Hi everyone. It’s been a while! Many things have been happening in my life which I may, or may not, share at a later date. But for now, here’s what’s on my mind…
I went to Autscape for the first time this week and I have… feelings!
Probably the first thing to say is that I’m not that close to anyone in the autistic community. I’m relatively active on Twitter, but I don’t speak to anyone in DM. I met a few Twitter people a couple of years back at a NAS event, but I don’t speak to any of them any more. I don’t go to local autistic meet-ups in my area.
I don’t say this for pity or sympathy; it’s just how it is. I just wanted to give you some context to my ‘in person’ experience of autistic people (outside of my family) – i.e. there’s not a lot of it!
Also for context, I know a lot of other autistic people say that they went to Autscape (or other primarily autistic events/spaces) and automatically felt at home.
Those were the main two things on my mind as I prepared for Autscape:
- I don’t know any autistic people very well, and…
- Other autistic people had felt automatically welcomed when they went to Autscape.
You’ll probably have worked out by now where I am going with this…
Hanging out with a bunch of autistic people was A LOT harder than I had anticipated!
How do I explain this…
I think I’ll just chuck a few thoughts out there and see where I end up!
Firstly, my interests aren’t stereotypically autistic. Well, they sort of are and they aren’t. I like maths (I’m an engineer), I like animals, I like puzzles, I like fantasy books, I like sci-fi (kind of), I like art, I like music…
OK, they’re pretty stereotypical!
But, I guess the LEVEL to which I *show* my interest isn’t stereotypical.
Being a woman-presenting person, I learnt pretty fast that it was not socially acceptable to be interested in a lot of these things; or, if they were approved interests, that showing my autistic-level interest was NOT.
I hide behind vague interest, forcibly resisting Google rabbit holes required to learn ALL THE INFORMATION and shutting up when I know more about a subject than other people in a social group.
I am VERY good at masking – a definite privilege in the neurotypical world we live in, but, as I found, a definite hinderance to making authentic, autistic connections.
It was immensely challenging to me to watch all these people be their authentic autistic selves (or at least, more authentic than I was comfortable being) and make the connections that I desperately want.
I felt excluded, not by everyone else’s behaviour, but by my own mask.
This links in to what I’ve been talking about in therapy since my diagnosis: Who is authentic, autistic Beth?
It’s funny how these things all link together!
I clearly have a lot more to do on analysing and stripping away they neurotypical mask that I have felt I have to wear for my own safety. In some cases it has been truthfully for my safety, but I want to be able to know my true self well enough to be able to embrace it in the spaces that I don’t need the mask.
Thanks Autscape. I hope to be able to bring more of my authentic, autistic self another year.