Thursday, May 9, 2013

Pronoun Problems (Asides on Self-Loathing and Gender)

This may not be anywhere approaching a verbally speaking Autistic universal, but I have indeed met many others with this feature, and it is fresh in my mind because of last night.  (This was going to be about one topic but the topic led to other asides, so I added the other topics to the title in parentheses.)

Sometimes, although I think I seem to speak fairly fluently, I call myself “you.”

This is different from the idiomatic use of “you” as in “y’all” or “one” to indicate a belief that I have access to everyone else’s feelings or experience.  It is an accidental usage that happens when I am tired or nervous or upset and it causes me to make statements I do not agree with, straight up.

Last night, on the radio, which turned out to be a lot of fun (but I was shockingly nervous about it) I am pretty sure I said something like this: “You need the right partner [to be able to raise kids].”  This is not something I actually believe, at all, especially since I know that Paula, who was there, is a fabulously successful single mother, just for one example.  What I do know and believe is that I need the right partner, and would not have undertaken to have children prior to meeting my Layenie.  Additionally, the question was about me, not “you,” “y’all,” or “one.”  And so.

When I was younger, the “you” substitution happened more frequently, and more catastrophically.  For example, I regularly used to say, in a fight, right before my exit stage left, some rendition of “you’re crazy.”  This is wrong and ableist; and in addition to that, I said it precisely when I was afraid I was going to “lose it” and must therefore leave the scene to avoid being viewed engaging in “S.I.B.” etc.  I was talking about myself.  Back then, I believed my autism to be a kind of mental illness label because it was in the DSM-III.  Maybe it is or was, but anyway, irrelevant.  To me it was okay for me to be ableist and homophobic about myself, because in my own mind, I was not a person, but an alien, so my respect for persons ethics did not apply.  (This history probably contributes to why I am so enormously upset by dehumanizing language and the like, other than the fact that dehumanizing language and the like is heinous.)  Of course, the listener had no way of knowing I was talking about myself.   For all the world, I had just called her crazy or something equally offensive and mean, despite the fact that I have never otherwise assented to wrong-treatment of people with mental illness labels such as using them as if they were a slur, or anything like that.  It would happen in this one type of case.  

Self-loathing is a horrible thing, was for me, made me think nothing of lashing out in ways I can never agree with when I look at them as my full informed self.  I see other people doing this kind of thing and it is heartbreaking so I try to be understanding but it is not always easy but I have to try since I was such a punk.

If you are reading this, any of you to whom I have done this sort of thing, and I have not yet apologized to you, please know that I am very sorry about it, and I hope you now know how much I regret not having been able to treat you better then.  As a kid I was troubled and looking back I think unkind and sometimes even ghastly, and now I am happy and probably still sort of annoying, but I do work hard at being decent.

In the nineties, when it was all the rage, I was able to take advantage of the fad and do a lot of drilling in “I Language,” which helped a lot with this part of the pronoun problem.  But I began to notice it in other people with autism.  Even in simple declaratives, such as Pat telling me I wanted a hot dog.  Of course I did not want a hot dog, as I am vegetarian, but it was easy and natural for me to understand his language and realize that he was not trying to prognosticate about my state of hunger in any way.

Still there are pronoun problems receptively that have not been drilled out, and I do not know how to drill them out, and I will talk about them here now because people who know me well have encountered this, but not everyone will have done.  Also, it occurs to me, this might be a problem for others, and if so, it might be a problem for schoolchildren and thus have bearing on say reading comprehension tests.

When my friends tell me a story with other people in the story, if there are more than two characters, I may get lost in the pronouns.  The proverbial he-said/she-said story is often literally the best I can follow, and if there’s another he or she in the mix, I might stop you and say, hang on, will you tell me this again using everyone’s name and no pronouns?  This might happen even if the story is simple and obvious.  I do not know why.  It may not help if I know all the people.  It sometimes doesn’t even help if the sentences start with the correct person’s name!  I still can get mixed up, and keep stopping your story with confused questions about like, wait-wait, so Jeannie was driving the semi? Hehe no silly, Jeannie is three years old.  Pronouns are not my friend.

There is a bright side to this.  I will use this platform to talk about the bright side because it can also bring awareness of a thing that is intersectional and not everyone may know about.  Grin. 

Some people do not use the pronouns 'he/him' or 'she/her' to refer to themselves.  For example, they might prefer the singular 'they/their'.  There are also a form of pronoun that goes 'ze/zir' and other neologisms related to this.  These exist because of rejecting binary notions of gender.  However, many times, others do not respect people’s right to choose their own ways to identify themselves, which disrespect is uncool, or, and I think this is less uncool, but something I can help with here, they simply are not aware to ask about it, because not everyone has heard of cutting edge things like rejecting the binary.

When you are like me, and you already know you are going to mess up pronouns all over the place, you have a lot of internal latitude to ask over and over, and also, you don’t really mess up people’s personal pronouns that much because you have a verbal habit of using names whenever possible to avoid them.  Grin.  Bright side.

Now I would like to warmly invite other people to share experiences related to pronoun mixups, with self or kids, if any such experiences exist.  I don’t know how usual these problems are.


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Why Do So Many Autistic People Love Trains?

In honor of National Train Day, which is this coming Saturday May 11th, the day before Mother’s Day, I’m going to answer one of my most Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).  I’m doing this theme now to give everyone a head’s up because National Train Day is only six years old now and not so well known yet.  You don’t want to miss it, because your local train station probably has wonderful free events going on (click here to see if there are Facebook invites).  So this is also a Public Service Announcement (PSA).

Why do so many Autistic people love trains?

To answer this question, I can speak from the personal standpoint, and also as someone who is well educated and knows a great many other Autistic people who have filled in gaps in my own education.

I have ridden a large number of Amtrak lines and discussed most others in graphic detail with Autistic colleagues as well as having been a passenger on large lines in Belgium, Germany, France, England, Canada and Scotland.  As for commuter trains, I have taken a variety of such in the aforementioned countries, in addition to the USA, including the debut of MAX in Portland, OR, as well as BART, the Metra and Metro, the T, the L, and the good old NYC Subway.  This list is nowhere near exhaustive, but I still do not want to leave out the fabulous EuroStar.

One last thing I will tell you here that I have not written before is that in the 'eighties, I also rode in some boxcars on one of the Union Pacific lines.  I have since found out that the “Piper” we would have to pay upon arrival at some particular bridge we never actually came to cross is not a charming colloquial expression for Conductor on a freight train.   Sorry about that, Union Pacific.  I love you forever.

For all the trains I have ridden, I have watched and discussed many, many more.

And thus can give you my answer:

We love trains because they are excellent, and also awesome.

Happy National Train Day, and Happy Mother’s Day!