Gender from another world

It’s been a really long time since I’ve posted and I’m sorry about this.  I suppose this is the specific post, I’ve been procrastinating, so maybe it will speed up from here.  I’ve been spending more of my time for the past while thinking about gender issues than about Autistic issues per se.  It’s been hard to talk freely without talking about that.  But I was some combination of embarrassed to talk about it and concerned that it was off topic.  Maybe off-topic was just an excuse for nervousness; in any case, that excuse has been dispelled.  I have found plenty of tie-ins to Autism and neurodiversity.

News In Brief: I Now Identify as Female by the Most Relevant Definitions

The above squid may sound tentative and hedged, but actually it’s not.  As I’ve discussed before, my experience of gender doesn’t map very well into the categories that anybody else I’ve seen talks about it, including the trans community.  I have what you would call body dysphoria—my somatosensory map of my body does not match my body, but it only matches a female body a little bit better.  It doesn’t really match anything real; my concept of my body is a confused mess.  I don’t exactly fit either traditional gender role very well, though I have a lot in common with Autistic women, more so than Autistic men.  And my previous post about authenticity should make it clear that “my true self” is not a terribly coherent  concept for me.

I shouldn’t really be surprised.  I don’t think it language, and often my internally relevant concepts are not the same or easily translatable to the culturally relevant concepts.  But I’m used to translating as best I can because communication is important.  I’d been resistant to calling myself trans for a long time, because it was a complicated cultural concept that I didn’t fully understand, and wasn’t sure I fit.  It was also a scary cultural identity associated with persecution of a new kind that I hadn’t really previously experienced.  So I was erring on the side of not being transgender or transsexual or trans-anything.  I recognized that I almost certainly counted under the broad category “gender-queer” but I sort of left it at that mostly in terms of recognizable cultural categories.

On the other hand, I noticed increasingly over time that mentally and socially, as opposed to physically, I had more traits that my friends considered feminine than masculine.  As I’ve learned more about philosophy of language, always a favorite subject, I’ve come to the belief that most complicated words like “female” are collections of properties that commonly go together rather than terms with a precise definition.  I realized its a common deep mistake in thinking about natural language words as having a definition based on an essential characteristic (like have two X chromosomes or not being born with a penis).  Instead words have a prototypical concept of what they apply to, that satisfies all their relevant properties but a halo of examples that satisfy enough of those properties to be mentally grouped with the prototype.  Birds in general can fly, but penguins are birds.  Rock songs in general have certain guitar rhythms but some recognizably rock songs have no guitar at all.

I’m a girl like that.

The Only Part That’s Really New Here is My Understanding of Words

I spent a few years, just saying things to my friends like “If you think of me as a girl, you’ll be less confused.”  I spent ever longer just trying to get my friends who were mostly girls to treat me like they treat each other.  This was frustratingly difficult because a frequent response was, “I dont’ treat girls and boys differently,” and being somewhat offended.  The problem is that in practice “treating boys and girls the same” means treating them the same aside from recognizing that girls are girls and boys are boys.  Nobody notices they’re doing it.  The most open minded people would still assume that I was masculine in an new trait that they didn’t know about me.  I was a boy with an increasing number of exceptions, but I had to ask for them one at a time.  I wish I could give examples but there aren’t really words I know for the difference.  It’s a lot more obvious with boys to each other though.  People would say things in front of me that they wouldn’t say with a girl present, especially they would say things about girls and generalize about their feelings or social actions.  Other things are more subtle.  Social actions and degrees of confidence and such are just interpreted differently.  “Polite” means different things.

But even “If you think of me as a girl, you’ll be less confused,” only helped so much.  It was hard to remember and it was probably though about only when confused. I realized I should have just said “I’m female” or at least “I’m socially female.” Because think of me as female and you will make correct inferences is what “I’m female” means.

So I say that now.  And I’ve come to understand that that makes me count as transgendered.  So I say that now, too.

What’s Going On? How Did I Get This Way? This is Suppose to Be Sort of Uncommon, Right?

It’s probably not a coincidence that I’m Autistic and Trans.  Lots of people have suggested that there is a neurological origen to gender atypicality.  Neurological weirdnesses go together, because the same sort of mutations and developmental stresses that cause one can cause another.  I used to think that my gender issues were mostly caused by being poked, but I think the causality is if anything the other way.  There is a theory that there is something in your brain “knows” what gender you are supposed to be at a pre-verbal level and it can get confused by pre-natal hormones.  The thought is that part also determines what hormones it should expect to find in your body, explaining why hormones treatment improves the mood of transexuals before physical changes are noticed.  This idea intrigues me and I’m eager to try out hormones to find out if it makes me happier or more effective in some way.

When I was little, I reacted to messages people were telling me about boys and girls.  I interpreted the messages about girls as if people were talking about what I was, but wasn’t allowed to be: pretty, precious, nurturing, like pink and dolls.  I interpreted things they said about boys as things about what I was supposed to be morally: tough, athletic, dirty, like blue and fast things.  I wanted to be good, so I tried to be both.  I think this was the source of much later confusion.  Unlike stereotypes, I didn’t protest when people called me a boy.  I protested when people said or implied that boys couldn’t also be girls.  In practice, I knew which way opinion lied; I hid most of my girl things and watched girl shows in secret.  I tried to be friends like girls a lot, but not by persuading them I was one of them.  Instead I marketed myself as a boy willing to do girl thing with them which made me rare and valuable.  This was a reflection of by seeing being a boy too as desirable because everyone said I was supposed to be a boy.

I even learned to like some boyish things like climbing trees and squishing bugs.  I think it didn’t bother me because I didn’t think they made me ugly.  Green Lady still wanted me.  (I think she wanted me as a boy and liked when I got dirty, but I misinterpreted her and instead had the idea that I was secretly a sex object in disguise reinforced.  I had a very culturally female response to being poked.  I wasn’t outraged; I though it was what I was for.  I think this caused me to internalize sexism against myself in a way that MTF often don’t.  This makes me “more authentic” but not exactly in a good way.)  Anyway, I learned to like those activities in a genuine way.  As such I think I developed a real boy-persona that comes out sometimes, but is usually childlike.  On the basis of this I’ve previously identified as gender fluid or changing my gender at different times.  I may still be this, but I’m primarily female so I don’t use it as my main identity term, because its just too confusing.  More recently, I joke about my “tomboy phase.”

When I hit puberty I had a lot of body changes that I didn’t like.  Secondary sex characteristics bothered me in a way that primaries never did.  Even more upsetting, trying to spend time with girls was seen as a romantic thing.  I desperately wanted a girlfriend so I could talk to her every day.  I finally did get a girlfriend in high school and she’s still my best friend, even though the romance part didn’t work out.  The romance part wasn’t the point.  I managed to network from her and be friends with her friends and thus began my being mostly friends with girls.  I learned most of what social skills I have from them, so I blend in fairly well.  This was probably the main thing preventing a gender identity crisis from happening sooner.

Eventually a few close friends basically recognized me as female, but I want the world to.

Figuring Out the Right Words Can Have Useful Practical Consequences

Realizing I was trans allowed me to recognize that advice to trans people applied to me.  It seems to be overwhelmingly true that trans people are better off expressing their true gender publicly, despite possible ridicule and discrimination.  And when I realized this advice applied to me, I realized it made sense.  I’m not very used to choosing my own clothes.  Clothes make lots of random cultural statements that I don’t understand.  I feel safest going with generic clothes I know.  But my current clothes state to the world that I’m male; they are lying and misleading.  They make it harder to be seen and treated as female.  I plan to fix this problem.

So I’m getting new clothes and shaving my legs and learning to use makeup and using laser hair removal on my facial hair and things like that.  I’m trying to get my body to tell the truth more or less.  I think of it in the same sort of spirit as stimming in public, to tell the truth about my Autism.  I plan to eventually get hormone treatment to make my body grow into a shape that tells the truth as well as maybe give my brain the hormones it wants.  I’m still scared about surgeries so I don’t know if I’ll do anything more drastic.  But I’m going to try to be publicly a woman as a long term goal.

I’m Declaring This Part of My Life to Be On Topic for this Blog 

I think gender is a neurodiversity issue in lots of possible ways; (for example, I think sexism is partially about devaluing and misinterpreting the characteristics of female brains.)  I think I’m going to offend a few people with my observations here, but I’m pressing on in the name of pursuit of truth.  I don’t claim to speak for everyone, but I will dare to speak to the broader relevance of my own case.

P.S. If y’all could refer to be as “she” in the future when talking about me, (I hope you talk about me… 😉 ) that would be awesome.  I won’t flip out if you forget.  I’m too naturally bad about grammar to be that obsessed with pronouns anyway.

Hopefully, I’ll post more soon about a different, but possibly related topic.  Squid, out.

Posted in Examples from my life, Meta, Theory | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

I’m an echolalia

For me, at least, Echolalia, like Squid, is a disability accommodation.

How I’m an Echolalia

*Sometimes when somebody says something to me.  I respond with “I’m <x>”  Where <x> is the direct object or last word or sometimes other patterns of their sentence.  An article or other determiner is used if relevant.  Example:

“I read your post about echolalia.”

“I’m a post about echolalia!” or “I’m my post about echolalia!” depending on what I want to emphasize.

The response is often done with exaggerated excited affect, the way one might say “wow, me too!”

*Sometimes I just repeat the last or other key word, replacing the opening consonants, if any with “squ”.

“I read your post about echolalia”


The response is made in an emphatic assertive tone as if I’m saying “Exactly.”

Naturally this sounds incredibly silly.

Why would I do this?

It lets me engage with an mirror what the person just said to me and communicate that I’m listening.  I lets me emotionally express that I’m following the conversation and I’m excited about that even if I don’t have anything much to say.  I’m used to using nodding or “ok” or “uh huh” or other standard acknowledgments as filler.  They don’t guarantee any deep engagement.

I don’t think that “ok” normally guarantees engagement.  I think neurotypicals fill this roll with body language and eye contact and other incomprehensible and distracting neurotypical stuff like that.  I can’t do that so I do this instead.

Related Phenomena that are not exactly Echolalia as commonly described

*It’s very hard for me to put emotions in words without going through a stage of expressing them with appropriate song lyrics.  Importantly, I copy the intonation and voice quality of the singer as best I can.  I’m basically borrowing their expressiveness as a template for figuring out how to express it myself.  It would work nearly as well to use any recording of somebody expressively speaking, but music has the added benefit of pulling emotions to the surface.  (Which it seems to do for nearly everybody, not just me or autistic people.)

*I have certain exclamations with associated tones that I use outside of any context where they denotationally make sense.  For example saying “Isn’t it?” whenever I agree with a statement in a certain way, regardless of the syntax of the statement.

“For squid’s sakes I just talked to him yesterday!”

“Yeah, isn’t it?”

It’s hard for me to generalize intonation patterns so it’s easier to learn them for just specific phrases and separate denotations and connotations into different words.   Some of my phrases don’t really ever make denotational sense, for example the exclamation “Bats!”  Bats is very hard for me to translate into text.  I also don’t remotely know why it’s bats.  I’m just copying, personalizing and using somebody else’s expressiveness.  I learned bats from somebody else who is really weird and has communication difficulties, but not necessarily in an autistic way.

General Validity and Significance

I think other autistic people do this a lot too.  I have an autistic friend who says “blecholalia instead of squecholalia.”  The difference is which consonants are more fun, probably.  Sometimes I say “blecholalia” around her, because it makes me feel closer to her.  She has variants of most of the others, too.  In particular we learn stock phrases from each other a lot.  Other autistic people I know do similar stuff sometimes, but I know her the best.

I would be a squid if I didn’t mention Julia Bascom’s post on the subject of echolalia.  It’s a lot more evocative and less analytical; I think it’s a complimentary approach.  I think we’re talking about the same thing but I can’t me completely sure.  It evokes a generalization of what I’m talking about, and I manage to concretely explain a few examples of what she’s talking about.  Also, her post is really beautiful.  Read it.  Now.

I think Autistic people do this stuff a lot to better express ourselves.  I think we’d do it more if it wasn’t embarrassing.  Me, I’m trying to do it more.  I think it would eliminate a third of my communication problems if I could use techniques like this freely, at the cost of looking really silly.  Sometimes I think the single most important work/school/life disability accommodation I need is just the ability to reliably get away with being unlimitedly harmlessly weird, without being called disruptive, seen as less intelligent or focused, or bullied or laughed at.

It’s not the only thing all of us need, but I think it would be a hugely useful right for autistic people to gain for how little it cost society to give it to us.  I think this is a useful generalization of being allowed to stim in public.

Cynical Theory about Human Nature

I think I’m starting to hate dignity, coolness and related social norms.  Autism and developmental disabilities have been around for a long time.  If culture seems designed to specifically oppress us, maybe that’s because it is so designed.  (Or maybe evolved if not deliberately designed.)  Fashion seems designed to require high dexterity and to be impossible to tolerate for people with tactile sensitivities.  Language is more subtle than it needs to be; it’s almost like a test.  Most “silly” things kids do actually make life easier.  Talking like a litte kid is easier but unacceptable after a certain age.

It’s as if much of society is designed to weed out undesirables.  We already know this is true about elaborate etiquete in upper class society.  Why wouldn’t the mainstream be designed to exclude the worst?

If this is true then it explains why neurotypicals are so flipped out about stimming and such.  Intellectually most people believe that everybody is human, but subconsciously normal people often don’t treat us as human.  What if they have instincts not to.  What if we seem like bad company as a deep evolved response.

It makes me worry that getting the most obviously deserved changes will continue to experience resistance.  It makes me scared of what we’re up against.  But I don’t despair.  Society has conquered instincts before.

I need to continue this line of thought in future posts, but for now, this is veering off topic and getting long.

Enough of This Depressing Stuff

So in summery, I’m echolalia, because I’m learning to use words from other people and separating expressing myself from literal meaning so I can do what at a time, because both together are too hard.  This is totally worth being really silly.  And that’s what I have to say about that!  Squid.

Posted in Examples from my life, Theory | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Complicated Squids about Consent

Eek, I totally haven’t posted in a month.  I’m sorry.  I’ve sort of had a backlog of really emotionally heavy post ideas that I wasn’t ready for, but still distracted me from writing anything light.  Also getting my cast off caused me to rush into spending most of my typing energy editing my current novel project.  But I can write this now, so I will.

Trigger Warning : This is going to be about Rape and Child Sexual Abuse and Stuff Like That

I’m talking about consent here, mostly consent to have sex.  There is a daunting amount of theory that already exists about consent in various feminist and other circles and I don’t feel anywhere close to being able to add to the general theory.  But I’ve always been bothered by the way consent and “ability to consent” is talked about and how it meshes or fails to mesh with my own experience.  And my community has recently been complaining rightly about various decisions to deny the right to have sex to intellectually disabled people based on “ability to consent” language.  I can’t speak directly for intellectually disabled people, but the way my experiences have been misleadingly talked about give me some insight into the problematic ways the mainstream thinks about consent.  I think some of those thought patterns explain why judges end up thinking its a good idea to prevent ID people from having sex.  I think some of the same mistakes are happening.

This is mostly going to be an appeal for people to think differently about why sexual abuse is bad, in a way that actually takes into account my experiences.  I don’t have a full theory, but anybody who does needs to take into account this kind of data.  Some already do I think, but some definitely don’t already.  I’m writing this to convince those that don’t and give a possibly new argument for the use of those that do.

Why Kids “Can’t Consent” to Sex

When I was first talking about my child sexual abuse experiences to other people, I was really insulted by the idea that I was definitionally innocent, no matter my role in what happened.  I was even more angry at the ideas that things that were done to me by force and things that were done to me by persuasion were the same.  I remember my childhood far too vividly to write off my child self as not yet a person, not yet a moral agent.  I remember making decisions, some good, some bad, some lacking critical information, some impulsive and some thought through to some extent.  I’m ashamed of some decisions and proud of others.  There are plenty that I write off due to my very forgivable ignorance, but there are also that I think truly reflected the sort of person I was.

I eventually came to basically agree with them as I contemplated how completely outmatched I was by my abused, but I still want and feel I deserve the ability to think of the decisions that I made in that situation as actual decisions even if they are decisions in extreme circumstances.  And I think I was right to feel insulted.  Many of the people who told me I couldn’t consent were conceptualizing this inability in really insulting ways.  They were absolving me for all the wrong reasons.  I think these bad conceptualizations are common.

Why People Thought I Couldn’t Consent

*There is an idea that children are not smart enough to understand sex and so they have to be protected from its potential negative consequences.  This is so close to reasonable and yet so destructive, all the more so because the difference between it and reality is so subtle.

Here, maybe this will help: Imagine a species whose adults have exactly the intellectual  and emotional regulation capabilities of six-year-old humans, but enough physical capabilities to survive in the wild.  It’s likely that they would be able to create something like a civilization, though probably not as sophisticated as ours.  I’m basically certain that they would have a sense of morality even if it is less nuanced.  They would of course have sex with each other, they have to reproduce after all.  That sex would me on average much more poorly thought through.  But I hope everybody should agree that humans should not prevent this entire alien species from having sex with each other for their own good.  (If you don’t agree, why aren’t you morally panicking about much dumber animals in real life that are allowed to have sex with each other in the wild.  Surely they understand what they’re doing even less?)

I think this illustrates the point that the problem with kids having sex isn’t an absolute lack of understanding, but a comparative lack of understanding compared to the adult that is abusing them.  I think kids can consent to sex with each other.  I think most people who have experienced sexual play with other kids growing up, understand this.  It may or may not be healthy.  It may or may not be a bad idea.  But it is definitely possible to be consensual.  (It is also possible to be nonconsensual of course.  Kids can force or coerce each other same as adults can.)

*People told me it was always completely impossible to resist an adults advances.  There’s not much to be said about this.  One only has to start to question it to see it for what it is, a poorly thought through attempt at reassurance that lots of people say, but nobody really believes.  “There’s nothing you could have done,” is a good short-term fix for guilt.  But it only increases feelings of helplessness.  Sometimes it’s true, particularly in violent cases.  But it’s not doing anybody any favors to force every survivor to that level of feeling traumatized just to get rid of guilt in a simpler way.  Sometimes “You could have avoided it, but only at the cost of something worse.  You made the correct decision between bad options and it wasn’t you’re fault you were in such a bad situation” is true and should be said.  But sometimes the kid didn’t make the correct decision.

In case it’s not clear, here is the real reason not to feel guilty in the very common case where the kid makes an actual choice to cooperate.  “It seemed worth it at the time.  You didn’t know it would make you feel this way so many years later.  And your ignorance isn’t culpable; you were a little kid and learning “common sense” takes time.  You’re not even necessarily gullible and even the gullible don’t deserve this.  You’re abuser knew or should have known you would feel this way.  They chose not to let that stop them.  They did this to you on purpose; you didn’t let this happen to you on purpose.”

*People told me or implied that children are not morally responsible for their decisions.

The problem is they also want to give you moral credit for whatever you did to survive.  Because they do realize how unfair it is to deny us that in many cases.  But in the manner of people who give inane reassurances to people they sympathize with but don’t respect (such as children and abuse survivors), they say nice things without worrying about their consistency, confident that we’ll never notice.  How exactly are my good decisions to my credit, but my bad decisions not to my blame?  Are you really saying I was a moral agent or are you just telling me to be proud to make me feel better?

But I remember being a moral agent.

I Remember… (Warning: Trigger intensity increasing)

At first I let her touch me, because she was my nanny and I was supposed to listen to her.  I grew to like the praise she would give me.  I grew to like the feelings of closeness.  But I really hated the physical feelings, and I didn’t always have the self control to hold still and cooperate.  She never needed force to start, but sometimes, at first, she needed force to finish.  Eventually I learned to cooperate.  She rewarded me with lots of love and understanding, lots of sympathy when it hurt or made me upset or confused.  Eventually I trusted her enough to ask not to play that game.  But then she’d ignore me and favor my little brother so I came to understand sex as the cost of my relationship with her.

I chose the relationship as more important.  Given that she was the only adult that accepted my weird autistic ways, I think I was actually making the correct choice.  I always said yes, from then on.  I even initiated when I needed attention and she always rewarded me.  I understood the exchange I was making, just not all of the consequences, and none of the wider social meaning.  But I don’t think any of that would have changed my choice much.  It was simply the best decision in the position I was in.  The choice I was offered was exploitative, but not, I think, coercive.  The status quo was always an option for me.  I could always have had her just leave me alone.  But that wasn’t what I wanted.

By the end I noticed something else.  I noticed she was desperate too.  I noticed that she was scared and sad.  I notices that what she did to me seemed to make her feel better.  I loved her.  She was my best friend and I wanted her to be happy.  So, by the end, I started initiating the game when I thought she wanted it, or just looked sad, not just when I needed attention.  By the end I was doing it for her, not for what it could get me.  It’s the first seriously selfless thing I can remember doing.  I’m actually proud of it still, even as I realize how screwed up her love was, mine wasn’t.

So Did I Consent Those Last Few Times?

I believe that what she was doing to me never stopped being bad, never stopped being abuse, never stopped being a thing that should be a crime.  But I think it’s a distortion to say that I wasn’t consenting by the end.  I like the power difference model in general, the concept that kids cannot consent because of differences of knowledge and power.  But by the end I wasn’t doing it out of desperation or being exploited.  I was self-destructively offering myself to help a pedophile I loved get what they wanted, a kid.  I was poorly informed about the consequences, but that was just me being a kid doing something that was a bad idea.

I think the critical problem is not that I wasn’t freely saying yes, but that she had a responsibility to say no.  There was no failure of will on my part, just of failure of responsibility on hers.  Sex with kids screws them up; this is known.  Respecting my wishes as a person doesn’t enter into it.  I wasn’t doing it for me.  She was the only direct beneficiary of the sex itself.  If she really cared about me it would not have been worth it to her, to get what she wanted at the cost she knew I would pay.

Why Poking Kids is actually bad.

The special power relationship is important, but the special responsibility is why the rule is actually exceptionless.  Power relationships can be overcome.  But kids are a work in progress.  It is the responsibility of all adults collectively to make a world for them and to teach them smart lessons.  All evidence suggests that if it’s possible to have a healthy sexual relationship between an adult and a child, then it’s really hard and the consequences of failure are spectacular.  Power relationships are overcome by putting the needs of the weaker party first.  Kids are general not the ones who want sex in these relationships.  Somebody who put the kid’s interests first would take sex off the table because it’s just such a bad idea for the kid.

It’s not about what the kid can’t do; it’s about what the adult can’t do.  The adult can’t accept the kids consent with a clear conscience.  The kid is free to answer but the question should never arise.

So about ID adults.

ID adults are not works in progress.  ID adults have sex drives so the sex can be for their actual benefit.  ID adults have no massive power difference between each other.  ID adults cannot simply wait to grow up and have safer sex then.  These should be obvious and sufficient arguments.

It seems like the only reason that people might think preventing an kind of disabled adults from having sex is a good idea is by analogy to kids and the erroneous belief that the problems with kids having sex are due to the above explanations, particularly some requirement of average human adult intelligence to consent to something that most of the animal world does all the time.  They are misusing the metaphor.

I Don’t Want My Experiences As a Survivor Used to Deny the Rights of Consenting Adults to Have Sex

So that’s what I’m angry about, and that’s what I want people to take into account in these conversations.


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Traumatized Ever After

I was supposed to post like a week ago; I know.  This is still really hard.  In addition to my hand I’ve had to deal with an Activities of Daily Living emergency over the last few weeks.  This post is not going to be about that though.  I don’t want to deal with writing about that until I get my cast off on Tuesday.  So something different now and probably short.

Of Course I Always Say It’s Going To Be Short…

So…  Stories are important.  Stories help organize people’s memory of their lives and decide what they’ve learned.  Stories let us know what to hope for.  Stories often have messages and it’s important that those messages be good.  I’m not going to waste time arguing for these points because I think people already know that narrative matters basically all the time unless they’re specifically trying to be defensive but implying that it doesn’t.

People already know this and they already know how to object to a story with a bad message.  If a story allows a bad means to cause a good end without consequences, people who take the story seriously might well be bothered.  If the portrayal of a minority is a negative stereotype people notice.

But there are other problems with narrative that are less specific and are often missed.

Against Happy Endings

Most stories have happy endings.  Most that don’t have fully tragic endings without hope, or certain kinds of bittersweet that are still really tidy and extra resolved.  Or mind-screw endings that barely count as endings.  But other than those fiction in general has a problem of too much simplicity in the endings and its a problem.

Concrete and obvious example: killing off failed love interests.  (Or worse killing off disabled people, but that has a more concrete problem, obviously.)  Often this is done because they cannot be part of the perfect happy ending.

But What About the Readers That Know They Cannot Be Part Of a Perfect Happy Ending?

When I was a kid my parents were in denial about my problems and super proud of my intelligence.  The told me constantly of all the impressive things I would do.  This sounds nice except that it didn’t take long for me to know it wasn’t true.  I just knew it was expected of me.  I knew I was destined to disappoint them over and over and wondered if they would still love me after next time.

When I was a kid all my stories had tragic endings.  (Except the ones I wrote in school to satisfy the teachers so they wouldn’t call my parents.  But I didn’t care about those.)  I couldn’t relate to a happy ending.  It didn’t seem to be about me.

This is still true.  Even as I’ve spent most of my life trying to “fix” myself, with clever solutions and hard work so I can “reach my potential,” I always knew the ending was always the same.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’ve made lots of real improvements in my life.  Though most of my progress has involved realizing somethings that I want or that people want from me are impossible and working around them.

I know I will never be a world class scientist.  I know that I may or may not ever have a normal full time job.

A Call For Shiny Shiny Mediocrity

I wish there more stories about learning to lower your expectations, about learning to settle.  I wish there were more stories where the characters don’t get everything they want, or even everything they think they need, but they’re okay.  I want more stories where they’re not even anything you’d call okay, but, given the worse alternatives they escaped, they still sparkle with the hope of it all.

I want more stories where the heroes live traumatized ever after: they’ll never be the same after the plot, but there’re alive and they have each other.

I want more stories where the plan to solve the big problem or defeat the big villain turns out to be unworkable, but the heroes manage to do something worthwhile to mitigate it nonetheless.

You know: stuff like that.

Obvious Hypocrisy Aversion

 Of course, I write stories, so if I want this I should write them myself.  I am doing and will keep doing.  But I want more stories like this to exist than I can reasonably write.  So y’all should write them too.

Final Squids

So yeah.  I wrote a post.  I think I get to say that was sort of topical.  It was also actually shorter than usual, though not quite short.  Which is good I guess.  I’ll start to post some more after my cast gets off.  Squid out.

Posted in Emoting at the internet, Examples from my life | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Acting out myself

I haven’t posted in a while because my left arm is in a cast.  Apparently I broke a small wrist bone when I fell.  So it’s sort of hard to type.  I have an elaborate setup to manage, but I’ve been prioritizing other projects.  But I’m going to try to manage an update or two every week until I get the cast off in a month.

I Might as Well Write About the Injury Then

Not so fast, bold text.  Things wrong with bones are not exactly topical and I don’t really have much to say by way of analyzing my clumsiness.

But the Doctor Actually Took My Pain Seriously This Time

Well yeah, I could talk about that I guess.

Pain Behavior

Doctors make lots of important decisions based on using the body language of the patient to get at their internal state.  They want you to be grimacing, wincing and stuff like that.  Bad things happen if they catch you faking, even if you’re just faking so you look like you really feel.

*I only have an expressive face when I’m doing it on purpose.

*I’ve sort been trained not to flinch, because lots of tactile input that was socially obligatory like holding hands or tapping on the shoulder or “this little piggy” really really hurt when I was a kid.  Not to mention all the practice I got holding still while getting poked.  I won all those no flinching games as a kid.

Oh No!  I’m About to Define Terminology!

Automatic: A reaction that I didn’t have to learn and would be hard to stop doing.  Basically a reflex or natural gesture that works.  This is facial expressions and flinching for most people, and tone of voice and eye contact and all those things that I’m bad at and are the basis of western civilization right? You’re not supposed to have to do them on purpose.

*Very few things are automatic for me.  I had to learn to smile.  I  had to learn to have a happy or sad voice.  I had to learn to grimace in pain.

*I did not have to learn to flinch or pull away from pain.  My reflexes largely work.  I might even find them harder than average to overcome, but I can like anybody else.

Habit: Like automatic but can be learned by doing it over and over.  It’s what you usually do so you dont’ have to think, but you do have to do.

*I’m now in the habit of speaking with a tone of voice and using facial expressions, even though they are not automatic.

*But I’m only in the habit of using faces for expressing emotions and social content to other people not for emoting when alone or responding to pain.

*I’m now not in the habit of flinching away from pain, or rather I’m in the habit of suppressing that automatic reaction.  I have to remember to flinch and its usually a bit delayed.  Similarly I often say “ow” quite late, but that’s mostly language production delay.

Natural: If I do the action it doesn’t feel wrong or fake to me.   I can only enjoy sympathy for a natural expression.  Some things are not automatic but are natural if I learn them.  Some things that are automatic feel unnatural to suppress.  Sometimes habits can become more natural when I feel I understand the purpose and narrative content of them better.

*Some kinds of facial expressions and tones of voice feel natural to me in some situations.  Those tend to be the ones I use.  I’m glad to have learned them.  They feel like parts of me that I had to learn instead of was born with.  But sometimes I’m ashamed because I first learned them for manipulative attention seeking reasons.  So I’ll be embarrassed to use them around people or in situations where I feel judged.

*Those expressions tend to be exaggerated and childish adding to my embarrassment.  See Immaturity 1.  Age appropriate expressions and tones feel unnatural.

*It feels unnatural to avoid happy stimming (arm flapping or jumping up and down etc.) when happy but it doesn’t feel unnatural to avoid flinching.

All combinations are possible:

*But almost all automatic actions feel natural at least for me.  The ones that don’t are rare but horrifying.

Anyway You Can Imagine How I Have a Hard Time Getting Doctors to Take Me Seriously

This makes me afraid to go to doctors until I’m scared or really upset.  This makes me frequently paranoid that a doctor is missing something even when things are benign.  Even when I know things are serious I’m afraid doctors won’t believe me.  I’m afraid to show reaction that might be questioned so my expressiveness goes even farther down making the initial problem worse.

As I understand it, even normal people have the problem with doctors sometimes and complain about it.  But imagine how much worse it can be when nobody who doesn’t know me well can read me.

Last summer, I spent several hours with chest pain bad enough that it was hard to walk before I convinced myself to go to the hospital.  I was more afraid of it being a muscle cramp and being looked down on than I was of dying of a heart attack.  It turned out I had Pleurisy, but the doctors took the heart possibility pretty seriously and sort of chewed me out for waiting so long.  I resolved to do something about this problem.

Acting Out Myself

I got it right this time by acting.  I’m a pretty good actor within the range of what’s natural for me.  I can method act; I don’t have to be in the situation; I just have to imagine the situation.  I can act out different habits.  The logic of a character can overcome a habit if the justification is compelling.  If I dissociate just right I can treat emotional temperament as a sort of situation and play somebody more irritable, more confident or more depressed.

I can act out things that are unnatural to me like Neurotypical adult body language or a fake accent, but its less fluid and less convincing and doesn’t feel as emotionally real.  (I can often get around this playing table top role playing games, but not to fool a doctor.)

But I didn’t need to look neurotypical, I just needed to look in pain.  The hard part was realizing that.  It took a clarity I’ve only recently had about my own Autism to not feel ashamed of faking to tell the truth.  It also took that clarity to realize the non-deception would work.

But now I think I’ve figured out doctors.

But Here’s the Politically Controversial Part

I don’t think that most of the Autism community would blame me for doing any of this.  But they would probably defend it as a necessary evil, but not healthy or genuine.  They’d say I shouldn’t have to.

Indeed I probably shouldn’t have to but I think it’s perfectly healthy.  I believe that everything natural to be is me not just everything automatic.  (Of course if I’m roleplaying a situation I’m not in or order to get treated like I’m in it, that’s lying, but the point is this time I was roleplaying the situation I was in.  I was only playing different habits and temperament.)  I am everybody I can learn to be; that’s just growing.  I shouldn’t have to grow to get what I need, but if I can it’s a good idea.

This is totally not to say that everybody can fix this problem this way.  If normal pain behavior is unnatural to you then this won’t work.  In my case, sounding like an adult is unnatural to me, but I still wan’t to be treated like one.  In these cases there is no substitute for standing up and demanding rights.  But fighting is harder and it’s worth prioritizing the fights that are most frequently unavoidable.

Disclaimer to Any Strawpersons I May Have Offended

It’s possible that the disapproval I sense from the autistic community toward anything that could be seen as passing extending to decry stuff like this is actually just the embodiment of my insecurity that wherever I go, people will disapprove of me for something.  If so, awesome!  Somebody please tell me that so I can be less insecure.  I’m not suggestion anybody is being dogmatic; if this is obviously good, cool!  I’m sorry I didn’t realize it was obvious.  I never know what is obvious.

And if people actually have the opinion I’m attributing to them I’m still not actually making a serious accusation.  Being forced to pass is really bad when it’s bad.  Overgeneralizing is totally understandable in these circumstances, sometimes even worth it.  But I think in this case, flexibility is worth it.

That’s Enough for Today

I’m going to talk more about acting and naturalness later.  I think my superpowers are as topical as my disabilities and neutral differences.  Especially if they’re superpowers that can be taught.  So I’ll come back to this general topic again some day.  Squid out.


Posted in Examples from my life, Theory | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Loud Hands Project

It’s my turn to make a post for the loud hands blog-around.  I’ve been really excited and have spent the past few weeks thinking about lots of ideas about things I could say.  But in further proof that my life is weird and slightly offensive sit com, I badly injured my left hand slipping on some water and now I can’t type nearly as quickly or easily as usual.  But this is important, so me and my one remaining loud hand that isn’t in a splint are going to do what we can here.

What’s This Loud Hands Project Thingie, and Why Do I Care?

Well it all started with somebody else’s blog post, well actually it started with the practices described in it.  The post is Quiet Hands; and you should read it because its really good.  It made me angry.  I didn’t have those posters in my school.  I wasn’t ever that well trained.  I’m really glad I wasn’t because my parent’s far less disciplined attempts to get me to stop stimming were bad enough.  They only yelled at me and shamed me.  They made me hesitant and shy and secretive, but they couldn’t make me stop.  I can’t imagine ever stopping.  Even still, the amount that I used to suppress my own stimming used to hold me back a lot.

I was allowed to “fidget”.  As long as I looked ADD it was okay, because that was a less scary diagnosis.  But in practice that meant I could do nervous stims and thinking stims but not happy stims.  There’s a terrible grayness to my memories of my early teens.  And it is wan’t enough to process the input I was getting at school.  I had frequent meltdowns which I had to pretend were migraines in order to get the quiet I needed.  Because my parents would accept any explanation but the truth.

I think the difference is they weren’t trying to “cure” my autism, but were desperately in denial that I had it.  I didn’t know what it was, but I think they knew what they feared.  I was allowed to be weird any way but the ways that came natural to me.  My body was very confused and so my thoughts were confused and I knew something was very wrong and couldn’t tell what.  It wasn’t until I met my first other Autistic friend in late high school that I was reminded how to move like me again.

I Have Data!

*I have measurably vastly better short term memory if I’m allowed to flap during the test than if I’m not.  Grabbing my hands can reset my memory.  I’m storing data in muscle positions.

*When doing a hand task instead of a verbal task, I usually stim verbally by babbling nonsense syllables.  I can reliably beat the game “Perfection” with babbling, but have never won without babbling.

*My typing word count nearly triples with scheduled stim breaks.

*At the end of high school I broke a rib and every sudden move hurt for months.  (It healed slowly because I couldn’t stop reinjuring it by moving.)  This was one of the major factors in the downward spiral into depression that happened that year.  I couldn’t stim so I couldn’t feel emotions.  (They say us Auties don’t have emotions.  That’s because they teach us not to stim, before they ask how we feel.)  This is how I got the affectionate nickname, broken boy.  It was actually a weirdly sweet reclamation of broken.  Not being able to stim for a practical reason may have been worth it, because it was then very easy to see what I had lost and how important it was.  So I prioritized always keeping it after that, no matter what anybody thought.

Scientific Conclusion: This is totally not a pointless repetitive behavior!

The Project

I’ve waited my whole like for a place to belong, a place to be allowed to exist.  In high school I found another example of somebody like me; now I’m finding a community, a community that is just now being built.  There are people now to tell me I’m okay and that I’m wanted and affirm that I really need what I need.  In the few months since I’ve found this I’ve not only gotten happier, I’ve gotten more functional and productive in almost every area.  Feeling allowed to exist really really makes it easier to live.

The Loud Hands Project is an attempt to help make this community, and make it more visible.  I shouldn’t have had to wait so long to find this.  Nobody should, but plenty of people out there must still think they’re alone.  And my parents and Julia’s teacher’s should have known better.  The world needs to hear about us, because the world needs to know.

My Hand Hurts: I’m Going To Copy/Paste Now

The Loud Hands Project is a transmedia publishing and creative effort by the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, spearheaded by Julia Bascom. Currently, we are raising money towards the creation of our first and foundational anthology (Loud Hands: Autistic People, Speaking) and accompanying website.

Loud Hands: Autistic People, Speaking features submissions by Autistic authors speaking about neurodiversity, Autistic pride and culture, disability rights and resistance, and resilience (known collectively by the community as having loud hands). Submissions guidelines can be found here. The anthology is the first of a projected series featuring contributions from Autistic writers stressing the preservation and celebration of Autistic culture and resilience. The website will host shorter and multi-media submissions along the same lines, along with additional materials and videos, and serve as a focal point for the project and community. Future anticipated facets of The Loud Hands Project include

*community- and youth-organizing components

*an archive of our community’s foundational documents

*the development of materials for newly-diagnosed people of all ages and abilities explaining their diagnosis and welcoming them into the community

*specific responses campaigns to instances of bullying and abuse

*additional and longer videos

*a means for members of the Autistic community to provide feedback and guidance and share their vision for what they would like to see next from the project

*community-generated texts in answer to questions such as what does autism mean to you;why does Autistic culture matter; what do you wish you had known growing up Autistic; and how can the Autistic community cultivate resilience?

With an overarching commitment to undoing the cultural processes and ghettoization that make autistic people strangers to ourselves and spectators in our own stories. Put another way, The Loud Hands Project consists of multiple prongs organized around the theme of what the Autistic community refers to as “having loud hands”–autism acceptance, neurodiversity, Autistic pride, community, and culture, disability rights and resistance, and resilience.  We focus on cultivating resilience among autistic young people and empowering the Autistic community writ large in building communities and cultures of ability, resistance, and worth. To quote Laura Hershey: “you weren’t the one who made you ashamed, but you are the one who can make you proud.”

Yup Totally All That Stuff
I’m going to stop trying to type now.
Posted in Emoting at the internet, Examples from my life | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Immaturity Part 1: Why I’m Flamboyant

I’m starting a series about immaturity.  I’m seen and identify as in various ways immature for my age.  I feel this usually derives from my Autism.  This gets messy in the politics of Autism, because we really do not want to be seen as children in the sense of not knowing what’s good for us.  But while I don’t think that I’m a child in that sense, I think I’m a like a child or teenager in other senses.  I suspect this is common and at the root of some of our problems in getting legitimacy.  People assume that if you’re a child one way you’re a child in other ways.  People like to assume neat categories like that.  But there are ways I’m old for my age too and there are ways that I’m a normal adult.  There are also ways that I’m not like an adult but only because I haven’t been treated as one.

The Immaturity Series

The immaturity series will be devoted to examples of why I (as well as some examples from friends) am seen as childlike and what is the root causes behind it.  I will compare and contrast to why actual children or teenagers have the trait in question.  I will discuss either why I can’t stop doing the childish behavior or why I don’t want to stop and shouldn’t have to.  I will contrast it and show it’s interactions with ways that I’m grown up.  Over the course of the series I will argue that some rules about what is childish are counterproductive and recommend the childish behaviors even to normal people.  Others I will argue are arbitrary and should be ignored.  Others are a sign of disabilities that children have relative to adults but as not as afraid to display as disabled adults are because its expected; I argue that they should be expected in appropriately disabled adults as well because they are essentially disability accommodations even when kids do them.  Finally, some are simply entertaining; I will defend the idea of adults creating entertaining personae to gain acceptance and distinguish it from more objectifying self portrayals.

So without further ado:


I speak with exaggerated intonation and add lots of emotion to my words.   I like to sing along to really emotionally intense music and make dramatic gestures and extreme facial expressions in the mirror.  Other autistic people flap their hands expressively; I flap my whole arms, sometimes my whole body.  I like to make sudden sharp movements, even and especially when doing mundane tasks like getting dressed or closing doors.  When the gods of elaborate hyperbole convened in their unspeakable council before time properly began they voted almost unanimously—there was one vote against, the accursed traitor was instantly fallen upon and cast wailing into the outer darkness where he still remains to this day—to make me their eternal champion and avatar, and after that one and only vote, they voted no more, but merely consulted me whenever they disagreed, such was the depth of their faith in me, the faith from which the very universe itself was made as well and the loyalty that will one day destroy it upon my single spoken word, “enough!”

I also like long sentences.

Vivisecting a Phenomenon

Some of this is basically neurological and not really about emotions or maturity at all.  It’s very easy for me to lose track of how to control my body.  I have frequently lost hours just lying there forgetting how to move.  It’s more like being paralyzed than being depressed.  I could be thinking or feeling anything when it happens really.  Sometimes I have a really positive attitude and can just motivate myself to try to figure out my way out of it.  A positive attitude helps me get out of it, but does not constitute a way out of it.  I need more than motivation; I need motivation and a plan.  I need to actually figure out how to move and it’s often a geeky exercise in self-manipulation.  My body is still doing automatic actions and responding to discomfort or habit or external stimuli.  And sometimes I can move some part of my body and try to cause the movements of other parts by chain reactions.  After enough stimulation I’m free.

But fundamentally it’s not itself an attitude problem.  The inability to move is not causes by feelings; it is the cause of feelings.  The loss of motion comes first and the emotions come later (e.g. fear “help I can’t move!” and frustration “Why is my body no longer responding to commands?”).  It’s a problem of sensory-motor integration.  It’s solved my reminding my brain which buttons to push to make me move.  Strong decisive vigorous motions help remind my brain that I control my limbs and how it feels to move them.  I move this way as part of preventing getting frozen in various body parts and to help myself get out of it.

But Wait!  This is Still a Kid Thing!

Babies have to do this in the course of figuring out how to move their bodies for the first time.  I totally read about it in a book by a smart person who would know.  And Occupational Therapists have told me I still have vestiges of some infant reflexes, so parts of my brian might be reaaaallly undeveloped.  Anyway, older kids do this too, because while it’s not direly necessary, it’s still fun.  Feeling your body intensely is physically pleasurable.  Kid’s only stop once they develop a fair amount of self control.  The reasons they stop are to demonstrate that self control in order to look grown up, because people pressure them to in order to create a quieter environment and because this kind of moving is hard on older bodies and they want to save energy and wear on their joints.

I still move like a kid.  Partly this is because I have to.  Partly this is because I don’t have the physical self-control to stop very easily.  I can only stop by deliberately letting parts of my body switch off; I cannot switch to moving gently and gracefully like an adult at least not consistently.  During that period in the early teens where it is a social necessity to show how grown up you are, I mostly just turned off large parts of my body.  It was miserable and stressful and probably not really worth it.  Now I’m 30 and moving like a kid really hurts, but I still do it and I’ll probably keep doing it well after a doctor orders me to stop.  So far I’ve never had a very serious injury just from moving jerkily, but I’m sure I will when I’m older.  The alternative is worse.  Maybe I’ll have normal self control by then though.  I can hope.

But Sometimes It’s About Feelings After All

Sometimes I can close gaps in my ability to make myself move and get myself more stimulation for less joint violence by making my movement expressive.  Emotive gestures focus attention on the part doing the expressing; it’s basically a trick to force attention.   It’s often easier to stand up, even when alone, by indignantly rising to my feet in protest, then shifting out of character to walk away.  I get undressed much faster and easier by performing a strip tease for myself in the mirror.

I think I know where this comes from.  My executive functioning, my ability to make myself do things because they’re a good idea, my self control, is weak and variable.  Sometimes it’s so weak it can’t force my body to move.  But my ability to be socially motivated is comparatively strong.  This sounds like a contradiction with my Autism, but it’s not.  Autism is a weakness of social flexibility, of subtleties and synchronizing, of social perception, but not a lack of social motivation.  It’s a dirty lie that Autistic people don’t want friends or family or love as much.  Some people just give up on things they thing they can never have, most are motivated to avoid situations that promise to be social but in which it is bitterly obviously that no connection will be made.  As for me, I think I have the misfortune of being an Autistic Extrovert.  I have a little core of burning loneliness deep inside me and it is my strength.

I can make myself do practically anything if I can trick myself into believing its for attention.  This is how my sense of responsibility ever gets anything done.  I chose a goal for practical reasons and then find a way to frame it as attention seeking so I can actually make myself do it.  More often than not the audience is imaginary, but I still want to look showy even alone.  It feels good and it moves me to be dramatic.  I want to be cute, adorable, funny, mysterious and many other things, even when nobody is looking.  Like a little kid, I can’t do subtlety, so I get my attention by shear earnest intensity of feeling.  I’ve had a lot of strong emotional experience in my life so I can method act into really meaning almost any feeling.

Strong emotions are addictive.  I have quite a high tolerance and so I have the energy to cry at little things.  I have the energy to be terrified where most would only be anxious.  I have the energy to feel joy every time I feel wind at my back.  I have the energy to be excited every time I get to eat dessert.  Kids feel these things because they can as much as because they have to.  The kid emotional palate is exhausting, but I can keep up.  Strong emotions also have withdrawal.  I can’t get anything done without listening to and occasionally singing along to and meaning really emotionally loaded songs.  The exceptions are all do to some source of non-imaginary emotions nearby.  Boredom is an urgent crisis, lacking stimulation, even for a few minutes can lead to shutdown and loss of hours.  I think little kids really do live like this, so people should think twice before saying they have it easy.  Certainly the result looks childlike.

I Swear I’m Not A Sellout

So I clearly have this manic pixie dream girl image going on.  Not even really a male version of it or anything, the male version is a byronic hero and that’s all about angst.  (This is one of the reasons I tell people they will be less confused if they think of me as a girl.)  I don’t do angst; it’s too low energy.  But I’m definitely being an image, and it is definitely the source of what social acceptance I get.  I’m not to most people’s tastes and few want me around in large doses, but I really do get friends this way.  I even deliberately adopt childlike mannerisms that aren’t independently motivated to complete the picture.  Some of those have become pleasurable by association (e.g stickers) and some turn out to be good accommodations after all.  (e.g. talking like a four-year-old isn’t just cute it also requires less focus on motor coordination that talking normally.)

Lots of people in the Autistic community don’t really approve of this sort of thing normally.  It’s a survival strategy to package oneself as entertainingly silly, but it’s supposed to be artificial and objectifying and bad for being taken seriously.  One sure aspired to acting naturally and the world should learn to accept that.

But this is natural for me, now.  And it might just be natural for me naturally.  Some people are natural performers, why can’t some autistic people be?  Also neurotypical extroverts get to change themselves to market themselves and it often makes them happy.  I don’t want to be any more artificial than they are.

I think it’s okay, because i’m not deceiving people that I’m really just a kid inside.  I use adult vocabulary and talk about adult subjects (not just sex, but also careers and other kid-boring things).  I just talk about them like a kid.  I understand and admit exactly what I’m doing.  I make sure people can see the artifice.

Actually I Really Do Have Perspective, Honest

And unlike a kid, I actually have perspective.  This is what qualifies me to have opinions despite immature emotions.  I know they are immature emotions; see I just told you.  When I cry because I drop my ice cream I know how many orders of magnitude separate it from genocide.  I would cry that much harder for the about genocide if I could.  Nobody can.  The world is huge and the stakes are ridiculous and no person could have the emotional range to even do justice to really big problems without being totally indifferent to their individual life.  But I know what a little problem is.  I just map that to crying and a grown up problem to totally flipping out.  It’s just scaling.  But I do intellectually know the difference.

Nobody has the proper emotional response to politics.  Politics is far too big.  Every issue affects too many people.  It is not humanly possible to care enough.  The superiority grown ups feel at being able to be calm is a reflection of the fact that dissociating from the stakes improves objectivity.  Grown ups do this by dissociating from the reality of the stakes themselves and thus not feeling as strongly.  I do this by dissociating from my emotions and thus having objectivity despite feeling strongly.  I know my emotions are silly so they can’t fool me.

So I still get to have an opinion here is what I’m saying.

What Am I Asking For Here

I move and talk like this for the same reason kids do.  That reason has nothing to do with whether I understand things or have a mature perspective on things.  The actual content of what I’m saying should be taken seriously just as if told by somebody my age in the manner of somebody my age.  My emotional expressions and body language are perhaps better thought of and responded to as if I am a child.

I’m risking misunderstanding because people don’t like to process contrasts like that.  I take responsibility for reminding them, but I cannot be deterred, by the fact that some might never get it.  Because I would be as seriously misunderstood if I was seen as entirely my age.  So I chose truth and will live as an educational example about why the simple age category system needs to be broken down.

In Conclusion: I Have A Whale!

I was going to write a conclusion, but I got overcome by having a whale.  I’m thinking about my stuffed whale again, which I got for my 30th birthday.  I’m going to stop this far too long post now and go hug it because it hasn’t stopped making me excited every time I see it.  It’s the best whale ever and I dare not keep it waiting.

PS: As an illustrative example, this conclusion is completely true and happened as I said it.  I also planned it from the beginning.  If you understand the riddle of this contradiction, you will achieve enlightenment or at least understand my relationship to feelings.

Posted in Examples from my life, Meta, Theory | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Tired of Being Called Brave

My occupational therapist mentioned said something about how brave I was in the context of my last post about being poked (short definition molested as a kid, see previous post for full discussion).  I’m not really complaining at her, I don’t think she meant it in a way that was bad, but the phrasing reminded me of the whole “Brave for Sharing” squid, that I am now inspired to complain about.  It’s related to the “unspeakableness” and “incomprehensibleness” of child abuse that are much talked about, that I also complained about last time.  I’m going to zero in on that now.

On Being Called Brave by the Very People One Must Fear

I used to tell people I was molested as a kid a lot.  For a period in early college it was something everybody knew about me.  I had just started really knowing how to talk about it and I was very excited to be able to finally express in comprehensible terms its effects on me.  It had always come up often in my thoughts, long before I knew how to put it in words; it was a major aspect of my life, constantly there, that I didn’t know how to talk about.  Being poked is a world.  My relationship to power, to social boundaries, to my body, t0 my sense of purpose and value, all of those are colored by what happened and my thoughts about what happened.  Poked is a world much like Autism is a world; it connects to everything.  Once it had a name it went from an internal obsession to an external social obsession.  I wanted to read everything I could find about it and relate it to my experiences and to poked friend’s experiences.  I wanted to talk about various details of it all the time, often in a theoretical way rather than as a personal emotional conversation.  Child sexual abuse became my main Classic Autistic Special Interests.  It still is one of them.

People always gave me compliments for talking about it; it took a while for me to realize that this was a way of telling me to stop.

I would tell people about it whenever it came up in conversation.  Sometimes I was just trying to make some point about a tangentially related conversation.  Sometimes I was just trying to have an intellectual conversation and explore theories about why the abusers do it or why it’s so damaging or what policy mesures could prevent it or thing like that and I was using personal experience as raw data.  I wasn’t just trying to vainly talk about me all the time; I just like the topic and had a legitimate claim to expertise.  But it was alway treated as a huge personal revelation that must be a “step in my journey” or something like that.  The implication is that despite all evidence, there was no possible reason I could be talking about it except as some sort of psychological venting.

I was never particularly ashamed of what happened to me.  I was tricked and manipulated into cooperating, yes, even sometimes asking for it.  I was gullible, but I was five.  And my motive was kindness.  It was something my abuser wanted; it made her happy.  I wanted to make her happy, even if it hurt me.  I’m proud of the kind sacrifice for a good friend that I thought I was making.  I was never ashamed until people taught me that I should be.  I was never afraid to speak until people told me I was being brave.

I Know All About Dirty Compliments

People don’t say you’re damaged goods any more, out loud.  People don’t admit that they see you as less of a man, or less valuable as a woman.  Now people cleverly disguise it with compliments.  People tell you how brave and strong you are for the slightest word; mere mortals never dare talk about such things.  They say it’s impressive that you survived, even when there was no life-threatening violence involved.  The implication is mere mortals would of naturally kill themselves rather than leading the life I must now lead.  People treat every mention as deadly serious and personal, because they would never want to tolerate hearing about my existence for less grave a reason.  They reassure me that they could never understand or speak for me.  Because I’ve apparently experienced something beyond the human capacity for empathy.

They say they are being nice; they think they are being nice.  They are certainly being nicer than they feel.  They only seem nice in comparison to the people who still tell you your life is ruined or the people who deny the reality of your experience and tell you to get over it.  They are reassuring you that they will not even attempt to understand you, lest they misunderstand you.  When they say “I couldn’t possibly know what that’s like,” I want to say “No you certainly couldn’t without asking somebody know knows.  May I tell you what it was like, so you know?”  But they don’t want to know.  They want to zone out the details and other me so they don’t have to let the gross mental picture into their representation of the world.  It’s telling that when people tell me I’m brave, it is usually instead of actually responding to the content of what I said in any way that proves they didn’t stop listening when they heard what the topic was.

They think they can pass as nice and educated and caring by giving compliments.  But I know all about dirty twisted compliments; I know better to accept them now.  Green lady didn’t call me a dirty whore to control me.  She controlled me with compliments.  She told me that I was the best she’d ever seen at the special game we were playing.  She told me I had finally found something I was good for.  She even called me brave when I stoically endured what she was doing.

Yes, I’m brave.  I was always brave.  It’s easy to be brave when you’re desperate.  I was brave when I was first poked.  The difference when I started talking was that I had something to say, not that I was brave.  The something to say was what I wanted to focus on.


There are good reasons not to talk completely flippantly about what happened to me.  For example, I know now that I might trigger somebody and I don’t want to do that.  I have also found that really bad people might try to use it against me; this has worked and I’ve gotten more careful.  There are also good reasons not to tell random strangers about any sort of important emotional life experience.  But it should still be true that I can casually talk about it with somebody I trust, who isn’t triggered and whom I can talk about missing my dead mom, for example.  With close friends I can talk casually about it, and they can talk casually about it with me.  But a lot of people who might be able to be close to me still get disqualified because they can’t wrap their minds around how old news this is for me.  If I’m complaining about a nightmare, sure, that’s a personal conversation.  If I’m analyzing pedophilia themes in Anime, it’s probably just a geeky conversation.

I really do believe that most people still stigmatize child sexual abuse victims, but just know better than to say so overtly.  The mechanism is clear.  Child Abuse is treated as a distasteful concept not just a bad action.  They find it distasteful out of proportion to how its bad.  You can make a video game with a flippant treatment of murder and unless it’s particularly extreme it is considered less offensive than a realistic and tasteful portrayal of child molestation would be.  Yet murder is far worse than child molestation.  If you don’t see why; get out of my blog.  Even poked people argue against public portrayal or casual talking about it.  We’ve mostly bought the line that it means “not taking it seriously”.  We’re afraid of the alternative, people who really do minimize.  But we can do better than choosing between to ways not to exist.

Poked happens.  I’m tired of having to be brave to talk about it.  To paraphrase my new community.  I’m poked, and it changed my life forever, and I’m okay.  I’m fine!

Posted in Emoting at the internet, Theory | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Poked 101: Intro to Poked

I was working on an Interactive fiction game that I’ve been writing (more on that later) today and it made me feel poked.  I took this as a good opportunity to tell the internet what feeling poked means.  I’m going to do that though it will mostly be a framing device for making a point about how our culture treats the victims of sexual abuse.  (spoiler alert: poked in some of its definitions involves sexual abuse.)  I will also make a few other minor points relevant to Autism, personal boundaries, talking about tactile sensations and how not to warn kids about abuse.

So, um, trigger warnings: mostly for child sexual abuse.

I’m going to start by giving the meanings for poked in a chain of derivations alternating between the verb to poke and the adjective poked.  (If tl;dr feel free to skip ahead to What’s Poked Got…  The gist is poked=molested in childhood and some related meanings.  You are sacrificing valuable precision, however; you have been warned.)

*To poke: standard dictionary definition (from wiktionary definition 1): To prod or jab with a pointed object such as a finger or a stick. [from later 14th c.]

*Poked: the feeling I get after somebody has poked me (usually to get my attention when I’m preoccupied with something else and don’t notice them talking to me.)  The feeling is mostly a very startled shift of attention and surprise, but it can include tactile defensiveness.  An important component is the sudden and unexpected invasion of personal space.

*To poke: To deliberately invade ones personal space in order to get a reaction (for example to seduce or sexually harass or as a very overenthusiastic sort of sympathy.)

*Poked: One of several possible feelings caused by a deliberate personal space violation.

I Pause To Make a Taxonomy of Reactions to Poking

In order of decreasing assertiveness/increasing expectedness:

*what the Crab?: Surprise and confusion maybe leading to anger, but probably expecting it to be an accident.  This is when you’re pretty sheltered from people doing that to you and don’t really know how to react.  It doesn’t last long if the poking keeps up.

*hit back: Anger and strong motivation to defend the boundary, sometimes out of all proportion.  Some stereotypes of abused people are based on this reaction, but it’s not what  I decided to call poked, because it’s not my usual response.

*shy away and feel uncomfortable: this is what being poked is to me.  It’s when somebody invades a boundary and you’re too used to it to have to clarity to stand up for it, but it still feels wrong enough that you have token defensive body language: raised shoulders, leaning away, tensing muscles near the touch etc.

*total retreat: just move your sense of self away from the part they’re taking before they get there.  The boundary isn’t really there anymore.  If they take your whole body you can hide in your mind.  Leads to the another abused stereotype “going to your happy place.”  I do go this far sometimes, but not nearly as often as the shy away level, so I’m calling that poked.

Continuing the Derivation Chain Because I’m a Huge Geek

*Poked is the feeling of having one’s boundaries deliberately invaded but only having the confidence to put up a token resistance.  Tactilely, this is is often accompanied by a particular sensation, a combination of flu-like achey, ticklish, and the feeling of holding back a tic.  I keep wanting to describe it as electric, probably because it reminds me of the feeling of my hairs sticking up on end when my body is filled with static electricity.    I want to describe it as gross because it has a similar emotional quality to grossness even though it doesn’t make me nauseous.  It’s my usual reaction to light touch but I’m sure it feels nothing like light touch does to neurotypicals.  I don’t think I’ve ever felt normal light touch.  Poked feels sort of salty…  Okay I give up.  It’s a weird feeling.

*To poke: To break down, either over time or in one traumatic event, the resistance of a person’s boundaries, so that their reaction to further poking is at most shying away.  This can last an extended time up to and including your whole life.  This form of the verb is often used with an inanimate subject when for example “ableism in society pokes me”.

*Poked: Having ones defenses worn down by having been poked.

*To poke: Specifically to sexually assault, often a reliable and fast way to make somebody poked.  Idiomatically to “poke a kid” is always sexual abuse.  To refer to causing a child to be poked by for example aggressive grooming and allowing no privacy, one can say “metaphorically poke.”  Undermining the boundaries of a child by literally prodding them with a stick without sexual intent is also metaphorical poking.  The irony is not lost on me.  The preoccupation with Child Sexual Abuse in this terminology does have an explanation, however.

*Poked: Importantly identifying as a victim of sexual abuse.  (I don’t like the term survivor; some of my best friends are the ghosts of dead rape victims and they feel left out by the term.  More seriously, the whole idea that you should feel proud for surviving something raises the unfortunate implication that you should feel ashamed of dying of it.  One can argue that its harmless because the dead can’t feel shame, but I would argue that the dying can.  I would not want to spend my last moments feeling ashamed of not being tough or brave enough to be a survivor.)

What’s Poked Got to Do With It

I used to primarily identify as Poked.  I was, in fact, molested at a young enough age that it seemed like a plausible candidate for the cause of my weirdness.  I was 5 or 6 when it started, and while I was already showing Autistic traits and standing out as strange before then, I became pretty different during and after.  I was a lot more angry and scared all the time.  Before then I was a happy little autistic kid, running around and stimming loudly all the time and my bigest problems were that I was lonely and that the grown ups in my life kept trying to stop me from running around stimming all the time.  I could talk if I had to, but I didn’t like to.  I was finally potty trained when I was 5 and my parents must have been relieved.  Things were looking up.

The way my mom used to tell it, they were worried because my nannies never even tried to play with me or socialize me and payed sole attention to my little brother who they could relate to more.  They just left me to entertain myself.  I barely knew they existed.  Then green lady came.  (She wore green.  Always.  Still don’t know what’s up with that.)  We found green lady by having a contest between several potential nannies for who showed most interest in playing with me.  Green lady showed a lot of interest, because I must have seemed like a particularly enticing target.

She molested me, like a lot.  It wasn’t penetrative but it did really poke me, mostly because it was really overstimulating and the intensity of attention was very confusing.  It also made me feel ashamed later when I knew what it was.  But she also really communicated with me.  She was the only adult in my childhood who consistently accepted my autism traits as part of who am and also still treated me as a person.  I don’t know how much of it was an act.  She implied that she was acting out things that were done to her and felt close to me through the shared experience even though she was causing it.  I only understood a lot of what she was saying much later, but I always had complicated feelings for her.

I wasn’t diagnosed with any kind of Autistic Spectrum Disorder until adulthood, mostly because of my parent’s zeal to deny my abnormality to the world, partly because i was born in 1981 and therapists didn’t really know much back then.  I always assumed everything weird about me was because I was molested.  As a teenager, I thought that meltdowns were PTSD flashbacks.  I made myself think about Green Lady in every flashback because I still though of diagnoses not as descriptions of reality but things I had to obey to be legitimate.  It was easy enough to do.  Even though Green Lady was only my nanny for two years I have always stayed obsessed with her.

Toward a Moral: That Which Can Explain Anything Explains Nothing

Sexual abuse is bad.  It was really bad when it happened to me, and it’s a lot worse for a lot of other people.  It is not incomprehensibly horrific, nor the worst thing somebody can do to somebody.  It is a lot less bad than killing somebody, for example, because they might totally still have a happy and/or meaningful life afterward.  Our cultural responses to being poked are either based on “worst thing ever, if you disagree you’re minimizing” or some sort of “healing process” that is supposed to lead you back to the “person you were before”.  Maybe the second makes some sense for adult rape victims, but the person I was before was a lonely vulnerable five year old.  I can do better.  I’ve already done better.  As for the first, it’s great for motivating prevention efforts, but its disheartening to be told that your life was forever destroyed a long time ago.

For both of the ideal is to become a non-poked person.  But I knew I didn’t want to be a normal person.  Both memes felt like they were trying to erase me, even the survivor community online, feels like it’s trying to erase itself.  This should all sound familiar for readers that are familiar with the Autistic Community and our struggles to stop the obsessions with cures and the rhetoric of calling our existence a tragedy.  Indeed most of the differences I saw in my self I wanted to defend came from Autism rather than abuse.  It was hard to find that out though when everything could so easily be explained by being poked.  That’s another problem with thinking of your self as totally broken by one thing; I no longer looked for reasons why.  It was hard to find other problems, other differences and the things I could fix.  Various times I’ve had normal problems for normal reasons but gave up on trying to solve them without a therapist’s help, because I assumed they were from poked.

Also, there really are permanent personality changes caused by being poked, but they’re not all bad.  I think I’m more compassionate because I’ve been weak.  I think I’ve learned forgiveness by being hurt by somebody who I was close to but who I could see the pain of.  And I’d never want to give up the inspiration to make stories inspired by what happened.  I think experiencing sexual aggression is a big part of the human condition and art should explore it more in more familiar and less othering terms.  I think we should let it into our mental worlds with no more distaste than any other very serious crime.  If you can talk about murder, you should be able to a fortiori talk about poking.  Even some of the obvious ill effects are just part of who I am now, part of what I have to work with.  I would miss all the nightmares and triggers if they were gone.  I’m used to them and I’m used to their bright side.  They give me good ideas and they make me feel alive.

Changing Identities

I used to think Poked people were my people.  They still sort of are.  I feel a huge commonality with poked people of all kinds.  That basically started with Green Lady.  (She didn’t lose her card for poking me or anything, anymore than an autistic person would stop being an autistic person if they were a child molester.  She’s probably a bad person, but she’s a bad poked person.  I leave my True Scotsmen at the door.)  But I don’t feel at home the same way I do with Autistic people.  I’m in process of transferring my primary identity and it feels weird.  I’m intersectional.  (I love that word.)

But it’s not all a coincidence.  I’m certainly not autistic because I got poked, but I probably got poked because I’m autistic.  My loneliness and need for acceptance came from that.  Green Lady would not have had as much to offer a normal kid in return.  She might also not have had that desire for closeness without a sign of weakness.  She never touched my little brother.  It also made keeping it secret easier.  She never told me not to tell.  It never occurred to me that she was doing anything wrong.  Adults gave me unwanted affection all the time, and often it hurt.  This was the worst, but it was only a difference of degree to me.  I though I was  supposed to cooperate.

Sometimes it even came up in conversation, but I parsed the world so differently that I told many adults about the abuse in what I considered great detail without them realizing what I was talking about.  (Which body parts she was touching did not seem like the most relevant features of what she was doing for example.)  I think I eventually got her fired, but my parents didn’t know till I was in late high school what she was being fired for.  I had a bit of a realization when my high school girlfriend did something very similar while making out with me.

I knew she was touching me in private places, but the talk my parents gave me about private places when I was little was quite deficient.  They used the same word private that they used primarily for things that should only be done indoors or with strangers, but are obligatorily shared with family and close friends.  I knew not to show my privates in public or to let a stranger or teacher touch them, but would have not expected to have any say in which relatives, family friends, nannies, or other kids got to touch them.  To say no wouldn’t be social.  If there was more nuance to the way they said private, I totally missed it.  This seems like I pretty Autistic reason to get poked.  Because Green Lady never used force, threats, demands anything.  She just said that she wanted to, that it was one thing I was really good at and that it would make her happy.  I wanted to make her happy.  I was being good.

Conclusion and Valediction

I think the ways that I am poked bear on the ways I am Autistic.  They definitely reflect on the ways I just am.  I’m going to be talking a lot about this and how it all fits together.  The internet will get to hear me figure out how it all comes together.  But right now, I mostly want to express that I want the Autism community to be a model for the poked community.  We’ve figured what being okay means.  That’s something of value we can export.

Wow I really need to learn how to write shorter posts!


Posted in Examples from my life, Theory | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Squid is a Disability Accommodation

I knew the squid would come when I would post about the squids.  This is the story of why I squid various words of my sentences, replacing them with “squid” or a form of “squid.”  Despite what you’d expect this actually makes it squider to communicate, not harder.

How to Squid a Sentence

The most common use I put to squids is to use them as a generic noun where the squid I mean is clear from context.  But while Squidding, Squid can also be a verb like I squidded just then.  The verb to squid has all the usual forms of english verbs and is perfectly regular.  That way when I use an unusual form I will not have squidded myself too hard.  It’s also quite squid to use “squid” as an adjective.  And when squidding squidily one can even use “squid” as an adverb.  Prepositions and conjunctions don’t really work that well though.

More complex squiddings are possible.  When I say that I am pretty sure that squid, squid is squidding an entire clause.  But most often squid is merely a fully generic pronoun.  It can be male, female or neuter, singular or plural, and first second or third person.  Out loud Squid gets an extra i at the end for ease of pronunciation in various contexts, but you don’t have to worry about that unless you know me squid.  That squid was an entire prepositional phrase.

What Good is Squidding?

I don’t think in words.  I don’t hear anything in my head when I think.  I don’t always think in pictures per se either.  The individual elements of my thoughts are more like imaginings of body feelings than any other sense.  I can feel associated concepts activating and I can reason with these thoughts logically and syntactically, but they are not words.  They have no special correspondance to words in English or any other language.  Very often, they have no easy translation.  I categorize the world very differently and so my natural nouns and verbs and squids are very different.  But I do think in grammar, approximately English grammar, but augmented by math, Latin grammar and some grammatical constructions that I squidded myself.

Associating concepts with sounds is really hard.  Physically producing words is hard.  Remembering which words are allowed to use which specialized irregular syntax in english is really hard.  These squids break down when I’m tired or stressed or hungry.  The difficulty of remembering words and forming sentences, can overwhelm thinking about whatever I’m talking about.  Often I end up choosing words that fit the syntax I’m thinking in at the cost of inappropriate connotations.  Then I am horribly misunderstood and everything squids.

What does Squid have to do with Squidding?

Well when I can’t think of a word I just squid it.  Or if I want to express a concept that there isn’t a word for I replace it with a squid.  This feels much better than trying to find a similar word, because the slight difference in meaning will make me feel uncomfortable, like I’m lying.  Saying things that I don’t precisely mean is really stressful.  I can’t explain why but it seems to be a common Autistic Spectrum trait.  So it’s really useful to have a word that is allowed to mean anything.  And it doesn’t get in the way as often as you’d think.  Often there is only one thing a word can basically squid in the context it’s in.  For example the previous squid can obviously be replaced my “mean”.  This takes little though on the part of the squid.  If squid remains ambiguous the squid can always ask for clarification.  “What sort of squid?” makes a good playful idiom for doing that.

Sometimes the entire point is to define squid later.  I may be halfway through a sentence before I realize that the direct object is a noun that exists only in my head.  So I squid it to give it a place before talking about what squid means.  In this case squid can be substituted for a noun phrase like “example of a category that I will define in a minute” which is long and hard to say out.  It saves me from having to give lots of unmotivated definitions before I say anything.

But Why Squid a Cephalopod Instead of Some Other Squid

Squid is one syllable which is really an important criteria.  It needs to be fast to say.  It’s also an infrequent word in its literal use which helps it not be misinterpreted as referring to an actual mollusk.  Those first two criteria narrow things down a lot.  Also Squid has few connotations that are applicable to most sentences so I don’t have to worry about getting squidded by connotations.  And it’s hard to mistake for another word because it sounds so distinct.  I can’t use a totally made up word or even an obscure word, because then people will be distracted asking what it means.  But everybody knows what a squid is and that I can’t possibly be squidding literally, so they recognize that I must be squidding figuratively.

Also Squid is fun to say.  It kind of squirms in my mouth and is a pleasurable stim for my lips.  Furthermore it’s cute.  And being cute is an important survival strategy when you’re weird.  People only put up with weird people when they’re cute for the most part.

The Advent of the Squids

Squid all began in June of 2003 when I was stimming by saying words and phrases that were fun to say, while very bored.  I said “Parmesan Squid,” and my destiny was sealed.  This event has been dubbed Original Squid.  I’m sure I will have a party to celebrate it’s tenth anniversary next year.  Anyway, I soon realized that Squid was the most fun word to say in the world and started saying it all the time.  I also squarted squidding squords by squubstituting squ for the squopening squonsonants or before the squopening squowels.  I still do that but only as a stim or to be silly.  It doesn’t make anything easier for anybody.  But squidding words evolved naturally from that, and I did it more and more and the fad never went away because it was so helpful.

And that’s where squids come from.

Policy Statement

Henceforth, I will squid occasionally on this blog when it makes it easier for me to get across my message, but not so wantonly as I do out loud.  I realize there is less room for clarifying questions and less room for nonverbal disambiguation.  The usage that I expect to squid most—other than what I just did which is use squid as a very generic verb, maybe “use”, maybe “employ” who cares—is when I squid forward.  By squid forward, I mean use squid as a placeholder for something I will define in the next squid, whereby squid I mean sentence or clause.


Okay, that’s all I have to squid for now.  Squid bye.


Posted in Convention Definitions, Examples from my life | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments