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The #ActuallyAutistic Culture and Identity Project S2

Updated: Jun 14

Name/Social Media Handles: Torrin Kearns: Twitter @TK_Aspy, Instagram autistic_author

Pronouns: He/Him/His

Parent/Non-Parent: Not a parent

Age at diagnosis: 8 years old


Did you feel different as a Child?

I didn't feel different, I was different. My social skills were non-existent, (they aren't much better now). I made chewing noises when I ate. I read train maps for fun. I wasn't into most of the things other children around me were, sports, music, pop culture. As a black kid in the projects being different got me lots of sideways glances. As I got older, people thought I was an undercover cop. (Someone should tell the police that).

Are your parents supportive of you as an autistic individual?

My mother didn’t believe in mental illnesses or disabilities. Unfortunate, because she, herself, had several undiagnosed mental disorders. My father was on the other end of the spectrum (no pun intended). He saw me only as something broken, not a full human. He told me I’d never finish high school. When I did, he said not to bother attending college. When I did that, he said I’d drop out in two weeks.

I’m lucky, though; I have an aunt and uncle who have my back. They’ve always been supportive despite my parade of poorly thought-out life choices.

How did you determine your ethical system?

Admittedly, I have a very dualistic view of right and wrong. If an act helps poor people, then it’s probably right. If it hurts them, then it’s probably wrong. I grew up in the projects of New York City. There are many affluent people in the city, and they love thumbing their noses at the poor, very patronizing. That runs against my ethics, so I don’t tolerate those people well.

In which way does your private self differ from your outward facing front?

I’m pretty much the same person in public that I am in private. This gets me into trouble sometimes. Society is performative. You’re expected to act certain ways, carry yourself certain ways, say certain things. If something doesn’t make sense to me, I’m not going to do it, plain and simple. I do have a few private mannerisms. I make stimming sounds when I’m alone. I monologue to myself, too. Doing those things in public is dangerous. People think you’re crazy, call the cops.

Do you enjoy finding mistakes/errors in the production of films and television...continuity etc.?

Oh yes, but that’s because I majored in Creative Writing. They have you seeing holes in everything. It can take the fun out of movies, books, tv shows, etc. When I watch a tv show or movie, I try to turn my critic off and suspend my disbelieve.

What are the top 3 traits you look for in a friend?

Gee, I don’t know. I know all different sorts of people. They have to be able to take criticism, though. I’m very blunt. They also need to be always improving their lives or craft in some way, shape or form. I surround myself with people more successful than I am. It keeps me on my toes.

What are the top 3 traits you perceive as negative but are willing to overlook in a friend?

I’m very particular. I know that’s not a good thing, but it’s the truth. If someone has personality traits that bother me, I’ll tell them. But, if they don’t work to improve those traits, see ya! I can be real toxic, myself. I need to put in constant work, otherwise I’d be insufferable. If I’m trying to be less of a shithead, they can do the same.

What are the top traits you look for in a partner/traits your partner possesses?

The only two traits I look for is patience and understanding. Like I said earlier, I can be toxic. I try not to, but the bile leaks out sometimes. When something is bothering me, I’m like a train delay at Times Square. Everyone’s day is getting messed up. I’ve gotten better over the years at not being such an emotion vampire, but I have a long way to go.

What would you do with your life if you had unlimited funds?

First, I’d buy the New York Yankees and trade all their good players, so they never win anything. All jokes aside, I’d do what I do now. I’m an author, screenwriter, and autism advocate. My creative partners are geniuses. They’ll be household names in five years. I’m honored they gave me an opportunity to work with them. Having Jeff Bezos money would just make our success happen faster.

What does freedom mean to you. What does it entail?

To me, “freedom” means financial freedom because I grew up impoverished. The ability to choose your career, do what you love, without stressing over money. If I’m rich, but working a job I hate, I might as well be back in the projects.

What does success mean to you?

A successful person is a free person, and a free person is someone who can control their own fate.

Are you more stable/happier/productive within the structure of a relationship...partner/good friend/long-term roommate?

I’m currently part of an up-and-coming production studio with two of my best friends. I love it. We argue a lot, but we also push each other to achieve new heights both artistically and personally.

Do you find it stressful to be around other parents at school functions?

I’m not a parent, so I haven’t been around other parents at school functions since I was a student. I went to a high school that specialized in neurodiversity. Many of us were autistic. The school heads would send me out to speak with parents (and potential donors) because I’ve always been relatively articulate. Seeing and hearing me gave parents hope that their child could one day pass for neurotypical.

I used to revel in the attention, but thinking back on it, I feel a bit dirty. Many parents don’t want to accept their autistic children as they are. I helped feed into their delusions that autism is something you outgrow or can be treated away.

How often do you pretend to not see people you know if you don’t want to talk?

That’s not really an issue for me. I’d talk to a brick wall if I thought it’d answer. Besides, I’m six-foot-tall, two-hundred-and-eight pounds. People see me whether I want them to or not.

In which areas do you identify the most with other autistic people?

Struggles to socialize, first and foremost. It’s not fun to be in a group, and you’re trying to make friends, but people look at you like there’s a horn growing out your forehead. I have special interests: trains, firearms, sports. The trick is finding an autistic that likes the same stuff you do.

What are the most stressful aspects of parenting an autistic child as an autistic caregiver?

I don’t plan on being a parent anytime soon, but I spent a few years in youth development. It was mostly gen pop, but there were many ND children scattered throughout. It was tough because we didn’t have the means to provided proper support to the NT children, no less the neurodivergent ones. Autistic meltdowns were the worst. Imagen you’re in charge of teaching 20 second graders by yourself, and one of them melts down. They might have been triggered by the florescent lights, but you can’t shut them off because you have a lesson to teach. They might be hungry, but you can’t take them to the cafeteria, because you’re by yourself and there’s no one to watch your class. It could be that the classroom is too loud, but quieting two dozen seven-year-olds who are being forced to endure a boring lesson about compound words is no easy feat. Half of them can’t read anyway because our public school system is in shambles. It’s enough to cause you to melt down.

What are the top 5 things you want your children to know about the world and why?

I can’t give a concrete list because ever child I dealt with was different. But regardless, I always tried to allow them to embrace their strengths and use those strong traits to shore up weak ones. I

treated my ND kids the same as the NTs. Of course, I accommodated their needs to the best of my ability, but I refuse to look at them the way people used to look at me: as a disability.

Does living off the grid appeal to you and why/why not?

God, no! I’m too much of a city slicker. I need electricity, AC, wi-fi. I have a phobia of insects, araneidaes, and creepy crawlers of all types. I won’t even walk through Central Park during the summer months.

What is your favorite style of architecture and why?

I’m a huge fan of gothic. Those building are so majestic, yet so belligerent. I reference a lot of gothic architecture for the sci-fi series I’m currently working on.

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