Is often one of the first things someone says when I tell them I’m autistic. Surprising and annoying often said with a positive undertone. As if it were a compliment.
I’m used to similar comments. When I first fell in love with a girl when I was eighteen, people often said “But you don’t look gay”. And that undertone of something positive in that statement. As if I could at least take comfort in the fact that I didn’t look gay .
All people use stereotypes to some extent to navigate. It is easier for the brain if certain things can be placed in compartments. Farmers are one way, hipsters another etc. When we do that, prejudices are also automatically formed. There is nothing strange about it. We all have prejudices. For a hipster, it may not do much to stand for certain features because they are not a vulnerable group. On the contrary, they represent high status in society.
This is not the case for autistics or LGBTQ+ people. It is still negative in the eyes of many to belong to any of these groups, not to mention being both autistic and LGBTQ+. When you say “you don’t look autistic or gay” with that underlying positive tone you’re not only undermining who I am. You also make me understand that it is something negative.Maybe you think you’re comforting me, making me feel included. But the result is the opposite. Why wouldn’t I want to look autistic or gay? Like it’s something bad?I
f you’re going to necessarily conflate my appearance with being autistic or queer, then say “congratulations, you really do look autistic/queer”. Like that’s a good thing. Like that’s the best thing in the world. Because it is . For me. Because that’s who I am.
If you want to hear what other autistics have to say about this, you find a lot of comments about that here where I first posted this text https://www.instagram.com/p/CirqyvJsMfe/
Thank you for reading.