The sun that rises
Is the same that sets
The Earth holds both
East and West
It’s been a very, very long time.
In the past five months I’ve been granted a (temporary) permanent residency (no one else seems to think that is nearly as hilarious as I do), started a job playing with blood products all day, thought an awful lot about further schooling, and spent a really ridiculous amount of time on tumblr. My life is being turned inside out at the seams by me for no good reason at all, which feels like a really good reason anyway, and I just ate a lot of jellybeans and regret that choice.
Sometime in early January, the alternative autism criteria got picked up again on tumblr and flooded my life with reminders of how awesome I can be when I’m thinking Big Thoughts About Stuff. I’m not sure what to do with that right this moment, but I feel like there’s at least one PhD in there somewhere.
So Mary Baldwin doesn’t do linguistics. I don’t think it’s anything personal, there just aren’t enough students (and faculty) to support it. One of my only real regrets about that school and who I’ve become because of it is that I couldn’t do linguistics, which I feel kind of like I’ve always been trying to do since I was a kid. The structure of language and the ways that people communicate may be my ultimate, One True Autistic Passion. Other subjects come and go, but language families are forever. Or something. Idioms are hard, man. I toy with lots of things, because I like learning. I do passionately enjoy medical sciences. I’m finding a deep appreciation lately for quantum physics, too. And there will always be part of me that wants to do more geography and modern cartography because, dude, for real. I’ve never been able to figure out what I want to do when I grow up because there are SO MANY THINGS I could do and how the fuck am I supposed to pick one? I want to be a doctor-bookshop owner-silversmith-linguist-novelist-autism researcher-physicist-cartographer.
I am not joking when I complain that I can’t be a polymath these days.
But I always come back to linguistics. I’m particularly interested in linguistics in relation to language acquisition in autism and alternative forms of communication, but only kinda because I can’t just sit and talk about how using “thou” to try to formal up some Early Modern English language shit is 100% wrong because it is the cognate and equivalent of du in German, which spirals into a thing about thorn as a letter vs Norman printers and thus “ye olde,” and surely anyone who speaks another Germanic language could seee this because “has” is conjugated identically for the two things (du hast/thou hast), and, and, and, oxford comma the end.(1) So instead of that I could be doing so much stuff.
Inertia is a bitch. I mean, and also choice paralysis, which, YES. I can’t choose what to do because what if I choose wrong is kind of the definition. Help? Or something? I forgot briefly that this isn’t tumblr, it’s a Real Blog. I don’t know how to end this, so this is it, give or take a footnote.
1. That was the best sentence I have ever written.
I’m getting really tired of the implication I should be grateful.
Australia is meeting the bare minimum standard of decency by allowing me to immigrate as Kit’s partner. We are in a relationship and have been for over eight years. I should not have to gush at length about how good and kind it is that they recognise us as a couple and graciously allow me the chance to immigrate. The US refusing to let me sponsor her is not and should not be the baseline. They are failing.
If I visited Australia, met a man, and we eloped, I would be allowed to immigrate with less effort and signficantly more dignity. Kit and I have to provide repeated statements about our lives and history and relationship where a marriage certificate would suffice if we were straight. Because we aren’t married, we have to meet rules about length of cohabitation that are extremely difficult for us to meet because, get this, international travel is really expensive and vacation visas are really short. Because we’re both girls, we can’t get married to escape the cohabitation clauses.
We’ve tried playing by the rules. There’s a potential loophole for queers: getting registered with the state government. Nevermind that registering a domestic relationship sounds (and is) creepy, is somewhat costly, and grants us NO other rights except the waiver for how long we can afford to live in one place. Nevermind that it doesn’t even carry between states, so if we moved it means nothing. We applied anyway. But the guidelines say you have to have lived in Victoria for 12 months, the same as the cohabitation rules. Mind you, these are guidelines, not rules. There is some discretion involved. In theory. Given the reactions of everyone who has touched our paperwork, I expect that will be denied. Oh! And we won’t know for 4 weeks, because like underage children trying to get married on the sly, domestic relationships have a waiting period. You can get married the same day as you apply, but not registered, and it is entirely out of our hands. We don’t meet with someone who talks to us and assesses our merit. We submit forms and hope they are having a good day.
So, in order:
- Can’t bring Kit to the US because she’s a girl (secondarily, CP)
- Can’t live here for more than 12 months at a time unless I’m on a student visa, which is pricey due to tuition. Kit can’t live there for more than 3 months unless she got a student visa, which is even more pricey.
- Can’t get married to waive cohabitation requirements
- Can’t get registered to waive cohabitation requirements because of inbuilt cohabitation requirements for that
- Can’t actually get stuff for my visa application I need like fingerprints because the wait list is 3 months after my visa expires because Victorian bureaucracy is shit (this isn’t related to being queer, but it’s not helping, you know?)
- Can’t get any help from the embassy (I know, I’ve been emailing them all day)
- Can’t get permanent (any!) work because of my visa. Why hire someone on a visa due to end in 2 months if you can get a permanent resident or citizen?
And I’m supposed to feel grateful?
I am not supposed to enjoy fiction.
It’s one of the more common autism tropes, especially for people who are literate, verbal, or both: we don’t like fiction. We don’t engage in imaginative play. We only like things rooted in fact. Enjoying and engaging in fantasy and fiction is an automatic out as far as some researchers and clinicians are concerned. And I do like nonfiction. I will happily consume endless books about nonfiction topics that catch my interest, and I’m interested in a lot of things. Some become focal points, things doctors can indicate to fulfil criteria about obsessive, deep interests, and lots are more fleeting. But none of that precludes me liking fiction, and sometimes it is the fictional things that become those autistic Special Interests that are so loosely defined.
Not only do I like fiction, but I’m not the only one. Both media and real life are full of autistic people enjoying fiction and engaging with it, though often it is in a stereotyped manner: a youngish man who is obsessive about a sci-fi world. While there are plenty of autistic people who do desperately love Star Trek and similar stories, I (and others) prefer a fantasy based narrative. I started with the classic Narnia books and haven’t really looked back. I like fantasy in any medium. Kit and I just finished watching Legend of Korra (SOB) and I’m listening to the Divergent series. This year I’ve consumed dozens of books by half a dozen authors, all set in fictional fantasy worlds, or worlds with fantastic elements (like Terry Pratchett’s Discworld). The Seven Kingdoms/Graceling Realm books by Kristin Cashore occupy a special place at the very top of my obsessive interest list at the moment.
All of this is to make a long-ish segue about how I’m not clear how intense interests are supposed to be a specific hallmark of autism, and how those obsessive interests are a clear way to forming close relationships with other people.
I’ve been talking about fandom on tumblr, and I wanted to talk about it here, too, since I know more people read me here for autism stuff (frankly, I don’t blame you: tumblr is both addictive and terrifying). Fandom, as a concept, negates both the idea that being intensely interested in one specific thing is an exclusively autistic thing, and also provides a really welcoming place where intense interest is a positive trait.
In fandom, it’s okay to like something so much that all you talk about publically is that thing. There are thousands of tumblrs alone that are dedicated to a specific show, book, movie, comic, or performer, many of which are extremely narrow and specific. I follow multiple tumblrs about Lin Bei Fong, a secondary character from Legend of Korra, and there are many more. You can participate how you want: reading and enjoying what others say is as valid as talking, creating visual media is as good as writing stories, and you can alter how you interact based upon your needs each day. Fandom also allows people who may have been isolated to discover they are not alone. As one of the most active members (by far) in two very small fandoms, I would have never been able to critically discuss the books I love, or have found an audience for the fiction I write for them. I would be as isolated as I was before learning about autism, feeling disconnected and unreal, so separated from the people physically close to me that I grew up feeling broken. Fandom allows me to connect to people in ways that are comfortable for me while also encouraging me to expand the way I socialise.
No, not all autistic people will enjoy it. Not every person alive ever enjoys fiction, autistic or not. But by continuing with this really easily falsified belief that autistic people lack imagination or an ability to enjoy fictional worlds, researchers and clinicians are actively harming us, not just by denying who and what we are, but by denying us a social environment that is practically designed for autistic people and our needs.
Less than a week in the US. Feels weird. Words are a little hard to come by now that I don’t have to pretend to be fluent and fluid and talkative at work, which maybe says something in favour of faking it or maybe it’s just about regular sleep schedules. I have packed and repacked, abandoned much of the stuff I thought I simply had to have to exist, and decided more hair dye totally beats clothes any day, because awesome hair is awesome even if I only have pajamas and t-shirts, and manic panic is hard to come by there.
We spend a lot of time looking at houses in between my fits of playing the sims and trying to shove more stuff into my over-full suitcases and being sat upon by the cat, who is in a panic, too. I have chai cola. It is delicious. My life is inane.
I am feeling resilient and tired and ready.
In two and a half weeks, I will get on a plane and cease to live in the US, for permanent as far as we can guess.
When I land, I will be a new person. I will be neatly crafted, all smooth lines and invisible joins, not cobbled together of hurts and fears and sinew like I am now. A clockwork person; a robot made out of human bits of bone.
I will be Eliot, sometimes. I will be trans without being ashamed, or anxious, or both. I will be openly, joyfully queer (and if the immigration stuff goes easily, maybe even poly). I will be proudly autistic, honest about the disabling bits and all the good things. I will be clever and quick and funny and obsessive. I will make friends.
At least, I’m going to try.
What gives me away, in the end, is that I don’t ask questions.
It has something to do with tone. I’m never clear if I’m being given a small fact or invited to discuss something larger, deeper, more complex and personal. With a handful of people I can usually guess correctly, but for the most part I resort to ignoring these maybe-invitations; I’ve gotten that guess wrong far too many times to try it.
I very much want to know, that isn’t the issue. It’s not that I lack curiosity about the lives and inner workings of the people I am close to–far from it, really. I am desperate for a glimpse into how they work, how we are alike and dissimilar, because I like that sort of thing, that sort of science of thought. But I can’t bring myself to ask, waiting to be offered tidbits of information and never able to complete the follow-up that is required for more.
It comes out of a sense of not being owed knowledge, which I actually think would be rather an improvement for everyone if it was the baseline opinion instead of the reverse. No one should tell me anything about themselves, because their lives are private and what they want to disclose may or may not match up with what I want to know–and their comfort should always be prioritized (and mine, in turn). No one should get to ask me about being queer, being some flavour of trans, being autistic without my express permission. No one should be able to make sexual advances without my permission. My body, and the mind it holds, are mine alone to share as I deem fit.
This isn’t the default, though, so my inability to ask at all the right times is pathologized and made into a symptom instead of the polite respect that it is intended to be. I would love to know. I’m just waiting for permission.
I had no plans for a medical transition. I had barely come to terms with the effective reality of not being a girl, after all, and all of the names I liked and wanted to associate with myself were feminine, anyway–or at least the sort of names that would be read as feminine on my person, old-fashioned androgynous names that had long since been entirely overwhelmed by girls and women. So I gave myself a new name, one that fit much better than the old one, and didn’t think about giving myself a more masculine name.
I still have no plans for a medical transition, but I’m in a better place than I was a year ago, and my name is fine but not always me.
It might be nice if I can sometimes be Eliot. A gentle tease for all of my Australian aquaintances who can’t hear the difference between Ali and Ellie, and a sometimes-better fit. Eliot. Els. Yes. I think so. Sometimes.
I am still.
When I was six or seven, my mother told me that flapping my hands was Not Okay. It’s something my cousin did, full of exuberance and ADHD, and it was made clear to me that I was Too Smart For That. He was stupid, no one expected much of him, so if he wanted to flap his hands, it was fine. But I was bright, so clever and sharp, and I should not do those things. People would get the wrong idea.
I became still.
I sit like a small animal, surrounded by predators, every muscle tensing and untensing. If only I could go unnoticed! I wait for the threat to pass, and it never does, because it’s a threat built into the foundations of my culture. Sometimes I let myself flap, or bite my nails, or wiggle with joy, but only after I have given up hope of passing, of being overlooked in my stillness. I think this is the outcome of a life of being instructed not to be exemplary in any fashion. Worse, it incapacitates me in my desire to no longer be still. I don’t actually care what anyone thinks of me anymore. I don’t care if they think I’m stupid, or if it annoys them. I want to feel comfortable in my skin.
Instead, I stay still.
I’ve been reading back over a year, and oh god. I have been a whiny shit. I am so sorry. I promise to stop being such a whiny shit. For real.
I actually did end up writing a really great piece about what it’s like to be autistic for TEACCH, which I will publish here soon, which is what led to me reading stuff I wrote months ago. I probably could have cobbled together something from all of the millions of times I wrote about it previously, but this new piece is good. It’s confrontational and social model-y and I like how my writing voice has evolved in the past year (it means using AND a lot because I want to, mostly, and also comma splices). I almost never remember that there was this one time I was in college and got published in an anthology. Like I can actually write, if I stop being such a shit and just do it.
So that’s going to be my goal: just write, and stop being such a shit. I have a little over seven weeks until I leave(1), and I think it’s incredibly reasonable to suggest I could write a post a week. My intense interest in autism hasn’t really faded, but I no longer feel compelled to write about it exclusively; since being made an Official Autistic, I have felt much more comfortable just being and not having to yell a lot about how autistic I am. I’m very caught up in MBT fandom brain at the moment, but I don’t know that I want to write fiction and I have a tumblr dedicated to fandom thoughts. So I’m not sure what I’m going to write about, just that I think it can happen, and I think it can be excellent.
I wrote once that when I feel brainless, the only cure is to force myself to do something intellectual I enjoy. Greensboro Public Library, nonfiction section, around 360-375 and 616ish, I owe you my brains.
Not in a zombie way.
1. OH GOD OH GOD I haven’t told work yet (I’m planning to give them a month’s notice) and there is so much packing and cleaning all the stuff and I am using this stuff, how am I supposed to also pack it? Shit.
Hi, Dylan. Google analytics tells me someone in Charlottesville spent a while on here late last week. Then you tried to friend me on facebook. I have a hunch those things are connected.
When you tried to friend me, I responded with a single question: why? I’m not sure yet if I’m interested in your interpretation of that question or your answers to it, but I am interested in a thought-ramble about you. Stina complained I only wrote hurt letters to her, and maybe it’s time to fix that.
To start with, I never wrote hurt letters to you for a few reasons. One is because the pair of you are a collective unit, and I knew whatever I wrote would make its way to you. You were my friend first (Stina intimidated me terribly when we met), and we were so close of course I had to be friends with both of you. We told strangers we were siblings. We told your coworkers we were siblings. And I loved you like the brother I wanted to have. You frustrated me and hurt my feelings and I loved you anyway.The relationship we had could not be quantified in words, could not be described with pen to paper or words on a screen. I didn’t write you letters because I don’t think about you in words.
Not speaking to Christina hurts. Our whole relationship was built around words, around the way we used them and had shared language to draw upon. Not being near you hurts. I miss the physical comfort I had with you–it’s hard to come by, for me, but you made me feel at ease.
You hurt my feelings–often, actually. You refused to use the language I asked you to about my sexuality. You were so dismissive of non-binary genders I never made a sound about my own after a single, tentative suggestion. You styled yourself as an expert on the autism spectrum because you work with little boys with social issues. Dylan. I’m not a ten year old, socially awkward boy. I’m me. And I’m autistic. Insisting I was wrong, that I was looking for excuses, that I wanted to be special, it fucking hurt. You never noticed that I hate the Little Prince, hate it with a passion. Instead you got me another, more special, more expensive copy.
I wasn’t a model best friend. I still don’t know the full story about your falling out with your parents. I don’t know if you had lung problems before you started binding. I don’t know why you became a vegetarian. I don’t know a fucking lot of things. I was afraid to ask. Asking feels off-limits, so staunchly rule-breaking I can’t do it–not an excuse, just an explanation.
I don’t know anything about you anymore, and I’m no longer sure you know anything at all about me. I’m not sure I want to be friends with someone who made me feel inferior all the time. So, why? Why ask? Why now?
My name is Ali, though sometimes it's Eliot.
I have many tumblrs, which you are welcome to also visit:
Fuck Yeah, Kate Miller-Heidke - the only active Kate fan site, which is baffling.
The Branden Rose - the only active Monster Blood Tattoo fansite, which is less baffling.
I also have a semi-successful etsy shop, which you should visit, below.
A brief history: