Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Unwritten Rules

(description below)Visual Metaphor for Autistic Perception
This is my attempt at a visual metaphor of autistic perception. When I was driving today and noticed that the thick snow had covered most of the roadsigns, I was thinking about how the social world seems like that in autism. We may know there are rules, but can't make out what the details are, or are looking at the wrong side of the sign, so end up either breaking the rules, applying them too strictly, or misinterpreting. Personally, I learned what the signs said through books and role plays at social work grad school, not through intuition or being able to see through the snow (kind of like how my memory of what the road signs said got me home without speeding or running over pedestrians).
The colors and brightness are like the sensory sensitivity and distortion.
And yet, it's kind of beautiful and strange, kind of like our sensory experiences can be and we can be, if our social environments are open to our different perceptions rather than expecting we follow the signs we see differently.
It's interesting to me what details pop out- the trees, the brightness of the snow, the glow...

Unwritten rules...like the signs that are covered in snow...

Today I was kicked off a flickr group for not following the rules that were not posted. I looked for the rules, and I looked at the photos to try to figure out the rules for the particular group, but:

1. There were no rules posted.

2. The rules that were cited when the administrator contacted me were not
followed by the administrator himself when posting.

I'm upset by this, not only because I wanted to be a part of this particular group, but also because I spent half an hour looking for and trying to figure out the rules so that I could follow them. Then, in removing my photos, I realized that (other than not flooding photos, which could be debatable whether I was doing), that I was indeed following the other rule, and that the administrator himself was not. Further, rather than posting the rules in the first place and then warning people who don't comply, the only and first step was to remove me and then send the rules I'd overstepped.

Such is Aspergers life. The freedom not to follow unwritten rules, the creativity to make our own rules, the ability to not care about pointless/social rules are wonderful gifts. Yet, rules give us a bit of calm in the chaos, and many of us are driven to intense loyalty to rules that are important and boundary-clarifying. And the way many of us make it through social interactions is by stricter adherence to rules, or being consciously aware of what rules we wish to break and the potential consequences. Yet, to be aware of the rules, we must either have figured them out or have been told them, which is difficult when neurotypicals maintain "there are no rules," even though they know and follow them, and insist that we do as well.

People often ask how I can be, or even want to be, a social worker and pastor-candidate. I have, thanks to my internship supervisors, people I've served, and professors, a long list of reasons why someone (in particular me) with AS perceptions can be good people-workers. I just thought of another, however--
Pastors/social workers are rule-setters and enforcers, & freers of others from rules.
This brings not only the power for abuse, but also power to empower and free from self- or society-imposed restrictions, as well as to set healthy boundaries and rules for healthy community engagement.

In social work methods classes, we learned exercises and techniques for making systemic rules explicit. While most important in working with families and systemic change, this is important at all levels including individual. So the autistic need to be explicit about unwritten rules is a social work technique...

Ministry has been a bit more challenging, because the expectations are more super-hero like, vary from person to person, with generally unhealthy-to-contradictory guidance from national/local systems. Being an oozing extrovert is seen by many as being a good pastor,even when situations call for listening, restraint, and more distant boundaries. But what do church planters and conflict resolution experts recommend for healthy congregations? More explicit rules, clear guidelines, and making church as socially safe as possible.

Unwritten rules are often a form of power abuse and social control, disguised as freedom from rules.

More ideas about rules and autistic experience:

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Passing, Visibility, and Privilege

I've been thinking a lot about passing, privilege, and visibility lately. I was just re-reading Cal Montgomery's presentation from the Queer Disability Conference in 2002 from the panel (In)Visibility, Recognition, and Marginalization: Queers with Non-apparent Disabilities titled
Tangled in the Disability Cloak. It reminded me of Eli Clare's essay "Flirting with You: Some Notes on Isolation and Connection" from:

is the second book, also by Clare, which also begins to dive into these questions. If you're new to queer/trans and postmodern identity thinking, it's a poetic and engaging place to begin.

Here are some of the personal questions I've encountered regarding passing, visibility, and privilege. They really are questions, although some of them sound a bit like complaints, I'm more perplexed than bothered (although I am bothered by the inequalities and oppressions that cause people to experience the need to justify or assert identities versus stereotypes or prejudices) :
-What does it mean to pass as a man (particularly a white middle class man)
when I identify as genderqueer?
-When I'm read as a woman, why do I get annoyed if I identify as genderqueer and passing as a man isn't my goal?
-I often am read as a gay man, but I don't identify as either gay or a man, although I do identify as a queer transguy. Why are people intent on simplifying my identity wrongly when I correct people who should know better?
-What are the advantages and disadvantages to passing as neurotypical?
Aspergers is rarely read as autism, more likely misread as cognitive disability, typical anxiety/nervousness, oddness, coldness, or other misreadings--when passing as neurotypical, I find I'm more likely to be misread than not.
-What does autistic visibility even look like? Is being out verbally really visibility?
-What does it mean to be read as cognitively disabled when I'm not, and how do I use intellectual/educational privilege to deny this when it occurs?
-In using an insulin pump, diabetes is more visible than without, but less impairment-causing.
So according to the Social Model of disability, it's then more socially disabling to use an insulin pump and be more healthy than to not and be less visibly disabled.
-I often am read as a gay man, but I don't identify as either gay or a man, although I do identify as a queer transguy. Why are people intent on simplifying my identity wrongly when I correct people who should know better?
-If I actually manage to be perceived as I see myself in disability, then why is it that sexual identity or gender identity (or race, class, profession, religion, etc.) is considered to be even less complex than it was by itself? For example, all autistic people are assumed to be asexual (or occasionally hypersexual), but always in a straight way. And despite the theories and evidence that nonstandard gender identities are prevalent in people with autism/cousins, there is almost nothing written about it? (Perhaps we can blame ABA for brainwashing "proper" gender behaviors).

Of course, there are several interlocking answers to the rhetorical questions:
-Internalized and external oppression
-De-sexing of people with disabilities
-Medical/charity model of disability
-Pathologization of gender variance
-Homophobia, heterosexism, and transphobia
-Oversimplifications in modernity/modernism clashing with postmodern realities/identities

But this just leads me to deeper questions:

  • Why is passing so complex?
  • What do we loose by passing?
  • Why is invisibility desirable in some circumstances (such as when one wants to pass), but generally negative in being erased?
  • What is the price of misrecognition?
  • Borrowed privilege is different than typical privilege, and can both be something we're more aware of from contrast, yet can be less willing to question publicly if trying to pass. How does one responsibly use borrowed privilege, and does that necessarily mean not passing?

  • Being out, transferring power to those with less assumed privilege, and questioning privilege are the two ways I've found the best to struggle publicly with these questions. Yet, in doing so, it means that I spend far more time explaining myself than would be ideal. Explaining one aspect of yourself everywhere you go is a hassle, explaining 5 parts of your identity is impossible. Perhaps I'm getting lost in the detail-orientation of my autistic brain. Or perhaps I'm getting mucked up in postmodern identity questions. Both ways, it is interesting how these questions keep coming up in disability, gender, and sexuality discussions...Perhaps these questions are key in figuring out how to be real people in real communities.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Pictures for profile and links

Images for profile and links

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Cold Front

Glass and Ice
Originally uploaded by Transguyjay.
I posted a bunch of neat icey window photos on my Flickr page today.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Outside Binaries

A few weeks ago, my partner came home from class frustrated. He had asked another classmate not to use "black and white" to talk about dichotomy, noting the racist connotation that black=bad, white=good.
His classmate got upset, and said, "well, what's the politically correct thing to say then?" He tried to explain how it was about being anti-racist and sensitive to the connotations, but didn't immediately have a response to alternatives.
So, here's the list I came up with for other ways to express moving beyond a dichotomy:

* Beyond Dichotomies
* Outside Binaries
* Seeing more than two possibilities
* Bigger than either/or
* More diverse than two labels
* Outside the two small boxes
* Multicolored versus monochromatic
* Seeing the whole spectrum

Any other ideas?


I've been thinking about blogging for awhile now, not sure I had the time, energy, or poeticism to be an effective blogger. However, I'm finding information and ideas I'd like to share, but typically do so on scrap paper that only gets to one person.
We'll see how this goes.