Re: Tolerance vs. Acceptance


I enjoy reading people’s commentary on my writing. I am aware that commentary is necessary for any writer to gain suggestions for future content. I may not answer every single comment, but I do my best to take people’s feedback into consideration. I happen to know that the Autism community is very diverse. The fact that somebody else has an Autistic Spectrum Diagnosis does not necessarily mean that we will become best friends. We all have different beliefs, personalities, strengths, flaws and interests. I cannot answer for every single one of them. With that in mind, I encourage you to go back to my last blog post and read the comment submitted by Mark. I tend to disagree with some of the points he made. To the best of my ability, I want to provide my response to him. I tend to disagree with some of the points he made. I greatly encourage people to provide constructive criticism, however I do have a problem with people who claim that I am shallow because I quoted lyrics from a song. That was something I noticed in the comment below. 

And speaking of relationships, one of the most important things to be able to do to find and create a meaningful relationship is to get beyond just finding the “beautiful” woman or man (and based on the perspective you show in your blog, that “beautiful” term could mean you are saying that ugly people need not apply?)

Contrary to your belief, I do not desire to get into a relationship just to get my piece of “eye candy.”  I am in no terms comparable to Abercrombie and Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries. This kind of shallowness is one of the many reasons why gay men are so negatively stereotyped. You may be surprised to know that many of “those gay (and straight) men” have gone through experiences of isolation and bullying. This causes a decrease in their confidence and they work endlessly to fix their flaws. While physical exercise is a great thing, I cannot stand those gym rats who think the world revolves around themselves and their hotness. You are right that we all are all allowed to choose who we like. We are also allowed to choose which physical, emotional and intellectual traits we find attractive. You have probably heard the phrase “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” A person who is physically attractive but boldly rude to “ugly” people is not “beautiful” in my terms. I am sure most people would agree with me. If people don’t like my future mate for whatever reason, I should not have to care because all that matters is that I am happy with the person I love. 

One can be gay, hetero, autistic, non-autistic, or what have you, and still have the problem of not looking beyond their own needs in trying to find a mate. That issue has to do with self-centeredness, self-absorption, even selfishness. Now, given the defined clinical aspects of autism, an autistic is described as self-oriented and “other averse”. It would seem they, by their own description, have greater difficulties in recognizing and responding to the needs of others. On the one hand, this is called “autism”, is diagnosed, medicated, treated, etc. Based on your blog, it seems that self-absorption and lack of accepting others is unacceptable, which is a mature outlook. However, on the other hand, it seems that a key component of this disorder (unsociability) is also supposed to be excused, overlooked and accepted, if one is diagnosed with Asperger’s. Though you are obviously intelligent and a good writer, what comes through in your writing is an overwhelming and laser focus on every micro-possibility that you are not being treated appropriately, why you are not treated appropriately, what others should do to treat you more appropriately, and how very appropriate you believe you are. Bear with me here, because I’m saying some things I happen to see as very appropriate and helpful that most people today won’t say. Whether it’s autism or just plain selfishness, the result is the same and the “treatment” is the same. 

I am perfectly aware of the fact that Aspies have the difficulty with the thing neurotypicals refer to as “social skills.” I have been through more than my fair share of these “professionals” who listed the symptoms of Autism/Asperger’s and they endlessly drilled me with exercises that are supposedly intended to “fix” me. My former therapist was very little help. He made me feel like socialization was just a dreadful burden instead of a “necessary and beneficial skill.” His tactic mainly consisted of bombarding me with questions, telling me how much I should “open myself up” and comparing me to the one other client he used to work with and how this person became a complete failure in life. This (“opening myself up”) was something that never would have happened during my high school years. Every time he asked me a question, about 5-10 seconds of silence would follow. I obviously needed that time to process an answer to that question and come up with a response to it. Instead, he would become impatient with me and bombard me with even more questions. (I wrote just a few examples below.) 

“What are you thinking about? “

“Why aren’t you looking at me when I am talking to you? My eyes are here not there!” 

“Why aren’t you answering the question? You should already know the answer!” 

A therapist can either be a positive or a negative influence on somebody. It all depends on how compatible the therapists is with the client’s needs and personality. During that time, pushing me to “come out of my shell” simply would have caused more resistance. Nobody would have changed that. There is no point in working with somebody who makes you feel that the only purpose of therapy is to make you feel like it is your fault for being diagnosed with a disorder that causes you to have difficulty interacting with people. Parents and teachers tried to convince me into believing that he wanted to help me, but his “in your face” tactic caused me to loose any trust in him.

We all need to learn to 1) consider others just as much as we consider ourselves, 2) learn to move on if someone isn’t appropriate or maybe just doesn’t like us instead of picking it apart in ongoing critiques (people make mistakes and we are all allowed to choose who we like; are you always appropriate, have you NEVER offended anyone, and do you believe that you like and want to be around everyone? By your blog I see that’s not the case, so why put that standard on others?), and 3) learn to consider, reflect on, get to know, understand, and even get a sense of the needs of others. The inability of autistics to relate and identify with others has reached mythic and even romantic proportions.

While I do believe that it is important to recognize the needs of others, how do you help somebody who refuses to use every single resource that has routinely been provided for them? If one particular resource does not work, then the individual (or their parent/guardian) should certainly assert themselves and expect to be referred elsewhere! My former therapist was just one person who did not connect with me. Just because one resource is ineffective does not mean that one should give up. To answer your question whether or not I “like to be around everyone”, I can come up with a response that most people would agree with. I know that I will encounter people who are not genuinely accepting of me. If they insist upon ” praying for me to change my evil and sinful ways, I will be sure to thank them for their “concern” and push their “prayers” to the back of my mind. However, I will take issue with any person who electronically, verbally or physically attacks me or any of those people who do genuinely love and support me. I will not back down when it comes to standing up for what I believe in. I say that regardless of any criticism people throw at me. I say that despite the fact that I can be shunned, isolated, harassed, beaten or even killed just because I am gay.

The brooding or acting-out autistic who is doing algorithms in his head has been some kind of hero ever since “Rain Man”, but this perspective is ridiculous and not helpful to autistics at all. Autism is of course on a spectrum; we have the non-verbal all the way to the Asperger’s. Everyone, including the Asperger’s folks, marvel at their intelligence-so much is made of it. But this comes at the expense of ignoring the very detrimental lack of social skills, which autistics, who can excel academically, are given a pass on. This only encourages higher functioning autistics to give a pass on it themselves, and encourages others to neglect training those autistics in that area. And yes, social skills are learnable, consideration is learnable.

Let’s go back to my therapist for a minute. We obviously did not see eye to eye! So, why continue working with him? It would have wasted my time and it would have wasted his time. You have probably heard of these things called “social skills” groups. I can tell you now that I can only pick out one or two useful things that still stick to me now. Because I am a man who happens to gay and who happens to be diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, I ponder one question that is on the minds of many of those like me. Why do people discriminate against the LGBT community? Children learn this from their parents and teachers. These beliefs were instilled upon the parents during their upbringing. Regardless of who they are, they all contribute to the downright lies people spread about the LGBT community. It is indoctrination, plain and simple! So, what is the motivational force behind this behavior? They could have possibly experienced a conflict with somebody who happened to be gay or lesbian. They base their feelings upon that one negative experience. It is sad, but what else can we do? As you say, we all chose who we like.

There is one thing that I noticed about these “social skills groups.” I am sure there are others who feel the same way about them. It seems to me that many of the therapeutic activities are only intended to keep the group members busy instead of teaching them “useful and beneficial skills.” Honestly, it’s been fourteen years since I went to kindergarten! I cannot stand adults who tell me that I need to “be more mature” but expect me to cut pictures out of a magazine then glue them on a sheet of paper to emphasize personal hygiene or some other social skill that was completely straight forward for me. I can remember observing other group members who either did not care about their profound lack of social skills or they were completely oblivious to it. 

Pretending to be in a social situation (aka “role-playing”) did not work for me either. It was incredibly awkward. All you do is pretend to be in some hypothetical social situation where the message is either obvious or completely foreign to me. I already know that people do not want to experience the smell of bad breath and body odor. It can cause social shunning and even bullying. My parents have already taught me the shear importance of bathing daily and brushing my teeth twice a day. I already know that it is not socially acceptable to whine and complain when I am out with my friends and they want to eat at a different restaurant than the one I want to eat at. I know this kind of behavior will cause my friends to avoid me and think that I am self-centered and immature. I already know that you should never give any of your personal information to strangers. My parents and my teachers reminded me about stranger danger since I was in kindergarten. I already know that it is rude to interrupt somebody when they are talking. I find that real conversations with real people are beneficial to me, as opposed to thinking hypothetically and addressing a skill that people have instilled upon me several times. I know there are people out there who do benefit from this practice, but I must be blunt. Getting to know people is more beneficial than being a conformist who always does what is “acceptable” and “normal” in society.

Let me say this: I have Asperger’s, and I have worked with autistics. Through a series of difficult life circumstances I was forced into the revelation that I had to get along with people if I wanted to survive and have a reasonably happy life. And in working with autistics, I’ve seen that they can learn social skills when those skills are given priority and intense, diligent attention. In Temple Grandin’s book, she stresses the importance of the social skills she was expected to learn from her own mother, and how important those were to her. Asperger’s are too coddled, yes, coddled, and that only strengthens their aversion to appropriate social interactions. 

I have written about Temple Grandin in the past. I do admire her and the many things she has accomplished in life. She has raised a lot of insight about Autism and her writings have helped encourage people to achieve their dreams. However, I think something else must be made clear. Not every single Autistic person dreams of pursuing a career in the livestock industry. Not every single Autistic person “thinks in pictures.” Not every single Autistic person is fortunate enough to have dedicated, caring, nurturing and helpful parents. There are parents out there who lack the ability to cope with the many difficulties their child will experience in life. This makes it more difficult to teach “social skills” because the parents are unwilling to coöperate with professionals who genuinely care. On top of all this, they have to deal with the intolerance and hatred that comes from thoughtless people. Some of these parents are even abusive. They feel that hurting their child is the only way to eliminate “inappropriate social behavior.” These children do not know how to seek the help they need to remove themselves from these horrible situations. I honestly feel like I am the only person who has brought up issues like this. This problem is grossly unrecognized in the Autism community. The big question is how can we educate others about this problem? 

When do we teach autistics to look for POSITIVES in others instead of negatives? Derek, can you make a list of all the times people were kind, accepting, supportive, helpful, nice or friendly to you? Sharing that would give a lot of hope to others struggling socially. If you can’t, or if it is very short, how subjective is your experience? It is also said that autistics have trouble seeing when they are at fault or lacking. Shouldn’t the focus then be on developing more self-awareness and self-development, as opposed to self-absorption? If those with Asperger’s claim this is not possible, that it is part of their diagnoses that this cannot happen, then it would make sense then that they should refrain from the common Asperger habit of being so comfortable in negatively judging others.

I do know several people who have truly made me feel welcomed and accepted. I can guarantee you that my experience is not “subjective.” I would be glad to share my experiences with these certain individuals in a future blog post. However, it seems to me that you don’t understand how it feels to encounter people who are not “accepting”, “supportive”, “nice” or “friendly” to me. I can tell you right now that my experience is not “subjective.” I have encountered several people who have attempted to manipulate me into thinking they were genuinely being nice. I feel that I don’t need to go into detail about these experiences because I have done that before. Harassment of any nature should never be attributed to the individual being “at fault” or “lacking.” I knew right from the start that these people were trying to make me feel bad about myself because of the fact that I did not have friends. They were trying to provoke me into reacting in a way that would get me into trouble. This is what caused me to lose trust in just about everyone at my high school. I didn’t want to talk to anybody if people did not genuinely treat me with respect.

If meaningful relationships is the goal, Asperger’s need to be held to some standards (which shows respect for their ability to learn), and need to accept help for developing those other-oriented skills that are necessary for caring interactions. This is not just an autistic issue at all; we’ve been bombarded by a selfish construct of relationship for the last 75 years. No one should be given a pass on this, not even Asperger’s. The better we all get along, the more fulfilling place this world will be for everyone. I must say also that no one has any exclusivity on dealing with bigotry, rejection, unacceptance and repugnance. I’m not the only one who can’t dredge up more sympathy for another well-off celebrity whining about “coming out” when babies are being abused and sex-trafficking is alive and well even here in the US. None of us should be so quick to complain when we consider how much others have suffered, which is another good trait-considering the pain of others-that Asperger’s, and this society in general, needs to develop. Aspies, their “handlers” (who are making millions), and gays need to give it a rest. If any of us are looking for a perfect world, then we’d each have to leave it. I wish you well.

I am already aware that being LGBT, Autistic or “different” in any way does not automatically grant me “permission” to complain. Have you ever thought that the abused babies you talked about could end up being disowned just because they are gay or lesbian? I also happen to know homosexuals were subjected to the most brutal treatment during Hitler’s 1940’s regime in Nazi, Germany. I read about the tragic story of the fourteen year old African American boy named Emmett Till. He was brutally murdered in Mississippi just because he flirted with a white woman. You should know that I write blogs about issues that are important to me. Let me be as blunt as possible. Martin Luther King Junior did not “give it a rest” when he wrote the letter from the Birmingham jail. I can tell you that I will not “give it a rest” when there are many people who are LGBT and/or Autistic. They desperately need people who can help them understand they are not alone. I can guarantee that you will find tons of information about abused babies and sex trafficking on the Internet. I think you need to picture yourself as the teenage boy who is holding a gun to his head because his parents refuse to accept the fact that that are different. I can guarantee that nobody would tell you to “give it a rest” if you went through the same experience. 

As you can see, I do like to read commentary from others. It is okay if people do not like my writing because I never promised to answer for everyone. Being gay is still a very new thing for me, and I am doing whatever I can to help figure out the place I have in the world. I hope you enjoyed my writing and I should be posting again in the near future!

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Tolerance vs. Acceptance


I recently viewed a documentary about Chely Wright. The documentary titled “Wish Me Away” followed her three-year journey towards publicly coming out of the closet in her memoir. It also followed the release of her latest album “Lifted Off The Ground.”  Ms. Wright is the very first country music star to come out as an “out and proud” lesbian. You should know that coming out of the closet is a difficult time for many people. Country music fans mainly identify themselves as Christian and most of them belong to the Republican party. Many (but not all) people from these political and religious affiliations are not accepting of the LGBT community. Due to this fact, many upcoming country music artists are forced to hide their sexual orientation for fear of losing their career. Since coming out, Chely has been the subject of numerous death threats from anti gay country music fans. She has not received a single invitation from the country music industry. Despite this fact, she has absolutely no regrets in her decision to reveal the truth that country music forced her to deny for many years. Chely has become a world-renowned advocate for the LGBT community and her story has helped many people who are going through similar struggles.

“I hear the word ‘tolerance’—that some people are trying to teach people to be tolerant of gays. I’m not satisfied with that word. I am gay, and I am not seeking to be ‘tolerated’. One tolerates a toothache, rush-hour traffic, an annoying neighbor with a cluttered yard. I am not a negative to be tolerated.”     Chely Wright

The above quote addressed a word that I feel LGBT activists should eliminate from their vocabulary. The word I am referring to is tolerance.  Tolerate means “to endure without repugnance; to put up with. “We gays and lesbians already know there are people who have repugnant attitudes towards the LGBT community. If you are reading this, I would like to ask you a few questions. Do you believe that same sex relationships are more evil than sick and twisted behaviors like incest, polygamy, pedophilia, necrophilia and bestiality? Do you say that you “love” us but detest our sin? Do you believe that we are “unnatural” and a threat to the “sanctity of marriage”? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you are repugnant attitude! I will accept that you have your own views. I have grown used to the fact that people do not accept my “decision” to be attracted to men. However, that absolutely does not mean I will tolerate people who impose their repugnance on me. 

Many people on the Autistic Spectrum understand what it feels like to be merely “tolerated” instead of genuinely accepted. I am sure you know that the Autistic mind is a specialist mind. They have a very specific learning style and are incredibly gifted in one particular hobby, skill or topic of interest. There are many advantages towards these unique gifts. It is a great way to build social skills. It gives the child the ability to connect with people of whom they have in common with. If the child possesses enough knowledge and skill, there are many rewarding possibilities in life after high school. They can enter the workforce, join the armed forces and/or pursue post secondary education at a college, university or technical school. They could even start their own business and make money doing that one thing they love to do. These qualifications can put them on the path to a very rewarding career! It is great to know that there are many people who do accept and appreciate our differences, whatever they may be. These are the only people who will matter.

However, there is a darker side towards having a mind that develops differently. You probably know that Aspie kids have the tendency to obsess about their interests and hobbies. They can vary from child to child and often to change as time goes on. They all have the same effect on the neurotypical individuals who interact with them. They (the neurotypicals) tend to get very annoyed when an Aspie obsesses about their favorite topic. This is the number one reason socialization can be a nightmare, at least it was for me. Even during my elementary school days, I can remember feeling an overwhelming sense that I just could not connect with people. It seemed like my classmates had everything that I lacked. The one thing I wanted more than anything was something called acceptance. Instead, they reluctantly “tolerated” that they had to be around me. I don’t even think tolerance was an appropriate word to describe their attitude towards me. During elementary school, people would point at me and say things they could not stand about me. I can remember some insults that come from my fourth grade classmates. “Oh, look! It’s Derek! He needs to shut up! He talks about buses! Nobody likes him!” If we fast forward about nine years after that, insults from my high school classmates became more redundant and unoriginal. “I’m not sitting next to that queer! He is a faggot!” This came from a closeted classmate who refused to sit in his assigned seat, which was right next to me. He said this while he was whispering to his pal in the back of the classroom. This is not one of my fond memories from Comparative Cultures class. I think of tolerance as a word that simply implies how a person feels another one’s existence is a burden that deserves to be negatively critiqued, but they do not admit it because they don’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings. Now, what would have happened if the teacher forced my possibly closeted classmate to sit with me? I probably would have felt even more hurt, because I don’t want to be around someone who feels that way about gay people. He probably would have rebelled because he didn’t want my “queer germs. 

I have thought about many things since I came out almost a year ago. What steps can I take to change those feelings of isolation and alienation that I experienced during high school? I must say that I cannot provide a definite answer to that question. I know for a fact that rural Western Pennsylvania is not the ideal place for a man who happens to be gay and who happens to be “mildly Autistic.” I have decided that one of my goals in life is to leave my hometown and find a place that is more inclusive of the LGBT community. The burgh is certainly not as vibrantly gay as New York City, Los Angeles or San Fransisco. The gay community is smaller and anti gay bias always has and always will exist. It exists in every city or town across North America and around the world. However, that does not mean Pittsburgh’s LGBT community and their straight allies will back down! They will not tolerate violence, hatred and intolerance towards their brothers and sisters! When it comes to the whole topic of LGBT rights, you will encounter a wide range of opinions. Some of very Liberal about social, economic and political issues and others are very Conservative. Once I get my driver’s license, I hope to drive into Pittsburgh and explore some of the LGBT resources the city has to offer. I hope these resources will help me find the acceptance that I so longed for during my adolescent years.

There is another thing that I hope to start looking for this year. Aspies are often misconceived as sociopathic, psycho and anti social. These ignorant assumptions can be quite damaging to their psyche. I want to begin dating and find a the right man. While there are many Aspies who do not desire to get involved in romantic relationships, many of them do dream of finding “a beautiful woman or a tall handsome man” who will love them. (Those lyrics are quoted from Chely’s song “Like Me.”) I think that the only way for me to be able to do this is to get out there and begin looking! I have to realize that it could possibly take several tries before I find the right one. If I discover that we do not get along, then I have to tell him goodbye and find somebody else. Once I find the right person, I am sure that he is another person who will be able to make me feel accepted.

I am sure you can tell that I am looking forward to seeing what is in store for me in the future. I know the world outside rural Western Pennsylvania does have a lot to offer. I know that if I want the results to be positive, I must learn not to stress about people who do not accept me. This is a very difficult thing for me to do. I hope my words have helped you understand the feelings that are going through my mind right now. I would be delighted to hear your feedback! Thank you for reading this and I look forward to writing to you again soon!

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