The Hidden Village of Aspergers

April 24, 2016

Autistic kids being targeted by hackers

Stuart Duncan, the father of an autistic boy, started Autcraft, a Minecraft server for autistic kids and adults to play in safety. Then this happened:

On April 6th, 2016, two people attempted to hack into the Autcraft server and failed.

What they did succeed in doing, however, was to hijack our IP address, effectively redirecting all the traffic from our server to a server of their own.

The children that signed on to play, some as young as 6 years old, signed on to their server instead of mine. Once there, they were encased in a bedrock box from which they could not leave and were told that they were rejects from society, degenerates and that they should kill themselves.

When I asked these guys why they’d do such a thing, they responded “it’s funny.”

They told us that we’d never figure out what they had done or how to stop it and that they’d continue doing it unless we paid them $1000.

The full article is here.

The hatred for autistic people in some corners of the internet is incredible, it really is. I’ve seen ‘autistic’ and ‘sperg’ used as insults more times than I care to admit (I’m a goon, and it’s one of the few things I hate about Something Awful). Anyone showing an over-enthusiastic interest in something gets called ‘autistic’ (such as people on TV Tropes). We’re treated as little more than a joke, and I’m fucking tired of it. I can’t help having this disorder and I do try my damnedest to integrate – I have two jobs and two degrees, I have a great group of friends, I go to gigs, I own my own home, I can take care of myself (cook, do laundry, clean etc.), I go on holiday on my own. But even people like me who are able to manage some degree of independence aren’t safe and there are some people who would prefer it if we were wiped off the face of the earth.

In the comments on this article on Ragen Chastain’s Facebook page, one person brought up Chris-chan as a possible reason why autistic kids and adults are so hated. Now, Chris-chan has a ton of issues that, in my opinion, are as much to do with his upbringing as they are with his autism. I do think he is genuinely autistic, and his parents have a lot to answer for, frankly, and when I see him it makes me realise how lucky I am to have a mother who actually gives a shit about helping me function in the world. But that’s another story. What really irritates me is the idea that all of us are being judged by this one dysfunctional human being. The vast majority of us are not like Chris-chan and are just trying to get on with our lives. I’m not a Minecraft player myself, but I do feel so bad for those kids. They’re just trying to play a game, and now they can’t do that because some arseholes think it’s funny to bully them and tell them they don’t deserve to live. And frankly, the word ‘degenerate’ used to describe disabled people scares me. It sounds like something the NF would say.

It’s incredible how there are people who hate us and don’t want us to have fun and would prefer it if every single one of us ceased to exist. If my mum lost her daughter, and my brother lost his sister, and my family and stepfamily lost a loved one, and my friends lost a friend. I have been overwhelmed by the amount of support I’ve received from friends this week after a major depressive episode culminating in self-harm (see here for some of the reasons why). It reminds me that there are people on this godforsaken planet who want me to stay alive. And the loved ones of these kids would feel the same if they died. I wonder what their mums and dads must be going through, knowing strangers on the internet are wishing death on their children because it’s ‘funny’.

And all because they’re autistic.

April 2, 2014

The English Language Let Me Down

All my words done failed me
Every line derails me
This is the day that the English language let me down

Words. Language. Etymology, definitions, wordplay, translation, stories and poems, word puzzles, word games. English, French, German, Spanish, Hebrew. Language is both my friend and my enemy. In I Am Unlike A Lifeform You’ve Ever Met, I talked about books and the imagination. This post covers speech and language.

Somewhere, there is a tape of me reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar, aged about two. My first word was ‘duck’. I’m not sure when I learned to talk, though I wasn’t a late developer or non-verbal. I do remember, however, that I spoke in a monotone, and that efforts were made to correct this and have me intone words like ‘normal’ people. Mum also told me my speaking voice was too high-pitched and that I should try and make it a bit deeper, and that I was too loud. “Turn the volume down,” was a comment often directed at me. Years later, in synagogue, the rabbi took me aside and asked me not to sing so loudly at Friday night services as I was drowning other people out. This upset me a lot; I was just enjoying the service and had no idea that what I was doing was wrong, and as it was not an Orthodox synagogue, the principle of kol isha did not apply. Was it because of my Aspergers? How the fuck should I know? Maybe it was. I have no idea how I sound to other people. When I hear my own voice played back to me, it sounds horrible, like a cross between Morrissey and Henry’s Cat. I hate my singing voice as well, possibly because Jack always used to tell me to shut up whenever I sang along to music in my bedroom. I have a bit of a complex about it. How it could turn any nice Jewish boy on, I do not know.

Anyway. Tangents aside, I apparently went to see a speech therapist at some point when I was younger. In terms of writing, I was doing OK – I got team points for stories and essays I’d written at school (I even wrote the script for our class’s production of the story of Pandora’s box), I was in the top group for spelling, and when we had to write sentences using words on coloured cards. It was also at primary school that I discovered an aptitude for languages. OK, I’m not a polyglot and I’m not fluent in any language besides English, though I can speak German pretty well, but I got interested in languages after going to French Club in Year 3, having French lessons off a friend of Mum’s in Year 5, and doing French lessons in Year 6. Even when I was little, the way people said things in other languages fascinated me. When we went on holiday to the Algarve, I pored over the Portuguese phrase book we had. I was fascinated by an old English/French picture dictionary and the conjugations of irregular verbs. How could ‘avoir’ become ‘aurons’ and ‘aurez’, and what the hell was the deal with ‘être’? When Dad went on a work trip to Germany, he brought back comics in German. I didn’t have a bloody clue what any of the words meant, though they did come in handy when I started doing German in Year 9. I found the German language even cooler than French, with its complicated word order and Modalverben and ever-changing masculine definite article. I also liked the way it sounded, and was made up when a friend gave me a Rammstein tape. (Till Lindemann’s voice helped. That guy could sing the contents of the Dusseldorf phonebook and make it sound sexy.)

When I got into Sixth Form, I decided I wanted to read languages at university, since languages were my thing; I was doing A-Level French, German and English Language (and my transcripts of Space interviews came in handy when we were studying accent and dialect!) I wanted to read Chinese or Spanish alongside German. Cambridge turned me down, and I got offers from Durham and Leeds, but went with Manchester, which didn’t do Chinese at the time but did offer Spanish. I took night classes in my gap year to give me a bit of a grounding in Spanish. I find it harder than German, I have to admit. Maybe it’s because German is closer to English. When we were studying the evolution of the English language, I noticed a lot of similarities between Old English and German. The fact it was phonetic, for instance.

On the subject of accents, Rudy Simone writes in Aspergirls that she has a tendency to pick up accents; she recalls being mistaken for an immigrant after speaking in a ‘Hispanic’ accent that she’d picked up from a colleague. The same thing happens to me. The one time I did consciously put on an accent was in high school, because I was being bullied for talking ‘posh’, but after moving to Manchester, something bizarre happened where I was out with mates and I started talking in a sort of weird half-Manc half-Yorkshire accent. Everyone thought I was putting it on, but it was real. I’ve toned it down a bit, but it changes depending on who I’m with and where I am. Expose me to Everton matches or members of Space, and my accent gets a Scouse tinge. In London, it goes a bit cockney. I’m not putting it on to make fun of people; it just happens. It’s a kind of osmosis. G-d help me if this ever happens in Scotland. Perhaps it’s some kind of instinct to imitate sounds, like a baby learning to talk.

As I’ve said before, I find writing easier than talking. Writing helps me organise my thoughts better, and I can rewrite what I’ve written, whereas when I say things, that’s it, the cat is out of the bag. Sometimes I can’t find the right words to express myself when I speak, or I say stupid or horrible things without thinking. At least, sitting at a keyboard, I have a bit more control over what comes out.

March 30, 2014

Suburban Rock ‘n’ Roll

TW: eating disorders

I hate that coward in my dreams
He steps in front of every goal
Life’s a suburban rock ‘n’ roll

In the summer of 1995, Mum, Jack and I moved to Chester. I left home for good in around 2006-2007, when I moved into a small flat in Victoria Park. When I started at uni, very rarely did I go back there, except to catch up with the odd friend or see my mum. Firstly, I was happy at uni, enjoying the new city, meeting new people and getting to live on my own and eat Nutella out of the jar and go out clubbing every week. Secondly, one of my now ex-stepsisters and her kid were living with us in Chester, and the atmosphere in the house was very tense. I disliked sharing my space with them and whenever an opportunity to go out came up, I took it, as did Jack. My ex-stepsister was getting away from her abusive boyfriend, and one time I accidentally let him into the house – I didn’t know who he was – and had to ring the police. Jack and I were hiding in the annexe, and I was in a mess. Another time, there was a confrontation and Jack had to look after the kid while Bastard Boyfriend threatened my ex-stepdad and the police had to be called, again. Luckily, I was at a mate’s house in Handbridge and missed the drama. At the time, I wasn’t very good at empathising with others, hated change and having to adjust to new people, and hated me, Jack and Mum all being sucked into drama that had nothing to do with us.

I don’t want to post too much about my ex-stepdad, except to say that I cut all ties with him in 2009, and a few years later, I cut all ties with my former stepfamily after Mum wrote an angry Facebook post about my ex-stepdad, and my ex-stepsister sent Mum a horrible message. Jack had cut ties with them long before me. He and my ex-stepdad never got on. I wouldn’t say they hated each other per se, but they antagonised each other a lot. My ex-stepdad talked shit about Jack in front of family friends, and took it out on Mum whenever Jack did anything wrong (he didn’t do this with me). He blatantly favoured me over Jack – when he and Mum were splitting, he asked about me, but not Jack, and made it clear that I was the only one he gave a shit about. This pissed me off. I felt he was trying to drive a rift between us (and I’ll talk more about this in Paranoid 6teen). He wasn’t abusive to me or Jack, he didn’t beat or neglect us, and he didn’t hit Mum or anything, but there was a fair bit of emotional abuse. Even now, I don’t think I know the half of what must have gone on, though a lot came out after the divorce. Out of respect to Mum, I will not go into detail, but what I will say is that she has a lot of demons, and he is one of the causes. It took her a long time to get over him. She constantly beats herself up about remarrying so soon after Dad’s death, and while I was angry with her, I understand now that she’s one of those people who just needs to be in a relationship and hates being alone, and he was basically a rebound. She wasn’t to know how things would turn out. None of us did. I had mixed feelings at first, as he was kind to me at my maternal gran’s funeral and he did have his moments, but now I feel nothing for him. Anyway.

I hate Chester. Not because it’s a shithole, it’s quite nice as cities go, but because of all the memories there. In Manchester, you can be fairly anonymous; in Chester, everyone knows your business. Even after I’d left school, people would shout things at me in the street. As I said in earlier posts, I had a reputation as the school’s weird girl. I couldn’t wait to go somewhere where no-one knew who I was. My social life wasn’t great; Foregate Street is one long row of wine bars, and the one club I did like, Love Street, closed down in 2004, with its metal night moving to Rosie’s, our local dive where most of my year went when we got our A-Level results. I started going clubbing in Sixth Form and loved it. Since we lived in the arse end of nowhere, in Christleton, it got to the point where taxi drivers recognised Jack and me. “Big white house, right?” After life in a city, living in a village where the nearest supermarket was at least half an hour’s walk away and buses were hourly was a bit of a culture shock, as was the fact that nearly everyone in my high school was white (there were about four Asian kids in my year, and that was it) and nominally Christian. Coming back from Manchester was even weirder and made me realise how much I wanted to get out. So many people I knew in high school have left Chester, whereas loads of the old primary school crowd are still in Brighton. People at uni said they loved Chester and asked me if it was like Hollyoaks. If only it were that exciting. Some people might think uni is a waste of time and teaches you no life skills, but had I not gone to Manchester and realised that, despite having Aspergers, I could fend for myself, I would have been stuck at home in Chester for years, living with Mum and doing crappy office jobs and learning nothing. No thanks.

Country life was not for us. We three are townies at heart. The endless walks at weekends that I put up with so as not to anger my ex-stepdad, the mud, the renegade cattle, the pavement-less roads with rogue drivers…it was like being on the moon. One thing I did like was the wildlife; the foxes, the badgers, the odd pheasant or weasel. Other than that, though, it wasn’t much fun being cut off, and it had a weird effect on Mum. She became a lot more conformist, always worrying what people would think of her, and by extension, me. A lot of screaming matches were had and at times I felt I was a disappointment and that I was not the daughter she’d wanted; I was prickly and aggressive and moody and preferred books to clothes, and she couldn’t dress me up and take me shopping and squee over shoes with me. I wonder how much of that was my ex-stepdad’s influence. I know he’s one of the reasons why it took me forever to admit I needed help; he despised depressives and thought they were weak. He also hated fat people. No doubt it would have been some consolation to him to hear his stepdaughter vomiting in her sink.

The song after which this post is named, and the album that spawned it, is about suburbia, the cramped and inward-looking nature of it and the goings-on behind closed doors. We lived in suburbia in our first year here, alternating between a tiny rented house in Hoole and my ex-stepfamily’s house in the sticks, and it was claustrophobic. So was living in the village. Jack’s mates all lived in the arse end of nowhere, while mine lived in Vicar’s Cross, in the sticks. Now that Mum and I have left Chester, we’re like Battle Royale characters whose explosive collars have been removed from our necks. We are free to be who we want. She’s got a new set of friends and I’m living alone. We are not forced into little boxes anymore.

March 26, 2014

This isn’t part of the Space miniblogs, but it is important.

A mate of mine linked to this article on Facebook, titled ‘Intersectional Collisions: “But What If He’s Autistic?”‘. It’s on Feminist Hivemind, and it’s well worth a read. This is exactly the reason why I started this blog; because of the continued misconception that autism / Aspergers are ‘male’ conditions. People might ask if the guy harassing women is autistic (and therefore, he can’t help his shitty behaviour), but do they ask if the women being harassed might be on the spectrum? Do they balls.

Firstly, it’s bloody demeaning to men on the autistic spectrum. For every Chris-Chan, there are plenty of decent men who, while maybe being a bit socially awkward, have boundaries and respect them, and don’t use their disability as an excuse to creep on women.

Secondly, what about us? What about the women on the receiving end? What about autistic women being harassed by neurotypical men? I wrote a bit about this myself in the Bastard Me Bastard You post. We aren’t always given the tools to deal with harassment. Should we laugh it off? Ignore it? Respond? I’ve seen the ‘he might be autistic’ excuse used enough times, and it absolutely does my head in.

Anyway, go read.

March 17, 2014

Everybody In The Madhouse

If you’re cool, I hope you’re lucky
I hope your life is fulfilled
If you’re bad, I hope you rot in Hell
Or get run over by a train

Ah, primary school. Stanford Junior in Brighton, to be exact. Some of the best years of my life, and one of the worst (my annus horribilis, 1993). Most of the people I knew, it seems, are still living in Brighton. Helen, who was my best mate back then, is married (and I cried when I found out – not out of jealousy but out of joy, because she’s had a hard life and I’m just relieved she’s happy). Many others have kids. It seems so long ago, but I can still remember it as clear as day.

Primary school wasn’t as bad as high school for bullying, though I do remember an older boy threatening me with a knife in Year 3, and another boy stealing my hat, and other kids certainly thought I was weird. I remember breaking out into song one time in class and the other kids would not let it go, and I wished the ground would swallow me. Helen was picked on a lot by other girls in our class, and there was only so much I could do. She was probably the only real friend I had, although there were others I got on with. A group of us would walk to and from school, and for some reason, on the way back, they’d walk through the infant school and I didn’t want to for some reason, and Kate, the group leader, would lie to me about things happening, and I believed her. She claimed she was doing it to prepare me for the future, to help me. Somehow, I doubt that.

One of my proudest moments was writing the script for our class play for assembly, ‘Pandora’s Box’, when we were doing Greek myths. Primary school was where I discovered a love of writing and history, and later on, languages. We learned French in Year 6, presumably because of being on the coast. This bit me in the arse somewhat in high school, as I was way ahead of most of the class and ended up being bored. We did shows at the Dome – I remember doing one where I was dressed up as a male evacuee. My memories of primary school are fractured. Dressing up as a policeman to sing ‘A Policeman’s Lot’ when we were doing the Victorians. Mrs Cairns, my teacher in Year 5/6, writing a little poem for me in my leaving book. Reading Chalet School books. Jack giving me a thumbs-up from the stage when his class were doing a play. A trip to the museum, where I failed to copy a David Hockney painting. Playing short tennis in the playground and coming home to Dad cooking pasta with tomato sauce. Playing girls’ football and being rubbish at it. Trying to make one of the teachers laugh, as part of an activity day where different teachers hosted different activities. Walking out of assembly in front of everyone else. Writing a story about a character who ate too much chocolate and vomited copiously. Dad winning a jar of pickled beetroot in a raffle and Mum refusing to let him bring it in the house because of the smell. Those were the days. I only have to hear Blur’s ‘End Of A Century’ again and I’m in the classroom on the final day of primary school, before we all went off to the Big School and started to grow up.

It was in primary school that my symptoms started to really come out, and luckily, there was support. After Dad died, I saw a counsellor at school and it helped somewhat, though I still had crying fits and an abject fear of anything unusual happening. I talked more about it here. The other major change that occurred during primary school was my mum meeting J, my future stepdad (not to be confused with Richard, the current one, although I did meet Richard when I was a kid). If I recall correctly, she found him through a Lonely Hearts page in a newspaper. She’d been dating various guys, but J was The One. When Mum told us she and J were getting married, I cried a lot and accused her of wanting to replace Dad; it was only two years after his death. Jack, ironically considering how much he and J ended up hating each other, was fine with it. I liked him at first – I compared him a lot to Gerald, the heroine’s mum’s boyfriend in Goggle-Eyes by Anne Fine – and made myself adjust to the fact that I was living in a new town and going to a high school where I wouldn’t know anyone. Had I stayed in Brighton, I would have gone to Varndean, but instead, I found myself at an induction day at Christleton High School, before seven years of hell began.

March 5, 2014

No One Understands

No one understands me, no one understands
I am not an animal, I am a human being

Throughout infant school and primary school, I knew I was different.

My early memories of Stanford Infant School (1988-1991) are fragmented, but I do remember that I read a lot and I didn’t like playing with other kids. I remember a teacher trying to get me to come out of the wooden house in the playground and play with the other kids. I ended up playing a reluctant game of ‘In and Out the Dusty Bluebells’. I remember some nasty boy called Dylan shoving me off a bench, and getting upset because the teacher wanted us to dance around the room, and having extra PE lessons because I was so rubbish at it. I spoke in a monotone and when I was about nine or ten, Mum told me to try and deepen my voice. Apparently it was too high-pitched or something. I had imaginary friends and sucked my finger. I cried when Mum rearranged the furniture in my bedroom. I couldn’t ride a bike or tie my laces, and I walked down stairs in a weird way; I’d put one foot on a step and then the other foot on the same step, almost walking crabwise, rather than walking down stairs the conventional way. People found the way I held my pencil weird; a psychologist of some kind analysed my handwriting, and I was thought to have dyspraxia. Even now, I get told that I have surprisingly neat handwriting, considering how I hold a pen. Speaking of writing implements, I ate my pencils – I didn’t just chew them, I actually ate the wood. At break times, I used to run around the playground, on my own, lost in my own head. The other kids must have thought I was batshit insane. I did this in primary school, Stanford Junior School, as well.

Then Dad died, and the shit hit the fan.

Again, I can’t remember much, but I do remember freaking out whenever we had a supply teacher or a student taking our classes (and this happened a lot), to the extent that I was sent to go and sit with a junior class (Year 3/4 – my school had mixed-year classes) or the class next door to calm down. I’d cry or hyperventilate. I didn’t know why – it just upset me that we had a strange new teacher, and I very rarely liked them. It didn’t start after Dad died, it had been going on a while before that – I remember being particularly arsey with one student teacher, when I was in Year 4. She must have hated me. I remember going on a school trip with her when we were doing the Tudors, to Lewes or somewhere, and being miserable because I wanted to go home and I wanted my usual teacher. It was a bloody good thing the teachers were nice. They knew bad things were happening at home and that I’d lost my dad – Jack and I started Year 3 and Year 5 respectively a week or two later than the other kids. We had to go up north to Preston in the first week of term to say our goodbyes to Dad, as his time was rapidly running out.

I hated getting shouted at, hated collective punishment – my class made the Bash Street Kids look sane, and we were called into an emergency assembly a few times – hated noise, found group activity difficult. When all the kids were talking loudly, I’d hyperventilate or shove my fingers in my ears. I used to eat in the school secretary’s office because I couldn’t stand the noise in the hall. Sometimes the headmistress would shout at us to keep the noise down, which made me panicky – I’d end up throwing away lunches because of it. I remember chucking out this amazing lunch my mum had made me, and feeling bitter about it afterwards. I’d spent whole days skiving lessons by hiding in the toilets. How I didn’t get bored out of my mind, I don’t know. In short, the oddness was there, but Dad’s death exacerbated it. Mum, Jack and I all went off the deep end. Mum had migraines and panic attacks, and Jack had crying fits, and I acted up in class.

At some point, when I was about ten – this would have been 1994 – I saw a speech therapist who shared my birthday, as it happened. I can’t remember the exact details, but I do remember looking at picture cards and being asked questions about what I’d do if there was an accident, that kind of thing. Apparently my answers were a bit weird and inappropriate and illogical, whatever.

Then Mum got a letter from her saying I had a thing called Aspergers Syndrome.

Not as many people were being diagnosed back in 1994 as they are now. Aspergers wasn’t as widely known back then – there were no Adams, no Sheldon Coopers, no Glee characters faking Aspergers, no Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, though there was Rain fucking Man. At least, though, Mum knew why her daughter was a little freak, and it wasn’t just because her dad had died. The weirdness had a name and the odd behaviour had a cause. Even if it wasn’t something that could be cured, at least she – and by extension, the staff at Stanford Junior – gained a bit more understanding.

March 4, 2014

Female Of The Species

Shock, shock, horror, horror, shock, shock, horror
I’ll shout myself hoarse for your supernatural force
The female of the species is more deadly than the male

“Do you know what sex is, Lotte?”

“Do you know what an orgasm is?”

“Why don’t you shave your legs?”

“Have you ever tapped off with a boy?”

“Are you a lesbian?”

“Are you frigid?”

I was new. I was naive. I didn’t fit in. I wasn’t into make-up or boys or clothes – most of the clothes I wore were hand-me-downs or bought for me by my mum. I read Q instead of teen magazines and I didn’t watch much TV. I had short hair and bad skin.

I am not going to slag off women who wear make-up and like ‘girly’ things. I am not one of those women who considers herself to be better than other, more ordinary women, what some of my friends call a ‘Special Female’. I am not femmephobic and I get that for some women, femininity can be empowering, and that’s fine. In my opinion, there is no right or wrong way to be a woman. However, I failed the other girls’ expectations when it came to being one myself, and for me, putting on make-up was not empowering. It made my skin itch and it was a chore and I just could not be bothered doing it every day. Shoes with heels hurt my feet and were a nightmare to walk in (as I learned the hard way during a choir tour where I had to wear court shoes); I preferred trainers, and the highest heels I could wear without being in pain were a pair of wedges. I don’t know how Cerys Matthews does it, frankly. I hated shaving my legs (although I do shave my pits), having my spots squeezed by my mother (which, I found out the hard way, was not something all mums did and was not considered to be normal), and constantly having to be concerned with my appearance. I did go through a phase of painting my nails in all kinds of bright colours, but I can’t remember the last time I wore nail varnish. I was conscious of the hair on my upper lip, my fluctuating tits hidden under a school sweater, the spots on my shoulders, the wonkiness of my eyes, the uncoolness of my clothes. To the other girls in my year in high school, I was something of a curio. They quizzed me on sex and boys and not realising they were making fun of me, I answered their questions. One girl told me I should wear jeans and Trader t-shirts so no-one would make fun of me, and that my skintight leggings made me look like a dork. I was a shambling, ugly, sexless, frigid creature.

When I wear pretty dresses and heels and make-up, I feel almost as though I am performing femininity – like a drag queen, basically. It all feels so artificial and unnatural. It’s not that I have any issues with gender – I have never identified as anything other than cis, never questioned my gender identity or experienced dysphoria, like some of my trans and genderqueer mates have. I could never identify as anything other than female. When it comes to queer identities, I’m neither butch nor femme; I’m somewhere in between. I have long hair, but wear no make-up. I have cross-dressed at parties, but that’s as far as it goes. I feel more comfortable in long skirts, baggy army trousers, band t-shirts, hoodies, Dr Martens. As Rudy Simone says in Aspergirls (which I will be citing throughout this series, no doubt, and if you are a woman with Aspergers, or your daughter is on the spectrum, I cannot recommend it enough, I lost count of the number of times I read it and thought, “Fucking hell, this is me!”), a lot of women’s clothes are too fussy and flimsy. They tear easily and there are too many fiddly bits. I’ve borrowed my brother’s clothes a good few times. Shopping for clothes is a pain in the fucking arse because all sizes are different and a pair of jeans might be big enough to squeeze my colossal arse into, but don’t fit right around the crotch or knees. Clothes, for me, have to be comfortable. I can’t wear fabric that itches my skin; I have a bit of a problem with wool. I do prioritise style over comfort, though I know how to colour-coordinate my clothes and don’t wear things that have food on them to work. When I compare myself to most women, though, I feel like a drab pheasant in a flock of swans. The comparison is deliberate; swans are vicious creatures, and some of the most painful bullying I received in high school was at the hands of other girls (although most of the abuse – physical, verbal and in a couple of instances, bordering on sexual – I got was from boys). There’s being pelted with rocks, and there’s sticking your hand in a lucky dip and getting a fish hook caught in it.

I’m lucky in that I’ve found plenty of friends, cisgender women and DFAB androgynes / genderqueer / genderfluid types, who either have their own ways of expressing femininity, do not express it at all, or do the more conventional thing, but don’t judge me for it. Nor do they judge me for the amount of sex I am not having, and my long periods between relationships (my last one was in 2008). It is a relief to know that there are other women like me out there, whether they are on the spectrum or not. Like I said, there’s no right or wrong way to be a woman or a girl. No matter what society or idiots at school tell you.

May 1, 2013

Just because I am disabled does not entitle you to make stupid comments

As it’s Blog Against Disablism Day, I’m going to repost some comments that I originally posted on Twitter under the #heardwhilstdisabled tag. These are all things that have been said to me as a result of my having ME.

“You’re too young to be so tired” – said by countless people. Yes, I know it’s bizarre for someone in her late twenties to be tired all the time, but it does happen. There are people younger than me whose ME is so bad they can’t even feed themselves. There are people who’ve died from ME, for fuck’s sake, some of whom are around my age. It also makes me feel awkward when I see older people than me who can still make it to synagogue while I’m at home resting. It makes me feel like I’m not trying hard enough.

“I have to do all this work because you’re ill” – or words to that effect, said by one of my colleagues. So they can’t use me as cheap cover because I only work part-time? That’s not my fault. Would they rather I just worked myself into the ground and ended up having to leave? I’m not even supposed to be doing work for the Manchester office anyway. I’m not employed by them.

“I wish I could go home early like you” – said to me by the same colleague. You know what I do when I leave work? I go home – sometimes after stopping off at Sainsbury’s or my local greengrocer to buy food – have lunch, maybe go online for a bit, and then sleep for a few hours. If you want to go home early, you can take my reduced wages and my disability while you’re at it. Have fun!

“You’re having a relapse? Well, UN-relapse then” – said to me by a woman at synagogue when I explained that I didn’t know if I was going to be available that weekend because I was having a bad week healthwise. If only it were that simple. This is one of the reasons why I’m very seriously considering quitting the synagogue choir – I hate not being able to give a straight answer as to whether I’ll be able to come on Saturdays. How will I know?

“Stop yawning, it’s fucking annoying. Do some work if you’re so bored” – said to me by a colleague. I must point out that I was actually typing an attendance note at the time. I had also not had much sleep. Yawning is an involuntary thing for me, and it is not a sign of boredom, and no, you are not being funny when you ask me if you’re keeping me awake.

“You should do (insert exercise here), it’ll make you feel better / you’ll be fitter if you do more exercise” – said to me by various people. No, I do not want to go jogging / horse riding / Zumba dancing with you. I have to be careful how much exercise I do. I did pole dancing classes for a bit, but the last time I went, I had to sit down because I felt so dizzy and sick, not to mention the strain it puts on my body. I do exercise – I go to the gym, I swim sometimes – but if I do too much, it can set me back. When I went to Berlin last year, the amount of walking I did set me back for a good few days afterwards. Only I can know what’s right for my body.

These are all things that have been said to me as a result of my having Asperger’s Syndrome.

“Screaming kids make you go into sensory overload? Stop making it about you” – on a feminist blog entry about letting children into adult spaces, where some disabled people said in the comments that they couldn’t handle screaming children because it made them physically sick, something that happens to me (not to mention that screaming is a kind of trigger). Because only children have special needs, it’s not like adults have them or anything. When a kid screams its head off, it might be autistic and we shouldn’t judge, but autistic adults? Fuck off. What’s particularly irony is that these people claim to be anti-ablism. So, erm, why are you having a go at disabled people then? We exist too.

“You can’t have Asperger’s, you’re doing a languages degree” – said to me by a doctor when I was a student. Because people with Asperger’s only do maths or science, it’s not like creative or humanities types with Asperger’s exist (Gary Numan, Paddy Considine and Ladyhawke would like a word). This is one reason why I am not a fan of Rain Man, because people think we all act like that. Yes, a lot of Asperger’s types are good at maths and science, but it doesn’t mean we all are, plus I come from a family full of people who are good at history, languages and English.

“It may feel like a bereavement” – said to my mum when I was diagnosed with Asperger’s for the first time, aged ten. She did not take this comment very well.

And I’m one of the lucky ones. I’m not visibly disabled; I don’t have a cane, a dog, a wheelchair, a hearing aid or missing limbs. I’m not claiming benefits and being called a scrounger by local idiots who assume I must be on the take. I’ve never, kina hora, been beaten up for being disabled (I’ve been called names on the internet, but this is the internet we’re talking here). Other people, however, have, and the constant stigmatisation of the disabled in this country by our government and our gutter press just contributes to hate crimes against us. After all, we’re just faking it (especially if we have an invisible illness), we’re making it up for attention (especially if we have Asperger’s, BPD, bipolar disorder or any other illness du jour that naive self-diagnosing teens on the internet who’ve done a personality test think they have), we’re scroungers and I know someone who had a disability and still managed to go to work / work full-time / climb Everest / whatever. The fact that George Osborne parked his car in a disabled space sums up just what he and his government think of us, and it is not pleasant.

April 16, 2013

(I Don’t Want To Go To) Coventry

It’s April, Autism Awareness Month, and funnily enough, I’m sitting here typing this after having a major meltdown at work. We’re talking tears, animal wails, hyperventilation, hallucinations, the whole fun package. For obvious reasons, I’m not going to go into details about my job, but I will say that I’ve been dealing with something that has been causing me a lot of unhappiness recently, something that resulted in me going backstage at a Space gig in Leeds with scarred arms, and pouring boiling water on my arm two days later. It’s a technique that’s been used against me in the past by countless people. It’s ostracisation.

I am not psychic. I cannot always read faces or voices, so it stands to reason that mindreading is beyond my capabilities. When someone is angry with me and I don’t know why, it makes me paranoid as hell. It makes me wonder what I’ve done and the ability I have to trust other people gets slowly chipped away. When they refuse to speak to me, even if it’s in a situation where not talking to me causes even more problems – i.e. a work situation where people are required to communicate with each other. As a result of being ostracised at work, I got into trouble. Again, I can’t go into details. Because work was where I had the meltdown, it’s going to happen again. I spent most of last week and the week before that sitting in silence, not knowing what I’d done. The last time it happened, I was told that I had been rude and not apologised – I know for a fact I had apologised – and I ended up crying and begging for forgiveness, and later cutting myself when I got home.

Going silent on me is one of the cruellest things a person can do. Talking to a person refusing to speak to me is like battering on a door repeatedly, until my fists are bleeding. I remember after I’d taken an overdose in 2005, and when I walked into a room where my housemates were, they made excuses and walked out. A week or so earlier, when I came home from the hospital and rang the doorbell, one of them let me in, glared at me and just walked up the stairs without a word. Not one of them asked how I was. They avoided me after the overdose, even after I thought I’d made some headway, and soon after, I moved out.

I hate being left out of things. It’s happened to me since I was a kid. I was always standing on the fringe of groups in high school and was never really a part of any of them. So many people I thought were my friends actually hated me. I remember the pain of being one of the few people in my year who wasn’t invited to a popular girl’s party, and hearing everyone who had gone talking about it and what a laugh it was. This happened in Year Nine and in Sixth Form – two different girls, two different parties, and the same situation. I remember sitting in the common room in the area where the popular crowd sat, and although I was friends with some of them, I remember a big group of them dancing in a circle in Love Street, with me on the fringe, and one night, one of them telling me to my face that no-one liked me. When I got older and went to uni, the same thing happened – not just with my housemates, but with people in the Rock Soc as well, and because I am so clueless about socialising, I didn’t know whether my attempts to integrate were working or not. Trying to navigate the Barcelona Metro is as easy as breathing, compared to trying to navigate interpersonal communication.

When a colleague makes a big point of ignoring me while talking to everyone else, it fucking hurts. It makes me feel so tiny, so insignificant, so invisible. It reminds me of how I am an outsider and how I will never fit in. I’m back in the common room. I’m back in Jilly’s Rockworld, watching the man I obsessed over and his group of friends hanging out, knowing that if I go over there, he’ll make a big point of walking away. Sometimes I want to stand in front of them and slash a vein and spray my blood over their face, just to remind them that I am there, since I suppose the idea behind ostracisation is, ‘if I pretend Lotte isn’t there, maybe she’ll disappear’. I wish I could, but sadly, it’s not physically possible for me to just fade away into the ether. I am not a ghost. I am a fucking human being. No amount of ignoring me is going to make me disappear.

You’d think adults would know better, but some people never leave high school, it seems. I try not to think about it too much – I left over eleven years ago – but I have a lot of trust issues as a result of high school and there are certain things I react to badly, and ostracisation is one of them. OK, so it’s not anti-Semitic abuse or arse-pinching or nasty notes on my desk, but it is still a form of bullying, and it hurts. It hurts seeing people having a laugh and knowing you will never be accepted into their group, even if said people all actually hate each other. It makes me want to scream and shout and smash things and hurt myself.

I am currently looking for other jobs as a result and hoping to go into translation work. My office is small and open plan, a hellish place with someone for Asperger’s Syndrome, but that’s for another post. I know I should be grateful for having a job in these times, but when that job is causing me to come home feeling miserable and barely able to function, it’s time to get out.

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