Trigger warning: Use of various slurs, a lot of profanity, and violence. (Thus, probably not safe for work.)
Over the last several months, one of the most common search strings leading to various pages on this blog is "Why are autistic people so annoying?" (Other variations include "Why are autistics so annoying?" and "Why are people with autism so annoying?") I wrote this piece in response to these searches.
I'm annoying because I refuse to remain silent in the face of injustice.
It makes my stomach churn, my breathing go tight, my legs go weak, and my words get all stuck somewhere between mind and throat or throat and lips, struggling to slip through but somehow never quite making it out.
You see, I can't stand there quietly and laugh and smile when you make a Black joke or a Gay joke or a (god help me) cripple joke. I can't even stand there silently and pretend like I didn't hear it and if I ignore it maybe it will go away and we can go back to ordinary non-problematic conversation and no one will notice that I was the only one not laughing. You say it, it comes out of your mouth, and there. You're done. You can't take those words back, can't make them crawl back into your lips and throat until they've been erased, because sorry, there ain't no white-out for words.
You see, I can't sit around all night reading every little comment left on every little post I felt like dropping onto Facebook and spending hours typing responses to absolutely everything everyone says when there are people like me suffering out there right now. I try and do that, and I get seized by a kind of violent, sudden pain in my head and my stomach reminding me that no, there's torture happening and there's abuse happening and frankly, that's more important than anything else. If I can say something or do something or for god's sake bother at all and somehow help even one person, then yeah, that's a priority.
You see, I can't have polite conversation about society or culture or politics. When there's an epidemic of rape and a slew of murder and a culture of abuse, I can't sit around nice-like at the dinner table and talk all civil and polite with you because there's nothing civil to be said about rape and violence and abuse. I can't sit here and pretend like this shit doesn't happen, like we can turn people into headlines and statistics, like we can make human rights and global development these happy rainbow sunshine deals so we can pat ourselves on the back and say "good job, social justice," because I am not a headline or a statistic, and my rights are not just some esoteric topic for discussion only in the classroom.
You see, I don't just disagree with someone's ableist or racist or heterosexist or ageist or cissexist or classist or binarist or sexist or otherwise privileged and oppressive bullshit. I am fundamentally, profoundly disturbed and horrified and appalled when people can say things like "minorities, stop whining so much about how oppressed you are and pull yourselves up by the bootstraps" because firstly, every marginalized and oppressed community is simply not a quantitative minority so you're not "of a different opinion," you're wrong; and secondly, how the hell are we supposed to pull ourselves up by some metaphorical bootstraps when entire societies and laws and governments have stripped away our rights and dignity and personhood? I can't just smile and nod and say "I disagree with you," because you know what? When you come from a position of structural power and privilege and feed me this "a little bit of honey goes a long way" bullshit, we're not sitting at some table on equal terms where I can actually ever do that. Because when people can say I'm not a real person or I don't know what I'm talking about because I'm too damn personally involved, they get away with it, and I'm not allowed to simply "disagree." My only choice is to be "that fucking radical" because when it comes to oppression, there's no "agree/disagree" dichotomy. There's no room for that in the real world.
You see, I'm not part of civil society.
I'm annoying because I can't turn the other cheek or look the other way or shove it under the rug or brush it off or beat around the bush (or whatever the hell the damn phrase is) when people are getting hurt.
It makes me want to sob and curl into a fetal position and hide in a corner away from people and noise and things so I can pretend none of it really exists, because after all, who really wants to face up to the realities of our sweepingly oppressive and erasing society?
You see, I'm one of Those People whose names you don't remember (after all, why bother?) but whom you know so much about, thanks to the ever-helpful, ever-present media. Except you can't see that the way I get talked about and written about has a real, direct impact on my life. I get it when strangers who used to be talking to me like I'm an adult find out I'm Autistic and suddenly start speaking s l o w e r and LOUDER and in high-pitched voices that make it sound like they're cooing to a baby or a dog instead of a nineteen year old college student. I get it when subway workers who're supposed to be helpful and pleasant suddenly decide I must be drunk because apparently my speech is unintelligible. I get it when professors who are supposed to be helpful find out I have auditory processing difficulties and start to interrogate me in that I-know-better-than-you-oh-immature-and-irresponsible-child voice over why the hell I would ever bother studying a language, much less majoring in one.
You see, I'm one of those Bad Autistics who doesn't sit down and shut up when the non-autistic parents and "experts" and researchers are talking. I don't go along with what you're saying because you're asking me to be good and play nice. I won't be your token so you get to say you included "self-advocate perspectives" when what you really mean is having me there for photo-ops or a good, long self-narrating zoo exhibit session. I'll say what needs to be said and I'll do what needs to be done, and I'll do it on my own terms, thank you very much. Because when what you want is compliance and normalcy and passing all the time just so you won't have to stare my autism in the face, to hell with that.
You see, I'm not quiet or passive or docile or pliant.
I know that everything I say and write and do and think is political, whether I want it to be or not. You get two choices in life: you can pretend it's not political and make yourself complicit in oppression, or you can embrace the power of your very act of existence and use it to deconstruct oppressive structures. And me, I won't sit down and smile or make polite conversation. I stand on desks and march on government buildings and testify at hearings and, dear god above, flap my hands in public even though I didn't as a child because I will be seen and I will be heard and I will be Autistic and disabled in public and I will not be fucking erased.