Bro, fuck autism oppression

First, I am not autistic. But I am very close to a lot of people who are. I think what I am sharing here is super important, but I just want to call out right off the top that while this isn’t my life experience that doesn’t make it any less of a goddamn tragedy.

Sooooo I have a friend. A close friend, really. He’s never been diagnosed, and he probably wouldn’t self-identify as autistic, but I think anyone who knows him would probably agree with me that at the very least he shares a whole bunch of the common hallmarks. We’re going to start with his story.

The sad story of my autistic friend

This friend had the shit bullied out of him in school. He was always on the outskirts of whatever friend group he found himself in. He has had an impossible time in his quest for love. I suspect that he’s really lonely. Which is a shame, because he was a really cool dude. He is a real solid filmmaker and a phenomenal video editor. This dude got so frustrated with modern restorations of The Godfather that he just sat his ass down and restored it himself. No joke. He compiled every release of the film from half a dozen DVDs, Blu-Rays, pirated broadcasts, and scans of old prints. He rebuilt effects, recolored the whole mess, and made careful tactical decisions about which extended bonus scenes to included. This motherfucker has skills, passion, and jokes up to his ears. I really believe that he could be the next Steven Spielberg of film and video archiving and restoration.

But that’s not enough for the world. He has spent his whole life under the pressure to be traditionally successful, to be handsome and charming and “normal.” His dad is a doctor, and I think fully expected him to take over the family business. His younger brother is an athlete, a jock, a total bro who picks up chicks like they were… I don’t know, free hot dogs? This is a bad metaphor. They love him, of course, but they also all just want him to be “more normal.” But “normal” is a lie and not everyone can just snap their fingers and change the way they interact with THE ENTIRE WORLD.

But he internalized that message. He blamed himself for not developing “better social skills” (his words). That was the only way that he could make sense of a world where people didn’t want to be his friend or date him. He got so the only way out that he could see was to conform, and that became his ideology. Conform or die. And over time, he turned it outwards as a message of hate and frustration and shame directed at other autistic people who didn’t conform properly.

That brings us to this heartbreaking twitter thread:

Heartbreaking Twitter thread

Autistic people have their own culture. They have their own ways of being, of communicating, of making friends and finding love. They do so much work every day of their lives to try to fit into our world, and we fucking stomp on their dreams and tell them to try harder. This is what oppression looks like, folks. Summarized here all neat and tidy in one sad graph.

I can’t spend time with my friend anymore. The internalized hatred has turned him into someone I don’t always recognize. But I miss who he used to be, and I wonder what he could have been if people had been willing to meet him on his own terms instead of demanding that he learn to meet them on theirs.

Tweet credit goes to Ann Memmott, an excellent activist