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.
Eight years ago today, give or take a time zone, I talked with my best friend. She was living in Australia and I was just finishing up my first year of college at Mary Baldwin, and some time in the preceeding few months I’d realised I was having romantic feelings for her. Eventually, I spoke to her about this, and was surprised and pleased and grateful when she reciprocated; it wasn’t quite how I expected that to go.
When I finished college, I moved to Australia to do more school and to finally be in the same place as her. We’ve done a lot of international travel, gone on lots of vacations, and now we have a little queer family with the two of us and our cats. I’ve gladly stayed with her through foot surgeries and corneal transplants and a great library science program and lots of stories. She’s stuck with me through a slow-build autism diagnosis and lots of gender questioning, basically dropping out of grad school, and deciding to go back. We’re making my immigration happen together.
Thank you, Kit. Eight years and we’ll keep going from here. Every day is incremental and is the longest I have ever loved you. Tomorrow will be even longer.
So…er…hi. Hello. Attempts at keeping a blog: still a fail.
What’s happened since I last blogged? Well!
I’m back working in the mildly soul-crushing job I had when I last lived in Melbourne. It’s basically where rich people pay me to read the newspaper for them, and I pretend I live in a steampunk dystopia. This is enhanced by my now-regular presence at Rose St. on the weekends, an artist’s market where I hawk the stuff I otherwise have on etsy. It’s fairly effective, because hipsters like cheap jewelry and it’s in the heart of hipsterville (though, as I discussed with another artist there, the area is decreasingly trendy and we’re worried the hipsters are disbursing across the city). The job is full-time and I get paid a salary, which is weird but not unpleasant.
Kit and I went to Port Fairy for the folk fesitval, which I hadn’t been to in 5 years. It was great, lots of fiddles and instrumental groups, though last time it was ALL KATE ALL THE TIME, so I was a bit sad without that element. None the less, we saw a lot of acts I really enjoyed, including Ben Sollee from the US who I’d somehow never crossed paths with before, which is funny since we lived on opposite sides of the same mountains for a long time. Really great, weird folk-blues-jazz cello. Also loved both Beoga and Frigg, instrumental groups from Ireland and Finland, respectively.
We saw Kate a few times last weekend, and have gotten a copy of the new album Nightflight a few weeks early. It’s really gorgeous, and if you click over to the Kate tumblr (see sidebar), you can hear some previews. Much love.
My birthday was gorgeous, the first really fun one in years. I gave blood and chatted up the workers at the red cross about how I should work at the red cross, too, and then wandered around bike shops for a few hours before purchasing a gorgeous bike on sale. I am looking forward to a life of not being strictly beholden to the tram schedule.
Well, that plan certainly didn’t work out.
It’s been a whirlwind month, in my defense; I feel like my brain leaked out my ears.
We unofficially/officially/weepingly fired our lawyer just after I wrote in January. Neither of us could stand, in good conscience, to stick with a man who told us he refused to take payment in anything other than a lump sum because we’ll just break up like all his other clients. Charming.
We spent an awful lot of time looking for a second cat to join our little cat family and keep Prosper happy. He’s been bored since we moved here, after getting used to having both my mom’s cats available for play and/or harassment. This has meant a lot of walking around and yowling, which I’m sure you can imagine is charming and not at all likely to get us in trouble with the neighbors. This culminated in a kitten, Madeline, who is the nosiest, bravest little thing I have ever encountered. Nothing disuades her, and she is rather fond of Prosper already. Prosper remains undecided, but he starts yowling again if we separate them because he’s playing too rough. Fairly sure he thinks she is his toy.
I’ve been driving a couple times with our livingsocial flexicar deal. Turns out driving in Australia is fine, except the windsheild wipers and turn signals are reversed. Fuckers.
Last week my temp job unceremoniously ended. I was apparently mean to permanent staff. In my defense, they were terrible at their jobs, made mine harder, and got paid more money than me for it. Also no one told me to tone it down until it was over, which is not exactly helpful–or trust building. I didn’t disclose the autism stuff at that job because I thought it was just a temp position, but I will be doing so in the future. Better to be up front that I am not clear about what I can and can’t say without explicit direction. Lesson learned. However, that was the worst job I’d ever had, so leaving hasn’t hurt too much.
And that is why I haven’t written anything.
It’s almost the end of the year, and I’ve done a rather terrible job writing and updating. I played with the layout a bit, but I’m not sold on it as a permanent fix. The 2012 layouts should be out soon, so I’ll hold out and see what’s coming and how I’d like to play with them.
Melbourne continues to feel strange, home and not-home all jumbled up together. The past month has been harder than the ones before it, as I find myself missing Stina and Dylan badly even as I’m growing into more and more of my own person. I read somewhere recently that it’s not unusual at all for autistic people, but especially autistic women, to lack a strong sense of self and identity–it’s something I definitely identify with (oh, irony). I have been so defined by that friendship for so much of my life, and all of my adult life at that, that I have of course been confused and lonely and unsure of how to go about being me separate from them. I’s been a good thing to mull over, thinking about how to deliberately choose who I am and who I can become.
I know 2011 hasn’t been particularly great for many people in my life, but it’s been positive on the whole, for me. I’m happy to be here. We’re in discussion with our immigration lawyer to begin my trek towards permanent residency. I have a job, albeit a terrible temp one, and make enough money to live comfortably and save for said immigration. I have grown infinitely more comfortable with both my autism and my gender, and my metacognition is much happier than it was a year or even two or three ago. While I am still sad because of Stina and Dylan, I am feeling like I am going to be okay.
Next year is going to be good. There are lawyer appointments and immigration agents to meet. I’m going to have a booth at a local artist’s market in January, and if it goes well I’ll sign up for more times in February, March, and April. I have insurance that will pay for me to get a massage every once in a while. There is a very, very strong chance we will get a second kitten to keep crankypants happy and entertained. I’m going to Port Fairy. Kate Miller-Heidke put us on the guest list to come see her for free, because we’re awesome. I’m considering scraping together the cash to take a course in Auslan (Australian sign). I found a choir I want to join. Maybe we can talk Hez into visiting. I’ll try to write more here, not just reblog on tumblr.
I think it’s going to turn out just fine.
Been in Melbourne for a while, now. I have a temp job lined up to start this week. We have a lease that starts a week from tomorrow. Prosper is starting his trip tomorrow (miss the cat, so much).
This has been an update.
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.
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 IT’S BEEN A WHILE.
So it’s been a bit of a while since I updated this, my very realest of all of my blogs. In that time:
1. Kate released a new album under a new name, a technopop collaboration with her husband called Fatty Gets a Stylist. It is amazing.
2. Kit came, we went to Disney World. We hung out. We fought a little. We looked at real estate. We realized it’s only 10 weeks before I move for permanent for real omg omg.
3. Sar and Hez came to visit!
4. I have acquired a few fanblogs. Being that I am the loudest member of the nonexistent fandom for MBT, I have TWO fan tumblrs. Also a Kate one. Also I’m awesome. (The Explicarium, the Branden Rose’s personal tumblr, Just Gristle and Blood) Don’t laugh at the bad graphics on the last one; I’ve taken control of it from a previous mod and don’t know how she’d feel about me making it AWESOME.
And now it is time for pictures!
The rest are available in the main flickr set. YAY!
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: