But the main place my mind went to when reading that was not regarding my gender or sex, but my disability. Every paragraph hit me like a sack of hammers as I remembered all the times I rigidly attempted to be on "my very best behavior" when in a crowd of neurotypicals or a neurotypical-dominated place, like a classroom, a social function, or an awards event. And more recently, I've become active as a speaker on autism, doing local events in my community such as at the children's development center, and hosting my own advice column, "Dear Aspie" on my university's autism club's facebook wall. Sometimes, I have to defer, I love the work, but I don't always know the answer:
So you feel guilty. For yourself, for other people. You feel like changing the world rests in your hands, and you let the world down because you had to say no. You had to quit. You had to hide. You were capable of doing it — that was not in question — but you didn’t want to and you’re worried people will think that was a sign of weakness. You chose not to. And you’re feeling guilty.Yup. Pretty much. That's how I feel whenever I get a mediocre grade on a test, whenever I needed to drop a class, whenever life got in the way of me doing what I thought was best. Or, whenever I lost my temper. Truthfully, visible signs of my autism didn't bother me. I had no qualms about stimming, or my curious speech or mannerisms, and have made no effort to correct those.
But I worry constantly that it is my duty to be as kindly, charitable, bright, creative, sweet, and articulate as I can muster, to compensate for other autistic people I have met who have made me shudder with embarrassment. On and offline, I've met autistic people who fulfilled every negative stereotype about Asperger Syndrome: Conniving, arrogant, self-serving, cruel, misanthropic, sexually frustrated, and suffering from a ripe combination of poor hygiene and delusions of grandeur. This has led to undue stress on myself as I attempt to emulate what I grew to see as the "perfect" aspie: Humble, quiet, intelligent, gifted, conventionally attractive, and quasi sexually appealing while remaining smartly chaste. Like if Temple Grandin and Miss America were mishmashed together.
I can't live up to that however. But what's more important than discontinuing the act is to figure out: what can I do so that I don't have to feel like I need to follow the act? What steps can be taken to eliminate these negative stereotypes in a way that doesn't leave me drained?