Representing Choice

So no kidding, the key that lodged in the back of my head and led me to recognize my queerness, some 30 years after it would have been useful to know, is this whole scene here—the dynamics of which we’ve all seen discussed in abstract, right? But to see it dramatized like this, and to recognize these thoughts and feelings so deeply…

This is precisely what I’ve felt whenever someone’s gotten close to me, and these are exactly the thoughts that have always run through my head. Even when the relationship lasts for years, that thought hangs there, coloring every single interaction: how long until they see me for who I really am, and then what will happen?

Like… it took a bit of unpacking for me to understand why I identified so closely with this business, based on what I had come to recognize about myself. The first step was recognizing the aroaceness, as reflected in the early interaction here. That wasn’t too tricky. I had empirical data to work with, and had been wrestling with years of browbeating for my lack of sexuality in relationships, which I just sort of interpreted as queerplatonic situations, without knowing the term.

The transness took a little longer to click, but then it was the biggest fucking “oh” in the world. My pan business… well, that took longer still, and isn’t directly informed by this comic, but after everything else it was more of a shrug. Sure, we’ve gone this far. Let’s just collect all the flags. Why not.

I think what really sells it is Steven’s awful, brain-dead avoidance strategy, which… yeah… followed by, “Maybe, instead, we should talk about what we want to do?” 

What we want to do?

Oh.

OH.

oh?

Like, i genuinely never understood that i had a choice. I thought I just had to play with what i was dealt, go along with other people’s expectations for me. When people gave me an ultimatum and told me we couldn’t be friends anymore unless we changed the terms of our relationship and did things I didn’t feel comfortable doing, I had the option to say no, you go coerce someone else. I’m fine here. I didn’t have to actively suppress everything I was in order to make other people comfortable all the time. I didn’t have to deal with abuse. I didn’t have to be who other people wanted me to be, and were angry when I wasn’t.

The autistic masking sure as hell plays into the above as well. like, there’s always this anxiety in the event one manages to “pass” that one is just working one’s self into a bigger and bigger problem, so that when they notice the truth, some real shit is going to go down.

“… what we want to do.”

Like, that kind of shook me. and for several months after I stumbled over the comic, I kept dwelling on it, putting myself in the place of Stevonnie, making analogies to all these scenes from my own past—thinking, what would I want to do? What do I want to do now? Does this apply in a real way? Is it too late? Do I have choices? What are they?

It turns out, yes. I had choices. Choices that I didn’t know enough to make. And then, I did.

Now here I am.

The Jitters

The thing about bodily sensations—pleasure, pain, excitement—is typically I have trouble telling them apart, as with this autistic brain everything is so extreme for me. It all just parses as various degrees of “too much,” that I have to grit my teeth and weather through until it ebbs to a manageable level. Social overwhelm, sex, injuries, overly strong scents, high temperatures, they’re all the same to me. I’m hit with this wave of shock, and my whole body shuts down. I tremble, start to black out. I can’t process what’s happening. It’s like a DDoS for my nervous system.

I say this because I feel like I’m suddenly become a little sensitized to caffeine. It’s never affected me much in the past, beyond kind of calming me down and clearing my head. In college I used to drink a couple cans of Surge to help me sleep. Maybe it’s my changing chemistry. But the last few days, I’ve had one mug of coffee and I feel like crying and taking a nap. I didn’t make the connection until now. My body feels like someone’s been yelling at me for an hour.

So, I guess that’s one more thing to pay attention to now.

So much of my life takes a different focus when I understand it’s not my responsibility to convince bigots that I’m human. It doesn’t matter who they are, how they may be related, what leverage they may carry over me. They were always wrong. And I survived, and I’m here now.

It was they who failed me, not the other way around.

Stonewall

For allistics, every interaction is on some level a power struggle. It’s not about understanding; it’s about asserting. You can see this in politics as well; the more explanation a candidate gives for a position, the less people seem to respect that candidate. If they just assert, â€śthis is how it is,” no matter how irrational or unreasonable it is, then people back away and go, okay, clearly they know what they’re talking about. 

I don’t like to fight, I have no interest in controlling anyone, and I want to know the reasons for things so that I understand how stuff works. But the more that I try to earnestly engage with allistics on my level, giving them all the tools I need to deal with a situation, the more aggressive they become. Because they see it as a fight they can win.

So the more quickly and bluntly you can shut them down, give them no leverage to even question your decisions, the smoother things will tend to go—as unintuitive as that feels.

“No.”

“I’d rather not.”

“I can’t do that.”

“I just can’t.”

I can’t stress this enough: allistics don’t want to know things. They don’t want to understand reasons or methods or meaning. They think they have it all under control, and that you’re undermining them, insulting them, if you give them anything to work with that interferes with the conclusions that they will form on their own. 

You’re controlling the story, they think, with all these facts and details, and not letting them write it themselves. How dare you. Well, they will show you who’s in control of the story. 

The only solution is not to engage. Don’t give them anything. Then they can’t throw it back at you. 

“This isn’t a negotiation. This is me telling you no.”

I think this is why consent is such a big issue for me. I don’t do power struggles. I don’t do negotiation. For me to say something, I’ve already worked out all of the angles I can and proposed the most generous possible solution, reserving as little as I can manage for myself. For someone to question that and say, no, you’re being a dick; I need more than the 95% you’re giving me, it’s just…

No.

I said no.

Fuck you, I said no. I won’t let you kill me.

I am so vulnerable to manipulation and guilt, to give up what autonomy I have over my own mind and body and emotions and needs and desires. I’m so prone to giving more than I can spare, even after I’ve drawn the final line, just to keep the peace.

No more explanations.

Just, no.

Setting boundaries is hard as hell. But if you don’t, it’s an invitation for abuse.