Fighting within ~ a commentary

As my streak of ire waned the other night, I was (self-)consciously aware that I had written two negative-themed blog posts in a row, and I was looking forward to writing about something more positive (or at least neutral/academic) and less emotional.  But today, it’s not to be.  I’m really hoping that this post ends the streak of negativity and that we can all get back to “business” (which, for us, usually consists of virtual hugs, high-fives and cheers, and terms of endearment) with my next post.  Please bear with me; last night and this morning have been a little rough.

I need to say something about a conversation that I witnessed beginning last night (US time zones) on Twitter.  By the time I had caught up this morning, I’m too-well-aware that if I hadn’t been sitting in an airport, surrounded by too many people in too close a proximity, I would have teared up and shut down.

I watched in heart-dropping horror as an exchange took place between two factions of friends in the community whom I care very deeply for and unquestioningly support.  I was shocked to read the words, but I couldn’t tear myself away from my mobile screen.  Not out of a bloodthirst for drama or “excitement”, but rather, a need to make sure what I was seeing.

I’m not here to scold, lecture, or blame anyone, nor can I or will I take one side over another.  I care for both “sides” of the exchange very much, and both sides made/make valid points.  Each of us has our own perspective and our own set of experiences.  Each of us has our own framework from which we operate.  This also means that each of us has our own set of hot-button triggers and sensitive subjects, and each of us also has our own way of responding/reacting to these.

The debate in question, the way I understood it, involved privilege and degrees thereof.  Certain groups (males, Caucasians, allistics (non-autistic people), heterosexual people, cisgender people, and others) enjoy a certain degree of privilege, either due to holding a non-minority status or because their attributes are culturally “preferred” (or perhaps both).  Out of respect for–and to protect–the anonymity of the specific individuals involved, I won’t say much other than there was a disagreement about the levels of privilege one enjoys based on their various statuses and attributes.  We know that holding more than one minority or “non-preferred” status can (and usually does) have a compounding effect; for example, consider two people of African-American descent.  One is male; the other, female.  Both face the daily potential for discrimination based on their skin color alone.  The female, however, faces an additional disadvantage or potential for discrimination based on her gender as well.  The fact that she is both African-American and female may present two issues in a Caucasion male-dominated society.  The same holds true for other personal attributes, such as sexual orientation, physical/mental disability/handicap/illness, and others.

As we, the people on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum, are all-too-well-aware, we, too, face considerable discrimination, challenge, and hardship when attempting to live, be recognized, gain respect, and perhaps advance professionally (etc) in a predominantly non-autistic world.  The social rules were not fashioned in accordance with how we operate.  In a neurotypical/non-autistic world, a lack of eye contact means that you’re hiding something, failing to shake hands firmly means that you’re an untrustworthy cold fish (and is almost treated as a sign of disrespect), and so on.  In a non-autistic-engineered world, attributes like extroversion, sociability, and keeping up with current events, trends, and fashions, are all prized; deviating from these ideals results in a societal strike against you.

For several of the participants in the disagreement (and for me as well), several questions surfaced…

If you’re white (or “white-‘looking'”), male, and autistic, where does that leave you?  Mathematically speaking, of the three attribute categories, two of them are “favored” statuses (male and white), whereas the third one (autism) is not.  In this case, do you enjoy privilege or not?

As an autistic white male, do your “whiteness” and “maleness” negate or soften any of the challenges you face as an autistic person?  Do these “favored” attributes make your life any easier, or do you face the same challenges as any other autistic person, or perhaps another autistic person in several other minority categories?  (I.e., would the autistic white male have it just as tough as, say, an autistic Latina female?)

Is an autistic white male a “bigot” or a “whiner” (not words that I actually saw exchanged; no one called each other anything from what I saw; these are just theoretical terms) for lamenting about his difficulties in living as an autistic person in a non-autistic world?  Does he have the right to “complain”?

One side of the disagreement asserted that an autistic person possessing other privileged attributes would have it easier than an autistic person with several other minority/non-privileged attributes, while the second side (I won’t say “other side” because I don’t want to create any illusion that I favor one side over the other) maintained that even an autistic white male can still have it rough, because of their autism; that they don’t get to enjoy their other privileged statuses as much because they’re on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum.

This didn’t have to melt down the way it did; it could have remained an academic discussion, and new viewpoints could have been absorbed on both sides.  Again, I’m not scolding or tone-policing, saying that this “should have happened and shame on them for not doing this”.  That’s not where I’m going, in any way, shape, or form.  All I’m saying is that it could have gone in a different direction.

I’m going to speculate here, because that’s what I do in my own (possibly selfish) attempt to bring torrents of emotions back into the cerebrum and prefrontal cortex.  If I can begin to make sense of difficult situations and complex, devastating emotions, then maybe I can survive the storm.

The situation melted down, possibly on both sides (again, no blaming/shaming here; I’ve reviewed the conversations as best I can, and I didn’t observe any bullying tactics–I admit I might have missed some, but I didn’t see any).  The actually-autistic Twitter community has been (understandably) low on spoons (i.e., fatigued, overwhelmed, and/or worn-out).  We’ve just gotten through major holidays, which, for many of us, involved shopping (public places, sensory overload, excess people/crowds/traffic, way out of our usual routine), spending (on gifts, travel, etc–many of us, myself included aren’t of unlimited financial means), travel (and all of its potential hiccups and minor catastrophes, not to mention also out of the routine), family get-togethers (too many people, sensory overload, not all family members get along, plans change–sometimes at the last minute), senses of obligation (and accompanying resentment or shame), and so much more.  This also followed on the coattails of an Stateside American election that shocked and devastated many people around the world, as well as the rapid-fire loss of several beloved stars of nostalgic movies and whatnot in the news headlines lately.

And, (please bear with me if you don’t believe in astrology, but) Mercury is retrograde, a three-and-a-half-week period every three months or so in which communication can get thrown completely out of whack, fraught with misunderstandings and misinterpretations, wrong word choices, higher-than-usual emotions, assumptions, and jumping to conclusions.  Which is exactly what happened, at least the way I see it.

Given all of this, I would be surprised if a major communication mishap hadn’t happened.  The conditions were too ripe.  It was the perfect storm.  Thus, (and I might be naively optimistic here) I’m chocking the skirmish up to a big ol’ misunderstanding.

I believe that both sides of the disagreement made valid points.  I think that the topic is an extremely important one, and I’m sadly-disappointed (as opposed to disapprovingly-disappointed) that a precedent has been set, in that this has now become a hot-button topic that has caused so much strife and pain that we won’t dare bring it up again, uttering nary a word.  I’m worried that, in fear of riling up the associated emotions and reigniting the rift, that we’ll stay silent instead, letting a topic that affects all of our daily lives lie dormant, preventing those of us in the autistic community (but of differing/a variety of other statuses) from expanding our perspectives and gaining insight from each other, and cultivating increased empathy for each other.  I also fear that we’ll avoid bringing up other similar topics for discussion, and my fear is borne out of the same reasons.

The other tragic results include friends muting and blocking each other (while understandable, and while I respect their decisions, it’s unfortunate that it even happened) and one friend even deleted their Twitter account.

From where I sat, I was torn between two “sides” that I care very deeply for.  I value having them in my life, and I enjoy interacting with them.  In regards to the one whose account is no longer, that interaction just became much less convenient.  But it’s not just about my own sorrow over seeing this happen and watching them go; my pain is even more for them.  Twitter is a rich landscape of easily-connected and like-minded people who share vast treasure troves of information.  When anyone leaves Twitter, they’re at least somewhat aware of what they’ll be missing out on, and yet the pain they endure by staying has outweighed the thrill and support they receive from the community.

And that’s the most tragic part.  The loss of valuable members of the community and their loss of those remaining.

I respect anyone’s decision to leave Twitter or any other social media platform, or any other place/situation in which it would do them more harm than good to stay.  It’s a self-care/self-preservation move, and I don’t blame anyone for doing so.  I don’t judge them or get mad at them; to do so would be to impose my desire for them to stay over their desire/need for wellbeing.  But I still grieve the loss.  (If someone is simply considering leaving Twitter, I’ll express my support/encouragement for them to stay, mainly to send them the message that they are wanted and valued–both personally and as a member of the community, but if they do decide to leave, I completely respect that.)

After all this, what’s left?

Well, I’ll tell you…

We’re minus a couple of people, and there have been some permanent rifts created between others, but we still have a wonderful community.

We still face a lot of hardships and challenges that come with being Aspergian/autistic in a non-spectrum world.  We still need to know that we’re not alone.  We still need access to information that doesn’t make the mainstream news headlines.  We still need to interact and have friends.  We still need support (of and from each other).

We all have our challenges and struggles; some of them may be more commonly shared among the community, while others are less so.  No one’s challenges/struggles are more or less legitimate than anyone else’s.

We all have different perspectives, situations, experiences, backgrounds, and strengths, and no one of those is any more or less valid, either.  We’re all valid, valuable, legitimate, significant, and we can all bring something to the community table, whether it’s a skill or a specialty, or a way with words, or a logical flowchart thought pattern for solving problems, or a listening ear that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside after chatting with them.

Most importantly, we acknowledge each other and help each other feel validated.  These are just a few of the seemingly-endless list of reasons why I value and cherish this community and all of its members’ viewpoints so much.

I love you all and I’m really hoping that anyone and everyone can find it in our hearts and minds to forgive, learn, support, and love.

winter-snow-hands-heart-love-636

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21 Comments

    1. Thank you for your kind words, my dear friend ❤️ Yeah, it was heartbreaking to watch; I was overwhelmed with disbelief. I’ve checked in with people on both “sides” and thankfully, both are OK, which is a relief. 💐💘

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  1. I don’t want to stir all of this up again but an aspect of the situation is seemingly repeatedly getting missed or overlooked…

    The point of privilege was bought into the discussion and the person felt attacked by that and felt it had been done to upset and silence them. Their reaction was to then dig their heels in and try explain their own lack of privilege and hardships.

    It was a knee jerk reaction and a strong one. They even said to ignore what they were saying because they were having a meltdown.

    I know personally that there have been times when I’ve felt attacked and have ended up arguing for a point that I don’t agree with as a way of self defense and stubbornness.

    Luckily, thus far, I’ve managed to rectify situations and explain myself and have people around me who are understanding enough to realise that what we say isn’t *always* what we mean in these situations. Instead this person has been labelled as a bigot and as a male privilege deniar etc and I find it unfair and uncaring.

    I appreciate your thoughts on what happened but no one seems to be considering the above x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a really important point, and I’m very glad you raised it – no apologies needed, dear one; it deserves a place in the discussion. ❤️

      I admit that I was out of town at the time and it was a really busy day for me, so I caught only bits and pieces of the conversation. To clarify/confirm, am I correct in understanding that the point about privilege was/might have been used as a silencing/intimidation tool? I guess I hadn’t seen the conversation before that; I think I sort of “walked in” near the beginning but didn’t see the original topic, nor all of the follow-up replies. (As mentioned, I only caught parts, and then my attention was pulled in a different direction, and sometimes I simply had to look away, which I admit was somewhat cowardly of me; looking back, I realize that I probably should have spent more time with the thread and perhaps weighed in; maybe I could have contributed something to calm things down? Who knows?) 💔☮💞💐

      Liked by 1 person

      1. As I said, I am really wary of stirring it all up again and it has been very upsetting for many people, but yes, in my opinion, you are correct in that understanding.

        I hope that you can trust your own knowledge of the individual to know that he wouldn’t/doesn’t hold views like that and the whole thing was blown way out of all proportions.

        It’s been a very sad few days. X

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Yep, I completely agree. From what I know about the individuals involved, it seemed to me to be a very unlikely conversation, which is why it surprised me so much. And nope, I don’t think they hold views in the way they came across to each other. One has clarified theirs, and I agree with what they said. I haven’t obtained clarification from the other yet, but I imagine that the same holds true for them, since they were in the middle of a meltdown, and we all pretty much know how meltdowns go. I know that for me, I can’t communicate clearly during one, but sometimes I can’t stop, which is the worst situation/outcome for me; it only makes everything worse. I wish both the best, and please don’t feel bad for bringing it up. I know that I find it necessary to discuss it and deconstruct it, maybe in hopes of making sense of it and also hopefully being able to take steps to prevent it from happening again. 😊

      Thank you so much for your insight; I value it highly! ❤️💐

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  2. Well said, as always! In Catholicism, we are charged to admonish the sinner. In other words, we’re supposed to let people know they messed up. But there is this old saying, “a word to the wise is sufficient.” I had this inscribed, in Latin, on a ring in the old text game I used to play. I think, as Autistics, we want to be right, but sometimes we forget that each person has free will. We can instruct (gently, so they listen) but we have to let people make their own mistakes. When, someday, they SEE it and change, to whom will they come for advice and more information? Will it be the person who nagged them, or the one who gently led them? A staff is meant to keep a sheep from falling; it’s for guidance. Only a bad shepherd beats the sheep with it since a scared sheep is REALLY hard to lead. I try to remember that every time I have to be right.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for adding your perspective! I love your blog post along these lines, by the way 😊 I always appreciate what you have to say ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The ‘everyone has it more tough than everyone else’ fight it sounds like. The only counter to that argument is this Monty Python Sketch, lol.

    And if I hear one more snowflake call for the genocide of all white people…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I love this! Thank you for adding a little lightheartedness to an otherwise heavy topic 😊❤️

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  4. Like you, I tend to dive into twitter intermittently especially when I’m busy with other activities. (And the holidays are a time for busyness, aren’t they.) Sometimes I’ll research the whole context of something. Other times I’ll just pick up fragments. The way I interact with twitter has evolved considerably since I first joined in 2008 and I imagine it will continue to evolve. The way I interact now works for me. Others take different approaches. /shrug

    I contributed a bit to a discussion about privilege, and given the timing I’ll assume it’s the one you’re referencing in the post. It’s one where I only read the fragments with which I interacted, and those seemed to me like a pretty calm conversation with some disagreement but nothing major. I guess I missed the ‘fight’ part of it.

    Ironically, my experience of twitter is mediated by the whole older, straight, white, male thing that was under discussion. No matter what I say, I never draw the sort of horrible, routine attacks that women and POC tend to draw even extending to physical threats, doxxing, swatting, and other serious issues. I rarely draw the attention of trolls or bots and when I do a simple mute (usually) or block and I move on my way.

    I actually remember noticing the different ways people treated me from a pretty young age. For instance, if I walked into a department store with a black friend as a preteen, all attention by security guards and clerks would center on my friend. I probably could have shoplifted almost anything without even trying if I had been so inclined. There was another time in my 20s when I worked among women and we were having a discussion on a work topic. One woman made a suggestion and it was largely dismissed and ignored. I mulled it over and thought it was really a good idea, so I brought it back into the discussion. Suddenly, it became the main topic of discussion and everyone was very complimentary about “my” great idea. That specific incident became one of my reference points. It taught me that if I intended to amplify a woman’s idea I had to start by clearly and strongly attributing it to her. Otherwise everyone would attribute it to me. The same thing has happened pretty much every time I’ve forgotten that rule.

    I’ve actually spent a lot of time since my diagnosis considering the intersection of white, male privilege and autism through the lens of my own experience. It doesn’t change much in my understanding. It just adds context, explanation, and clarity. For instance, when I had what I now see was a complete autistic meltdown when my three year abusive second marriage finally collapsed, being a white male likely saved me. As erratically as I was behaving and unable to respond properly to external instructions, if I had been a black male, I very likely would have been shot by police instead of taken to the hospital and admitted for psychiatric evaluation. Privilege in the social science context has less to do with advantages given to someone than with a lower bar being set. Positive gains are easier to achieve and consequences of failure are less disastrous. Gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, ability/disability, etc. tend to be somewhat orthogonal. Negatives, however, do accumulate. Compared to me, a queer, black, autistic female would face monumental roadblocks and challenges just to live.

    I still don’t have much insight into the fight aspect on twitter. I do know that white men in general tend to have difficulty acknowledging their privilege in our society, especially when they feel they haven’t been ‘successful’ so that wouldn’t be something unique to autistic white men. Perhaps that played into it.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I really enjoyed reading your comment! Wow! In case it was possible, I have *even more* respect for you! 😊👏🏼💓. I love how you handle situations where a woman has been ignored, being sure to give the credit where it’s due 😊

      Personally, I’ve only been trolled twice that I can recall; both claimed to be autistic themselves, although their behavior didn’t jive with the general pattern. Both happened in the same week, in October, which I wrote about back then. They came on the heels of the whole self-diagnosis debate. But those instances are all I can remember. Otherwise, knock on wood, I haven’t been trolled since thus far.

      I totally agree with your entire comment, and I’m glad you got through the situation unscathed. I probably would have, too, had I kept my mouth shut (lol), but given the people involved (which were many, all of them whom I consider to be in my inner circle of sorts), I opened said mouth. ❤️

      Looking back, I probably should have said something benign much earlier on, to maybe help diffuse the conflict before it swung in the direction it did. But I was lower in energy and short on time, and figured that I would chime in later. Gah. Hindsight is a bitch sometimes 😊

      Thank you again for your perspective! Your comments are always very well-thought-out and nice to read ❤️

      Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m so sorry that happened to you 😰 Twitter can be amazing, but it can also be predatory, or at least a big source of stress. There are many wonderful people on there, but there are sharks and bullies on there, too. It can be confusing and, despite all the people on there, it can indeed be lonely. I’m so sorry that you had the experience you did, because you’re too nice a person to get used like that 💐💞

      Liked by 1 person

      1. thank you so much for your good words about me!
        Yes I loved of twitter many account about gardens flowers, I love nature so much.
        I have to say that the person that caused me problem wasn’t a bullish, but an important person researching in autism, in that time It was not professional at all using me in knowing about another person but It used me because i was really sad and worry about my friend, and I asked that important person to help my friend but It betrayed me. I put trust in a wrong person. I’m just waiting for Truth coming in light. Be careful! I think WP is good beacuse we know each other better way, in reading quiet and trying to understand each others. With my kind followers I feel there’s a positive community listening and helping each other, and that’s really good.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. the notion that some people have a right to complain about hardships, and others should just stfu because they have it so good (because they belong to a group that may on average, have something better than someone else) is one of the most sociopathic and bigoted ideas that exists. “oh youre white and male– what do you possibly know about injustice?”

    “well my parents were raped and murdered, and my sister and i lived in a trailer until it was was taken by the bank.”

    “well im not interested in your privileged whining, how is your sister? actually nevermind, shes cis-gendered and white– she wouldnt know REAL hardship, would she?”

    possibly related: https://codeinfig.wordpress.com/2016/12/18/the-anti-feminist-feminist-spectrum/ barely related: (i love queen and this is an absurd fictional parody, but sinatra is so fantastic when he calls mercury a racist. its just a fun video, but theyre both insulting each other as a sport and saying its *the others* insults that are unfair and uncalled for, which is pretty surreal and adorable as a premise– i hope theres a parallel in this somewhere.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K5a_v0MP_Fk

    short version: everybody hurts. lets not start suggesting that only certain groups of people “really” have a right to mention it– its such a fascist sentiment.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yeah I think it would be foolish to claim that one person has it tougher than another; assumptions make an arse out of both parties involved, after all 😊 We never really know what struggles any other person may be facing, or how resilient they might be on a given day to handle those struggles. Only the individual themselves actually knows 💙

      Liked by 1 person

  6. are any of these pictures you post of you? im not sure they can all be you, but theyre often of a similar body type/hair style. not trying to crack your anonymity (i think its a great idea actually) but forgive me if im always going to wonder.

    Liked by 1 person

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