The #ActuallyAutistic Culture and Identity Project S31
Name, and/or twitter handle: Jax Bayne, twitter & IG: jax_bayne, fb: jax.bayne
Pronouns: they/them or he/him
Age when you selfdx/were diagnosed autistic: self-dx'd at 22, officially dx'd at 28
1. Did you feel you were different from others as a child?
Absolutely. I was also informed that I was different, weird, a freak, etc. a lot. Kids would come up to me on the playground that I didn't know and tell me they didn't like me. When I asked what I'd done or why, they'd say that they didn't know. They just didn't like me. It really hurt because I figured if they could at least tell me what was different about me or what they didn't like, maybe I could work to change that so they would like me. I spent a lot of time quietly observing my peers & doing my best to mimic or emulate them. I'd escape into fictional media like fantasy, science fiction, historical dramas, and spend hours in front of the mirror making facial expressions, practicing voices, accents, poses, and dressing up. I wanted to exist in any other time period because I just didn't relate to my peers, so I thought that if I were in a different world or time, maybe I could find people like me.
Feeling so different brought about a sense of isolation & disconnection. I became very depressed because no matter how hard I tried to be like my peers, I never quite fit in. I could never be like everyone else. I gradually withdrew deeper into myself & became obsessed with horror as a way to process my pain. Things spiraled out of control & I started to develop severe mental health problems. I started going to therapy first to deal with my alcoholic father, but then to deal with my own suicidal ideation & self-harm issues. No matter how much research I did into abnormal psychology & no matter how much I asked the adults what was wrong with me, they would just reassure me that it was just hard for everyone. They'd tell me I was just smarter or more mature than my peers, but this didn't track because I wouldn't always be getting the best grades and didn't understand most of what was going on because it all just seemed arbitrary and nonsensical. When I'd ask the adults in my school why we were doing things a certain way or why we couldn't change things, they'd simply respond, "Because there's red tape & my hands are tied," or "Because that's just how things are." That only further infuriated me.
I was always angry & raging against the system, but I legitimately wanted to help change things. I went to summer school at Georgetown University in high school for an intensive AP US Government & Politics class to learn about how the system worked so I could try to change it from within. After being bored to tears by learning about random dates, people, and events that didn't actually help me learn how to change things. The following school year, I was made the Liberal Party Chair of the State of California in the Junior Statesmen of America, and I realised that the system was inherently flawed, so I decided to turn my back on it. No matter what I did to try to figure out why I was different & why I could see things others couldn't, nothing made sense until much later on as an adult when I received my autism diagnosis. I suddenly was like, "Oh. This is why I can see how things aren't working when others cannot." It changed my life to find others like me who actually are openly discussing these topics instead of just ignoring them, preferring to preserve the status quo, even if it's not functioning well.
2. Are your parents supportive of you as an autistic individual?
They struggle to understand what it means to be autistic & how to best support me, but they really try and for that, I am truly blessed. I have had to educate them a lot, as well as my providers, because I did a deep dive on autism, neurodiversity, behavioural neuroscience, and developmental trauma after I received my diagnosis. I wanted to understand what autism actually is as opposed to what experts & professionals have been saying it is. I had this belief I couldn't shake that autism & neurodivergence has nothing to do with being disabled or ill, but rather that there is a type of trauma that comes with being different in a society that doesn't want to accommodate people who fall outside of the arbitrarily determined "norm" of the moment. My parents still subscribe largely to the current system, so they can't really understand how hard it is to live outside of it, but they support me in my vision to try to help change things so autistics can actually be supported instead of traumatised by their communities & governments.
3. How did you determine your ethical system?
I believe that the amount of suffering I endured growing up helped me to develop a great deal of empathy. I felt that it was wrong for anyone to hurt as much as I was hurting & would never wish that on anyone, no matter how greatly they hurt me. I realised that people only hurt others because they're either ignorant of the fact that they're hurting another or because they have experienced so much pain that they've disconnected from empathy. I got to that point myself a few times, but it scared me immensely, so that's when I sought professional help as an adult. I realised that if I was able to think about hurting others or revel in the pain of others, something was seriously wrong with me and I needed a lot of dedicated therapy to heal whatever had broken in myself. I'm very happy to report that I was able to reconnect my empathy, and thus am always trying to help others realise that disconnection from empathy is not a permanent condition and can be reversed.
My ethical system is based on the idea that all life is inherently valuable. That human beings have intrinsic worth, not instrumental worth. We should help others simply because they are alive, not because they're doing something that we approve of or appreciate. I believe pain is a natural part of life, but unnecessary pain & the deliberate infliction of pain (even as a form of justice) is a sign of lack of empathy, which denotes mental illness that needs to be treated.
Punitive measures have not been shown to be the most effective way to prevent people from doing the same thing again. I go beyond the idea of treating people how I want to be treated because everyone is different. I believe we need to treat others how they want to be treated, within reason. If someone is asking to be worshipped, this is also a form of something wrong as it's a form of grandiosity or megalomania. This is also a symptom of mental illness & can be treated. I don't believe in good & evil, but only that which is harmful & helpful. I don't believe people are inherently bad, only unwell & need help healing. The only way to break the cycle of trauma & abuse is to stop demonising humans who have suffered, didn't get help when they needed it, and now are externalising their pain onto others. If we fall prey to the same behaviours, nothing will ever change.
4. In which way does your private self differ from your outward facing front?
I have to be very careful to modulate my facial expression, tone of voice, and body postures when I'm socialising. People will often misinterpret me if I'm not masking heavily. I consider this code switching because most people understand certain behaviours to mean certain things due to the neurotypical predominated society I live in. I figure that if I go to a different country, I have to learn to speak their language & adopt their customs or they won't understand me. It's the same way when I leave my house or interact with people who are not in my inner circle. It's exhausting, draining, and I don't like that I have to do it, but I also understand that it's just a part of being a minority.
5. Do you enjoy finding mistakes/errors in the production of films and television...continuity etc.?
I don't ENJOY finding mistakes & errors in media, but I often do notice when there are inconsistencies, and it can really aggravate me. It feels sloppy & inconsiderate, like the creators just didn't care about what they were making enough to bother checking to make sure it all made sense. People talk about suspension of disbelief, but I feel that I can't continue to do that when there are conflicts in the world. I can suspend my disbelief if I'm watching fantasy or scifi if there's internal consistency, but the instant something doesn't make sense because it's contradictory or illogical, I get really irritated.
6. What are the top 3 traits you look for in a friend?
1. Kindness, because it's a choice to treat other people with compassion. If I don't feel like someone cares about me, I don't feel like we're friends.
2. Honesty, because I won't be able to take them at their word, so I won't be able to trust them otherwise.
3. Growth Mindset, because I'm always learning, growing, and changing as a person, so I need my friends to be able to keep up with me!
7. What are the top 3 traits you perceive as negative but are willing to overlook in a friend?
1. Ignorance, because as long as a person is willing to learn, they can be educated, which can cause them to change their perspective/attitude.
2. Trauma, because everyone has at least one type of trauma. We just need to learn how to support each other as we work to heal our trauma.
3. Egoism, because all humans are self-interested. It's just important to understand how to compromise & negotiate our needs & boundaries.
8. What are the top traits you look for in a partner/traits your partner possesses?
Pretty much the same things I look for in a friend, as well as an additional level of understanding, dedication, and shared interests, values, beliefs, & goals.
9. What would you do with your life if you had unlimited funds?
Distribute the funds to everyone until money became obsolete & everyone was able to work as much or as little as they want doing whatever they want.
10. What does freedom mean to you. What does it entail?
Freedom to me means self-mastery. No matter what is going on in the world around us, we can always be free if we have control over our internal worlds. On an external level, freedom means that everyone has the ability to express themselves in a way that is respectful & considerate without infringing on the will of others.
11. What does success mean to you?
Success to me means inner fulfilment. As long as we are feeling fulfilled in what we are doing & who we are, we are successful. Accomplishing goals can be one way to feel fulfilled, but it's not the only way. We need to make peace with what happened to us, how things are, and who we are to ever feel successful. Making peace means accepting that it's the current reality, but it doesn't mean not working to change things for the better as this should be an eternal process.
12. Are you more stable/happier/productive within the structure of a relationship...partner/good friend/long-term roommate?
It really depends. If the relationship dynamic is healthy because the individuals involved (including myself) are healthy, then yes. If not, then no. A relationship is only stable if the individuals in it are also stable. Relationships are influenced by each member so however the people are doing will influence the relationship.
13. Do you find it stressful to be around other parents at school functions?
This is not applicable as I'm not a parent, but I'd imagine that my answer would be yes if I were a parent.
14. How often do you pretend to not see people you know if you don’t want to talk?
I often avert my gaze if I don't feel I have the spoons to interact with someone, but I don't pretend I don't see people. If they later message me asking if I saw them, I'll say yes, but that I didn't have energy to socialise at the time, so I chose not to say anything. That way I'm being honest & not snubbing anyone.
15. In which areas do you identify the most with other autistic people?
I'm brutally honest & tell it how I see it. I struggle to understand & obey arbitrary sociocultural systems. I don't care if the majority of people are doing things a certain way or if it's how things have always been. If it seems illogical, nonsensical, inefficient, or arbitrary, I'll challenge it & propose a new way of doing things. I love the things I love with ardent fervour and will infodump about my special interests as much as I can. It's my primary love language. I do things my way and on my own time unless I'm making a special exception to be polite or respect someone else's culture because I am visiting them & care about them. I don't stay up on what's trendy or contemporary more than is absolutely needed to be respectful of social issues. I struggle to think inside of the box because I don't even see the box so if I'm in the box at all, I'm probably also outside of it in other ways. I value authenticity, sustainability, & empathy above all.
16. What are the most stressful aspects of parenting an autistic child as an autistic caregiver?
I wouldn't know from personal experience, but I'd imagine it'd be sensory & spoon concerns.
17. What are the top 5 things you want your children to know about the world and why?
I don't currently plan to ever have children of my own, but I'd like all children to know the following:
1. Every single person has a different perspective & interpretation of reality. Just because you believe one thing, doesn't mean that's the only way to see things.
2. Right, wrong, truth, and falsehood are relativistic human constructs. Depending on a person's angle of vision, these can all be defined differently.
3. No one way of being is better or worse than another. Every culture, belief system, type of self-expression, learning style, etc. has a purpose & a function.
4. At the end of the day, all living beings just want to feel loved, safe, respected, validated, and valued. We want to be seen & appreciated for who we feel we are.
5. If you find out what a person wants/values & appeal to that, they will be more willing to listen to you & work with you. Consider what others want, not just you.
18. Does living off the grid appeal to you and why/why not?
I've wanted to live off grid my whole life. Now I have decided I want to help create intentional communities that have an alternate type of grid that's used as a tool to improve lives in a sustainable, minimalistic capacity such as keeping in touch with loved ones around the world & organising travel and the exchange of goods & services. Technology can be a wonderful thing if we are not dependent upon it. There's a delicate balance that we have lost in our current digital tech addiction.
19. What is your favorite style of architecture and why?
I love so many different types of architecture, and have been obsessed with designing my own buildings since I was a child. For the European styles, I love gothic, medieval, edwardian, victorian, baroque, rococo, & other similar styles. For everywhere else, I love traditional ancient styles that are colourful, have intricate detailing, domed roofs, and often are used in religious or palace type communal living situations. I'm a huge fan of the Vedic architectural style from ancient India, I love Morroccan riads, Mexican haciendas, and other similar designs. I really like to keep things native to the geographic region as much as possible for sustainability purposes, but no matter the design, I love large open spaces, lots of nature, and keeping things both beautiful as well as functional.