleep with me. Not only that, despite our best efforts, we as a society can still be astonishingly puritanical. Sex is interesting, because it still holds a note of taboo. So with that in mind, I don't understand why asexuality is such a damn threat. But for every sexual asshole who ever said these words to me, allow me to give them back:

I don't think you really understand what you're saying, and I really hope you grow up soon, for your own sake.
To the rest of us tho:

GUYS! WE GOT STEPHEN FRY!!!!! If that bit about Alan Rickman is true, I think it`s fairly safe to implement that world takeover we`ve all been talking about in secret. Who wants to start?

*cackles evilly*