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.
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 turn 26 tomorrow. It is also World Autism Day.
When I tell people I’m queer, it becomes a part of their idea of my identity. I mention my girlfriend, and a little light dings in their head to place me into the QUEER category of mental filing. They might be surprised or confused or alter how they interact with me (or not), and it might take a few further interactions for them to get that I mean queer in the broadest way and, yes, they can seriously still point out that cute boy and I’m not just humouring them when I agree.
Most people have a lexicon and background knowledge of what it means to be queer in some way. We broadly make up about 1 in 10, so there’s an awful lot of us out there being non cishet in some fashion. People recognize the concepts of bullying and gay-bashing, there are tv and movie characters who are out and proud, there are celebrities. I can say that I’m queer and it means something that we mutually understand, even if clarification might be needed on the details.
When I tell people I’m autistic, they don’t know quite how to react. Autism is kids in corners who headbang, boys who can’t speak or won’t speak, right? Autism isn’t adults who hold down steady jobs–including ones with customer service aspects!–and speak fluently (most of the time). The box in people’s heads is too small and ill-defined to fit me, and they are surprised, sometimes even angry.
Autism awareness isn’t inherently a bad idea, but the narrow scope of the spectrum that is promoted for awareness is very much dangerous and harmful for the rest of us. Autism, for me, means making enough of a single food to eat for a week, because making different food every day feels overwhelming. It means planning and rehearsing conversations, and then worrying when things don’t go as planned. It means auditory processing issues that leave me nodding at work and hoping I’ve timed it right, or not being able to hear over the sound of the tram. It means sensory issues that make it hard to hold my girlfriend’s hand sometimes. It means an encyclopedic knowledge of Kate Miller-Heidke lyrics. It means misunderstandings and hurt and bullying. And none of those are things you can see, if you don’t know what you’re looking for.
I want an autism awareness campaign that promotes actual awareness of the huge, wonderful spectrum that encompasses all of us. We each have our own strengths and weaknesses; what we share is an unusual way of experiencing the world. When I tell people I’m autistic, I want them to be able to easily fit me inside that mental box and understand that it means I might not be great at social cues and probably like routines, that I’m probably good with facts and rules, and that I probably have some sensory issues to work around.
Even more, I want people to understand that we–every single person–can inhabit more than one box. My mental filing system cross-indexes, fuckers, and yours can, too, with some practice. My being queer is not invalidated by autism, nor is autism invalidated by my being queer. It is often people who know that I’m queer who seem most surprised when I mention autism, because I am already in one minority group box in their heads.
Intersectionality is the concept of how different oppressions mix. Every person who belongs to multiple minority groups will experience it differently. For me, being queer, autistic, and genderqueer, it means erasure. I am allowed to be queer or autistic (gender doesn’t even cross most people’s minds, and since I’m not picky about pronouns it sometimes doesn’t come up).
I want to live in a world where it means acceptance. That starts with true awareness, not trite campaigns.
It’s been a long time since I updated, but I felt it was important to post today. I missed Autistics Speak Day at the start of the month and just seemed to lose a lot of steam (pun intended).
November is a hard month. It contains Kitty’s birthday and the mixed feelings I have about that (glad she has a birthday, not glad I can’t be there with her for it). It is also often a time of year I find myself increasingly depressed; as much as I truly enjoy winter and late fall, I still have a biological reaction to it that is a lot less joyful and a lot more sobbing. I’m also having a weird sense of loss this year, because Greensboro doesn’t get snow. Last winter had a shitton of snow (that’s a precise measurement) and I will be lucky to get a flurry this year. I like snow–except digging my car out.
This November has been especially difficult: I still have a job which I do not like and feel is not ethical; I do not have a replacement job lined up; I have started to come out to coworkers about this autism stuff and that’s led to what feels like bullying, even though I strongly suspect it’s just meant to be friendly teasing (and then I feel crappy about feeling bullied, because I really did have a true bully at my previous job and this is pretty minor in comparison); I had to pass up a last-minute eval appointment with TEACCH because I couldn’t get off work; I’ve been sick twice this month, totalling about 14 of 20 days so far. I think I actually prefer the sporadic and scarily violent times I was hit or kicked at my previous job to my 10+ small kicks, hits, pinches, slobbers, and otherwise “affectionate” violent and upsetting touches every day.
I am sick of being assaulted, sick of being sick, sick of yelling at people to stop doing perfectly reasonable things like stimming because I’m supposed to, sick of feeling like a traitor to all my fellow autistic people because I get so damn frustrated that I understand the autistic line of thinking many of the people I work with follow, but due to a 4-5 standard deviation gap in our verbal and processing speeds I can’t figure out how to help them. How do I explain to someone that, actually, I totally get what it’s like to want to hit yourself or bite your hand and have a meltdown, and this is a good way to defuse that feeling rather than having the meltdown? I understand, but I can’t communicate that meaningfully, so all my insights into how to help are useless. I can see that the autistic man with overwhelming ADHD and difficulty with reading needs to have all information blocked out on the page so he can concentrate on the letters; I can’t figure out how to convince him to use the tool I made. Then we both get frustrated and he hits or kicks me and I have to go have the same meltdown I had to scold someone for an hour earlier.
I am sick of feeling utterly alone. Kitty is there, and lovely, but long distance hurts in a physical sort of way. I thought that I had plans for Thanksgiving, but they weren’t a priority.
So…whining wasn’t actually what I wanted to write about. I wanted to write about how today is Transgender Day of Awareness and how I have come to identify as genderqueer over the past couple of years, and how I’ve never come out except to Kitty before. But now I’m crying instead, so I think this is done.
Oh, and my name has been changed.
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: