Second from Aspie Guy

Book cover about Aspergers

Whoever designed this book cover should get paid more

[Housekeeping editorial note below*]

As most of you don’t know, there’s been a growing controversy about women being harassed by unpleasant male participants at ComicCon and similar conventions; discussions, remarks, attempts to fight against such things have been roiling certain internet waters of late. I sometimes lurk in these waters because of my interest in science fiction.

I read a blog post** by a woman speaking out on this controversy that brought up an issue for me that I’ve been feeling uncomfortable about. Even though I have some characteristics of people with serious Asperger’s, I’ve never been diagnosed and am high functioning to the point of being merely quirky compared to the many thousands of people who are quite severely affected. So I’m wondering if I have the right to speak as part of that population. The woman who wrote the post, whose name is Shea Wong,** makes a strong case against the self-diagnosed, though she’s talking in the context of people using their hypothetical condition as an excuse for bad behavior. Which is actually a quite different context.

I’m sitting here in the park thinking about these issues in my white socks and my short-sleeved yellow plaid shirt with the mechanical pencil in the pocket.

Here are a few of my thoughts around these issues, lightly elaborated:

I’m in solidarity with, and a member of, a particular population which includes many people who have been diagnosed with Asperger’s. This population is described by a Venn diagram which includes all the people who: were perceived in their social groups, starting at a young age, as being somehow different and who were actively ostracized and humiliated for it; who feel themselves to be different – to be witness to, and unable to participate in, an easy and natural way of interacting socially; who have some fundamental confusions about what’s considered “normal” aspects of being a person, including feelings, what to be interested in (and how much), lying, and how to treat other people. The world definitely contains many kilotons of suffering and confusion generated in the lives of people in this category, however neurotypical or non-neurotypical they may be.

There’s much to admire in the subset of Aspies and people who resemble them. We are often honest, funny, loyal, perceptive in some particular, and important, ways. And, especially when cared about and successfully coping, we can be cheerful, self-accepting and non-judgmental.

Aspie-like fictional heroes can supply a unique vantage point and window into their cultures and situations, O tempora o mores, especially in an unfamiliar science fiction universe.

Participating is believing. When I first heard about Asperger’s it was an intense experience of recognition and explanation. Ever since I’ve had perfectly weighted impulses to find out about and meet Aspies, to be with them and find out if I could find an “us” experience there, on the one hand, and on the other, an identically strong impulse to do nothing of the sort. This equilibrium of dynamic tension might be starting to shirt toward an exploration. At the very least, I could see what kind of community activity there is on the interweb machine, and maybe even explore a little farther, even outside my house, before the topic comes up in the rotation again.

I’m going to go ahead with my plan to create a main character in my science fiction writing who has Asperger’s, and I’ll include another little fictional sketch in a footnote.***

I’d really like to hear comments and points of view from anyone who has an opinion about anything connected to this topic. It’s easy to put in a comment, so if you’re thinking maybe you’d like to, I’m encouraging you to go ahead and do it.

*Here’s the editorial note: I’ve fallen behind in my every other day topic rotation schedule, I think because I’ve been nervous about this topic.

**Shea Wong describes herself as “an American expat living in London. I write, and knit, and garden. I’m a wife, mother, grad student, and activist.” This is what she had to say

I am officially sick of this self-diagnosis bullshit. You insult all of us who deal with the millstone of our actual diagnoses every day while you explain away your own bad actions. If you really think you are X, go get a diagnosis from a doctor or STFU.

She said it on her website, which you can find here. For the record, while I don’t have the same very strong emotions she has about these issues, I agree completely with what she’s got to say.

***Here’s some sketches toward introducing an Aspie character:

He liked thinking of himself as being “somewhere on the spectrum.” It pleased him to feel part of a lineage, that his father’s cumbersome and pain-tinged social failure, the constant undercurrent of hurt and exclusion not only had an explanation, but developed historically into his own. He sometimes fantasized himself being caught out as a poseur by the “real” Aspies, who would resent his appropriation of their condition, their real suffering as having anything to do with his own.

And there was something attractive about imagining that some subtle neurological malformation, some genetic anomaly, leading generations of men to lives of bemused ostracism and flashes of real and solitary genius, was a central explanation of his life. That his seemingly lumpy and misshapen life wasn’t more easily explained by some character weakness, a defect, a weakness for self-pity or superiority or pointless rejection of how regular people lived out of what might simply be called bloody-mindedness.

But the fact remained that the first time he’d heard of Asperger’s, driving alone to Rochester in the minivan he’d pulled over, amazed, near the graveled shore of a modest creek, sat, listening and stunned that there was a name for it, that so many disparate and difficult strands of his life were actually braided together by a single cause.

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