Roughly a month ago, Star Foster wrote a post on being pagan and having Aspberger’s. I wanted to cry when I read it because it speaks so clearly to my own experience.
I have Aspberger’s. Like Star, I haven’t had a diagnosis from a doctor (for various reasons)*, but I have taken the DSM-IV test for Aspberger’s and scored about as high as you could score, pretty much, for being on the Autism Spectrum.
The reasons I have for not getting a diagnosis are pretty much outlined in Star’s post, but I’ll sum up here regardless: because I’m an adult, non-male person, I present differently from what’s considered the “autism norm” (10-year-old, non-verbal, emotionally unavailable male child). On top of that, autistic people who are assumed to be women are less free to be themselves — people expect men to be non-verbal and emotionally unavailable, but for gods’ sake if you’re a woman (or assumed to be) and not willing to let everyone touch you you’re a frigid man-hating lesbian. Not that there’s anything wrong with that last part. Point being, women and women-presenting people are not free to be what’s called emotionally unavailable, nor are they free to not touch everyone. Quirky little assigned-male children are more acceptable than quirky little assigned female children (to paraphrase Star).
Very early on we develop coping mechanisms.
This coping mechanisms help us to fit in to a society that hates us for our gender, real or assumed, and our neuroatypicality. “Oh, you’re autistic but you don’t fit primetime TV’s approved demographic? You must be faking. Also you’re so normal.”
Gee, thanks. Glad to know my self-inflicted insanity in trying to be ‘normal‘, sending me flipflopping between grave-silent and talking-too-much and touch-me-and-die to too-physically-affectionate, has worked.
My being able to perform adequately in social situations? Coping mechanism. During high school my mom nearly had to drag me outside to meet people after the shows I was in. I hate crowds. I have panic attacks if I have to use unfamiliar transit during rush hour.
I do not understand chit-chat. I do not understand the need for humans to touch each other when they barely know each other.
And, as you may be able to guess, this alienates me from most pagans as much as it alienates me from the rest of society — perhaps more.
Pagans seem to have an obsession with hugging and touchy-feely crap. Which, fine — if you like that sort of stuff to occur so casually.
But to this autistic genderqueer femme, hugging is serious business. It’s something that calms me down. It’s something I do with people I trust and love. I’m not big on hugging those I don’t know very well. Or any other sort of intimacy with people who may as well be strangers.
I went to a Beltaine ritual last year that I’m still trying to recover from, because I got kissed by the HP (because it had to be “male-female-male-female” and I was standing between my boyfriend and a woman friend of mine; can I please just say “Unfuck Wicca’s heteronormativity and insistence on gender binary; unfuck it a lot”) non-consensually. I went to kiss my friend, who, you know, is my friend and has passed the touch barrier with me, and the HP stopped me, said it had to be male-female, and kissed me on the lips.
Perhaps the Wiccans in the group were expecting it. Perhaps the non-autistic people were too, and maybe the cisgendered folk as well.
And I felt so violated afterwards, so invaded. I still feel that way.
But according to pagandom, I’m overreacting. That’s what happens at ritual! Touchy-feely crap, you better get used to it.
I can’t get used to it. There is only so far my coping mechanisms will take me.
I have Aspberger’s and I will not hug you unless you are a friend who has passed the touch barrier. I will not kiss you. I will not be a proper pagan unless we are friends and you have passed that barrier with me.