What have I… what have I… what have I done to deserve this?

So, every now and then, I’m reminded about how the “autistic community” can be pretty cold and alienating. It can be clique-y. It can push the “uncool kids” to the margins. It can punish those who fail to pass the purity tests. Every now and then, I’m reminded yet again, that the fabled “autistic community” is just that – a fable.

The other day, an autistic individual I follow on Twitter posted something that I found sort of funny, and I responded with an image that seemed to address (in an absurd way) their observation.

Most people I encounter on Twitter are pretty good sports. Even if they don’t find my tweets hilarious (tho’ they often do, and why wouldn’t they? I can be truly hilarious, plus I’m fun and a little offbeat in a refreshing sort of way), at the very least, they click the little “heart thingie” and we all move on.

But with this one autistic individual (and others they are ostensibly good friends with), I got nothing. Crickets. No response. No recognition. Who knows if they even saw it?

Well, whatever. It’s not like I live and die by whether someone likes what I post or tweet or whatever. It’s not like my life revolves around being recognized by this individual – or any other individual, for that matter. I’m autistic. I’m fine on my own.

But we have these little rules about basic online civility that don’t seem to matter much, at times, with some of the people I follow. And I get a distinct “ew! get away from me” vibe from it, like I’m intruding on their timeline or feed or whatever. I’m not invited to the conversation, and they’re not going to encourage me.

It’s not just this one person. It’s others who I know are in their close circle. They’re buddies. And I think they’ve decided they don’t like me. Which is fine. But it’s also surprising, seeing as these are middle-aged adult-like individuals who should really know better about just observing a modicum of civility. Even disingenuous responses help grease the social machinery. And since I know they grew up in “polite company”, I know for a fact, they’re capable of it.

They’ve just decided not to do it with me.

Another autistic researcher whose work I really, really respect, has seen fit to be outright rude to me, when I was actually complementing them on their work. I was literally going out of my way to be supportive, when they were catching all sorts of shit from others about work they’d done which was actually really good.

But no. They didn’t want to hear from me. Smackdown. How rude. I mean, it’s one thing to not understand the bare essentials of politeness, but I’ve seen that person be polite to other people, so I know it can be done. By them.

They just decided not to do it with me.

And then there’s that other really, really prominent autistic activist who attacked me, early one Monday morning, because I’d done something they didn’t agree with at all. Accusations were made. I explained my position and told them no offense was ever intended. But it just seemed to enrage them all the more. Long story short, I lost a halfway decent Monday morning to being unreasonably preoccupied by something I thought I’d done wrong. Logic prevailed, eventually, and I realized that I literally had done nothing untoward, but they were having a bad day and didn’t realize that the thing(s) they were accusing me of…. frankly, I actually didn’t do.

I’m more than happy to take responsibility for stuff I’ve done wrong. I apologize several times a day, minimum, for my screw-ups. But when other people come after me — deliberately, malevolently, with an actual desire to harm me in ways they think I harmed them — yeah, that’s where I draw the line.

I wish I could be the bigger person and cut them some slack, because I do believe they do good work, and they’ve contributed a whole lot to people’s understandings about autistic experience. But no. It’s not gonna happen. I still get shaky, thinking about it. And the last thing I want to do, is be anywhere near that person or their work or hear their name.

Now, I totally get that we autistic folks have a different way of socializing. But sorry (not sorry), being outright rude and obnoxious to others, treating them unkindly, ignoring them, freezing them out, and just being nasty about it… that’s something different. That’s not just a maturity thing. That’s a character thing. And I know for a fact, based on the many autistic people I know, that we are not innately deficient in character, just ’cause we’re on the spectrum.

Sometimes shitty behavior is a choice.

Time to go unfollow some people on Twitter.

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Vicariously happy for a whole lot of people

So, I’m breaking my silence to speak about my own experience… as the Foe in the White House is in the process of being vanquished. Just remember, it’s not over yet, and there are a lot of people who have to process this loss (and some who have to learn how to handle the win with a bit more grace and dignity). So, we’re still in for a ride, over the next couple-three months.

Buckle up.

Personally, I’m really, really happy for a whole lot of people who now feel like they can breathe a little easier, again. Especially the Black community and other People of Color. The white supremacy that’s cast a shadow over the land (and cast a pallor over our national complexion) seems like it may abate.

At least it’s not quite as much of a default mode, as it has been for far too long.

That truly is cause for celebration. It’s just amazing! I’m relieved in a way that I haven’t been, in quite some time. Justice! Yay! When others are better off, I am better off. Seeing others in pain is excruciating for me, especially when it’s politically/socially sanctioned, and it’s practically mandated by an elected official.

And yet… I’m not exactly celebrating for myself. I mean, no matter how well they retrain society to stop being so incredibly racist, no matter how much more accepting American society becomes, no matter how much more goodness is allowed to express itself in the American public… people are still people. I’m still queer. I’m still autistic. I’m still dealing with a number of invisible issues that I don’t dare tell anyone about, because, well, people are still people, and not everybody gets it, and the cost of being up-front and transparent might be more than I can afford.

It’s always the “might” that gets me, if you want to know (I’m not saying you do, I’m just putting it out there). It’s always the uncertainty about whether someone will be OK with me, or they’ll have issues… whether they’ll be mature enough and experienced enough to not get all triggered ‘n’ whatnot about the issues I make them painfully aware of… or whether I’ll step on a proverbial mine in that explosive-strewn expanse known as social interactions.

Only autistic people can imagine just how stressful it is to walk into one social situation after another literally not knowing if I’ll blow it all up accidentally, and how carefully I tread… conceal… mask… pivot… accommodate… just to not have someone look at me that way with that same old look that says loud and clear, “Tell me you didn’t just _____”.

Anyway, as happy as I am for everyone who stands to gain from this, I don’t actually feel like it has much to do with me or my situation. The hazards are still there. The threats. I’m still persona non grata with a lot of folks, and a different guy in the White House isn’t going to change that. The undercurrent of uncertainty that makes staying inside (quarantine! hooray!!!) seem really, really attractive. Relaxing. A relief. I’m good with not going out, except at 7:30 on a Sunday morning to grocery shop.

And in some ways, the world actually feels more precarious to me, now. Because now I have to figure out which people around me are really nice people, and which are racists and bigots and people who want to kick the shit out of me, but are just being polite on the face of it all. With Trump in office, it’s been easy to spot them, because it’s been a-okay for them to just flex that part of themselves. But now it’s going to become a big secret, again. The world is supposed to become more genteel, more gentle, more civilized, now that Trump’s on the way out. But from what I’ve seen over the past 55 years, people more often learn to hide their bigotry (and then act it out in clandestine ways), rather than evolve into something less hazardous to people like me.

Meh, whatever. I’m probably raining on somebody’s parade, so sorry if I dulled your buzz. But let’s be honest. Especially those of us who grew up in the 60s and 70s. People can be real shits. And a change of leadership in a country, while it helps with setting an example that others may follow, isn’t going to morph the hearts of darkness into beacons of light.

The hearts of darkness are still there.

It’s just going to get harder to see — and avoid them — from here on out.