Communication. Communication. Communication. Hugs. Communication. And other things to consider if you’re living with an aspie, including communication.

My partner and I have always been hot on communication. Sometimes that involves shouting, sometimes that involves hugs, but most of the time, we’ve been talking about how to communicate.

There’s nothing wrong with my partner. They’re different, sure, but not wrong. For my partner has aspergers, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a normal, loving, relationship. It’s just sometimes it’s harder to communicate with each other. 

It was me who thought of the idea, however, to use notebooks. We both have one and they sit on the desk, with a reminder on top to check once a day. In order to write something, it’s important to think about the form. Not that anything we write in there is a sonnet, but you have to think about the way the words will form in order to create a sentence that will make sense. When we communicate verbally, sometimes words don’t get absorbed properly. Especially when you’ve got aspergers. You can say, “this thing you did was stupid” and it comes across as “you are stupid”. 

I once heard of a couple we never argued in person. They sorted out their arguments, in the good ol’ days at least, over MSN! We don’t do that- we have the notebooks, but it’s a similar concept. It helps to release the facts and not just the anger/upset. 

I’m not saying arguments won’t happen, but even in our daily conversations I try to think about the way I might write this to my partner, and that’s definitely helped us to think about the way we say things (and all together) not just the things we say.

Living with a person with aspergers can be very daunting at first. The most important thing to remember, however, is the ways in which when you say something, it can be magnified by 100 for that person. The meltdowns aren’t always aimed at a person, or themselves, it’s just an overload of emotions that come out with screaming and shouting, and sometimes they can seem aggressive, but it’s most important to remember that it’s not deliberate on that person’s behalf. 

As much as anger and upset can be intensified, however, so can love! My partner does adorable things in our relationship that I never imagined anyone can think to do.

Everything in life is a mixture of checks and balances, and it’s important to remember to outweigh one if the other is getting too much. We’re working on it.

Sometimes I think I’d have liked to have met my partner slightly later in life. Sometimes I wish I’d had more life experience before embarking on settling down. But, overall, I’m happier that we met earlier- we get to start our life journey as a couple much before most of our friends, and it’s the head start we need to sort out our communication! 

The movement: why we should be putting the queer BACK into LGBT+

We do it all the time. I do it. Someone says something and then we say (if using the correct terminiology), “is that how you identify?”

But why do we say these things? Why should anyone fit into the box, why does a person have to be L, G, B, T, or A, or even Q? What makes us want to put someone in that box? Does it help us understand something better? A few posts ago, I posted about Freud’s The Uncanny and how Bennett and Royle define one of their example of this uncanny about ‘a sudden doubt about someone’s sexual orientation’. I spoke about binaries and what this says about society. 

What I want to do now is argue that within the LGBT+ movement, these notions still exist. People feel that they need to fit within this. 

But, I’ve had conversations with people who have said (almost quote for quote) “sexuality doesn’t exist”, and it’s true. 

The term ‘homosexulity’ was not defined in the OED until the very end of the C19th. It was not until then that someone could be termed ‘the other’ in terms of their sexuality. 

In the 1960s, people walked the streets all over the world  saying ‘I’m gay/lesbian’ and I’m proud. Rainbow flags flew after it was endorsed by Harvey Milk. And yes, that was a huge step forward. The term ‘queer’ then was deemed derogatory by the community, it meant ‘weird/other/counterfeit’ but in the 1990s, in academia and within the community the term was embraced. 

For us now, it means ‘non-binary’ it’s ‘not definable’. And I personally feel this is exactly how it’s meant to be! 

Just as someone is not just ‘one’ thing- they are not just their race, of their culture, or their job – people are not always ‘just gay/a lesbian/transgender. 

In a society that wants us to tick boxes to say we are one thing or another e.g. Miss/Ms/Mrs/Mr/Dr etc., the LGBT+ community can make you define yourselves. And we’re still in that age. We’re still determining someone as something rather than their essence.

I am not just a trans man. I am a student, I am from a working class family, I am half Croatian, but none of these things define me solely. In terms of sexual orientation, I am not just one thing. And meeting people, and speaking to people I know lots of people who do not feel they are ‘just’ something either. 

However, the term ‘queer’ is even starting to define people. It is no longer deemed derogatory within the movement. But it now means, someone who cannot be defined. And that, is the danger, because we’re using a word that should mean fluid/ambiguous and allowing it to define us.

 

Why am I studying this, anyway?

This post will consist of no:

  1. Grammar/spell checks
  2. Critical theory

And that is kind of the point.

I have literally just finished John Dryden’s All for Love, which is most famous for being a re-working/the same story as Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra. The first time around, I wasn’t most impressed, but Dryden’s work has ticked all the boxes for me. 

When doing an English Literature undergraduate degree (as with most programmes, I should imagine), it’s hard to remember why you’re there, why you’re studying it, and why you seem to be skimming books by the time it gets to week 3/4. The thing is, when you’re trying to read 4 books a week, whilst doing assignments and seminar prep, it can be hard to concentrate on things as much as you’d hope to. At times, I have been prompted to think about changing courses for this very reason- I want to enjoy reading, not consider it ‘work’.

And then I read a quote:

Perfection is the greatest enemy to completion.

 

Don’t ask me who said it/where it came from, because I don’t remember. I didn’t even stop long enough to read it properly, but it’s stuck in my head. We all hope we’re going to be able to give 100% of our effort, 100% of the time, but this is simply not possible. 

But then something magical happens. It might only happen once a semester, it might happen ten times (and you therefore cannot really rely on it), you realise why you love literature (or your chosen subject), so much. 

Literature is not just a study of words, or how they fit together. It is not just about critical theories, and ‘from that angle’ and ‘on the other hand’. Literature is about having a jolly good time looking at the relationships between characters. Sometimes, you just need to go back to basics and remember why you’re studying your subject in the first place.

 

Epilogue: I told you that this was going to be a ramble, so there you go.

Who’d have known? Trans* people can actually cause fear.

It’s a notion that we’re all familiar with, but in an evolving society, you’d hope that things were changing? Apparently not. Yesterday, I attended a seminar on Psychoanalysis (with a lot of concentration on Freud’s ideas including the uncanny.) In doing my reading for this week, I came across a section in Introduction to Literature, Criticism and Theory written by Andrew Bennet and Nicholas Royle. This textbook is one of two core books for our module. 

In it, I read this:

6. A sense of radical uncertainty about sexual identity- about whether a person is male or female, or apparently one but actually the other. his is made dramatically clear, for instance in the uncanny revelation in the course of Neil Jordan’s film The Crying Game(1992), when an apparently female character turns out to have the genitalia of a man; but we could also think of the uncanniness of gender in, for example, Virginia Woolf’s Orlando (1927), or, more recently, Jeannette Winterson’s Sexing the Cherry (1989) or Written on the Body (1992)

Bennett, Andrew and Royle, Nicholas, Introduction to Literature, Criticism and Theory (Hertfordshire: Prentice Hall Europe, 1995), pp. 38-9

 

You can imagine how annoyed I was. If there’s one place I have always been able to explore, and understand my sexuality and gender expression, it has been in Literature. Then suddenly I’m being told that others who read these books do not understand it in the same way I do, and experience uncanniness when they read/meet someone who is Trans* or ‘not what they expected’ in terms of gender expression. Of course, I’ve experienced this, having someone shout at me across campus with ‘Is that a boy of a girl?’. It’s a horrible experience, but this is the time for me to look at these issues objectively. It is not an individual’s ignorance that makes them say things such as that- it is society’s. 

As Freud discussed in his essay of 1919, entitled ‘Das Unheimliche’ (translated as ‘The Unhomely’), the uncanny is the notion of something being familiar in the unfamiliar, or something unfamiliar in the familiar, and it all comes from binaries. For example, Bennett and Royle also identify:

5. Automatism. This is a term that can be used when what is human is perceived as merely mechanical.

Bennett, Andrew and Royle, Nicholas, Introduction to Literature, Criticism and Theory (Hertfordshire: Prentice Hall Europe, 1995), p. 38

This is where Freud began his analysis, and again, is all to do with boundaries/binaries between life/death, human/mechanical, human/animal and indeed male/female among others. 

It is, however, hard to understand why the confusion as to whether one is male or female is on the same scale as a sudden ability to accept one’s own death, or ghosts. It is almost a fear. However, by classifying this as the uncanny, Freud and others are saying something very important about society/culture as a whole. How can we not live in a place where people are accepted regardless of gender, and irrespective of not being able/not feeling comfortable with the gender binary. 

In 2013, Germany was the first European country to allow babies who are born intersex (showing characteristics of both male and female) to be registered as a third gender. (BBC) People have said for a very long time that the blue/pink ideal is a culturally constructed ideal, and not natural. I truly believe that there is no gender binary. These things can move. I remember a time when men were called ‘gay’ or ‘womanly’ if they groomed themselves, they were supposed to be unshaved- raw. In just the last 7-10 years (that I can remember), this has completely switched, and this has largely down to cosmetic companies who want men to groom in order to sell more aftershave, shower gel etc. And so, it all changes. Furthermore, everyone has traits that are seen as ‘male’ and ‘female’. A girly-girl might actually spend her weekends playing football- you never know. It is not a person’s ignorance that finds that confusing- it’s society’s. The fact is, with laws such as this, embraced by Germany, the world should follow. 

Obviously, Freud was writing nearly a century ago, but his notions of the uncanny haven’t really changed from where I’m sitting. Maybe we haven’t come as far as we think?

Angry Young Scottish Men- And Quite Right too!

I hadn’t been thinking a lot about the referendum in Scotland taking place this September. I’d caught a few news articles on the BBC- one talking about the effect independence might have on sport in Scotland- but I hadn’t thought that much about it. Then I read John McGrath’s play The Cheviot, the Stag, and the Black, Black Oil (1973) which tells the story of the Highland Clearances which took place in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Essentially, the English wanted to exploit the Scottish Highlands, because they felt that the farmers who’s livelihoods depended on this land, were not doing ‘enough’ economically. Some Scots have compared this to “an early version of ‘ethnic cleansing’.” (BBC) Ethnic cleansing because the English were associated with the upper classes, whilst the Scots were very much of working class, and indirectly, for this, they were brutally murdered. Just the name of the company who staged the play tells you something of the anger of these people. The company were called 7:84, so called because 7% of the population owned 84% of the land!

Then comes the contradiction, just before the Crimean War, the English tried to recruit Scots, because, from the English point of view, it would protect the Scots to do so. Strikingly, one of the characters speaks up against this and declares that it makes no difference who is trying to exploit them- whether it be Russia, England or the USA- but that they will always be victims to it.

This play, at times, seems humorous. Harriet Beecher Stowe and none other but Queen Victoria appear on the stage as if from nowhere. However, in doing so, it brings up some very important points. In comparing the Clearances to the events in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the implication is obvious- the clearances were on the same scale.The play works because it uses personal stories which resonate with each region of Scotland. 

What is most striking however, is the last scene in which Texas Jim, who’s ancestors were sent to the USA, comes back in order to exploit the land and sea for the extraction of oil. In doing so, more people are shoved out of the way, and the resounding message is: have we learned nothing? 

I believe, personally, that Scotland should be independent, and demeaning their culture in such a way as to say “they won’t survive on their own”, is terrible. Scotland are only considered to have a British Identity because the English imposed it on them. The English didn’t only take away land and livelihoods, they took away language and culture, replacing it with their own hierarchy, declaring themselves at the top. Furthermore, in sending Scots to their colonies the English were essentially saying: you can’t live here, and you have to live somewhere else where we can exploit you economically. Some Scots managed to retain their farms in the highlands, rearing sheep for wool and meat which they would then sell. However, this soon dwindled out when the very Scots who were sent to places such as New Zealand were able to sell wool and meat at a lower price and were of better quality. But, what did it matter to the English? Whoever sold it, they were making the profit!

What I love about this play, is that it is not just an interpretation of events, but a real history. Even the words used are actual words used by the likes of Sellar. Now, go away and read it. Or see it on the BBC, but please experience it!

What I have learned as Chair of LGBT+.

So, now I’ve done the deed, I’ve sent the e-mail and I’ve informed the society.

Last night, when I made the deicision, I was truly gutted. To an extent I still am. However, you have to look at things from the perspective of: OK, so I’ve done this thing, what have I learned from it?

The answer is, in a word: tons.

1. You can’t keep 100% of people happy 100% of the time. No matter what you try, and how you act, there will be someone, somewhere who is unhappy. That is something you cannot control, and if you carry on trying you will just upset yourself, and probably other people.

2. Bitching happens. Just deal with it. Further to the above point, you will not always keep people happy, and they will bitch about it. You can try and do some damage control, but most of the time it’s better left.

3. Put time aside each week to deal with the e-mails, social networking etc. of the society. This time should be separate from academic study and should not impinge on your university work. However, you need to keep it as part of your routine.

4. Activism isn’t what it used to be: it seems that all those images you get of LGBT+ societies marching around towns for different causes is not something that many students want to do these days.

5. Know when to stop: you need to be realistic about when your role ends. It would be wonderful if everyone had the emotional capacity to deal with, and help others with their issues, but unfortunately society committees are not equipped to be counselors.

A Response from a Loner

I have just logged into my LinkedIn account to find an article entitled: Loners Can Win at School. They Can’t in the Real World. 

I had to skim the last few sections because I was becoming so angry. 

Here’s the thing (and as usual it is fueled by personal experience rather than any scientific data), I’m a loner.

I always have been. When I was in Secondary school, I always felt isolated. I was the only ‘girl’ who didn’t wear a skirt. More to the point, I was the only girl who didn’t wear a skirt which barely reached their legs. I wanted, desperately, to spend my lunch times playing football rather than sat around talking about boys. But I never did. Because as much as I didn’t fit in with the girls (for obvious reasons I feel), I didn’t fit in with the boys either. And then I went to college, and I got on with people for over one academic year. And then it all fell apart. At the time when the others were losing their virginity, I went to bed, early (needless to say), with a book and a cup of tea. I began writing a (very long) essay on Oscar Wilde, and for those few months, when I wasn’t studying for my A Levels, I was writing this essay. 

I have to be honest, when everyone else went for their post-exam drink, I did miss having friends. I missed talking to people. I was the only one who was silent when they left their exam on that Wednesday afternoon. I got on the bus alone, and if my memory serves me correct I had one pint with my Dad, had a meal and had another early night.

The story is much the same now I’m here at University. Things started off well, and I told myself it’s a fresh start, but things are heading the same way again. People have bitched about me on Facebook, and I have seen their posts of what they think about me when I have gone up to the English Literature office to ask something. 

 

It’s not that I think I’m better than people, and therefore refuse to ‘hang out’ with them, it’s that I don’t feel like they want me there. And it is only with this level of maturity that I have now that I can stand back and say: yes, it is something wrong with me, I have anxiety. And since that realisation and acceptance of it, I have been a lot more at peace with myself. 

Many people don’t realise this about me, but most mornings, I cry before I can get up. I get embarrassed in a conversation and will feel the need to come out with something just the fill the silence. If the bus is a minute late (which is very common around here) I start panicking that I haven’t got the right time. When I get on the bus, even if I had made myself stay rather than walk, I have to make sure with the driver that he is going to the right place, even though I have got that bus tons of times before. When I make a phone call, I gear myself up so much that I have actually vomited, and that can simply be a phone call to my Grandma. I am sensitive, because I think automatically that someone has said something because they simply must hate me. These things are a daily occurance for me. 

And my point in this massive rant? Schools, colleges, and universities need to do more in order to help those with anxiety. For me, my parents weren’t in tune enough to realise that I had anxiety and social issues. They just thought I was a nerd (and to an extent they were right). But, what I’m trying to say is that on the days when I feel that I cannot talk to anybody, the tutor should not automatically assume I’m upset. Sometimes I am, but other times I’m simply not able to talk to people. I stop listening, I start panicking. 

However, I don’t know where this support might be. I don’t even know if it exists. But it is their responsibility to help. Those who are ‘loners’ will not be able to come out of that prison until people begin reaching out to them! Which, as this gentleman has put it, had the potential to hinder the careers of people with social issues, and that is what services need to focus on at universities.