Is there an #autistic way of being friends?

four groups of four people, with one person in front
Friendship means different things to different people

I want to take a step back and reconsider something that comes up a lot in discussions about Autism / Aspergers – the concept of friendship. I’m not sure we’re thinking about this clearly. It could be that we’re applying neurotypical measures and values to the criteria for who’s a friend and what friendship constitutes. And I’m not sure it’s serving us. I think it may be causing a lot of us to think we’re lonelier (and more alone) than we really are.

I am beginning to suspect that Autism / Aspergers comes with its own unique brand of friendship. And that distinct “friendotype” is no less valid than the neurotypical type — it can be every bit as fulfilling, and it might just help to make the world a better place.

The sooner we stop measuring our friendships by neurotypical measures — and we quit feeling badly about who we are because we “don’t measure up” to non-autistic standards — the happier we’ll be.

At least that’s what I think.

Let me speak for myself. I suspect others will agree. Hear me out.

Let’s look at the dictionary to see how “friend” is defined:

friend
noun
a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically exclusive of sexual or family relations.

Most people would not say they “know” someone until they’ve spent a great deal of time with them, been through a number of good and bad experiences with them, and have “gotten to know” them. But most people aren’t autistic. Most people aren’t empathic. Most people aren’t so highly sensitive to others, that they can “pick up” on what’s going on with that other person in an instant.

As for the bond of mutual affection, most people (in the neurotypical model) spend a lot of time withholding their affection. They’re stuck in the idea that they’re separate and apart from everyone and everything around them. And crossing the chasm of interpersonal differences is a monumental effort for many. So, bonds of mutual affection don’t get created for quite some time, until certain criteria are met.

Exclusive of sexual or family relations — that’s actually easily dispatched with many autistic folks, as we don’t automatically interact with others in a sexual way. Unless we’re hypersexual autistics (it happens — I used to be that way, years ago)… then things get trickier. But nowadays, I have no more interest in having sex with random people I meet and connect with, than I have in having surgery. The two seem equally intricate and intimate to me, as well as potentially painful and … fraught.

So, on those three official criteria strike me as particularly neurotypical in nature. And they don’t allow for any autism (or empathy, for you non-autistic empaths in the audience) in the definition. Again, it’s a case of mob-rule assumptions about how people are, how they behave, and what “should” happen as a result.

Now, let’s talk about the “folk” definition of friendship. Friends are people whom you feel you can talk to about anything, who can — and will — step up and support you in your hour of need, thanks to the personal bond you have with them. They’ll come to your assistance, no matter what. And they’ll put up with your sh*t with long-suffering grace, because, well, they’re you’re friend.

And you’d do the same for them.

Here’s my issue with this model:

First, not everyone is completely unable to connect with others, except under select circumstances, after years of history with them.

Some of us can actually connect with others on a deep personal level, regardless of how well we know them or how long we’ve known them. It can happen very quickly. It does happen very quickly for many autistic folks. We can be highly empathic. We can sense our similarities and connections with others. We can co-experience others’ moods and state of mind/body/spirit. And we can establish a really close bond with those others almost instantly. (It’s a lot less wonderful than it sounds, by the way. It can be pretty confusing, frustrating and tiring.)

Because we can empathically connect with others, we actually meet the first official criterion for friendship — we know (yes, literally know) other people on a deeply personal level. And it can happen much, much more deeply than in neurotypical cases.

Second, we actually can have “a bond of mutual affection” with the people to whom we connect instantly.

Not only can we feel a bond with them, but they can feel a bond with us. We see them. We know them. We can co-experience their lives and widen our own in the process. And others may really respond to that sense of connection. People crave understanding. They crave feeling known and recognized. They hunger for the type of acceptance some of us can offer them, and they thirst for that sense of being “seen” as who they are. They get what they need from us, when we’re empathically connected with them. And that can form a close, almost uncanny bond that’s a welcome change from your standard-issue alienation that most folks marinate in, socially speaking.

For the record, this is not a “faux” connection. It’s real. It’s genuine. It’s unique. And for some of us on the spectrum, it can be a way of life. Everyday autistic life.

Of course, empathicness doesn’t necessarily pick and choose between fun people to connect with and the miserable people who cross our paths. So, we can end up inadvertently connecting with and forming a bond with toxic people we should run from — but who feel a deep connection with us, because we’re co-experiencing (and hence supposedly validating) their experience.

And then we come to the absence of family / sexual relations.

This may actually be the crux of why autistic friendship patterns can be so different from non-autistic friendotypes. It seems to me that non-autistic people are much more closely aligned with people who are related to them by blood, or who have had sex with them. In fact, it seems at times as though some allistic folks use blood ties and sexual relations as a way to build their social circle.

If you’re related, somehow that overrides countless other considerations (is someone an a**hole? are they a predator? a moocher? a problem?) Apparently, there’s some inborn obligation to put up with them, to interact with them, to keep them in your social circle… as long as you’ve got a blood connection with you. Likewise, if you have adopted siblings, others may treat them like they’re not really part of the family. Or if you’ve got a “step-parent”, according to some, they’re not really your parent. It seems arbitrary to me. And it’s based on something you cannot control, you haven’t chosen, something that fate’s pretty much foisted upon you. Maybe you get lucky, maybe you don’t. But according to non-autistic guidelines of who matters and who doesn’t, if you’re connected by blood/marriage, that counts for more than personality and/or what you bring to the dynamic.

And then you have “sexual relations” which are not just just having sex with someone, exchanging fluids, making babies, etc. It’s also about interacting with others in a sexualized way: flirting, innuendo, all those little hints and wink-wink-nudge-nudge vagaries that tend to frustrate and confound autistic folks. It seems sometimes like non-autistic people are constantly “on the make” — always looking for sexual partners, constantly talking about sex, joking and hinting and whatnot. It’s like they use sex as a shortcut to connect with other people… maybe because they can’t (or don’t want to) connect in other ways?

Am I onto something here? Autistic folks connect above the neck… Non-autistics connect below the waist…? Or am I just stereotyping and being unfair? There’s always that chance.

Or perhaps autistic ways of connecting are more… pervasive than non-autistics? We can definitely be more sensitive, more empathic, more connected to our surroundings, and that both facilitates and complicates the relationships we have with people around us… to the point where culturally driven, somewhat chance-driven designations like blood connections and who’s available for mating are eclipsed by the swirling flow of sensory input that override our attention for those social conventions.

Anyway, all this being said, I’m more convinced than ever that autistic folks have different friendship patterns which are not less effective or less desirable than non-autistic friendship patterns. They’re just different from the ways the majority of folks build and sustain friendships.

If we struggle with friendships, it’s not because we’re doing it wrong. It’s because we have different patterns, different priorities, and others can’t accommodate / match us. The problem — again, there’s the social model — is that the relationships we form can become one-sided, lopsided in who’s doing how much work, and who’s actually benefit. An autistic person being drawn to a non-autistic person can be put at some kind of risk if that non-autistic person is incapable of understanding or reciprocating in a decent, humane way. Worst of all, is when the non-autistic person takes advantage of the autistic person, and the autistic person never realizes, because they can’t imagine why someone would do such a thing.

In any case, I’m continuously revising my understandings of things, and friendship patterns are just my latest fascination du jour.

Tomorrow, it might be something else.

I’m sure it will.

But for now, just for today… this is my revised understanding of friendships, on the rebound from my somewhat dismal declarations yesterday.

It’s a process. I never stop questioning, never stop learning. So it goes.

Very friendly… very few friends

person standing along a fencerow with a sunset in the distanceI caught sight of something on Twitter, this morning: A mention of knowing lots of people, but not having many actual friends.

I’m the same way. I know countless people. And even folks I don’t actually know — well I tend to get along with even them. Other people apparently love me, from what I can tell. I’m open, accepting, tolerant, I let them be who they are, and I can find common ground with them, no matter what our differences.

That’s great for the dynamic, but it doesn’t really do much for the actual relationship. I don’t know many people who actually know how and what I think about things, because it’s hard for me to put into words what exactly is going on with me. Writing is easier, but not everybody likes to read, these days, and anyway, social interactions are largely verbal, so…

The long and short of it all is that I have a lot of people who want to be my friends, but I have no interest in reciprocating. My friendliness is the extent of my interest in them. It’s not even necessarily interest in them, rather keeping the social interaction going. The vast majority of people I know would probably be pretty uncomfortable if they knew the truth about me and my challenges, which would end up isolating me a lot more than now. It’s just easier to mask and camouflage and simulate interest in interactions, rather than being authentically myself 100%.

Yeah, I know I should be past that. But seriously, I have a lot on my plate every day, and I just don’t have the energy or the interest in going that proverbial extra mile for the sake of authenticity.

Just get the interaction over without pain and bloodshed. That’s all I really want. I have no interest in being stigmatized, in being pushed aside, in being seen as less-than or disabled (even if I am really struggling, much of the time). And I’m a terrible activist. I lived in that world as a kid, and I’m done with it.

I really just want to get on with my life and do my thing, without having to worry about the fallout from my surroundings.

So, I continue on my way — very friendly, almost no friends. I’m very comfortable talking to strangers and striking up conversations… “connecting” with others in an impersonally personal way. But telling people what’s really going on with me? I’m not there… and I may never be.

So it goes. So it goes.

 

Is #autism a purely cultural construct?

A few months back, I watched this video, and I found it very thought-provoking.

Essentially, what I hear Dr. Grinker saying, is that the concept of “autism” is a cultural creation, laden with all the criteria and aspects which the dominant culture deems important.

As someone with a cultural anthropology background, this idea intrigues me. I was a German-Anthropology double-major at uni, studying for 2 years in the US and 2 years in Germany at the University of Tuebingen (which — I discovered years after I left –has a pretty solid reputation in terms of anthropology). So, cultural context and the ways that the dominant mindset interplays with and fosters phenomena in people’s minds and lives is always in the back of my mind.

Heck, I’m an autistic woman, so of course I’m going to be intrigued by this stuff. If you want to get stereotypical, autistic boys are “little professors” and autistic girls are “little psychologists”. Of course, there’s bound to be overlap — you can cross that gender divide any ol’ way you like, and it’s perfectly fine by me.

Anyway, the more I think about this concept that “autism is a cultural construct”, the less I agree with it. I’ve long been convinced that we autistic folks have our own culture, our own ways of being, and the things we find compelling and meaningful are likely to appeal to us because we are autistic. We aren’t autistic due to the neurotypical identification of our “condition”, any more than species in the Galapagos Islands were invented by Darwin when he first documented their existence.

Let’s not get confused about this, people. Just because you identify and name something, doesn’t mean you have rights to it, or you own it, or you get to define it. All you’ve done is identified it, placed a label on it, and granted it (dubious and frankly unneeded) permission to occupy your thoughts in a systematic way.

Autism isn’t something that was invented by Asperger or Kanner, or even the other guy (Eugen Bleuler) who apparently coined the term “autistic” in … what?… 1911. No, Kanner wasn’t even the inventor of the term, nor was he the discoverer of autism. He was some dude who had a knack for recognizing the value in obscure but useful concepts, and turned that raw material into his own gold. ’nuff said ’bout that guy.

Autism wasn’t invented by anyone. Nor is it the domain of anyone who thinks they can (or should) cure it or fix it or do whatever with it. Autism has always been. It just hasn’t always been recognized. Just ’cause a bunch of people have been staring at their shoes for aeons, then suddenly they look up and notice the beautiful sunset, doesn’t mean they get to decide what the sunset means, what to do about it, or who has access to it.

Likewise, the idea of anyone declaring autism a cultural construct is telling. It’s telling that it comes from a straight, white, neurotypical male in academia. How presumptuous. And how clueless. He may have an autistic daughter, and he may have written some book(s) about the subject and studied autism in different contexts, but seriously… calling a distinct neurotype a veritable invention of the dominant milieu… yah. No.

I am especially convinced of this, as I did a couple of family visits with my autistic parents in a very autistic part of the United States, where they’re just starting to understand autism as something other than an extreme, mentally debilitating condition. My father is ill with a still-to-be-diagnosed condition, and both of my parents (being under duress) have become increasingly autistic along the way. But to them — and their friends — they are wholly and entirely normal. They behave “the way people are supposed to behave” and that’s that, as far as they’re concerned.

I spent a fair amount of time, on one of my visits, discussing an article about autism which my parents read and discussed with their (ultra spectrum-y) book group. In no conversation, other than one about my aunt, did the idea of anyone in our family being autistic come up. I haven’t discussed it with them. They hew to the classic, post-WWII understanding of autism. Frankly, they’ve got enough on their minds that needs processing.

Knowing what I know, seeing what I’ve seen, I firmly believe that autism is a specific neurotype. It is, in itself, not necessarily disabling. Now, what the dominant paradigm considers “autism” is actually the symptoms of the condition, exacerbated by a number of factors (genetic, environmental, social, cultural, interpersonal, etc). I also believe, having grown up in an area where autistic behavior and traits were/are the norm, rather than the pathologized exception, that even in the face of acceptance, the autistic neurotype still retains its distinguishing characteristics. It still lays the foundation for the classic issues that arise (and are pointed out in the DSM-V). However, in an environment where autism is the norm, there are specific cultural supports and accommodations which are naturally extended to individuals. Those supports are every bit as remedial as are found outside the community, but they’re not extended as part of a specialized response to a pathological disorder, rather just something you do for someone to help them out.

In the area where I grew up, in my extended family, as well as our immediate rural community, autism is simply another way of being. And there are specific supports and responses to its challenges, which are woven into the fabric of the subculture as part-and-parcel of that way of life. It’s not pathological, it’s not embarrassing. It’s just how people are with each other and the world around them.

But if you view it from a distance, the characteristics are every bit as autistic as any you’d find identified outside the normalizing context.

Based on my upbringing and the last 20 years of actively exploring the nature of autism in my own life, I believe that autism is actually very much “a thing” in itself. When it’s accepted as simply another way of being, autism retains its nature and characteristics (and challenges) — but the community incorporating it is transformed.

So, it’s not a question of a culture inventing autism. Rather it’s a culture learning to recognize a part of itself that it may have never noticed before… putting a name to it, trying to understand it, and figuring out how to incorporate it (or, sadly, in some cases, eradicate it). It’s a question of culture creating a disorder — which should never be confused with the autism, itself.

Is autism a cultural construct?

Nah. But autism does a great job of constructing culture.

Sharing : ‘Always performing’ – my autism diagnosis helped me accept the person beneath the act

“Ah, the actress,” the psychic said. “Yes, I am an actress,” I replied. “Oh, no,” she corrected. “You’re a writer. But you’re an actress in your day-to-day life. Always performing. No one really knows who you are. Not yet, anyway.”

Eight years ago, at the time of that reading, I didn’t know I was autistic. I had no idea that the way I experienced life was different from the way others did. Nor was I aware that, in order to cope, I had become exceptionally skilled at playing the role of someone else – to the point that I had even fooled myself.

Read the rest at: ‘Always performing’ – my autism diagnosis helped me accept the person beneath the act

Sharing: Autistic power in the workplace

Photo on 02-03-2017 at 15.35 #2

Yes, we do have power. My post is not a simplification of wider more intractable structural power imbalances which work against autistics, but rather seeks to address a specific area in which power may be regained.

Society tends to ignore the contribution of autistic workers – both employed and potential workers (for many of us it is said are unemployed largely due to the myriad complications of ableism in our lives). Visible autistics are often cast either as recipients of charity in the workplace or as tech trojans, maths professors and sundry geeks.

There’s also a galling new trend to laud autistic workers (with the help of stereotypes) as work-horses. Honest as the work day is long! Give them a repetitive job and they’re happy! Accuracy means productivity! Wink, wink! Employ an autistic!

I’m very glad people are getting work, don’t get me wrong, but we have a long way to go because so much of this is predicated on neuro-normative thinking – but I better stick to what I know and talk about my own case.

I believe that many of us probably form an invisible workforce, whose skills can’t easily be replaced by others in the market place – because they are not autistic. We are both employees and freelancers – some of whom may also create opportunity or employment for others. Our brains work differently and often originally – we can gain recognition but also do so for others by association, or more darkly though imitation and appropriation. Subtle use of autistic smarts by neuro-normatives is a thing in the creative sector – conscious or not – and it has to stop. We often do not receive recognition or added value for what we bring to the job, in my experience. Neurotypicals can be slow to grasp the deep benefits autistics bring to work, and overlook them as the players they are or could be. Cultural deafness to autistic smarts, and lack of access to the rules of the game are often to blame. This is what must become transparent.

 

Such a great post! Read the rest at: Autistic power in the workplace

#AutismAwareness Month – What others think of me, is none of my business

Herakles and the Hydra Water Jar (Etruscan, c. 525 BC) - Herakles clubs the Hydra, while a crab assists it by attacking Herakles
It’s much easier to not even engage. Or is it?

It’s April. There’s a ton of mixed information about Autism churning through the aethers.

Lord help us.

I was getting all spun up about it, over the weeks leading up to April. Bracing for the onslaught. Girding my loins for war. Bristling at the thought of how often I’ve been told I can’t be autistic, frustrated at the lack of information — and the disinformation that’s being spread by ve$ted intere$t$ out to make a buck. Getting tweaked about what others think of me, or would think of me, or how they’d respond to me.

I have to say, I would love to rectify a lot of this, myself — inject some elightenment and enhanced autism awareness in the general populace. Even in my own family.

The thing is, a lot of what I think other people think / feel / assume about me, is inaccurate. Let’s face it — autism, in my case, is accompanied by social cluelessness and a really compromised ability to interpret what others are saying / thinking / feeling on the surface. Plus, I’ve got a supremely heightened awareness of what people are saying / thinking / feeling beneath the surface.  So, in some cases, I know more about them than they do. And that just leads to more confusion and “crossed wires”, when I try to engage with them.

People generally aren’t in touch with whats’ really going on inside of them, and when you interact with them on a deeper, more authentic level, it scares them. Because they can invest a whole lot of time in overlooking, denying, avoiding what’s really going on inside of them.

And it occurs to me, maybe this is really the crux of “social disconnects” between autistics and non-autistics — we autistics relate to how people really are, on the inside, while non-autistics expend huge amounts of energy avoiding how and what they truly are, deep down inside. And autistically authentic interactions scare the crap outa them.

Hmmm… maybe I’m onto something here… Well (shrug)… whatever.

Anyway, here’s the thing — I’m not getting spun up over all the ignorance and discrimination towards me, this month. Yes, it bothers me tremendously that there is still so much ignorance and lack of acceptance. Yes, I know it causes pain. The thing is, I’m not going to let it cause me more pain than it really does.

As in, I’m not going to fret over the rest of the world not “getting” me, not accepting me, not recognizing me for who I am. The rest of the non-autistic world frankly has no clue, and they have no reason to get a clue. They’re wrapped up in their own self-centered worlds, their own limited visions, their own officially sanctioned versions of reality. I have no control over that. And I’m not going to make myself miserable, living in constant reaction to that.

I have to advocate for myself.

I have to make it plain what I need from life.

I have to take responsibility for caring for myself, managing my environment and situations so that they don’t make me miserable.

I have to do my part to minimize my misery, to tell others what I need from them on a case-by-case basis, to not expect them to read my mind and anticipate what I need — because that’s so very different from what they expect and assume.

I have to put my “big girl pants” on , and deal with it. Because no one else will do it for me. Sorry. No government agency, no charity, no organization, no support group, no team of helpers is going to come to my rescue. They’re just not.

And that’s not necessarily a terrible thing.

When it comes to the whole autism awareness / acceptance thing, it seems to me that people assume certain things are going to result from an up-tick in both those things. That people will be more considerate. That they’ll understand more. That they’ll be more accommodating. That they’ll be more open and receptive.

I must be living in a very different world, because I expect none of those things to happen. People are self-centered — especially non-autistic people. They feel overwhelmed and put-upon in general, and they (from what I’ve observed) make every effort to surround themselves with like-minded people with similar characteristics and personality profiles.

And that doesn’t include autistic people, for the most part. Unless they have no clue that you’re autistic. Then you can be their friend.

Maybe that’s a Terrible Thing. Maybe it’s not.

Anyway, where that leaves me is with a divine indifference to the opinions of the general populace, when it comes to me and people like me. That also extends to opinions of the autistic “community” (such as it is), who may or may not agree with my point of view. I’ve been attacked. I’ve been blocked. I’ve been criticized and called “irritating”. Okay, fine. People are free to believe what they like. In then end, we all find out if what we think actually works. If others want to devote their lives to anger and outrage, that’s their lot. Not mine. I’m certainly not devoting my life to their anger and outrage.

It’s quite freeing, really, to let it go — to not get spun up over what others thing (good or ill). Not worrying about the drastic dip in my blog stats (“Augh! Nobody’s reading my stuff! Boo hoo!”) or the lack of follow and likes on Twitter and Facebook (“Oh no! Nobody’s noticing me! I’m so alone!”) … letting go of those standards lets me really, truly concentrate on the work itself, the writing in and of itself, the projects I’ve got going that add so much to my life and help me live the best way possible — for me.

I’m considering going for a whole week without checking my stats… not sure I can do it, but my stoic practice my require it. We’ll see how that shakes out.

Anyway, when it comes down to it, getting twisted up over what others think of me, is a recipe for despair. I have no control over it. I have no influence over strangers’ opinions. Everybody believes what they believe for very, very good reasons, very few of which I can discern. So, it’s best to let that go. Live my life. Write my words. Put them out there for others to read (and hopefully benefit from)… without getting too invested in a specific outcome.

It sounds a bit zen-like, and maybe it is.

At the core, however, it’s logic. Just reasonable logic. And I like that. Logic works for me.

When all else fails — including my estimation of others’ states of mind.

25+-Year #Autistic tech veteran – completely left out of the #WomenInSTEM movement

three human figures in the background with one solitary figure in frontHa – that title sounds like a personal profile… maybe on a bulletin board or forum… Funny. It sounds a little sad. A little upset. Too much? Whatever. At least, it’s true.

So, there’s all this amazing new movement on fostering the inclusion and career growth of #WomenInSTEM – Science, Technology, Engineering, Medicine. It’s so encouraging. And it’s great for the soul, to see it taking shape and maturing.

Back in 1992, when I got into high tech, women were few and far between, and when I went into web development full-time, there were even fewer in that space. Of course, there have always been women in computing (women were “computers” before the machines came along). And there have always been at least some women in science and engineering. But not nearly as many as men.

Once upon a time, it didn’t actually bother me. I’ve always been gender-non-conforming, and it was a relief to be able to work in an environment where my gender wasn’t made much of. If anything, it was downplayed. And that was partly my doing. Because the whole highly gendered “woman” thing has always been… well, problematic for me. And I just didn’t want to be bothered with classically gendered man-and-woman stuff.

I just wanted to code. I just wanted to build cool stuff and launch it and see the world change as a result.

These days, there’s increasing focus on including more women in the STEM space, and that’s great. I’m in the tech space, so I’ll talk about that portion of the whole STEM thing. There are meetups, hackathons, trainings, networking events, code-and-coffee sessions, and so forth. There’s a lot of activity going on, getting young women connected with each other and with the tech world. It’s awesome.

And I would love to participate. I would love to go to these events, network, connect with other women — especially younger women who may be waffling about whether or not to bother with tech… or who are grappling with a particularly sticky algorithmic conundrum and the could use an “old salt” to bounce ideas off.

The thing is, that’s just not gonna happen. Not in person, anyway. Not even online, really. ‘Cause I’m tired. I wrote earlier about how I’m fully employed, and I’ve been that way for about 30 years. Yeah, it’s been good. But I’m also exhausted. And in pain. All the time. To the point of disability, really. To the point of desperation, some days. The fatigue never really goes away, it just subsides and lurks in the background, till I either collapse or get a good night’s rest and manage to put it out of my mind.

All of my effectiveness and advancement has come at a steep price for me, as well as my family. I basically “leave it all on the field” each day. And when I’m done for the workday, I’m done.  Over and out. I’ve also got a handful of personal projects I’ve got going, and they get the majority of my “extra” energy (first thing in the morning before things “heat up” for me, and then on weekends and any parts of vacation days I may have).

The idea of dragging myself into a nearby city (or even town) to go to an evening meetup or coding session, let alone networking with total strangers, whom I have to make an extra effort to relate to… yeah, I just don’t have the discretionary time and energy for that. Even if something happens on the weekends, it’s rare that I have the discretionary energy to do that. I need my downtime — very much so. If I don’t rest enough on weekends, I suffer for it the following week. And so does everyone around me.

I’ve found a fine balance between keeping up with the rigors of everyday life, the responsibilities of my full-time job, being the primary carer for my partner, as well as volunteering on a town government board, attending a couple of autism support groups a month, and keeping myself healthy. And yeah, I do feel left out and excluded by the whole #WomenInSTEM thing. Because it seems to be only for young-ish, able-bodied, luxuriously time-rich women, who have the resources (time, energy, money, interpersonal support) to network and do this stuff.

Me? I can’t even imagine what it’s like to go to monthly meetups — or even quarterly — or just pick up and go to a hackathon on a moment’s notice, if it sounds cool and fun to attend. A lot of things sound cool and fun to attend, but I haven’t got the ability to do so.

I need to plan ahead of time. I need to make arrangements for my responsibilities — both for myself (so I’m confident they’re met) and for those I’m serving. I’m not complaining, I’m just observing.

And it’s kind of a shame.

Of course, I could do something online, I suppose. I could start a blog about my coding experiences, talk about different approaches, talk about the most effective ways to work with tech guys, when you’re the only woman in the vicinity. I could talk about all kinds of harassment, all kinds of positive experiences, lessons learned, and so forth.

But again – Time. Energy. These things take both, and I’ve already got my hands full.

It’s not for myself, that I’m most concerned. It’s actually for the others I could benefit, but never will because I’ve wrung myself out for the cause in the past 8 hours. Me? I’ll be fine. I’m perfectly happy doing my thing. But I’ve been in the technical trenches since the early 1990s, and I’ve got a wealth of knowledge and an eagerness to share it. Others could definitely benefit from it, I’m convinced.

Except the #WomenInSTEM movement is not totally accessible for someone like me. If anything, it’s just a bit exclusionary, as it presumes the ability (physical, economic, time-based) to join in the movement, just like all those other smiling women I see on my Twitter feed. I’m happy for them.

Well, it’s not really my concern, if the movement doesn’t have room for someone like me. The thing is, I don’t think I’m the only one. I’m sure there are other autistic tech women — or older caregiving women who are bogged down with domestic responsibilities — who are in the same boat as I. And we’ve got a sh*t-ton of experience that others could benefit from.

If they could get to us.

If they even knew we existed.

But they can’t.

And they mostly don’t.

So… it’s their loss.

And for that, I’m sad. 😦

Ah, well. Back to work.