The Hidden Village of Aspergers

September 21, 2014

Autism and Girls:

This has got nothing to do with the Space miniblogs, but 1) I need a distraction from the despair of my beloved Everton getting totalled by Crystal Palace, and 2) I found this on Facebook and it interests me.

Flyer found on Facebook

Flyer found on Facebook

In case the text is a bit hard to read, I’m going to reproduce it here and add my comments:

Unlike stereotypical autistic boys, autistic girls may have:

– No language delay problems This is true, I learned to talk quite young – I was about two, I think.

– NO interest in technical things (like spinning wheels) I don’t remember having any interest in ‘technical things’.

Autistic girls often:

– Are very shy Yes, I was pretty shy. Still am.

– Are less prone to aggressive outbursts (especially away from home) I don’t remember having any aggressive outbursts as a kid. Those came later, as a teenager and an adult woman.

– Want to make friends Yes, but it was very hard for me, which goes without saying.

– Copy social behaviour I still do. I have a rather large complex about what is and isn’t the ‘right’ way to do things. I should probably not take behavioural cues from Tumblr, though.

– Only have one mother hen friend at a time I’m not sure what a ‘mother hen friend’ is, but I was the sort of kid who’d have one best mate rather than a large crowd of friends like my brother did.

– Are highly intelligent and academically gifted Yes. I wasn’t a savant, but I did get good grades.

– Have very good memories (such as for facts or events) Yes, and not much has changed there. To quote my brother, “Lotte is an encyclopaedia of family history. She remembers everything.” This actually came in handy recently, regarding my mother, in an event which I am not prepared to talk about right now.

– Say NO a lot I might have. I don’t know. 

– Have poor eye contact, especially with strangers Yes, and I still do. If I don’t look you in the eye, I’m either nervous, or I don’t like you. Generally, it’s the former!

– Enjoy arranging toys into groups or sets Yes. Definitely. And later, CDs and books.

– Are very creative and imaginative Yes. I loved writing stories and I read like the clappers. 

– Create elaborate fantasy worlds Yes. Mum used to get angry with me for living in ‘my own little world’, and I got upset because I felt like she was attacking the fantasy world in my head where all my characters lived. This wasn’t a DID thing, incidentally. It was more like an imaginary friends thing. I used to play with toys and dolls and make up stories for them, often based on things I’d seen on TV.

– Have obsessive interests (such as in animals, songs or books) Yes. Abba, Asterix books, Sylvanian families, certain TV programmes. When I got older, it was Space, Naruto, Everton FC, the Chalet School series, and many other things.

– Are hypersensitive to stimuli (such as sunlight or sudden noises) Yes. I hated people shouting or loud crowds, and would put my hands over my ears or cry. I’m still the same. The partner in the Manchester office kept shouting at me when I was having a meltdown, and that made it even worse. People ask me how I listen to metal. It’s expected noise, basically. You know the singer’s going to start screaming, plus it often has a nice tune or beat to accompany it. I draw the line at drone, though. Friends of mine love Sunn O))), but I could never get into them for this reason.

– Have over-the-top seeming emotional reactions Yes. At one point, Mum said she was going to take me to a doctor because there was clearly something wrong with me, because I cried very easily. 

By age 7 or 8:

– Social alienation increases as peers use more complex nuances Yes. I felt left out a lot of the time, and some girls did take advantage of the fact that I was quite naive and took things literally. 

– Stress increases at home, whilst being model pupils at school Yes. Admittedly, a large part of it was my father’s illness, but there was also the fact that my mum was frustrated at my weird behaviour and my brother and I didn’t get on very well a lot of the time.

Credit for this flyer, by the way, goes to L Style, an autistic mother. At the bottom, she has provided a link to the National Autistic Society’s section on gender.

August 3, 2014

Fortune Teller

Tears well in their eyes
The strip turned blue, surprise surprise
Your bank balance took a dent
And now you’re Rupert Grint
Nappies cost a bob or two
You wish you were Doctor Who

Controversial post time.

I’ve known since about the age of sixteen or so that I am not going to be a mother. I do not want children. I have never wanted children. I never will want children.

I should probably preface this post by saying that I don’t mean to suggest people with Asperger’s Syndrome should not have kids. There are plenty of parents or hopeful parents out there on the autistic spectrum, and I’m sure loads of them have blogs of their own. This is about me, personally.

The song ‘Fortune Teller’ is about an accidental pregnancy. I had a pregnancy scare in my first year of university, due to my boyfriend and I stupidly having unprotected sex. Luckily, the strip did not turn blue, but it was a tense moment because my period was late. Had I become pregnant, I would have had an abortion. The very thought of getting pregnant and having a foetus inside me frightened me. I was not ready for a child and knew I could never carry a baby to term. I’ve learned my lesson since, I might add, and always used some form of contraception. Even now, I get the chills thinking about it. It’s got nothing to do with losing my figure or stretchmarks or any such body-shaming crap. I have no figure to lose. It was just the thought of having a baby that I didn’t want, and could probably never even love. (As an aside, I hate the idea that you’ve never known real love unless you’ve had a child. I am quite capable of love. I love my brother and mum and would take a bullet for both of them, I love my stepfamily and my other relatives and I’ve loved certain men and women so much it hurts. It is not a feeling alien to me. But that’s another story.)

I don’t hate kids per se, but I’m not good at dealing with them. Older ones and teens, maybe, but little kids and toddlers and babies? No. I find it hard to talk to them or play with them or even relate to them. Screaming babies put me into sensory overload. I get impatient very quickly. When colleagues bring their young children into the office, I do not coo over them (now pets, on the other hand…) When friends of mine announce that a kid is on the way, I congratulate them, obviously I’m happy for them (and I’m keeping my fingers crossed for certain people I know), but I have no feelings of broodiness myself. I’ve tried to imagine myself as a mum and failed. My womb will bear no fruit. Luckily, my mum is fine about this and has long accepted that she will not be getting any grandkids out of me, and got somewhat pissed off when her colleagues at her old job asked her if Lotte was ever going to give her any grandchildren. (Of course, the fact that my brother might want children did not occur to them – and Jack is far, far better with kids than I am, he is kinder and more patient than me, and I think he’d make a great father.)

I do wonder if people would be more accepting of my choice not to have children, or my awkwardness around children, if I was male. When I was younger, I used to be involved in childfree communities on Livejournal back in the day, as I wanted to meet other women who felt the same way as me, and the communities were predominantly female, and so many of the women in the groups had had relatives being perturbed that they didn’t want kids, or even, in some cases, treating them as they were somehow not real women. Women are supposed to be maternal and love kids and be happy to sacrifice everything for them. What so you mean, you don’t want children? You selfish bitch, you’ll change your mind one day, you were a child once, you’re just bitter because no man will want to fuck you, no-one will take care of you when you’re older, the most powerful thing a woman can do is bear children, you’re a failure as a woman, and so on. Oddly enough, I never heard the same accusations being levelled at childfree men. Somehow, a man not wanting kids was fine. I abandoned the childfree label for several reasons which are not relevant, but at the time, those groups were therapeutic for me and it was also a relief to discover that several friends of mine, some cis women, some genderqueer,  didn’t want kids either.

At university, the man I obsessed over got into an argument with me about children. He said that getting sterilised was an irreversible process (no shit, sherlock), and that his mum wanted daughters, but look how that worked out (he has two brothers). My last boyfriend also wanted kids, and in retrospect, I wonder if our relationship would have crumbled over this if I hadn’t dumped him. I don’t think I could even be a stepmother; I wouldn’t want to inflict myself on other people’s kids. My ex-stepsister lived with us for a period in 2003 and she brought her young daughter with her, and any maternal feelings I may have had died there and then. Constantly being asked what I was doing and not being able to take a shit in peace drove me up the wall. Put bluntly, I would be a fucking rubbish mother, I am too unpredictable and temperamental and used to having my own routine and space and not having to compromise, and no child should ever have to suffer having me as a parent. I hate living with people, and living on my own was a very big leap for me because I’d spent so long living with first my family and then various housemates, and it made me realise how much I needed my own space and my own life. Anyone can be a parent in the biological sense, but not every parent is good at the job.

If Jack ever has kids, I’m happy to be an auntie to them. However, that’s as far as it goes. I do not want children and I do not think I could be a good mother. I’m not putting myself down. I’m simply stating a fact. It does not make me less of a woman or less of a human being.

March 29, 2014

Hell Of A Girl

And you’re a lovemaking, earthquaking, dead-waking
Breathtaking hell of a girl

Let’s get this out of the way.

I am bisexual. I have been attracted to men and women for most of my life. I have known this since I was in Year 9. If it’s a phase I’m going through – since a lot of misguided idiots seem to think it’s a phase, and/or we’re just straight people trying to be cool or lesbians in denial – it’s a bloody long one.

I always got called a lesbian in Year 7 because I hung around with my best friend at the time all the time, she was a tomboy, and I had short hair. I thought it was weird. I didn’t understand why people thought we were a couple. We were just friends. I didn’t really think about the possibility that I might be gay or bi until I had a crush on a girl in my class when I was in Year 9. She was blonde and pretty and popular, though I never really became friends with her. Then one day, I saw Cerys Matthews singing on TV with Tom Jones, and she was wearing this beautiful purple dress, and I felt…strange. I fancied her. I can’t describe this feeling, other than thinking she was beautiful and despairing because all these feelings were rushing through my head. Throughout my teens, I wondered if I might be gay. I knew what gay and lesbian people were. Growing up in Brighton, Mum knew LGBT people and I’d read about them in Our Bodies Ourselves. I’d voiced my suspicions to Mum several times, and after kissing a girl in a club during a night out, I officially came out to her and my ex-stepdad the next day.

I’m very, very lucky in that my parents were always OK with me being queer, as were my biological family (though I don’t know if my grans knew – my maternal gran certainly would have been fine with it, though). I’ve never been under pressure to settle down with a nice man and have 2.4 kids. My mum had gay and lesbian mates at uni and she never had a problem with LGBT people; she made it clear that any girlfriend I had would be welcome to come over, just as a boyfriend would. Bastard though he was, my ex-stepdad wasn’t anti-gay either, though some of his family were. I remember watching Strictly Come Dancing with a couple of them and they were making remarks about Colin Jackson being ‘as queer as a deer’. Evidently they were not aware of the bisexual woman sitting next to them, and I figured it would be best not to say. Even now, I wince when people call things ‘gay’ or call each other ‘queer cunts’ or say, “I don’t want to sound gay or anything, but…” especially if they know about me. I wonder if it registers that their words hurt. Do they think I’m disgusting too for not being completely straight?

My sexuality has been all over the place, and I started really coming to terms with it at uni, joining the LGBT Soc and going to gay clubs. I dated a woman I’d met in Poptastic, though nothing really came of it, although it made me realise that I would, in fact, be open to a relationship with a woman. In second year, I assumed I was a lesbian because I didn’t feel any attraction to men at the time. I went to Canal Street every week with the LGBT Soc and read Diva and fell in love with a woman. I was, I’ll admit, rather obnoxious about it, to the point where one girl in Rock Soc said something along the lines of, “How many times have you mentioned you’re a lesbian now?” Then I fell in love with J, my ex-boyfriend, and realised I wasn’t completely gay, and just decided to accept the fact that I can love people of more than one gender. I’m not going to say I don’t see gender, because I do – when I was with Sheryl, my ex-girlfriend, I was more conscious that I was in a relationship with a woman, whereas when I was with men, I didn’t think about it that much. I was more alert to my surroundings, you could say – the possibility of homophobia (she was butcher than me, though I’m neither butch nor femme – I’m somewhere in between) rearing its ugly head.

How does this tie into me having Aspergers? It probably doesn’t, apart from not feeling the need to conform to certain behaviours expected of me. Having said that, it took ages for me to accept myself as a ‘proper’ queer person. I still have a complex about not being queer enough because I’ve never had sex with a woman – the anti-depressants I was on while I was with Sheryl totalled my sex drive – because I’m monogamous and find the idea of being in a relationship with more than one person hard to handle; because I could never see myself as anything but cis; because I’m not radical, subversive or an anarchist; because I’m not a hard femme, I’m not soft butch, not high femme, not glittery and fabulous and beautiful like the girls on Tumblr. I would say I am straight-passing. I always got scared of going into places like Vanilla because I worried they wouldn’t believe me if I said I was bi. But I am more at ease with who I am compared to when I was at uni. I’ve come to accept that at the end of the day, though, when all is said and done, I like people. If the right person is male, female (and in both cases, just to clear things up, I’m referring to cis and trans men or women), or neither, or both, so be it.

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 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.

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