The #ActuallyAutistic Culture and Identity Project S11
Name: Elizabeth/Lizzy Burdon
Parent/non-parent: No, I’m 18.
Age when diagnosed: 11
1.Did you feel you were different from others as a child? Yes, I did feel different from others as a child. I didn’t know it was because I was autistic for a long time, though - I just thought I was weird. I went to a very small school and although I could tell I wasn’t like the other children, it wasn’t super obvious. It was a lovely school, and very accepting - although that might be because it went completely over my head when other kids were mean to me. I had friends, and that was all I needed. I’ve always felt different, but I didn’t feel out of place. Not then, anyway.
2.Are your parents supportive of you as an autistic individual? Yes, my parents are supportive. They always knew I was autistic, but they didn’t tell me until I was ten - when I was told I had ‘Asperger’s Syndrome,’ I assumed it was an illness and it was terrifying. They started to explain ‘well, you know that you’re different’ to which I replied ‘well, yes, I know THAT.’ It took me a long time to understand and to accept myself after that. My parents are smart people, though. They know a lot about autism, and knew enough to identify it in me. They do also have that neurotypical ignorance, though, and think they know more about autism than me, even after all my research and interaction with the autistic community, and - you know - being autistic. Sometimes, they don’t accept it when I can’t do something and they don’t understand why I find “simple” things so hard. They’re supportive, of course, but I just wish they could understand a little more and try to be open-minded to the fact that even though I’m working on it, there are some things I can’t do and I know about that more than they do.
3.How did you determine your ethical system? My ethical system is based on a number of different things, and my morals are incredibly important to me. A large part of my morals comes from my Christian faith, and one of the most important values to me is also honesty - always tell the truth, because it’s better in the long run even if it may hurt people’s feelings in the moment. I also believe that whatever my values are, it is wrong to expect other people to adhere to them. My beliefs are my own, and no one else’s. Another important thing, which does come from my Christian faith as well, is love and acceptance - always accept everyone as they are and for who they are. No judgement. It’s impossible sometimes to reserve judgement, but I’ll always treat everyone with respect and equality unless they do something to lose that respect.
4.In which way does your private self differ from your outward facing front? There isn’t a lot of difference. There is a lot of doubt and insecurity that I don’t tend to show - but here I am writing about it for an interview. I’m an open book, really. I’m quite happy to talk about the deepest parts of myself, and to share what I’m feeling. I often wish that others would do the same, because it would make things so much difference. There isn’t much of a difference between what I’m thinking and what I’m saying - I’m just Lizzy, and people can take it or leave it. If they have a problem with me for who I am, it’s their problem.
5.Do you enjoy finding mistakes/errors in the production of films and television...continuity etc.? I don’t enjoy finding mistakes. I don’t watch a lot of television. It is funny sometimes to laugh about continuity errors, but they don’t really bother me. I’m more of a reader than a television person - and I am extremely meticulous with my grammar. I find it extremely hard to refrain from pointing out a grammar error, because in my mind, I’m helping someone to improve and to get where they ought to be. I don’t enjoy correcting people, but I do do it a lot because in my mind, if there’s a mistake then it is necessary for it to be corrected and it really bothers me if it’s just left there.
6.What are the top 3 traits you look for in a friend? In a friend… I look for someone who shares my values. I think it’s important for a friend to be honest with me, and to share their thoughts and feelings - and that one is a dealbreaker. If a friend is closed-up and won’t tell me what’s going on in their life, we can’t be friends. Friendship is a two-way thing involving honesty and sharing. This might sound bad out of context, but if you’ve had a friend completely shut you out and stop talking to you about anything important then you’ll know what I mean here. I also look for us to have interests in common, and for them to be an accepting person with similar morals to me.
7.What are the top 3 traits you perceive as negative but are willing to overlook in a friend? If we have different morals, it might be difficult, but it doesn’t mean we can’t be friends. There are certain things that would be a dealbreaker in a romantic relationship, but are tolerable in a friendship. I find it hard to have friends who have opposing beliefs to me, but again - it doesn’t mean we can’t be friends. It’s good and healthy to have variety in life, even if I would prefer for us to have similar beliefs. I find it harder to maintain a friendship with someone that isn’t often the first to reach out… but if someone has a personality trait that I see as negative (if they lie, insult people as a ‘joke,’ just general things that make you a bad person) then we can’t be friends. As long as they’re nice to people and will accept me as I am, that’s pretty much the criteria. The only must in a friendship is that they’re a good person.
8.What are the top traits you look for in a partner/traits your partner possesses? A partner… the things I’m looking for are similar to in a friendship, except enhanced. Religion is an important thing in a relationship with me. I don’t mind if they’re agnostic or from another religion, but if someone is passionately, decidedly atheist then I can’t be in a relationship with them. We can be friends, but not in a romantic relationship. I want to raise children one day with the same beliefs and values as me. For similar, reasons, we have to the same or very similar morals. I think morals and religion are the only things I see as necessary for a relationship to work, besides the just being a good person thing. Other than that… I’m looking for someone that I’m attracted to, and preferably with some of the same interests.
9.What would you do with your life if you had unlimited funds? If I had unlimited funds… I’d probably find somewhere nice to live and I’d keep myself comfortably - not incredibly rich, but comfortably rich. I’d go to a lot of rock concerts, and I’d travel… everywhere. I’d find an editor and an artist to help me finally publish all of my books (I’ve published one, but I don’t have the time or money to publish the rest). Whatever was left… without being too cliché, I’d use it to help people. I’d probably start buying buildings and founding shelters for homeless people, paying for whatever they needed to get their life back on track. I’d also try to help the ill in other countries, seek out poverty and do whatever I can to help… helping people is incredibly important to me. 10.What does freedom mean to you. What does it entail? To me, freedom is just… the lack of boundaries. A world where people are accepted for who they are. A lack of financial boundaries, lack of judgement… with freedom, I do think it’s important to still have rules. It’s important to be sensible, and to keep people safe. I think that in my mind, freedom comes hand-in-hand with equality, and with a less rigid social hierarchy. There should still be a government and democracy, and I do also like having a monarchy, but there shouldn’t be any restrictions because of how people look or who they are. A free society is a society without hatred. 11.What does success mean to you? Success… there’s a part of it, certainly, that’s financial, but there’s also a part that’s emotional. If I imagine myself as a ’successful’ person, I imagine myself with a successful career that I love doing, married (having been successful in love), with children… and happy. Success has to include happiness. 12.Are you more stable/happier/productive within the structure of a relationship...partner/good friend/long-term roommate? I don’t think I’ve been in a relationship for long enough to really know what I’m like in a relationship - I’m only young, I had a boyfriend for a few months and then we broke up - but I know that I desperately want one. I am happier and more stable when my environment is also happy and stable. It’s nice to have change and I love to travel and experience other cultures, but I think that having the same people around me does increase my sense of stability. It would be better to always live with the same people, although it is important for me to have access to my own space where I can be alone as well. I don’t want to live alone, though, and I’d like to live with people on a more long-term basis. The dynamic has to be an equal one, though - if there’s a hierarchy within a home environment, I find it very stressful. The people in a home have to be on an equal level or I find it very hard. I can’t be told what to do or how to act in my own home. 13.Do you find it stressful to be around other parents at school functions? This isn’t applicable as I’m not a parent. 14.How often do you pretend to not see people you know if you don’t want to talk? I don’t do that, mostly because of my thing about honesty. It feels deceitful to ignore people. If I’m out in public… talking to people isn’t something I see as avoidable, so I tend to just put up with it. I’ll make up for my social exhaustion by just shutting myself in my room when I get home - I do sometimes send my family away if they try to talk to me, but I don’t really ignore people wanting to talk to me. I recently learnt the term ‘masking,’ and that is something that I do in public and it’s exhausting, but I don’t really know how to turn it off. I’m still being my genuine self, just… a more extraverted version. My mum sometimes says that I’d have been an extravert if I weren’t autistic (and therefore requiring time alone in order to function) and on one hand, it’s a little ridiculous to say ‘I’d have been ___ if I weren’t autistic’ because autism isn’t something you can separate from me, but on the other hand, I understand what she means. 15.In which areas do you identify the most with other autistic people? Just the classics, I think. Pretty much everything on a social level, special interests… those are the main things, but I’m always finding more and more little things that I find I can relate to when talking to other autistic people. 16.What are the most stressful aspects of parenting an autistic child as an autistic caregiver? Again, I’m not qualified to answer this as I’m not a parent… but I do want to say that I often worry about the opposite thing. We don’t know where autism comes from yet, but it’s obvious that genetics plays a part so it’s likely that my children in the future could be autistic… but I sometimes worry that they’ll be neurotypical and then I just won’t know what to do with them or how to be a good parent. Hopefully, my partner could help me in that scenario. 17.What are the top 5 things you want your children to know about the world and why? Again, not a parent, but I’m answering it anyway - I think the most important things for children to know are, in no particular order: I) People are different. Everyone has different beliefs and cultures, and you should accept these. II) It is a privilege to speak English, one of the world’s most spoken languages, but do not take it for granted. If you go to another country, learn their language, no matter how small. It’s a common courtesy, and you owe them that. III) Even though I’m still learning to do this myself, sometimes the best thing to do is to walk away. IV) If another child has a problem with the way that you are, that’s not your problem and there’s nothing wrong with you. They are the problem. V) Take opportunities, and follow your instincts and desires. It’s your life, and you can spend it how you choose. 18.Does living off the grid appeal to you and why/why not? It doesn’t. I’m an author, and I need my technology to write and share my stories. I’m a linguist, and I love to soak in culture and to travel. I’m lonely, and I want to make some friends. I’m young, and I want to embrace the world’s opportunities. 19.What is your favorite style of architecture and why? Strange one to finish on… is this someone on the team’s special interest? I don’t know a lot about architecture. It’s beautiful and I can appreciate it, but I don’t know about different styles and what the differences are, and how to identify them. Architecture is beautiful, but I don’t know a lot about it.