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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Why Did People Avoid Me?


Everybody in the world needs at least one close friend. We all need that friend who will stick up for you when somebody is mistreating you and that will always be there in time of need, whatever it may be. In life, I have never really had that one person that I could consider a “true friend”. I have been through a real sad and depressing time in high school and I have never understood why people didn’t want to be friends with me. There have been days where I have come home crying because I didn’t have friends. As a result of that, I became severely depressed and anxious. If you remember my blog titled “Honesty Is Different Than Diplomacy” it talked about the word “tact”. A definition of the word “tact” simply is “a keen sense of what to say or do without giving offense; skill in dealing with difficult people and situations”. The word “diplomacy” simply meant “tact and skill in dealing with people”. Many children with Asperger’s want to make friends, but they don’t have the understanding of what is appropriate and what is not appropriate when trying to establish any kind of social relationship with someone. I wanted to write about some of the experiences I’ve had with people and I wanted to write about some of the things I have done with friends in the past that have caused them to not want to be around me. I hope that after reading this, people realize the things I have done, and that you won’t make those same mistakes.

I’m sure people have dealt with that one friend who treats you like you’re an unpaid servant. This friend is always bossy, and they want things to go their way. If things don’t go their way, they get very angry and uncooperative. In my opinion, these are the most difficult people to deal with. For example, you and a few friends decide to go to a movie, but one person wants to go see a different movie. That one friend argues and argues with you until everybody gives in and see’s the movie the friend wants to see. Nobody enjoys the movie because they are so irritated with the friend that argued and argued with them. As another example, at the Computing Workshop summer camp we went on a field trip, and at the time we ate at the LaRoche College cafeteria for lunch everyday. The group wanted to find a fast restaurant in town so we could get back in time for the afternoon class periods to start. We had a student that did not want to do that, so instead of going with the flow and doing what everybody else wanted to do he decided to throw his water bottle on the floor, swear and throw a temper tantrum at everybody. We eventually decided to give in and hurry back to the cafeteria before they closed it for the day. We luckily made it back on time, we had only twenty minutes to eat our lunch, and we could have had plenty of time to eat if we found somewhere to eat in Pittsburgh. The fact is, when you are out with a group of people, and you don’t want to do something everybody else wants to do, you sometimes have to just suck it up and do what they want to do. We never took this student on any field trips for the rest of the summer because of his behavior.

One thing that I have caught myself doing, which has also caused friends to not want to be around me is expecting too much from them. On an Autism forum website a few weeks ago, a teenager was complaining about a friend ignoring his messages. He mentioned that he had a friend in school that he would text message a lot, but he would become frustrated about his friends not replying to every single text message he would send. In the post, his tone sounded very demanding. It pretty much sounded like “I expect my friends to reply to me when I text message them, I don’t care if it takes them a few hours to text me back, I just want them to reply”. If this person wants to keep his friend, he should not make demands like that. Doing so can make the friend feel like you are a burden to be around. Nobody wants to be around someone who acts like a burden. I agree that it is upsetting when friends don’t keep in touch as often as you would like them to, but sometimes they just don’t have the time to do it. I used to get very upset about this and feel that every time a friend does not answer messages that they have something against me. I try to be cool when I am around my friends, because if I act pushy they will definitely start avoiding me.

This brings me to my next topic, which is jealousy. You may think it is stupid to write about, but I have dealt with people who are jealous of me for many reasons. These were the people who tried to convince me they were trying to be my friend when they really weren’t. I am good at making PowerPoint presentations, and I have done many school projects with the program in the past. Most of the PowerPoint projects I have done in school are group projects, and I was usually the one that was in charge of doing the PowerPoint presentation. People realized my ability to do PowerPoint presentations like that, and they would take advantage of me and make me do most of the work. When the teacher was not around, most of my group members would sit and socialize with their friends instead of helping me work on the project. When the teacher would come in the classroom, they would sit there and pretend to do be working. When I would add a slide background they didn’t like, or a font they didn’t like they would rudely tell me how much they didn’t like it and to change it to something else. I talked to the teacher about it the next day, and he gave the group members the typical “do your work” lecture. They were pretty angry that I complained to the teacher about how rude they have been to me, they then proceeded to yelling at me and telling me what to do throughout the project. After that, I had enough and asked the teacher to give me an alternate independent assignment. I got full credit for the assignment, and I never had to work with those people again. Another funny thing about this was that they asked me to sit with them at lunch one day, and I simply said “no”. They then asked me “But we thought you were our friend”. It was obvious they were not my friend because of how they took advantage of me, and they knew how disrespectfully they treated me.

I am not trying to blame everything on other people, I have caught myself being jealous of people many times. Some of the people who I have gotten jealous of were my close friends. One or two of them do have girlfriends, and there have been times where it seemed like they were spending more time with the girl and her friends instead of with me. I started becoming extremely angry and jealous when I would hang around them. The anger then turned into sadness, I can remember asking myself “why are they spending more time with the girl and her friends instead of with me?” I asked my counselor and my parents about it, and they both told me to talk to them. I did exactly what they told me, but I said it in a tone of voice that was not appropriate or friendly. I made the mistake of saying incredibly rude and inappropriate things about their girlfriends. They then proceeded to walking away from me, and that was the last time I ever heard from them. Going back to my blog about Honesty, I was honest, but I said it in a crude and inappropriate way that caused me to lose my good friends. The words “tact” and “diplomacy” never existed in my world then. I could have changed the way I talked to my friends about the situation, I could have politely and sincerely told them my feelings, and that I am upset that they never spent time with me. I don’t think I should have been that jealous of them in the first place, if they spent more time with me instead of their girlfriends, their girlfriends would be jealous and upset. I should have waited a few days, then talked to them in private about it. I didn’t do that either. As soon as I found out they were dating the girls and hanging out with their friends, I got angry and overreacted to the situation. Like I said, I said some things about their girlfriends that were pretty mean and inappropriate, but I am not going to talk about it on here. Just because a friend gets into a relationship with somebody doesn’t always mean they are going to drift away from you and forget about you. They still liked me, but I just had trouble dealing with the change. I should have just accepted the change and stayed friends with them.

To sum things up, I now understand why many people avoided me in the past. Every mistake I make will help me become a better person, because I learn not to do it again. I learned not to treat a friend like an unpaid employee, expect to much from them, or be jealous of them. I realize that will cause people to avoid me and not like me. If I didn’t get the opportunity to meet my friend Aaron, I probably would not be the person I am now. I would still be the depressed, unhappy person that John Elder Robison was as he described in his book. Hopefully all the school work he is doing right now will pay off and give him a job he will like. I am proud of him for that. Anybody enjoys seeing their good friend succeed. I will learn more social skills as I grow older, and they will hopefully make me become a very successful person. Hopefully after reading this, you will not make the mistakes I made. Life is about making mistakes and learning from them. I thank you for reading this, and I will be back to write next week!