A Continuation of Part 1
When we experience a life threatening situation like a car accident, it reduces our self-confidence to great amounts. We think that cowering in fear will make the problems go away. Anxiety is a common characteristic in people diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorders, regardless of whether or not they are actually diagnosed with a particular type of Anxiety. I’ve always hated therapists who tell me that I need to “put myself out there” if I want to make new friends. I am in college now, and the feelings of not “fitting in” have been with me for a long time. I am sure they will stay with me in any social situation.
Throughout most of my (almost) twenty years of life, I have always known that I was “different.” I was “unpopular” in high school and the vast majority of my classmates either didn’t know that I existed or took advantage of it. Because of that, I found it extremely difficult to decipher whether or not people were merely trying to be kind. My former therapist, Mike thought that forcing me out of my comfort zone would magically cause an epiphany and end all of my problems. His demanding personality and use of scare tactics made me believe that he was not really trying to “help” me, even though he tried to convince me otherwise. The truth was that I really had no idea what was bothering me. I was just bitter about the fact that I was “not like everybody else.”
You are probably asking me to answer that one burning question. What is that thing that has caused me to feel so empty? So, you should know that I am “putting myself out there.” I now know I am a gay man. I knew that I was not ready to say that during my high school years. My classmates seemed to notice this and they used it as a way to provoke me. My small, unincorporated hometown in Western Pennsylvania mainly consists of Conservative Christians who are not very accepting of the GLBT community. Life in the Freeport Area School District was about conforming, fitting in and doing what was expected of me.
The school claimed to have a “zero tolerance policy” towards bullying. From elementary school until tenth grade, the schools seemed to think that displaying signs that read “bullying will not be tolerated” or “teasing hurts” would give students the message that bullying was not acceptable. The truth was, it did the exact opposite. The vast majority of the students paid no attention to the signs. My teachers were under the kind of mindset that we were in a perfect school in a small town and that any forms of intolerance and bullying are just a little pigment of our own imagination. As a matter of fact, I remember my tenth grade health teacher rambling about how he thinks it’s “funny” that our school district even needed a bullying policy. He was just one of the many Freeport teachers who lived under the “perfect small town” mindset. If you are still not convinced, look at the website greatschools.org and read the one and two star reviews written about the junior and senior high schools.
Going back to my “drill Sargent” therapist, I can remember one thing about his tactic that truly infuriated me. His tone of voice was often very questionable, meaning I had trouble figuring out whether he was being genuine or being sarcastic. I was “not like everybody else” and I was not interested in most of the neurotypical activities, in particular, dating. I wanted to “be like everybody else” but I didn’t know how to. Just about every single session consisted of him trying to cause that magical epiphany. He wanted to me “put myself out there.” He would go on and on about how I should be interested girls, the sarcastically said “unless you like boys or something…” That was one of the many comments that caused a major personality clash between the two of us. I didn’t know I was gay back then, so I just refused to respond to him. If I had known, I still would not have “come out” to him. This was due to the lack of respect and understanding from the vast majority of my peers, teachers and counselors. So, I am sure you can guess why I felt this comment was pretty questionable. His tendency to bombard me with questions, to get in my face and tell me how much I need to “open up to people” caused even more resistance. I most likely will never change my opinions about the man. He had no regard for the fact that I simply was not ready to discover and reveal what was really bothering me.
If there are any Autistic and/or gay people who are reading this blog post, I am sure you know that we have many stereotypes and labels thrown at us. This is why I felt that “coming out” during high school was not safe. When people think of the word “gay”, they picture a male who is effeminate, materialistic, shallow and overly obsessed about sex. When people think of an Autistic person, they picture someone running out of control and throwing things in a screaming meltdown. It is true that there are gay and/or Autistic people who show those characteristics, but that most certainly does not excuse the acts intolerance and hatred that society throws at them.
I have also noticed one thing when it comes to “cultural and neurological diversity.” There have been times where I have been around Aspies who negatively use offensive slurs such as “faggot”, “cunt” or “dyke.” I have also heard LGBTQ people negatively use offensive slurs like “retard”, “freak” or “psycho.” It infuriates me to hear anybody use those slurs, but especially those who know how it feels to be different. I have come to the sad realization that they use these slurs for the same reason that anyone would use them. They fear people who are different because they still believe the ridiculous myths and negative stereotypes that are always thrown at that particular “group.” It’s called the fear of the unknown.
My Asperger’s has always caused me to be very careful who I choose for a friend, and I know I will have to be even more careful now that I know I am gay. This could very well mean that I could lose support from friends and family due to their religious stance on “homosexuality.” I will most likely endure my fair share of “the bible says it’s wrong” lectures. Those family and friends could start negatively gossiping about me and even use those slurs that always have and always will infuriate me. I know that I shouldn’t let them bother me, but it will truly hurt if this ever ends up being the case. All I can do is expel them from my life, tell myself that it’s their problem and hope they change their ways. However, homophobes usually don’t change the way they feel about people who are different. Their religious propaganda “molds” them into that kind of mindset.
My priorities in a friend are now starting to change. I am experiencing a friendship where I am always the one who reaches out to the person, when they never seem to reach out to me. It makes me feel like I am the only one who seems to truly care. I’ve had friends who say they are going to help me with things then turn around and not do it. It makes me wonder if they really want to spend time with me. It also makes me wonder whether they are avoiding me or just “forgetting” about me. I know not to automatically take it personally, but I always have wondered what the real answer is. I ask myself two questions. Are they using that as a cover up? Do they truly care? This is the hardest part, but I must accept what the real answer is.
I thank you for reading this very important post!
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