I started reading NeuroTribes by Steve Silberman. In truth, I started it a while ago and have been having trouble picking it back up. I think I am tired of thinking about this. Tired of thinking about myself. But as I was listening to this audiobook whilst walking my dog just now, I started to get angry. The author has interjected several times throughout the narrative that the public view of autism spectrum disorder has leaned heavily toward the white cisgender male but then proceeds to primarily tell the stories of white cisgender men, these quirky geniuses who all made invaluable contributions to science and technology but all seemed to have trouble relating to other people socially and blah blah blah. To be fair, it was published in 2015 by a white cisgender man so I guess it’s not all that surprising. I didn’t know what to expect and, though it had been recommended to me, I actually borrowed it from the library because the library recommended it and it was available now. Okay, reflecting back on it now, I guess this was predictable. I am not even sure if the author is autistic, but I digress. This book is making me angry.
I’m also grateful for TikTok.
I just want to let it sink in that I’m typing that and publishing it to the Internet but I truly am. I am able to read this primarily mainstream and stereotypical view of autism and actually see myself in it and throw away the parts that make me feel excluded, knowing that this is not all there is. It’s because of the women on TikTok sharing their experiences. I just finished reading a part of the book where the author talks about how these genius boys conceived of and invented the Internet, how they were able to create networks of science fiction fans through letters and ham radios who all worked together to inspire the invention of technology as we know it today and it’s through a similar network of 1 minute videos we are building a network now. It’s through membership, however tenuous and possibly temporary, that I can recognize the characteristics in these narrow descriptions and see them out in the real world in a variety of activities and environments. The patterns are the same and TikTok taught me to recognize these patterns and helped me to see them everywhere so that I can accept them in myself.
This sounds a little bit like sci-fi and I’m reminded of Octavia Butler’s Wild Seed series and how she talks about “the pattern”… I also think about how drawn I am to the collection of truths she compiles in The Parable of the Sower and compiles into Earthseed: Book of the Living. Wait, but my point was how “the pattern” I’m talking about is not culty like that… but if it seems that way, now you know way.
In any case, I guess I’m glad the world is changing to accept a more diverse view of autism but the fact that it’s changing right now in this way and people are so resistant to change is exactly why I am so anxious about having this conversation with myself. So here we are.