25 January 2013


Note, June 20th 2013: I have closed comments on this page due to over 55 spam comments in one 24 hour period. Wow. Fuck the internet.


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.


  1. May we be annoying, together, for as long as it takes. May all the annoying annoyances in this world unite and escalate our alleged annoyingness until evil and ignorance are so incredibly annoyed they can't take it anymore and have to run so fast and so far we never have to see them again. Respect.

  2. Agreed. The Emperor is indeed doing a strip tease and I will shout that from the rooftops.

  3. Lydia, I don't another young person who walks the walk like you do. You are always honorable and just. In everything you do, you put in every consideration to make sure it is the right thing to do or to say. I am very proud of you and in awe of you. Thank you for being who you are.

  4. I find this damned ironic given how passive and politically correct everything else coming out of you is. Throughout my life, I have seen countless examples of where a single concentrated act of angry dissent brought about in one night more change than years or even decades of pleading did. When I was around twenty-one, a little boy was shot and killed by a police officer. He was Aboriginal, and he lived in Redfern. The police officer's offered excuse was that the boy was "under arrest" and riding away from him on a bicycle. Needless to say, Redfern had a riot the like of which is rarely seen in this country. And as a direct result, inquiries were held and the police of New South Wales were told in no uncertain terms that their motto should not be "we kill children".

    The more marginalised and excluded I feel within the autism "community" just because I am not inclined to sit on my hands and plead, whine, and moan for "acceptance", the more I think of all the times when riots have brought about changes to police procedures, closed prisons, or even changed the law. And I just weep for future generations. As long as people like you focus on "equality" instead of superiority, clustershambles like the Senate Hearings or the posthumous and shakily-founded diagnosis of last December will continue. Being annoying is not sufficient. Aborigines in Australia tried that and found that demonstrating there to be consequences for mistreating them works a hell of a lot better. My life is not worth living because people like you make me feel concrete blocks are chained to my feet and I have just been thrown in an ocean of filth.

  5. To stillfinditsohard:

    What a transparently jaded response.
    I'm almost scared to ask how you suggest we focus on "superiority." Something tells me that whatever it is, it would give the autistic community a terrible reputation for violence or misconduct. People on the spectrum are no better than anyone else, nor are they inferior in any way. People don't like feeling inferior; if people in the autism advocacy scene started promoting their "superiority," there would only be MORE resistance we would have to fight to be considered equal.Either you lack a decent understanding of social psychology and modern history, or you're just after some sort of revenge.
    *cough* Gandhi *cough* the guy we just had a holiday for

  6. I support everything Lydia said about not keeping quiet in the face of bigotry. I'm sure that bothers the bigots no end.

    However, based on my experience in other web forums (such as Quora.com), I think most of the people who search Google for the terms "annoying" and "autistic" together don't mean "why are the autistics getting so uppity these days?" Instead, they are most likely thinking of the poor fit in social communication styles between autistics and allistics. This is perceived by them as "those autistics are so annoying! They don't know when to shut up about their favorite topic, they flirt with me when I'm not interested, they don't greet me appropriately, etc."

    1. BiolArtist,

      I'm aware of this, and I know that the vast majority of folks who search for such strings probably mean things like (perceived?) social awkwardness. I decided to politicize the term artfully. :)

  7. Lydia, first and foremost -- you go girl! Say what you mean and mean what you say! That said, there are more "polite" ways to say a lot of things. I get very tired of political debates that are NOT debates but really just people on their various soapboxes telling the "other side" how to live their lives. I have an autistic 18 yo and he is gentle, sweet and helpful. But I have also met more than a few autistic folks that are annoying JUST TO BE ANNOYING -- they *want* to stir the pot! So while I respect your opinions and the right to voice them, please remember that you do get more flies with honey than vinegar and I know (because I do it myself) that when someone starts on a rant, I just tune them out. But when they try to break things down to specifics, I usually listen.

  8. Fuck yeah!! (Sorry, I guess I should try being more eloquent, but that was my gut reaction.)

  9. I have been reading through your blog, and Lydia, you sound like those types of people who actually go out and change the world. You sound like the William Wilberforce type, and that's a compliment. I can say this because I'm a historian and I admire people such as those.

    I have the same heart, but a lot more fear behind it. I don't try to hide my autism in public, but so few people get it. Ignorance abounds, and while it may be bliss for those whom it directly impacts, it's hell for those whom it indirectly impacts, like us.

    How do you get over the fear and just quit caring about how you come across? That would help so much.

  10. Autistic people are very annoying.....F A C T. Why do we, as a society always make every effort to hide the way we truly feel about others?
    Isn't covert hatred worse than overt which can be discussed and dissected, identified and understood?

    1. You assume that hatred has to be a constant, which it doesn't. Autistic people, individually or collectively, are no more inherently annoying than neurotypical people, depending on whose standard of annoying is being used. It's just that neurotypical annoyance at autistics is presumed to be more default and valid than the reverse.