The #ActuallyAutistic Culture and Identity Project S39
Name, and/or twitter handle: Latranscanis1
Age when you selfdx/were diagnosed autistic: 4
1. Did you feel you were different from others as a child?
Quite significantly. I think my case is interesting because I was diagnosed so young that I have, from my perspective, known I was autistic my entire life - I'm too young to remember a time before my diagnosis. So I always knew I was different from the other children, but I had a name for this difference, I understand why it was that I was apart from them. I feel like a lot of autistic people who are diagnosed later in life just feel different and apart, but don't know why. I should clarify that that didn't make it easier. At a certain age, I was pretty blissfully unaware of how other people perceived me and how I was something of a weird outcast, but as I grew, I came to recognise that more. First, that gave rise to something of a superiority complex, and then, despair.
2. Are your parents supportive of you as an autistic individual?
This was the most difficult question of these to answer. Yes, but not perfectly. I can hardly call them unsupportive, overtly ableist, or unloving. They have responded to my autism in...less than ideal ways, in the past, though. My mother worked continually very hard to get me a statement of educational needs so I would have support in school, and continually crusaded for me when I was being bullied or poorly accommodated by schools or other failed bureacratic systems. Doubtless I would not have gotten as far as I have in life without my mother's tireless support. Both of my parents have continually reassured me that I'm no lesser for being autistic and that I shouldn't be ashamed of it. My mother has worked many jobs related to autism based on the passion and experience for supporting autistic people she gained from raising me, certainly deeply cares about autistic rights, and suspects she may be autistic herself.
On the other hand, my parents have in their worse moments lashed out and made disparaging comments about my autism, such as chastising me for making social faux pases, mocking my stimming - they tried very hard when I was a child to train me to not stim publicly and see it as something shameful and embarassing - and bluntly telling me I can't do the things that 'normal' people do.
They have underestimated me and tried to withhold opportunities from me out of overprotectiveness. There is, under their love and tireless support, a definite undercurrent of frustration. At times, I'm fairly confident from their comments that my parents wish their firstborn child was normal, and they hadn't had to work so hard. I don't forgive them for some of the things they've said and done, because they hurt me and it was unjustifiable coming from parents. But I understand their difficulty in raising me, and they're only human, and I know that in their hearts they do love me and strive to care for me and support me.
In the end, they are supportive, albeit not perfectly, but I'm not sure if it's reasonable to demand perfection - I will blame them completely for where they've fallen short and contributed to my insecurity and feelings of inadequacy, but I understand why.
3. How did you determine your ethical system?
When I was a child, I distinctly recall asking myself, for example 'why is murder wrong?' I didn't see why it should be tautological. I was an inquisitive child - it couldn't just be wrong, there had to be a reason why it was wrong. After some thought, I concluded that murder must be wrong because you're depriving a person of their future happiness. In this way, I essentially had a utilitarian morality, even as a small child. It was a long time before I really understood the trolley problem - I didn't get it was a problem, a dilemma. It seemed straightforward enough to me, there was an obvious right and wrong answer. It was incomprehensible to me that some people would allow more people to die. So I suppose I naturally thought in utilitarian terms from the outset. As I grew up, I actually read more into ethical philosophy, although it wasn't until I was an adult that I read about the different distinct ethical systems - deontology, virtue ethics, so forth. I had something of an existential crisis about it then, because I'd sort of taken my moral system for granted and never really questioned exactly what it was founded on, or what its internal logic was - as most people do, I should think. I ultimately settled on 'utilitarian, but doped with intuitionism to make it more common sense and avoid repugnant conclusions'. That's where I am now.
4. How do you differ from your outward facing front?
In this, I feel like I differ from many autistic people. I know that lots of other autistic people mask, and hide their true selves, often to appear less autistic than they really are. I do this far, far less than most autistic, or indeed most people really. I pride myself on being honest, and I feel uncomfortable pretending to be someone I'm not or modifying my behaviour for others' pleasure. Besides, I'm not very good at acting anyway.
Of course, I do have the normal variation of personae that most people have - I'm more informal and sweary and rude around friends than my parents or professors - but I don't feel like I mask as much as many autistic people do.
I'm very upfront about my thoughts and feelings, I feel guilty hiding anything at all about myself, and I act pretty similarly in most contexts. The primary difference, really, is that because I was humiliated and yelled at so often as a child for stimming, I try my best never to do it in other people's presence, and am horrified when I realise someone has seen me do it. But when I'm alone, I stim *constantly*.
5. Do you enjoy finding mistakes/errors in the production of films and television...continuity etc.?
I really do love it, yes. I'm a massive nerd in that regard. One of my biggest hobbies is reading TvTropes, and I've spent many happy hours reading pages breaking down little mistakes like that. I'm willing to forgive them if they work for the story - artistic license - and I like to think I'm not as nitpicky as some people are, but one of my favourite passtimes is to sit down with a friend and a bad movie and tear it apart as we watch it, mocking and riffing as it goes and laughing at all the problems, Mystery Science Theatre style.
6. What are the top 3 traits you look for in a friend?
7. What are the top 3 traits you perceive as negative but are willing to overlook in a friend?
8. What are the top traits you look for in a partner/traits your partner possesses?
What is a partner if not the greatest friend you'll ever have? So:
I'm blessed that my girlfriend is all three, in spades.
9. What would you do with your life if you had unlimited funds?
I feel rather uncomfortable when I have excessive amounts of money, I should comment. It feels wrong, somehow. I'm not very materialistic, I have most of my needs that could be paid for met, so it's difficult to think of what people should get me for birthdays and Christmas.
If I had literally unlimited funds, I'd buy my friends everything they need, buy myself a few minor things I really want but can't afford, then spend my life spending all that money on helping others and making the world a better place. RIP to Jeff Bezos, but I'm different.
10. What does freedom mean to you. What does it entail?
Freedom is interesting to me because freedom falls prey to something similar to Popper's Paradox of Tolerance, I think. That is to say, perfect freedom/perfect tolerance are both impossible. If you make everyone completely free, some people will use their freedom to remove the freedoms of others, just as perfect tolerance breeds intolerance.
And that's not even considering that a person can never be literally, completely free in the sense of being able to do whatever they like at any time. I can't float up in the air right now, just by wanting to. But no, freedom to me on a individual, as well as collective level, just means being able to choose from all the options currently practically available to you, at any time, provided that doesn't infringe on the same ability of others. And of course, there's a conflict, inherently, between freedom and happiness, but not as much as people might think.
Should people be free to make themselves and others unhappy? What matters more? It's a dilemma, isn't it. So yes, I think freedom is something ultimately rather paradoxical, but something to be striven for if possible.
11. What does success mean to you?
A person is successful if they set themselves a goal and achieve that goal, aren't they? Whatever that goal is. Now, whether that goal conforms to what other people's goals for them are, that depends. But in their mind, they're successful. So success could be getting out of bed. It could be marrying the love of your life. It could be winning the Nobel Prize. Success is in the eye of the succeeder, as it were. And what is success for me, personally? Pass my degree with a good grade, find a career I enjoy, get some of my writings published, marry my beloved girlfriend, live a happy life.
12. Are you more stable/happier/productive within the structure of a relationship...partner/good friend/long-term roommate?
Now this depends on what is meant exactly. I'm happier when I'm in a relationship than when I'm single, absolutely without question. If I'm single, that's a disequilibrium state, I don't want to be that way, I'm seeking to end it. It's been a long time since I was without close friends, and the more friends I make, the happier I become. Loneliness is one of my biggest fears. To be loved is one of my biggest desires, so yes, I am happier in those structures. Not really more productive because I can still work well even when I'm in a very bad place, definitely more mentally stable. But if this means when I'm actually living with someone - I don't know. I was happy to get away from my parents, miserable to be with bullying flatmates, happy to currently live in my apartment with no roommate, alone. Maybe I'd be happier living with my girlfriend or a close friend. I can't know until I try it.
13. Do you find it stressful to be around other parents at school functions?
I'm not a parent.
14. How often do you pretend to not see people you know if you don’t want to talk?
If I see someone I know when I'm out and about at the shops, for example, I find it really awkward to just stop and talk to them. It's almost as if I haven't steeled myself - the fact that we're in front of people doesn't help. So I totally do get away from them as soon as possible and pretend I never saw them, or sometimes pretend I didn't hear them if they notice me and call after me, although I haven't had to do that in a very long time.
15. In which areas do you identify the most with other autistic people?
I feel like a pretty typical 'autistic person', really. I imagine that for people who realise in adulthood that they're autistic it can feel strange relating to this whole new community of people, but I have, from my perspective, known I was autistic my whole life, so I identify pretty strongly with the autistic community and the quintessential 'autistic experience', even if I have at times resented that identity, and other autistic people, and wished to disavow it all and be 'normal'.
But to be specific; I relate to the experiences other autistic people describe of stimming; I relate to their social awkwardness and difficulty with 'saying the right thing'; I relate to their feelings of anxiety and insecurity and inadequacy; I relate to their experiences of hyperfixations; I relate to their sensory issues; I relate to their feeling of being out of place, not quite fitting in, struggling to be accepted and find my niche; I relate to their executive dysfunction, especially as I work to finish this questionnaire after months of procrastination (thanks brain).
16. What are the most stressful aspects of parenting an autistic child as an autistic caregiver?
Not an autistic caregiver.
17. What are the top 5 things you want your children to know about the world and why?
I'm not a parent and I don't want children, but if I were a mother, I'd tell my kids this:
1) all those terrible things you hear about on the news, and in warnings, and read about in books? They're notable because they're rare. You'll be safe, statistically, from almost all of those. The world is not as scary as it may seem.
2) Gender isn't real. Just vibe with whatever gender roles you want, I don't care.
3) Race isn't real. Don't you ever treat someone as less than you because of where their ancestors came from. We're all one human people.
4) With reference to the Doctor; 'hate is always foolish, and love is always wise'.
5) All emotions serve their purpose, and no emotion is inherently bad. Let them serve their purpose, and no more. Fear will protect you; anger will move you to act against injustice; sadness will remind you of the value of things. It's never shameful to feel deeply. To feel emotion is to be human, and know you're alive.
18. Does living off the grid appeal to you and why/why not?
Not even remotely. I like the Internet far too much. I like my modern amenities, my soda, my candy, all the wonders of civilisation. I don't know how I could have lived before 1995 or so, honestly. As horrible as modern society can be, I happily take it over living on a farm somewhere, detached from everyone else. I'll stay firmly on the grid.
19. What is your favorite style of architecture and why?
I really love gothic architecture. My university is a beautiful old town with a lot of medieval buildings, and it's one of my favourite places in the entire world. I'm very fond of traditional architecture in general, I find it aesthetically pleasing. But I wouldn't want to live in one of those old castle buildings. A modern apartment might be uglier, but it's far nicer to live in.