Who defines me?

  1. I did not write this for the purposes of being relinked to that site. I wrote it to discourage other people who may be so inclined to assign labels to me that I do not want.
  2. I do not know the maker of the list. I know she seems to think we have some sort of relationship by the way she kept relinking to this post, but we do not, and we never will. When someone says no, it means no. I have written more about that here.
  3. IMPORTANT: This person’s disregard for my clearly set boundaries has caused me to experience dissociation, dysphoria, meltdowns and shut downs. This is not a person who I want in my life at all, and the sooner she leaves me alone, the better.

If you want to build community, it is probably wise to observe clearly stated boundaries.

Setting boundaries is an act of self-care. Someone who violates those set boundaries repeatedly is demonstrating that they are not a safe person and that they do not care about the wellbeing of others.

If you do not care about the wellbeing of others, you cannot claim to want to build community.

Who defines me? There is a simple answer to this question and a longer one. The simple answer to the question is: I do.

But, something happened which has prompted a much longer answer. Recently, I discovered a list of autistic bloggers. Autistic Academic has written about some problems with the way in which the list makes assumptions here (link broken). Autistic in Southwest Virginia has written about some more issues with the list here (the author of that blog decided to unpublish their blog because the list referred to in this post made the blogger identifiable so the link is no longer available).

I was originally on that list and I have been removed after requesting removal for which I am grateful. But I’m still annoyed that the list came into the existence in the form that it did. Making a list of autistic bloggers is an admirable feat. There are thousands of us. Categorising us is less admirable because that’s putting us into boxes according to needs that aren’t ours – and in a lot of cases, boxes that we don’t fit into.

I’m not going to go into the assumptions that this list makes regarding the “default” for Autistic bloggers. If you read more than one autistic blog, you should know by now that there is no default. We’re a population that continually pushes back against most, if not all, societal norms (or defaults).

I will say that if you’re working under the assumption that most autistic people are cishet, you’re probably working under the wrong assumption. While there has been some research into gender and sexuality within autism, there isn’t a vast amount of information because science still hasn’t figured out the right questions to ask us. That’s because most of the research conducted into autistic people is undertaken by non-autistic people, but that’s a topic for a different day.

I was listed as “AFAB, PA, MA, Cas Faulds; living Autistically after passing as NT”. Now, none of those terms are factually wrong, but my discomfort comes in because the person who made the list felt the need to put me into boxes defined by them; not by me, so let me break down my problems with each of those abbreviations.


AFAB

Yes, I have the body parts consistent with being AFAB. I was open about that when I wrote about being an enby, but I don’t consider that to be a defining part of my identity. In fact, my body in general kinda grosses me out and having that as the first thing listed about this site caused me massive amounts of discomfort.

It is difficult to try and explain how I really don’t feel comfortable in my own body shape. I simply don’t. I would change it if I could afford to, and if there was a body shape that would fit my concept of what I would like to change it to. The discomfort I feel about people being creepily interested in my anatomy is one of the reasons why I wrote this post. If you believe that someone’s anatomy plays a role into how we treat people, then I suggest you have some unpacking to do.

I’m not going to deny that what’s in my pants played a role in how I was socialised as a child, but one of the things that is part of my experience of being trans is the active deconstruction of my previous socialisation. When you feel the need to highlight someone’s anatomy as though it is meaningful to their identity, please take a moment to ask yourself whether they would agree with the way in which you’re trying to define them.

Seeing myself put in the AFAB box by a complete stranger who didn’t ask for my permission or even extend me the basic courtesy of telling me that they had done so caused massive amounts of icky feels for me.

PA

Regular readers of this blog will know that I am the parent of an Autistic child. I have written about parenting a few times, but this is not really a parenting blog. Parents may gain some benefit from reading some of my posts, but to parent an Autistic child – or any child – there is one person you should listen to more than anyone else and that is the child in question. No one else can give you all the answers about your child. We may be able to give you some insight into asking the right questions, but you need to check in with your child.

Before I highlight my issue with someone defining me as a parent, a brief note on my parenting beliefs:

My parenting style is very reflexive. I listen to my son and adapt accordingly. Being the adult in the relationship means that I have a larger skill set on which to draw on in order to make adaptations. This doesn’t mean that he’s “in charge”. It also doesn’t mean that his comfort zone is never stretched. It means that we are constantly working within a relationship where neither of us is “in charge”. It also means that he gets to define himself on his own terms. Defining himself is a work in progress. This is likely true for everyone’s identity development which can be (and I think should be) a continuous process.

In some cases, there is a reaffirming of identity and in other cases, there is a reconstruction of parts of identity. This is especially important for children who are in the earlier stages of forming their identities. This is why parents need to listen to their child first, without judgement. The more receptive and accepting you are, the more your child will tell you what they need to thrive.

As to why I have an issue with having this blog defined by my role as a parent:

Whether someone is a parent should not play a role in whether you decide to read an Autistic blogger’s words. Some autistic people are parents, and some are not. I would urge you not to dismiss an Autistic adult’s perspective based whether they’re a parent because we were all Autistic children once, and we can all tell you what would have worked better for us when we were children.

MA

Yes, it is true that I fall into that age range. I have been on this planet for 30-50 rotations around the sun, but how is that relevant?

We know that Autistic people develop differently to non-autistic people. Autistic people of the same age are still different from each other. I don’t really understand what age has to do with a decision to read an Autistic’s person blog. When I look at my friends as well as the blogs I read, I see a wide age range. I learn from all of them. I connect with all of them on aspects entirely unrelated to age.

I mean, really, I actually don’t know the ages of most of the people who I know. It just doesn’t seem like a relevant thing to me. It seems somewhat meaningless when deciding whether you like or can relate to a person, so defining me by my age seems kind of arbitrary.


That list was a specific instance of someone defining me without considering whether I want to be defined in that way, but there are so many more.

When people tell me that I am feeling a specific way without asking me to confirm that, they’re putting me into a box. When people decide that because I’m Autistic, I need to be autistic in a specific way, they’re putting me into a box.

I know that we have a tendency to try to categorise people, but when you start placing people into boxes, you might be doing that according to your own level of comfort, and the person who you’ve boxed in may end up feeling as though they don’t really fit.

Don’t put me into your boxes. Don’t define me according to your needs. The name of this site is “Un-Boxed Brain”. I named it that way for many reasons. This is one of them.

2 thoughts on “Who defines me?”

  1. Judy (An Autism Observer)

    Thank you for explaining your objections. The Actually Autistic Blogs List no longer publishes personal information without consent (which we will soon be soliciting). I have publicly apologized (in a comment on my blog, and will soon in a blog post). I hope you will eventually choose to allow to have your blog listed again.

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