27 January, 2010

some messy things, invisibility, etc.

(edited because I was pretty consumed with anxiety about these possibly being hateful things to say, but I thought that parts of this were good, so I chopped it up)

Being brutally honest: I'm uncomfortable around people who have Real Disabilities. Well--I'm uncomfortable around a lot of people for a lot of reasons. It's sort of a spiraling, compulsive fear. If the person belongs to an oppressed minority, I get anxious and act/look really strange because I'm afraid they'll think I'm prejudiced against them (and this obviously feeds itself, "look, I look so strange, they'll think I'm afraid of them, fuck I'm freaking out, I can't make eye contact, shit, do a facial expression, try to look depressed and distracted, okay"). This can happen if it's a minority I don't belong to, which can certainly be called racism, transphobia, etc. (and I don't think it's right for me to call it something else, if I am reacting differently to someone because they're a person of color, trans, etc.--that is what it is, in practice). However, it can also happen with the two minorities I invisibly or semi-invisibly belong to--gay and disabled. And in those cases, it is kind of a mixture of the ordinary compulsion and anxiety, and also a desire for kinship that I become anxious about because I think it's unseemly and I don't really belong.

The most common way for a person to be visibly same-sex-attracted is if they are romantically paired with someone of the same sex. I guess relationships are like wheelchairs. I know I'm gay, and I'm more inarguably gay than I am inarguably disabled, I suppose. If I was accused of being homophobic, I could just produce a statement of fact: "I can't be homophobic, I'm gay."

Actually, one time, at academic summer camp, this girl who I'd just met made some joke about kissing me, and I froze up and looked really uncomfortable, and she laughed to her friend, "I probably shouldn't be scaring young heterosexual girls," and then left. So that's an occasion when I wasn't able to produce the statement, but I think I'm better now. Or am I? Probably not. My nightmarish employment at a drive-in movie theater the summer before last, which culminated in derealization and a processing speed slower than molasses while I was cashiering (I couldn't recognize the food), which resulted in me getting yelled at by the same person who'd caused all my anxiety, who ironically was a special ed teacher, but didn't know that I was "special," and I didn't know how to explain...wow, I don't think I even realized how ironic and intersectional that story actually is. But anyway, it was in Cape Cod, so lots of gay couples came in all the time, and this middle-aged lesbian couple started working there, and I just wanted to talk to them so bad, I wanted them to like me, or something, and know I was gay. Especially the one who was a special ed teacher. But how do you just say "I'm gay?" Most of the people who worked there didn't especially like me, so why should they like me? When I tried to talk to this woman, I just misunderstood the things she said, and she rolled her eyes.

Also these two beautiful girls who came in and ordered sandwiches and made out for a while and I tried not to look at them, and then they said they didn't want the sandwiches. I was supposed to yell at them for this, but I just couldn't even look at them. Seeing all these beautiful, happy lesbians just made me feel like less of something. Like, even if I was able to produce the statement, was that going to make any of these people say, "Oh, okay, you're one of us?" How am I one of them? I haven't even had a relationship. I'm a defective gay person, not because I'm invisible, but I'm invisible and defective for some of the same reasons.

Yeah, so anyway, yesterday the guy who lives across the hall from me moved back in for spring term. I was introduced to him. He's the only person at our school who is blind. Sometimes I have watched him putting on his coat and putting his tray away in the dining hall, because of the way he moves. But this isn't a real reason to like someone, because he didn't choose to have to develop those ways of doing things, and would probably be offended that I like them. Also, one time in the dining hall he asked me what the ingredients in the omelets were. I am curious about this because I rarely ask people for the things I need; I wonder if it used to freak him out, and his teachers or parents made him practice doing it, or if he's always felt confident about it, maybe because everyone can see without him telling them that he has a good reason for needing things explained.

Basically, I want to talk to him so much that I maybe never will, because it's probably offensive. On the other hand, I also feel concerned about ordinary people things, like not knowing if I should identify myself when I say hello to him, or if I should assume that he can tell. If a lot of people have that problem, maybe people don't talk to him very much. So in a roundabout way, even if I complain that it sucks for me to have to explain that I'm disabled (i.e. I don't explain, and the results of that suck), he definitely has it worse because it's the first thing people notice.

So I don't wish I was Real. That's a stupid thing to wish. Also, being Real isn't possible for me. Even if I didn't try to pass at all, Real ASD doesn't exist because it doesn't look like anything. Some people would treat me like I was "special" (whether ASD or intellectually disabled--although, if an ASD person is read as intellectually disabled, does that mean they're passing?). Other people would think I was high, or traumatized. Other people would yell at me and try to grab me to see my reaction, like when I was a kid. I don't want that to happen, but even if I let it happen, it wouldn't mean that those people thought I was Real. They just wouldn't be thinking of me in words at all. With ASD I feel like there's being fake, or prey, or disorderly conduct. Or being read as intellectually disabled. Or even more than one of those--intellectually disabled people can be prey, after all. But there's no Real option.

The other day I snapped at my roommate because she didn't answer me when she was on the phone. My roommate only has one working ear, so when she is on the phone, she can't hear anything else. I've known her for three years but I rarely keep this in my mind (except in the last few days, when I've realized how shitty I am about it). I guess she could maybe be Real if she made an effort to tell people, but it doesn't affect her that much, except on the really low level of people like me snapping at her without thinking, or thinking that she's ignoring them when her good ear is turned away. At the same time, a low level builds up over your lifetime. My roommate's Facebook description of herself says, "I probably didn't hear you." But she doesn't identify as disabled, and if she did, I'm not sure what people would think.

It's hard to say what's Real. I just know that I'm not it, and that as frustrating as that sometimes seems, it's probably good, because if I was Real, people would make everything about my disability. Just like I do to Real Disabled people when I make up stories in my head about how they probably hate me.

The end.


  1. I don't see how your becoming uncomfortable when the girl made a joke about kissing you was an offensive reaction. Or maybe that's because I don't know what you were uncomfortable about? I guess what I'm thinking is, I'm a girl who likes boys and if a boy made a joke about wanting to kiss me I'd be very uncomfortable. I'd be uncomfortable if it was a girl too, if it was anyone. For a variety of reasons - people in general make me uncomfortable, the idea of a relationship worries me (I've never been in one and I feel like I wouldn't know what to do), I don't know how to respond to such a joke, I don't know if there is some truth behind the joke (and what would I do if I knew?), on and on.

    Or wait, I just reread your description and now I'm not sure what you meant. Do you think your reaction was offensive/homophobic? I don't know, I'm confused now. Why would the girl assume you were straight because of your reaction?

    I'm having trouble writing out what I really want to say but I guess I'm having trouble understanding why your reaction was bad.

  2. I don't really feel that my reaction is bad, but just that it was read by the other girl as being an example of a clueless straight person who was uncomfortable with homosexuality. When it's really more that I tend to (and especially tended to when I was that age) feel really uncomfortable with any implication of sex/romance, even when it's obviously a joke. for example, backstage during the school musicals, people would lip-synch along with the love songs that were being performed while pointing at their friends, and I couldn't do it.

    so what I was I trying to say. I guess just that because of my social awkwardness, or whatever, I'm sometimes read as not belonging to, or even being prejudiced against, groups that I belong to.

  3. I sometimes have had the same worries. AKA what if I'm staring too much at the nice looking guy in a wheelchair. Because I know that that can get annoying and he might not realize I stare at a lot of people when I look at them.

    Although, if you want to get to know the blind person you were talking about - I'd say to go talk to him, but be prepared to talk about other things. I've met a couple of good friends because I wanted to get to know them and I talked to them. All the while praying that I wasn't being an asshole.

    Maybe this is too much information - so feel free to delete.

  4. no it's not TMI at all, you didn't even say that much. :) Anyway it's not like I'm going to go up to him and be like "YOU ARE BLIND"--except I'm sort of compulsively afraid in the way I'm always afraid of doing the most offensive thing, but that's not the same as actually not having anything else to talk about. I actually don't talk about disability things with other people in real life, very much.

    Yesterday he asked my roommate if she was me, which solves my conundrum about not knowing if I'm supposed to identify myself. If he asks who I am, I can just answer. Thank God for other people taking initiative so I don't have to.