Sunday, May 8, 2011

My Reality versus Your Normality

You want to know what really irks me? When people say that I "constantly remind people" of my autism, or my Jewishness, or my queerness. That I "always bring it up", and that they don't mind that part of me, in fact they love me very much, they just wish I didn't "constantly bring it up."
At first, I took this admonition seriously, and more or less stopped talking about autism, Judaism, queer issues, and myself in the context of the two. But when I was making a concentrated effort to not talk about these aspects of my personality, I started observing what happened when neurotypical goyishe heterosexual people talked about themselves, and- chee! They drop hints about their religious/ethnic background, their sexuality, and their neurotype all the time. They talk about going out to dinner with their girlfriend, whether or not it was a "proper girly gift" to get her say, a Nintendo DS, about possibly getting married and having children, about going to concerts, plays, and other events where I need earplugs, talk about social interactions and make sweeping generalizations about how people act in these situations, and talk about how they are going to spend their Christmas, or what they're going to have for Easter dinner with their families.
Really now, how is that any different from when I talk about my girlfriend, about our somewhat limited choices in terms of marriage and children, about why I can't eat bread today because it's Passover, or how I usually date within my own neurotype simply because it's more compatible?
The answer didn't come to me until I started thinking about what these three qualities have in common, besides being shared by me: The problem lay in the fact that neurotypicality, coming from a Christian background, and heterosexuality are considered the "norm". When you talk about them with "I" or "Me" language, you are simply describing something you assume everyone, or the majority, shares with you. When I talk about my three differing traits however, I'm seen as asserting a difference, and that makes people feel uncomfortable, because it pushes away their expectations of what's "normal" and expected.
Either way, I can't not talk about these things. They are a part of me and my life. I just hope they will some day be respected as normal and acceptable to talk about without being seen as "pushy" or "constantly reminding" every time I try to have an ordinary conversation. What's normal for me may not be normal for someone else, and that goes for everyone. Nobody's back story or facts of life should be treated as the absolute norm, because it inherently builds a fence around a rather small section of a very big, beautiful garden.


  1. I love your phrase "my reality versus your normality." I'm going to start using that phrase when people frame my experiences or perspectives as being "in their face" about the ways in which my reality differs from their reality.

    Thanks so much for the great post and the great phrase!

  2. You're welcome, Comrade Svilova, thank you for reading and commenting.