Category Archives: ramble

Another Empathy Ramble

Image by Tumisu, please consider ☕ Thank you! 🤗 from Pixabay

I know. Empathy is always being talked about on autism blogs, and here I am, also talking about it. Yep, I’m a cliche. It has been a while for me, though.

So one of my problems with the whole concept of empathy is how mushy of a concept it is. It means a wide variety of different things, and people often mean different things when they say it. Talking about empathy without elaborating on what one means by it is an exercise in futility.

For example, a therapist youtuber I used to watch would speak of empathy specifically as intellectually understanding what another person is feeling. He would refer to the concept of “feeling something with a person” as “sympathy.” Then there’s that popular Sympathy vs. Empathy thing by Brene Brown. She has a very different take than that therapist – according to her, “feeling something with a person” is empathy, and sympathy is… bad. (not really related, but I did not like that video for my own reasons, though I do understand that many people found it helpful) 

On a recent occasion I had reason to talk with my therapist about sympathy and empathy and, of course, needed him to elaborate on what he meant when he asked me if maybe I wanted empathy about a thing I was going through. In his case, apparently he means someone being “with” you in your feeling. 

So. Empathy means various things. That’s actually ok – lots of words mean different things – but it does mean that we need to clarify our intent.

For years now I have been using the ideas of cognitive empathy and affective empathy. Basically, cognitive empathy is what that youtuber therapist talks about – intellectually understanding what another person is feeling. The idea that autistic people lack empathy is specifically regarding cognitive empathy. I don’t always have a great grasp of what another person is feeling. I struggle to understand facial expressions. That kind of thing. Unfortunately, people often take it to mean that autistic people lack the kind of empathy that Brene Brown talks about. Or basically, that we don’t care.

That is affective empathy. It’s the emotional side of empathy. And autistic people tend to have that in spades (insert disclaimer here about how autistic people are individuals with individual variance, etc etc etc). I care about my friends. I care about my cats. I care about what they feel and why they feel it and I want, very much, to be a safe person for them to have those feelings near/around/with. 

Anyway. I was googling empathy again recently, I don’t remember why but probably in response to that conversation I had with my therapist, looking for sources about cognitive vs. affective empathy. Among the various other things I found, I saw an interesting article breaking empathy down into THREE types, rather than two! Fascinating! Now, I wasn’t the biggest fan of how the information was presented (this seems to happen a lot with me. Not sure what to make of that) but putting that aside, it was an interesting breakdown.

Basically, the author of that article takes what I think of as “affective empathy” and breaks it into two different ideas.

1 – Emotional Empathy. The “feel it with them” idea. 

2 – Compassionate Empathy. To care. More precisely, to care enough to want to help in some way.

This is interesting to me. I’m not sure I’m going to adopt this system over the two types of empathy that I’m used to, but at the very least it’s giving me something to think about. I enjoy taking broad concepts and breaking them down into concrete pieces that I can closely inspect. 

There is very little out there that will make me better at cognitive empathy. I have hypervigilance due to my own childhood stuff (which is to say, I am very observant), I have a general intellectual understanding of facial expressions that I have learned by rote. These two combined are enough for me to generally get by, on the cognitive level. Unfortunately, many people view cognitive empathy as the most “basic” form of empathy. So when cognitive empathy fails me, it is not uncommon for people to conclude that I must not care. Because if I don’t have cognitive empathy, how could I possibly have emotional or compassionate empathy? 

It doesn’t work like that. 

To diverge a little bit – I find myself wishing there were a word for a kind of empathy that understands that not everyone responds the same way in the same circumstance. The article I linked above talks about putting oneself in another person’s shows – imagining how you would feel in their circumstances. This is, of course, a really great practice. It just falls short sometimes. People imagining themselves in my shoes often seriously miss the mark on how I’m feeling, because they would feel something wildly different. This kind of falls under cognitive empathy, but then it ends there. By the article, emotional empathy would be impossible in a situation like this, which is just not the case. I can empathize with people just fine when they react to things differently than how I would, because I understand that different people respond differently and that’s ok. Their truth is still entirely real. I just have to approach it a little differently. 

Anyway. I’m not sure I have a huge point here; I just wanted to explore these ideas a bit. Do you have a model of empathy that you work with? Do you have any ideas for what to call “I cannot directly understand what you feel but I accept that it is your truth and care very much about how you feel” empathy?

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Self Care – what is it, anyway?

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Ok, fairly regularly I’ll see things about self care. Specifically, the importance of self care and various examples of self care. These are great! I love self care and I love seeing people promote self care.

But sometimes I then see arguments about self care. Different people have different needs, and so self care often looks different for different people. Pretty straightforward, right? Well, sometimes Group A will declare that THEIR needs are more real and important than the needs of Group B, and so the self care of Group B does not actually “count” as self care. For example, taking meds vs. taking a bath, or keeping doctor’s appointments vs. drinking a hot cocoa.

I’ll be honest – that irritates me. Kind of a lot. The reality is it’s ALL self care. ALL OF IT. Self care is simply identifying your needs, and then fulfilling them yourself. No more, no less.

Let me use myself as an example. I deal with pretty severe depression and anxiety. So my self care involves taking my meds every day and keeping my appointments with my therapist, as well as working hard in said therapy. 

Something is wrong with my sense of thirst, so it’s way too easy for me to get dehydrated. Like, to the point that it’s landed me in the hospital in the past. So my self care is also working hard to remember to drink water. Since I can’t trust my body to tell me how much water I need I simply make a point to drink 64 ounces of water a day. By extension, my self care also means not listening to the people who try to tell me that the 64 ounces thing is a myth and I’ll totally be fine if I just drink when I’m thirsty. I won’t be ok if I do that, I haven’t been ok doing that, I am taking care of myself in the way that I need to. 

I have been experiencing pain for several days now due to a muscle in my thigh being about as tight as an iron rod. This means that self care might be (if I actually manage to do it) taking a hot bath or maybe going and getting a massage. Oh, and it’s legitimately way easier for me to take my meds every day than it is for me to go draw and take a hot bath. Why? One is in my routine, and one isn’t. 

Self care can mean that I carefully limit my exposure to stressful news – being as informed as I can handle, but taking breaks when I need to. It can mean having a hot cocoa and doing breathing exercises when my stress levels get too high, or maybe when I get too irritated at people telling me that I don’t need to worry about my water intake (seriously, this drives me bonkers). 

Ultimately, just to really hammer in the point here, self care is taking care of myself. It involves a wide variety of things in order to address my various needs. I am a human being, just as complex and contradictory as any other human being, so my needs reflect that complexity. 


Filed under opinion, ramble

Just some memories

I am officially Not Young Anymore, which I think means I get to indulge in memories sometimes. I’ve been finding myself thinking about how important it is for adults to protect and take care of the children/teenagers in their care, which comes with a lot of memories of how the adults around me did not do that when I was young. Here are a few of them.

Actually, I want to start with one that did, in fact, involve an adult standing up for me. I was a teenager at the time, and it was the first time it had ever happened. It was in a church youth group bible study, and somehow it came up that another teen boy had a crush on me of some sort. This was, of course, astonishing to everyone and the general reaction by everyone else was absolute disgust. Other teens started loudly making fun of the boy with the crush – he had a crush on ME? EW! I was, you see, disgusting and horrible and overall hated by everyone my age. I simply looked at the table and stayed silent. I was pretty beaten down at that point in my life.

The teacher, however, was astonished and upset by the cruelty of the other teens. What are they doing? Why are they talking like that? They’re being so mean! The teens reacted with surprise at the idea that what they were doing was mean. What? But it’s ME they’re talking about! It isn’t as if they’re being mean to someone who matters. I agreed with them. The teacher did not.

At some point the conversation moved on, but this memory really sticks with me. The teen’s casual cruelty, the teacher’s astonishment, my own astonishment at this bizarre experience of an adult standing up for me against the cruelty of other people. I had actually tried to reassure him that it was ok – I mean, it is just me, and it’s not like I matter. My heart breaks for the child I was, truly believing that. 

Of course, I truly believed it because that’s what I had been taught, directly or indirectly, by every other adult in my life.

Another memory. Also of me as a teenager. It was towards the end of a class, the teacher had finished his lesson and the students were mostly just quietly chatting with each other, waiting for the bell to ring. Except, of course, for some of the boys behind me. They were throwing chewed gum into my hair. I, being completely beaten down, depressed, and fully believing in my own worthlessness, did nothing. As it turns out, the teacher was witnessing everything, but chose not to intervene. Instead he chose to pull me aside after the bell rang and scold me for failing to stand up for myself. It may surprise you to learn that the scolding did nothing at all to improve my self-esteem!

It also wasn’t the first time I had gotten scolded by a teacher for the apparent crime of being bullied. 

A previous time was in middle school after my first forced psychiatric stay. I was returning to my classes, and in one class apparently a student had claimed the desk I used to be at. So I sat in what I thought was my desk (because before I had been hospitalized, it was) when the other student demanded I move. I wasn’t quite as beaten down at that point, so I actually tried to stand up for myself. I refused to move. It was my desk. 

So the other student physically shoved me out of the desk and I went sprawling, along with my books. At which point the teacher pulls me out of the room to scold me. I learned some important lessons that day around the need for me to be silent, let myself be pushed around, and NOT standing up for myself. 

I went back into the classroom, managed to find an empty seat, and (unless it was absolutely required) never spoke in that class again.

I’m not entirely sure what I’m trying to get at here except – adults, please please PLEASE support the children and teens in your care. I needed support and didn’t get it, which meant an already incredibly difficult time in my life was even worse than it needed to be.


Filed under personal, ramble

Not Cis

I am a trans man.

There is a certain dominant narrative around what it means to be trans (at least in English-speaking society. I can’t speak to other cultures or languages). Things like the “born in the wrong body” idea, and the “always known” concept. I have mixed feelings about this.

On the one hand, of course there is a dominant narrative. There are dominant narratives around what it means to be ANY marginalized group, and I’m pretty sure that will never change. However, the narratives can be harmful and used to de-legitimize anyone who does not fit into that dominant narrative. Gatekeeping trans people from needed treatment is definitely far better than it used to be (in some places, at least), but it still exists. And sadly, one of those gates is often “does your experience of being trans fit in with what we think is the One True Way to be trans?” If not, you’ll likely have problems. 

Ok, I’m getting off track here. All of that is definitely worth writing about, but it isn’t what I am intending to get at. One thing that can be incredibly frustrating is when people WITHIN marginalized circles treat dominant narratives as the One True Way. I’ve seen trans people make sweeping statements about what trans people are or what we experience that I don’t fit into at all. 

For instance – another dominant narrative about trans people is that we are the same as cis people of the same gender. So, for instance, trans men are basically the same as cis men, and should be grouped and treated the same.

Given that it is the dominant narrative, I am certainly willing to concede that it is likely true for many/most trans men. I don’t actually have the numbers and don’t even know how I would check, so I’m just going to grant it. However, while there is a dominant narrative there is very much NOT a “universal narrative.” There is no one story that all trans people fit into beyond the simple fact of being trans. 

Personally, I don’t want to be lumped in with cis men at all. I know that I share a category with cis men in that I am also a man, but for me the “trans” prefix is very important. I am not the same as cis men. I don’t want to be seen as the same as them. I don’t want to be categorized with them if I don’t have to be. 

Here’s the thing – I transitioned relatively late in life. There are many ways people can conceptualize their lives before transition. Mine is to embrace that time, the impact it had on me, and integrate it into my identity (it occurs to me that this is a recurring theme in my blog. I guess I do this a lot). 

For over 30 years I lived as a woman. I’m not going to claim I know what it’s like to BE a woman, because I’m not. (though back when I thought I was, I also thought that it was normal to just absolutely hate being a woman and desperately wish to be a man. I was so surprised when I learned that most women actually like being their gender) I do, however, know what it’s like to be raised as a girl and perceived as a woman. As is distressingly typical, I was raised to be “nice.” To have mushy boundaries and to prioritize other people’s feelings and comfort over my needs. I was also raised in a conservative christian household, which means I was raised with the idea that women are to be submissive to men. I internalized some of those ideas and chafed against others, but either way – they are part of my past and thus part of who I am.

I also have experienced sexism and misogyny. I have experienced SA. I know about the “rules” women follow to keep safe – things like not walking alone at night, watching shadows at night or in the evening to keep a watch behind me, holding my keys so I can use them as a weapon if I need to, being hyper-aware of who is around me, always knowing where the exits are and strategically standing or sitting so that no one can approach me from behind and I can access the exit easily. I could go on, but I think you get the point.

I also know what it is to have a female body. I used to menstruate, I know how cramps feel, I know about the steps taken to prevent pregnancy because I’ve taken them, I know hormonal birth control and how it feels to take it and both good and bad effects that can happen. Matters that are generally classified as “women’s issues” or “women’s health” applied to me as well, despite my not being a woman. 

All of these things have shaped me into who I am today. It would be absolutely absurd to say otherwise. On the flip side, cis men often need to un-learn the casual, unthinking misogyny and privilege/entitlement they were raised with. I don’t need to un-learn that, because I never learned it in the first place. 

I am still a man. My experience of manhood is still valid and real, it’s just distinctly different from the experiences of cis men. I want that to be recognized and validated and celebrated, not erased and forgotten. 

I honestly spent quite a lot of time being very confused and uncertain about my own identity because my own journey is so different from the dominant narrative. When I saw trans men confidently proclaim that ALL trans men just want to be seen as the same as cis men, I wondered if that meant I wasn’t a trans man. I identified as non-binary for years because of this and other ways I don’t quite “fit” into the typical trans man narrative. At times I’m still not entirely sure. 

What I do know is that I am distinctly on the “man” side of the overall gender spectrum, and wherever my gender might be precisely pinned, it definitely rounds off to “man.” 

I suspect all of this also relates to how being autistic has impacted my experience of gender. However, since being autistic is the only way I know how to be, it’s very difficult for me to say exactly how it has impacted my sense of gender. I think I would need to know more about how neurotypical people experience gender to be able to figure that out. 

Anyway, just to be totally clear here – I am not at all trying to replace the dominant narrative or make any kind of claim that my experience and conceptualization of myself is “more correct” than anyone else’s. This is my truth. Your truth is your truth. There is no one way to be trans, any more than there is one way to be cis, or one way to be literally anything. 

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Just a ramble about V-Day

(hearts represent love, right? right???)

So according to all the ads I’m seeing and various things my friends are posting on facebook, it’s Valentine’s Day. For the most part I don’t actually have strong feelings about V-Day either way, but as it turns out I DO have opinions and thoughts. Also as it turns out, I rather want to express those thoughts somewhere. As this is my blog and ultimately it is about me and my opinions, I am putting them here. If you’re purely here for autism stuff… sorry. This only relates to autism in that these are my thoughts as an autistic person. Of course, all of my thoughts are as an autistic person. Anyway. On to V-Day stuff.

I am on the aromantic spectrum. The best word that describes me is quoiromantic, which in my case largely means: “Being unable to pin down a clear understanding of romantic attraction, so being unable to say whether or not you experience it.” I have never in my life understood what romantic attraction or romantic love was supposed to be, and I have never had a clear idea of how it is different from love I have for my friends. The whole thing just baffles me. I experience love, I love people deeply, and I am in a romantic-appearing relationship. I just can’t really say how the love I feel for my nesting partner is quantifiably different from the love I feel for my friends.

For the most part, however, I am not romantically repulsed. I am fine with other people experiencing romantic love, I don’t mind romance or love stories in my media – I can even enjoy such stories to some degree or another. Sometimes I might end up confused by the things characters do or care about, but NTs often confuse me so that’s fine too.

What DOES frustrate me is the way romantic love is treated as somehow better or purer than other types of love. I don’t care for the way different loves are ranked, with romance love as being “above” friend love. That shit genuinely pisses me off. The love I feel is just as real and meaningful as the love romantic people feel.

And then there’s Valentine’s Day. A holiday that I’m told is all about celebrating romantic love. My own experience with V-Day is pretty meh, to be honest. I have tried to care about V-Day back when I thought I was supposed to, but somehow I never quite managed it. Romantic gestures mean nothing to me. (after I typed that sentence I froze for at least 10 minutes as I tried to figure out what “romantic gesture” actually means and what makes an action romantic or not. eesh)

I have friends who really hate V-Day. I respect that though I cannot entirely relate. I have managed to seriously shelter myself from ads, so if people are bombarded with ads to buy things as V-Day approaches, I am not aware of it. Since I don’t pay much attention to it, as romantic love is meaningless to me, I am also blissfully unaware of commercialization or commodification or whatever other unpleasant things that may have been attached to V-Day. I’m sure if you’d prefer to celebrate genuine and authentic romantic love, those things would be frustrating.

That said, there is something that frustrates me about Valentine’s Day, and you’ve probably already guessed what it is. That’s right, it’s the way it centers romantic love above other loves. I mean, yes, I’ve heard of “gal-entine’s” day or “pal-entine’s” day, but let’s be real. Even the people who do that see those versions as silly, less important alternatives to V-Day. I take V-Day as an opportunity to tell my friends that I love them because it’s never wrong to tell my friends that I love them. But I am also entirely aware that to my friends, my expression is a small, silly little thing that doesn’t really mean much of anything. (it suddenly occurs to me that they might see it as more meaningful if they knew I was aromantic, but it’s hard to say. I just don’t bother to talk much about my romantic orientation/lack thereof)

I want to celebrate the love I have for my friends and chosen family. I want to honor it and center it and have it be seen, really SEEN, as the profound and meaningful thing that it is.

Anyway, thank you for reading my rant. I’d love to hear about what you think or feel about Valentine’s Day. Is it meaningful to you? Or is the holiday that it has become feel like it cheapens romantic love? Do you, like me, also not feel romantic love or attraction? Do you just hate the holiday altogether? I’d love to hear what you think!

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Some thoughts on book bans

I’m sure we’re all aware of the attention lately on schools banning books from their libraries. If you’re not aware, then, well, schools have been banning books from their libraries. Books that are, in fact, entirely age-appropriate and written FOR children, but they might give people icky feelings so clearly we must not let children read them! (/sarcasm)

To be clear, I am FIRMLY against these book bans. I think they are ridiculous, I think they are wrong, and I think they do a disservice to the children those adults are pretending to protect.

Ok, now I’m going to talk about Centaurworld a little bit. It’s a children’s cartoon on Netflix that follows our heroine, Horse, on her various adventures in a world on centaurs. It tells a full story over the course of two seasons, which I recently finished watching.

The final episode was really something. It got dark. It got real. The show has themes of trauma throughout which really peak in the finale, along with themes of self-hatred, self-destruction, loss, and more. I found it rather intense to watch, to be honest.

And then, I did something that I am really not proud of. So of course, I’m going to share it with the entire internet. After watching the finale I turned to my nesting parter, Nee, and said “is this really for children?” And Nee paused before replying, “you know, I’m not sure.”

To be clear, yes it is for children. It is a kid’s show. At most it is perhaps good for a child to watch it with an adult so that if they want to talk about it afterwords they are able to. And yet, despite my very firm and deeply held beliefs about not sheltering children from darker subjects, my initial knee-jerk reaction to something that gave me FEELINGS was to question whether or not it was appropriate for children.

Why did I think that? Where did that thought come from? What does it say about me that I had that thought?

Well, I don’t know for sure but I believe it says that I live in a society where the concept of “protecting” children from anything uncomfortable is absolutely pervasive. We think it lives in those people who are banning those books, but at most they are simply a particularly egregious example. We absolutely should be protecting and watching out for the mental health of children, but it seems that somehow an idea has emerged that the best way to do this is to never expose children to anything dark or uncomfortable. Something about protecting children’s “innocence.”

As I think about it more and more, I find myself thinking that fixing the problem is going to take more than tackling the book bans. Ultimately, it’s rooted in something deeper. Perhaps we need to entirely overhaul the whole concept of the innocence of children and the need to protect that innocence.

I don’t have a firm conclusion to this post. I want to make society better for everyone, and this is another area where something needs to change. The book bans are, in a way, just a logical progression of how our society has been thinking about children for a long time now. It’s horrifying, but maybe it isn’t actually surprising.


Filed under opinion, ramble

Social vs Medical Model of Disability

My favorite lens to look at disability through is the social/medical model of disability. I have recently been reminded that these models aren’t as universally known as I imagine them to be (I mean, I’VE known for years, so surely everyone else knows too, right? Yeah, that’s not how it works) so I just want to talk about it.

So, what does “social model of disability” and “medical model of disability” mean, anyway? In simple terms, the medical model of disability is the idea that disability is something wrong with the disabled person, and the correct solution is medical interventions to fix them. The social model of disability is the idea that disability is something wrong with society, and the correct solution is ensuring accessibility for everyone.

I have met/encountered people who fell hard on both sides of that divide. Personally, I used to be pretty firmly in the social model camp but now I think they both have their uses and their truths. 

Disability is a BROAD category. There are many ways and many reasons to be disabled, and so it seems to just make sense that there need to be a variety of solutions and responses to disability. Sometimes that will look like accessibility – ramps, mobility devices, communication devices, heck even just simple awareness that disabled people exist and are ok. 

Other times it will look like medical interventions. It can look like trying to fix what’s wrong. I firmly believe that it’s ok to be disabled. That disability doesn’t make you have less worth as a person, that the role of society is to take care of each other, INCLUDING those with disabilities. 

I also firmly believe that if you have a disability/are disabled in some way, it is ok to want to be better. It’s ok to seek out treatments and it’s ok to want a cure. 

I firmly believe that both of these concepts can coincide. That they do not have to contradict each other and it’s up to each individual to navigate what the right answer is for THEM. 

For me, specifically in terms of autism, I don’t want a cure. I have spoken about this a lot. I want accessibility, I want support, I want a world that accepts me the way that I am instead of demanding that I be someone else. Since my difference is fundamentally about how my brain works, “curing” me would mean turning me into someone else. The “me” who is writing this would no longer exist, and in essence be dead. Instead there would be some other person. I’m not interested in that.

But despite the accusations people have levelled my way, I am still in favor of treatment and help. I mean, not ALL treatment (Just Say No to ABA), but I do need help. 

I ran into a reddit post a while back that I think really highlighted this whole issue. A person with dwarfism talked about a limb-lengthening surgery that can be used to “fix” dwarfism, except that while it does lengthen one’s limbs it’s a very intense surgery that often comes with any number of negative side effects. Apparently in Italy, limb-lengthening is simply considered standard treatment for people with dwarfism, with no real thought given to the idea that maybe it isn’t the best solution for everyone. 

I want to highlight one particular part they ended their post with:

“What I did need was my legs straightened, and spinal decompression surgery – to mitigate pain and reduce numbness in my legs. Limb lengthening to me just seems like a barbaric, extreme measure to act as a band-aid for a society that refuses to be accessible or accepting.”

Here they advocate for both medical interventions AND social supports. For finding the balance between the two. 

Another aspect of this is because I believe we need both, and because I believe that society exists for people to support each other, social supports need to be socially implemented. It’s on all of us, not just disabled people, to ensure accessibility. This gets into a post I wrote ages ago about my own exploration of the concept of disability rights being civil rights, specifically centered around the idea of businesses with signs saying “disabled entrance in rear.” Or rather, about how upsetting all of that was. Basically, every single time I tried to talk to people about it, they were far more interested in EXPLAINING to me about how it just isn’t that SIMPLE and I need to UNDERSTAND and my question wasn’t fair and and and and and somehow my attempt to say “hey, maybe the concept of most people getting the main entrance but disabled people only able to enter from the rear isn’t great” was just never heard. Like, people weren’t even listening to me enough to disagree with me – they just weren’t listening AT ALL. It was a bad time.

I wonder if things have changed enough since then for the conversation to be possible. I’m honestly a little afraid to check. Last time was just so unpleasant. Still, maybe I’ll try at some point. I wonder if fb still does polls. Or maybe use google forms? Hrm. ANYWAY. 

This post has wandered around a fair amount. This is honestly mostly an exploration of my thoughts on the matter, plus just yet another person shouting about these disability models into the void in the hopes that just a few more people will hear. 

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Rambling about being an introvert

Hi. I’m an introvert, and I want to talk about that.

But before I start, I want to put in some major disclaimers. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about possible places where my introversion stems from, or maybe aspects of myself that lend themselves to introversion. I’m finding myself worried that if I talk about that, it will sound like it’s pathologizing introversion, which really isn’t what I want to do at all. I don’t think introversion is bad, I don’t think it’s wrong to be an introvert, I don’t think my being an introvert is anything I need to fix. I am quite sure that even if I did “fix” the things I’m going to talk about, I would still be an introvert. 

That said, I want to talk about some things that I think intersect with and possibly “enhance” my introverted tendencies.

First of all, I am autistic. I have sensory difficulties and I struggle with my social skills. For years now I’ve been of the opinion that this really impacts how tiring it is for me to be around people. People are just SO MUCH, you know? They can be so loud and so full of motion and communicate with hints and indirect phrases and expect me to communicate the same way so sometimes they hear things in my words that is so far off from the actual words I said that I can’t figure out how they got there, and they can’t explain it to me even if I ask, and it’s just a lot, ok? It’s like:

Me: I don’t like pie.

Person: I think they have cherry pie in that shop, want to go grab some?

Me: ??? I just said??? I don’t like pie???

Person: I thought you meant that you like cherry pie.

Me: Because I said that I don’t like pie?

Person: Yeah!

End result? Peopling is thoroughly tiring. I need to recharge by myself.

Recently I have been realizing that there may be another aspect to this exhaustion, though.

So there’s this thing called “hypervigilance.” This webpage defines it as “Hypervigilance is a state of increased alertness. If you’re in a state of hypervigilance, you’re extremely sensitive to your surroundings. It can make you feel like you’re alert to any hidden dangers, whether from other people or the environment.” 

When I first heard of it (ages ago) I didn’t at all think it described me. I mean, sure, I’m extremely aware of my surroundings and the people in it literally all the time unless I am somewhere safe and completely alone, and sure I’m constantly closely watching the behavior of the people around me and especially anyone I am interacting with and cataloguing all of their norms so that I’ll know if they do something outside of their norm, but that’s just normal, right?! Everyone does that! Ok, yes, people tend to remark about how thoughtful I am because I notice things about them and remember (THIS person always likes to have a red cup, THAT person likes to have a towel when they’re warm, etc), and apparently I’m remarkably observant, but that doesn’t really mean anything, right?

So… ok. Yes. Turns out I totally am hypervigilant. I don’t really want to get into why I’m hypervigilant in this post – suffice to say it’s crap from my childhood and we can leave it at that. 

The point is, this is definitely another thing that makes interacting with other humans SO EXHAUSTING for me. It takes a lot of energy to pay attention to everything. It also definitely contributes to why group interactions are so much harder for me. Not only are the social dynamics of group situations far more complex, but there’s so much more to watch! Each new person isn’t just one new point to observe, they’re a whole new factor. I can’t just watch the person and how they act, I must watch how they interact with each individual as well as how they interact with the group as a whole. Possibly also how they interact with sub-groups. It’s just so much.

This does leave me wondering a bit as to whether or not I would still be introverted if I weren’t autistic and hadn’t been exposed to things that lead to my being hypervigilant. And honestly? I really don’t know. There’s no way to know, because being autistic is a core aspect of who I am and the hypervigilance came about during very early formative years. All I know for sure is that apparently I was a VERY talkative baby and young child, but at some point in those childhood years (like, elementary school) I just… stopped talking. I became silent, and people definitely liked it better that way. 

All I know for sure is that:

  1. I’m an introvert now.
  2. My being an introvert is ok.

Regardless of where it does or doesn’t come from, it’s definitely a major part of who I am now. And one thing it is NOT is something wrong with me, no matter what any extrovert trying to “fix” me has to say about it (sorry, that’s another rant for another time). I’m the kind of introvert who prefers one-on-one interactions, and I am ok just the way I am.

Even if I do sometimes like exploring possible roots of my personality traits.

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What is society for?

Humans, nearly universally, live in societies. We get together and live cooperatively and interdependently. Humans are profoundly social animals; it’s our primary survival strategy. There are a number of benefits this confers such as skill specialization, resource sharing, and cooperative breeding, but I really want to focus on the disabled aspect of this. What is society for in terms of disabled people?

I think that people have two wildly differing ideas regarding what society is for, and that is where a lot of conflict comes in around how to care for disabled people (or, and this is terrible even to say, whether to care for disabled people at all). Personally, I call these ideas the goose model and the wolf model.

So ages and ages ago, I lived on a sheep farm for around a year. That sheep farm happened to have a flock of geese that lived there too. Those geese had pretty easy lives. Food and water was plentiful, shelter was close at hand, and the dogs made sure that they didn’t really have to contend with predators. Nonetheless, geese will always be geese. Geese are also social animals, preferring to hang out together in a flock (with the exception of breeding season, but anyway). However, they do not in any way take care of each other while they are in this flock. I got to witness one goose get sick (not terribly sick. Like a goose cold or something) and the rest of the flock turned out that goose absolutely viciously. They drove it out, wouldn’t let it get close, and closed ranks against it. That poor goose tried incredibly hard to be as close to the flock as they would let it get, and otherwise just tried to spend it’s time hiding since it was alone and didn’t have the safety of its flock.

To the geese, the group is about protection from predators and a hostile world. Even if the world they live in isn’t actually hostile, that’s still what the group is for. A weak member of the group drags everyone down, and thus is undesirable. This is what I call the “goose model.” This idea of society is fear-based, constantly worried about attack from outside threats, and considers it best to get rid of anything that might be seen as “weakness.” 

(Disclaimer: I don’t know if all geese act like that or just the breed that I was around, which I believe was a particularly vicious kind of goose. Regardless, it’s still where I got my metaphor for this part of my model)

Then there’s the wolf model. Wolves also live in groups, but their treatment of the sick or injured or weak is wildly different from what I saw in those geese. Wolves actually care for their weaker pack members. The weak, the injured, the sick, the elderly, the disabled – the rest of the pack takes care of them. I’ve seen this behavior in cats as well. Cats are not as aggressively social as wolves or humans are, but they still can form bonds with each other and I’m sure we’ve all seen stories about a cat taking care of an injured friend or refusing to leave an injured cat’s side. 

In this model, a society is for taking care of each other. The strength of the group comes from the assurance that the members will always take care of each other. There is no need to judge anyone’s individual contribution – we’re a family, and family takes care of family. 

It probably goes without saying that I am in the wolf model camp. Humans are cooperative and interdependent, and I strongly believe that our strength comes from taking care of each other. It’s about the entire group lifting each other up, and everyone being better off because of it. It’s about recognizing that everyone deserves to live and thrive regardless of what they may struggle with.

As far as I can tell, human societies have been all over the board in regards to how they treated the sick or disabled. Since I’m not actually trying to write a term paper here, I chose to not dive into that mire. I did, however, find some interesting articles about prehistoric societies. Apparently there is a growing body of evidence that prehistoric societies also took care of their sick, injured, etc. Here is an article going over a few cases of archaeological finds showing disabled individuals thousands of years ago, living far longer than they would have been able to on their own. They absolutely had to have been taken care of – meaning the people around them did exactly that. It seems that at least some ancient humans viewed the role of society as being for taking care of each other. 

Personally, I think that’s pretty cool.

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Sex Positivity and Autism

First things first – I am not an expert and I am not making any claim to be an authority in this area. I am simply an opinionated autistic trans man who has some thoughts on the topic. 

CONTENT NOTE: This post will be talking about sex and body parts. If you aren’t comfortable reading that, please take care of yourself first. Read on only if you are comfortable/ok doing so.

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