When I first realized that I’m on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum, it became paramount to find out more about autism as it relates to females, and those of adult age at that.
I already knew what the Powers That Be wanted me to know about autism. I knew what the charity organizations were touting. Their “awareness” campaign worked, for their purposes. The images of the most “severe cases” were etched into my mind.
In discovering my own autistic nature, I suddenly realized that there was more to learn about autism. Autism definitely includes little white boys ages 2-6, but obviously it doesn’t include only those little boys. There are little girls, too. And big boys and big girls. And all genders of all ethnic backgrounds. With all kinds of trait combinations. Autism is indeed a spectrum. To me, it’s also a vast sea that extends out beyond a horizon.
During this process of self-discovering and soul-searching, it also became paramount to find others like me. To see what they had to say. To see what we had in common. To see if we had similar thoughts, feelings, outlooks on life. To reassure me in what was otherwise a very unsure time and place.
Not only was I never disappointed, but the blogosphere must have sensed my pent-up need to belong, somewhere, anywhere, as long as it was correct. Only the right place, the right vocabulary, the right descriptions would do. Anything else was pointless, of course. I found a home I had no idea I was homesick for. I found a place I had no idea I’d been searching for. And it was indeed like coming home.
Obviously, as with any family, one can’t choose all of the relatives, and no family, tribe, network, whatever you want to call it, is perfect.
But for the first time, I didn’t feel like I was standing on an island, howling into the wind. I felt like I had an army standing beside me. The ones who say, “me too!” The ones who nod, eyes brimming with tears of healing and relief. I know; I felt it too. And I still do.
I’ve said before something about how reading blogs written by autistic people was like reaching a Holy Grail, receiving a Book of Secrets, the keys that unlocked my brain and indeed, my life.
Finally, no longer marooned on some distant and remote island, I could finally use terms that I never could before. Terms like “we” and “us” instead of “I” and “me”. Plural forms carry so much more strength than singular forms. A single person has to answer for themselves. I’ve done that all my life. I’m no stranger to it, but I’m also tired of doing it.
I needed a break.
Looking around while growing up, everybody else got to use those words, because they weren’t the only ones saying or doing what they did. They always had company; they were never alone.
I always had been.
When I use those terms in writing, it’s not like I’m trying to speak for others or put words in mouths, especially where they don’t belong. I’m not an authority of any kind. I’m not a self-appointed guru. Hell, I’m not even a guru. I’m just a new kid on the block with a penchant for overcoming a learning curve.
It didn’t take much, of course; learning the words to life’s songs you know takes a lot less time than absorbing the concepts behind superficially-familiar vocabulary words. The learning curve flattened pretty early on. Because I already knew; the vocabulary just gave me a more succinct way of expressing it, without all the fumbling I spent so much time struggling with before.
“We” and “us” had (and still have) nice rings to them. By cloaking myself among masses, even if those masses are a smaller subset of the massive masses, there’s strength in numbers, a collective muscle.
But not all are on board the love-train. I don’t begrudge them that. Far be it from me to tell anyone else what to do or think. I’m one voice, one example. And if you’ve met one Aspie/autistic person, well, then, you’ve only met one. I’ve said this from the beginning, and it bears repeating now.
It’s not self-responsibility I’m trying to shirk when I use a plural form; it’s solidarity I’m trying to find, it’s a lack of other-ness I’m trying to attain. It has nothing to do with speaking over anyone, taking advantage of anyone, out-shouting anyone, or one-upping anyone.
With 500+ posts under my keyboard, that should be obvious right about now. (It’s probably also obvious that I have–or make–too much spare time lol.)
For the ones who read closely, the casual use of “we” and “us” in my writing is almost always followed by words like “tend to” or “usually”. This is a big belfry tower ringing a bell that says “(but not all/always!)”
In so speaking this way, I’m drawing on that learning process I mentioned, in which I’m referring to the documented diagnostic criteria, or firsthand words uttered on social media, or perhaps the firsthand blog posts that I’ve come across. I confess that I haven’t read every one of them, but I’ve read enough to be able to form a few patterns and generate a few generalizations. There will always be outliers. I don’t ostracize anyone for being one. I only speak based on what is factually known and what I’ve experienced. I won’t deny or dismiss another’s differing experience; and I hope that no would deny or dismiss mine.
The title of this post is actually sort of a misnomer. There’s not a whole lot of “vs” between “we” and “us”, and “I” and “me”. You’re a part of me and I’m a part of you. We run the same basic operating system, even if the version or its apps are different. We’re part of the same community–at least, whoever chooses to be. That’s just how I see it. It’s OK if someone sees it differently; that’s part of the spectrum-ness in Autism Spectrum. And to zoom out on the landscape is to realize that humanity itself is composed of many spectra. If something as mundane and globally truthful as snowflakes and human fingerprints can be completely unique, why not brain wiring?
And there will always be discovery. New plants, new planets, new truths, and…new selves. New members of the Asperger’s/autism spectrum. New realities and new code-keys.
Whether I use the single or plural form of the first person perspective doesn’t really matter; it doesn’t change each individual truth, each individual situation, each individual reality. It just takes the weakness that I had only ever known and replaces it with a position of strength, community, and connectedness I’d never had.
And the comments pour in (read with such gratitude I could burst!), reinforcing the idea that I’m not alone. Lovingly adding to the chorus of “we” and “us”, showing each other that We were onto something all along. 🙂