Our diversity is dizzying. Our approaches to love will be just as diverse.
And neurotypical people can also learn. They can learn what the differences are between their own social communication and autistic social communication and do their part to help bridge the gap.
And when that gap is bridged, beautiful partnerships can occur. We can learn so much from each other. We can each bring unique strengths to the table. Autistic people can open their non-autistic partner’s eyes to ways of thinking and being in the world that they would not have considered otherwise, and vice versa.
Here’s where the problem comes in – the more you mask, the less energy you have to mask. But the more you mask, the more you are expected to mask. Drop the mask, and you potentially lose vital and important relationships and your survival capacity is diminished in direct ratio to that.
Since masking long term isn’t sustainable, and since expending more energy than you can recuperate on a regular basis will lead to exhaustion and burnout, autistic people who have to mask in order to obtain the basic needs for survival will inevitably crash and burn.
“Wow, you’re so self-aware,” said the neuropsychologist during the interview portion of my autism assessment.
“I’m really not,” I replied, and went on to clumsily explain that I was only applying my current understandings to previous periods in my life retroactively, much like adults do when describing their own childhoods.
I am wired to discuss things which make others uncomfortable, not because I take any pleasure in making others uncomfortable (I actually hate it) but because I see no point in skirting meaningful exchanges in service of perpetuating an illusory status quo. I see no point to existence if we are not discussing real issues that matter or learning from one another or the world around us.
The response I most commonly hear when I disclose to someone that I am autistic is, “Wow, you must be really high functioning. I would never have known if you didn’t tell me.”
There’s a lot to unpack here.
Autism still exists even if it is not discussed or described by language. You do not cure someone of being autistic by removing labels from their experience. Other labels come in to fill the vacuum, labels we didn’t choose for ourselves, labels which are based on fundamental misunderstandings, labels that deny us help, accommodations, and acceptance, labels that cause actual harm to us in the form of prejudice, violence and higher instances of suicide.