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Autism and Sexism

Many times, I’ve been told that autism presents differently in girls.
Many times, I’ve been told that girls are less likely to be autistic.
Many times, I’ve been told that male autistics are different.

I’m here to tell you that’s sexist.

Autistic girls are NOT different from autistic boys.

Autistic girls do NOT “present differently” from autistic boys.

This is sexist.

At one point, I thought it was eye-opening to read articles about how autistic females presented differently. And then I realized that was my own internalized ableism and sexism talking. Now I am ashamed of myself.

By saying it presents differently, we are erasing non trans and non-binary experiences. What does it say to someone non-binary, if we constantly talk about the diagnosis within the gender binary? We say that autistic males are xyz. We say that autistic females are abc. But what about those who are not? If you fit in those boxes, well, good on you. But we weren’t made to fit in neat little boxes. In fact, by clinging to these things, we are enforcing gender stereotypes. Which is bullcrap.

I know people who have come to their autism diagnosis by reading about how it presents in girls. Which is fine and dandy. But realize that those lists come rooted in sexism. You now know better, so DO better. A female doesn’t need a different form of support than a male because she’s female, she needs different forms of support because she’s HUMAN.

I don’t fit the neat checkboxes of autism in girls – I don’t have a high IQ because my learning disorders make IQ tests impossible. Despite being a straight A, honor roll student my IQ is actually quite low. This is called being twice-exceptional,  where I am so-called “gifted” but struggle with multiple learning disabilties (and the concept of gifted is problematic but that’s another blog post).

Many of my so-called “special interests” (oh mylanta, I hate this term. This is another blog post. That’s two, two blog posts promised in this one. -count von count voice-) line up more with what is considered boyish. If you google “autism in girls checklist”, you get dozens of super gross checklists.

Because I present as female, it doesn’t mean my autism is different than someone who does not. It means it is different because I am human. Just like anything else on my massive checklist of “how many things Nora has been dx’d with”, it is different from person to person. There is nothing unique about my autism solely because I have a vagina. It’s different because I am Nora. Yes, autistic girls sometimes present differently from autistic boys. But autistic girls present differently from each other, just like autistic boys do.

That isn’t to say there aren’t atypical autism traits. There are. That isn’t to say autistic women aren’t disabled. They are. That isn’t to say it isn’t sexist to say that girls are less likely to be dx’d than boys are. They are.

I’ve talked about this with my friends. Some of us male, some of us female, some of us non binary. My friend Leila said in one of our discussions that “all the articles etc. that I’ve seen about “Autism presents DIFFERENTLY in girls!” is all about how autistic boys are mathematical and logical and emotionally withdrawn, and autistic girls are creative, intuitive, emotional artist-types, and, like… that’s just regular old sexism with “autism” in front of it.”.

This is true. Think about it. If we remove the word “autism”, people would be PISSED. “But my son is a creative artist!” “My daughter is a brilliant mathematician!” Yep. But yet, somehow it’s magically okay when we try to make an autism dx fit gender stereotypes. We must question ourselves. WHY? We get pissed off when we try to assign stereotypes, but when it comes to neurodivergence, it’s somehow magically okay?

Why? Do we feel that autistic girls need coddled more? Do we need to make sure we know that they aren’t like THOSE autistics? It’s a form of supremacy, to be honest. And that’s ableist, sexism, bullcrap. Do we feel that they’re superior, because they pass better? (Newsflash: autistic females don’t. Some autistic females pass, some autistic females don’t. Some autistic males pass, some don’t. Some non binary pass…oh, I could go on all day. You get my point).

That’s not to say it isn’t okay to talk about autism and gender. It is. That isn’t to say that it isn’t important to boost female autistic voices. It very much is. Everyone’s voice needs heard – no matter what their gender is.

But when we say we want to smash gender stereotypes, when we say we’re feminists, when we say we’re for equality…we’ve got to include disability in that. And disability includes autism.    It includes realizing that even when we don’t realize it, our thoughts are often rooted in sexism. I’m guilty of it. I’m not immune to call outs. I even used to like and share those posts that talked about how different autistic females are, thinking I was helping my friends. Thinking I was helping making voices heard. Until I realized and questioned why I was sharing it. Until I realized that I was contributing to sexism. Until I realized that no one fits into that neat little box – myself included. Until I accepted that I don’t have to keep lying to myself, to who I am, to make myself fit into the “autistic female presenting” box. I’m still autistic. I still present as female. It’s okay that I don’t meet everything on that checklist – it doesn’t make my DX any less or different.

It’s sexist, plain and simple, to say that autistic females present differently. I think it’s important for us to discuss this. I think it’s important for us to boost female voices, yes. But that doesn’t mean that that, in and of itself, has problematic roots. It means that we realize that we don’t present differently because of what our bits and pieces are or because of what our gender is, but it’s simply because we’re HUMAN and we each have our own jam

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Who I Am Hates Who I’ve Been

I am learning.

I was once racist. Ableist. Homophobic. Transphobic. Against myself, against my friends, against people I didn’t even know. I was raised evangelical conservative Christian. Anything outside of my bubble, anything outside of what I knew was really HARD to accept. Because, you see, I had the BIBLE on my side. I was RIGHT and they were WRONG. Their feelings? Didn’t matter. I am really glad social media wasn’t a thing when I was in middle school because I’m pretty sure I would have had an epic case of being a major butthead. I was pretty active online starting around age thirteen, and I outright cringe at stuff I wrote. And this was just on message boards and such! Twitter didn’t exist until shortly after I graduated and Facebook wasn’t open to high schools until during my senior year. My brunt of social media was on Myspace. Yeah. Myspace. 😉 And Xanga and Teen Open Diary and Neopets and, well, you get the picture. Social media was just a baby. And so was I.

I’m sorry for the person I became.
I’m sorry that it took so long for me to change.
I’m ready to be sure I never become that way again
’cause who I am hates who I’ve been.
Who I am hates who I’ve been.

I was young. The internet was young (at least, compared to the form it is in today). I am really glad that one of the Christian message boards I was active on (hi there, Zeeps!) kinda imploded because I’m sure I said some things that would make me want to hide forever now. But the message board literally doesn’t exist so you can’t find it. WHEW. Even reading back journal entries I wrote back when I started Forgotten Regret (my previous blog) in 2010, I cringe at stuff I said.

You see, I thought I knew so much. I thought I was so wise. I did say some good things. But I also said some horrible things. Because you know what? We’ve all done it at some points in our lives. Even if our -isms are internalized, even if we’ve never spoken our thoughts, it’s not something any of us are innocent of. But what matters is what you do once you know better. What matters is what you do once you are told that you need to sit down, shut up, and listen.

It’s hard for me, because I don’t want to admit that I’ve said some really awful things in my lifetime. It’s hard for me to admit that I was once one of the people who cracked “Adam and Steve” jokes. It’s hard for me to admit that I said things that are hurtful to some of the people I care about most. But I was wrong. And I’m sorry. And I’m doing my best to make it better. I’m doing my best to show I’ve changed. It isn’t easy. Change is hard. Heck, I’m autistic. I like things the way they are and I don’t like having to change. 😉 But I can change. Even though it’s hard. Even though it’s difficult. It’s a lesson we were taught in The Lion King, kids!  He said that change is good! He also said this:

““The past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it or learn from it.””

Yeah, the past hurts. Yeah, it sucks knowing we’ve screwed up in the past. But do we learn from our screw ups, or do we run from them? Do we accept we screwed up when confronted and challenged by things we said, or do we double down and gaslight people? Making mistakes is okay. What matters is what we do when we’re called out.

So I am pledging this.

I am pledging to do better. Know better, do better, they say. I am pledging to accept that I’ve made mistakes in my past. I am pledging to make amends to the people I’ve hurt. I am pledging to do my best to make things right again. It isn’t easy, but it’s good.

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Love is love is love is love

i read the bible
and i think about my jesus
i pause and i
weep and cry and scream and pound the ground
at one more act
one more life stolen
parent,
friend,
sibling,
child

i read the bible
and i think about my jesus
i find love
which trumps hate
which cannot be killed
which is victorious
and it conquers all
hate,
violence,
racism,
homophobia

i read the bible
and i think about my jesus
nowhere do i see him
condemning before he helps
judging before he prays
using slurs before he helps like
faggot,
freak,
tranny,
dyke.

i read the bible
and i think about my jesus
and i see him welcoming the victims home
with arms wide open,
heart broken
tears streaming down his face
as he cradles them in his arms
parent,
friend,
sibling,
child

i read the bible
and i think about my jesus
as i open my arms to my friends
our safety stolen
our hearts broken
with nowhere to turn,
non-binary
pansexual
bisexual
and more

i read the bible
and i think about my jesus
as i hold a candle without a flame
as the flags fly half staff
as the victims dance across my stream
as i think about those who were outed
by an act i cannot fathom
violence,
hatred,
anger,
fear

i read the bible
and i think about my jesus
perfect love casts out all fear
i hold out my hand to my community
my family united
as more and more victims are named
and i stare at my screen
crying
screaming
weeping
wailing

i read the bible
and i think about my jesus.

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Where is the love?

There is something I see lacking when people talk about the transgender bathroom issue. There’s something that just isn’t there. There’s something that Christians seem to forget about. And that’s love. 

Where is our love, America?

Why are we not loving our brothers and sisters?

Where is our love? Are you acting in love when you use slurs to refer to transgender people? Are you acting in love when you try to deny them the simple right to pee? 

Why don’t you try being companionate? In the Bible, Jesus hung out with the people the world deemed unacceptable. In the Bible, he would have hung out with transgender people. Let’s not be naive, they existed then. 

Why can’t we show some love? Instead of spewing hate, why can’t we say “hey, I’m here to listen to you?”

The Bible at the very core is a doctrine of love. But Christians mess it up and turn it into fuel for their hatred. They take what was once filled with  love, and turn it into something despicable. 

Let love win. Let love show up. Use the gentle grace of Christ. For we love because he first loved us. We reach out to our neighbors and companions and friends in love.

The thought of my loved one being afraid to use the bathroom breaks my heart. I’ll go with you. Whatever minority or majority you are. You deserve the freedom to pee. Christ didn’t die so that we could persecute your bladder. Christ wasn’t crucified so that we can spew hatred toward your urine. He loves and accepts us all. He died to show us what love is. He died  to forgive the sins of the world, I can’t imagine how hard and painful and even scary that was. And no matter how hard and painful and scary it is for you, you can use the same bathroom as a trans person. I’ll let you in on a little secret: you already have. 

Stop with the it’s to keep predators out bullshit. If a predator wants to go in, a predator will go in. All this law does is make the lives of an already persecuted minority harder. You are just as safe as you always were using the bathroom at Target. 

Stop claiming it in the name of childhood sexual abuse survivors. We do not exist as fuel for your hatred. We do not exist for you to use us as your poster child for why this law needs to exist. 

Love, my friends. Use love and compassion. Stop with the vile hate filled words. Stop with the slurs. The insults. The assumptions. Instead show Christ in your interactions. 

I am a Christian. And I support the right of transgender folx to use the bathroom they feel most confident in. Because it’s what I believe Christ would do. 

Also this is not really related but I think of it every time the issue comes up. So there. 

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In which I like my labels

I like my labels. “But labels are for soup cans, Nora.” “Labels aren’t for people.” “Use person first language!” “You’re not autistic. You’re a person with autism. You’re a person first!” So many times people try to take away the labels from me that I crave – the labels I’ve worked so hard to carve out for myself and accept as a part of the Nora-ness that I am.

I have food allergies. There are many foods that are not safe for me. I rely on labels to tell me what is safe and what isn’t. Sometimes the labels lie, but most of the time they are a huge help for me. I feel like it’s a similar concept in my day to day life – my labels help me know who is safe and what groups are safe for me.

Labels help me know that I am not alone and that I am not broken. Before I came out as asexual and aromantic, I felt broken. I tried to make myself act in a way that wasn’t me and didn’t make me happy, in a desperate attempt to fit the cookie-cutter molds of the world. It helped me find other people like me and have a word to put on the feeling I could never quite put my finger on.

Labels help me know what people are like me. When I connect with fellow autistics, for example, I know that I won’t have to explain some of my quirks. I can use jargon that they understand or use themselves. Or explain it in a way that makes sense to them, whereas explaining them to an allistic (or a person without autism), it wouldn’t quite click on the same way.

In the same way, labels help me know what places are not safe for me. If you’re labeled with puzzle pieces, I am on my guard because I assume you support autism speaks. If you use certain slurs, that label shows me that it’s not something I want to be in support of or contact with. My labels not only help me, but they protect me.

Image is of a pale brunette wearing blue glasses. She is wearing a sweatshirt with various Studio Ghibli characters on it. She is disabled, autistic, asexual, and aromantic - and bloody proud of her labels.

Image is of a pale brunette wearing blue glasses. She is wearing a sweatshirt with various Studio Ghibli characters on it. She is disabled, autistic, asexual, and aromantic – and bloody proud of her labels.

By trying to take my labels away from me, you’re diminishing who I am. You still use labels in your day to day life like “doctor”, “teacher”, “blogger”, and “friend”. But when it’s something that the world perceives to be negative or something that doesn’t fit with what they perceive the world to be like, these labels are suddenly bad. These labels are suddenly undesirable. These labels are suddenly not what we want them to be.

It seems to me that the people who are most against labels aren’t the ones who benefit from the labels. They get a sense of self pride and think they’re being ever-so-clever and such a BIG help to us by reminding us that we are more than our labels. That we shouldn’t choose to use labels. That labels are not for people.

But the thing is – they are. As a disabled person, my labels are everything to me. They assure me that I’m not doing anything wrong. They assure me that I am not broken, that I am not flawed. They assure me that there are others like me in this big, beautiful world full of all different types of people and all different types of labels. It allows me to say who I am in less words.

I like my labels. Please don’t take my labels away from me because you don’t like using them for me. Call me autistic. Call me disabled. Call me Annora – because that is who I am. It’s messy. It’s not perfect. But it’s beautiful – just like I am. They all mesh together to create the whole picture of who I am. My labels are me.

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Accepting my place on the spectrum

One of the most important things I’ve done in the past year is accepting my place on the LGTBQA spectrum. I am the A. Not only in that I’m Annora, but in that I’m an asexual aromantic. It’s been hard for me to accept, but I’m now proud of it and confident in it.

For years, I pretended. I made believe. I acted like I was completely binary and like everyone else. For years, I did  the dance and I played the part. I acted like I had attraction. I acted like I wanted a wedding. I tried to force myself to daydream about a wedding.

My earliest crushes were solely due to personality. Nothing to do with appearance. It was all about their personality. And it still is. Cept for Henry Cavill… but that’s another story.

I can find people nice looking without having sexual attraction. I can find people pretty. And I do – I find them attractive and nice looking. But I don’t have any sex drive. I don’t have any romantic desire. I lack all of it. It’s been hard to accept, but I think I’m proud of it.

I worry that people will think I’m trying to be a special snowflake. That I’m already autistic, disabled, and unique in so many other ways and that I’m just trying to check off more boxes about my identity. I worry that people will think it’s silly to define myself as both aro and ace, but to me, it’s important. It’s important because it’s as much a part of who I am in that I have blue eyes and brown hair. It’s as much a part of me in the fact that I’m passionate and loyal. It’s in my blood. It’s who I am. And I wouldn’t change it for anything.

Accepting these labels has made me a lot happier and a lot more confident.

 

 

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give in to love, or live in fear

Image is of me holding up a sign with words written in many colours. The words say "LOVE IS THE MOVEMENT. MY GOD IS LOVE."

Image is of me holding up a sign with words written in many colours. The words say “LOVE IS THE MOVEMENT. MY GOD IS LOVE.”

So, once upon a time (that is, back in high school), I was anti homosexuality. I hate saying that. I feel disgusting saying that. I feel like it’s a part of my life I should hide. That whole “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve” thing? I thought it was the most clever thing EVER. I thought it was amazing! I thought I was speaking in love when I called people out. I thought I was, you know, being a good little Christian girl and looking out for their souls. I was mistaken. I was wrong. I was cruel. I don’t want to think about the poems I wrote (yes, I wrote anti gay poems. I cringe majorly).

But the thing is, people can change. It doesn’t make it right. It makes it wrong. It doesn’t mean I didn’t hurt people with my words and feelings. I did. I hurt people who are now my friends. I hurt people before I knew them. I was a hateful person, even though I thought I was speaking in love. Even though I thought I was being kind and compassionate. I wasn’t. I was far from it.

What did it take for me to change? I read stories. My heart started breaking. I realized I was using love as a guise, I realized I was using love as a reason to hate. It sounds counterproductive, doesn’t it? That I was using love to fuel hatred? I thought I was being so kind and caring and compassionate. I wasn’t. I was wrong.

I studied the original Greek and Hebrew texts. I prayed. I wept. I talked with friends. I talked with people deeper in the faith than me that I trusted. And I came to realize that using my love to fuel hate was wrong. I came to realize that there was something greater I could do with my so called love – I could rally to make a difference.

Instead of trying to change people for what I thought they were doing wrong, I could pour my energy into making a difference in their lives. I could be a kind, compassionate friend. A listening ear. Someone who wept with them when they were mistreated. Someone who stood up for them when they needed an ally. Someone who was ready and willing to be a voice for them.

It isn’t easy to admit that you’re wrong, you know. It isn’t easy to admit that you were once filled with hate. Am I ashamed of it? Yes, yes I am. But I know now, with all my heart, I am no longer that person. I can love. I can teach. I can learn. Anyone can. People can change and people can mature.

I’m sorry I was a bigoted asshat. I am that way no longer.

Love is love.

Love knows no gender.

Love is for everyone.

And I fully believe, with all my heart, that God feels the same way.

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Give in to love, or live in fear

There’s been so much hate circling the Internet lately. Toward the Duggars, toward Caitlyn Jenner, toward people of colour, toward disabled people. Everywhere you turn there’s a new horrifying story on the Web. Why can’t we simply learn to love?

God loves the Duggars. Yes, even Josh Duggar. Yes, what he did to his sisters was awful. Yes, God forgave Josh Duggar – if Josh truly repented before him. But just because God forgave him doesn’t make it okay. Just because God forgave him doesn’t mean that his victims have to act like nothing ever happened. It’s okay to still guard yourself around someone who hurt you, even if God and even if (and that’s a big if) you forgave them. It’s okay to forgive someone, but still never want to see them again.

God loves Caitlyn Jenner. He created her, yes, I said her, perfectly. He loved her when she was Bruce and he loves her now as Caitlyn. She was still created perfect and precious in His sight. God is saddened when people spew hate at anyone. Spewing hate does nothing, my friends.

God loves people of colour. He gave up His son and His son’s life for them. He weeps with them as the police hate them, attack them, for no reason than the colour of their skin. Why are we defending the police officer? If the same police officer had attacked a white boy for the same reason, we would be up in arms. Why does their skin tone automatically change everything?

God loves people with disabilities. We have the sam rights and freedoms as everyone else. We deserve to fly a plane and not risk being escorted off. We deserve to walk down the street and not be turned into someone’s inspiration. We deserve the same life as everyone else.

God loves us all. He doesn’t pick and choose.

So why the hell do we?

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Homosexuality & Jesus

This is actually a repost from my old blog. But I feel it needs to be said again. 🙂

A few years ago, I thought that being gay was a sin. I didn’t think that anyone should be gay. I was squicked about by people being trans. I can’t say I’m proud of things I said or things I wrote. But I watched people I care about deeply struggle. I saw how hard it was for them and the way they were treated by something that isn’t their fault. I saw their struggles, and it broke my heart. It changed me. I saw the struggles in their lives, and you know what? It’s not fair.
It’s not fair that because of who they love, they can’t get married. It’s not fair that because of who they love, they can be discriminated against in the workplace. Oh, I know some Americans will say that “Well, I’m a Christian and I get bullied/I get ridiculed/etc”. Know what? It’s not the same. As Christians in the US, we are damn lucky to be living here. Sure, we may get “persecuted”, but we keep using that word. It doesn’t mean what we think it means. Just because our children can’t pray in public schools, doesn’t mean anything bad. Just because they don’t teach creationism, doesn’t mean anything bad. Doesn’t mean we’re some kind of martyr or that everyone is out to get us.
Back when Jesus was on the Earth, he hung out with the undesirables. The tax collectors. The ones that society threw the stink eye to, both proverbially and literally. If he were here today? I imagine He’d be hanging out with the homosexuals. Because my God, my Jesus, is a God of love. He doesn’t condone hate.
I don’t want to make anyone change their views about homosexuality. You may think it’s morally wrong, and you have a right to think that. Your neighbor may think it’s morally right, and they have the right to think that. The person across the street may fall in the gray area between, where maybe it’s okay but certain aspects aren’t. But the heart of the matter is that we live in a country where certain rights are for ALL people: Christian and Atheist, gay and straight, male and female, and every other living person has this promised to them: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Thomas Jefferson didn’t write “Oh, but not woman” or “Oh, but not homosexual people.” ALL MEN.
I am a Christian, and I support human rights. I support equality for all. I think that they should have the same rights as any of us, because we live in the “land of the free, and the home of the brave.” It’s not just the people who fit our mold of Christianity, it’s everyone. Everyone. We can’t pick and choose who gets the right to marry, the right to this and the right to that, because that’s not what this country was founded upon.
“Oh, deep in my heart. I do believe… we shall all be free someday.”
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Here she stands today, in her brilliant shining way

 

So, the year was 2012. I had transferred out of a fairly right wing college the year before and my best friend/roommate was still there. I guess, subconsciously, we decided to go out with a bang. The election the year was the marriage amendment for Minnesota. 

The school was strongly on the Vote Yes side. So, we took matters into our own hands. Northwestern has a rock where students were allowed to paint messages. So we took painted the rock with the HRC logo and took pictures of us with the Vote No: Don’t Limit The Freedom To Marry signs. We were not known for speaking up and we were terrified. We received some backlash – we received some judgement. Not even six hours later, some dickheads painted over it with black spray paint. Not even a new message over it, just completed silenced us.

But our voice was heard. We made our stand. We spoke our voice. Even though we were silenced, I have hope that it gave encouragement to anyone who isn’t perfectly straight. Who doesn’t fit the cookie-cutter mold. I still am very bitter towards my time at that school, for more reasons than just this and Ye Olde Christian College will get blog posts of it’s own about that. But for one of the first times in my life, I let my opinion be known, we spoke out about something we were passionate about.


And it was worth it.