I wish I could say something about Orlando

rainbow flag at half mast against dark sky

But I can’t do it easily. I’m having a hard time ordering my thoughts. It’s almost too much. And it’s derailing me. It’s pulling my resources and energy away from my daily life activities, making me even less functional that usual.

Others have accused observed that I don’t really emote that much in situations like this — that I don’t process my emotions well, because I don’t readily talk about them. And for some reason, they think my “impassive” state reflects my interior state.

Trust me, I feel plenty. And I’ve got more than enough emotion to spare, when people like me are singled out and mowed down… because they are like me. Gay. Queer. Other. A challenge to the status quo and the prevailing social order.

It’s just there is more — much, much more — than I can express in spoken words. And I have no confidence that I’ll do it well. Or that the people I’m talking to will even understand what I’m saying.

A lot of people want to destroy anything that makes them as nervous as people like me do. They hate us. They don’t just fear us. They harbor homicidal hatred for us. They feel entitled to take out their aggression on us, as though it’s perfectly normal. And because everyone calls it “fear”, it’s partially justified. Because everyone knows what it’s like to be afraid and want to get rid of the thing that frightens you.

This is different, though. And why should I and people like me — anyone, really — have to suffer, even lose their lives, because someone can’t deal with fear in a mature and healthy way?

Orlando is a long way from my home. It’s on the same coast, but it’s a couple days’ drive away. To the south. I’ve never been there. I may never go there. And yet this feels close to home. Because if I were 20 years younger and lived there, I probably would have been there. In that club. With my drag queen and drag king boy/girlfriends. Surrounded by my chosen family, in a place where we could be safe to simply be who and what we were.

Of course, it’s now. I’m safely ensconced in my home to the north, in a solidly middle-class 98% white community, with my good job, my two cars in the garage and my three weeks of paid vacation. I am in no obvious danger, where I am. Nor does anyone I work with or live around think that I’m in any danger.

Maybe that’s why nobody from either side of the family called on Sunday when the news broke.

Crickets. Not a peep. Not so much as an email or a Facebook message. Crickets.

Maybe that’s why nobody at work actually said anything to me on Monday, about what a terrible thing it was, and how they were sorry it happened.

Again, crickets. From the well-meaning people who I get along with, and who like to share funny stories about home maintenance debacles and aging relatives. From people who say out loud that they think trans people are just looking for attention, and think nothing of spouting all manner of racism and classism and sexism — and get right in your face, spitting in it, if you dare to challenge their views.

Crickets.

But what would I say? Because a lot of these people think — to some extent — that we were just asking for it. We stand out, we step away from the norm, we make “spectacles” of ourselves and make others nervous. So, what can we expect?

What indeed?

That’s one of the big reasons I haven’t talked about this with many people. I’ve had the chance to discuss it with some people, but they are just so clueless about what it’s like to be in my world and be sliced to the bone by this attack. Even thousands of miles away. Even from within the safe, white, middle-class enclave I inhabit. It cuts deep. And it leaves a scar.

But somehow I’m not entitled to get that upset. Because all my straight counterparts at work and in my social world don’t see me as “one of those people”. I’m not flamboyant. I don’t call attention to myself. I don’t make an issue out of “gay rights”. And I don’t go ballistic on them, when they say bigoted and racist things. We’re all just trying to get along. Especially at work. Some of us try harder than others. That would include me.

And the perpetual sense I have of somehow not being true to myself or my community… that’s pervasive. Especially at a time like this.

I should be speaking up. I should be speaking out. I should be drawing a proverbial line in the sand, demanding “No More” in no uncertain terms.

But here’s the thing — and this is where my Asperger’s kicks in with a vengeance — standing up and making a case in public for your rights and your personhood requires some measure of ability, some grace under pressure. You have to be able to collect your thoughts and order them, and then express them in ways that others understand. You have to be able to both express yourself and impress your points upon others. And you need to do it within the limits of other people’s attention and patience and interest. None of which comes easily when you’re on the autism spectrum.

It’s the sort of thing most people take for granted, being able to stand up for yourself and speak out in ways that others understand. Most people can just do that. And they do it all the time.

But when you have issues with selective mutism that make you clam up when you’re under pressure or facing an intimidating person who’s not at all on your side…

And you have so many thoughts and feelings and sensations clamoring for your attention, climbing all over each other like lemurs swarming through trees waving in the wind, competing for lychee fruit… that you feel like you’re literally coming out of your skin… and it’s all you can do to just keep yourself from falling over, let alone speak your mind about a very sensitive, emotional issue…

And your emotions are running so high that it takes almost superhuman effort to not break down in tears or melt down in a shaking, trembling pile of incoherence… even when you look like you’re fine, and nobody can tell how torn up you are inside…

… Well, good luck with that.

Yeah, I wish I could say something about Orlando.

I wish the words would come to me, when I’m around other people who just don’t get it, which would help them get it. I wish I could find the best way to express my thoughts and my perceptions in ways that make sense to others. I wish — this one time — I did not find myself smack-dab in the middle of the autism spectrum. I wish — for just a few days — I could turn this off… just until I speak out and make things plain for those who don’t have a clue, but who would still like to know how to help.

But for now, this is all I’ve got.

And it will have to do.

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