Originally published on the Autism Acceptance Blog over on Quora.
So I’m a ridiculous fan of Marvel and of the X-Men. Like some of my generation I got into Marvel backwards, I saw the 2000 X-Man movie first (a treasured memory of a trip to the movies with my grandfather) – got into the comics off that, and as such have lots of the movies, seen plenty of animations and read lots of comics.
But you have to understand – that what really appealed to me when I first watched X-Men and later got into reading it was that here were a group of people, all with different gifts that some were beautiful and amazing, and powerful, and some were not so great and kinda sucky. Here was this group of people who were different, both from each other in small ways and from the rest of the world in a larger way and they had a whole world against them. They were bullied, ostracized, and faced discrimination from the people to the governments. There was violence against them, death and destruction, they were killed and frequently blamed for crimes they either didn’t commit or were committed only by a small group of them. They spent their time trying to reach out to others like them so that they had a place to go to feel safe, to get trained up and either choose to remain there helping others or go out into the world. They could even go out into the world and be successful, they just had to make little accommodations for their differences. The X-Men in particular also spent time looking out for humanity, trying to save it from the things it couldn’t face by itself, and reaching out to them to try and ease Mutant-Human relations. Trying to build in accommodations into the system for mutants, to show in all the ways that they weren’t that different from the rest of the world. That while there were lots of downsides to being a mutant it wasn’t necessarily a “bad thing” and it didn’t have to be something the rest of the world feared or shoved away.
So here was me, 10 years old, already suffering from depression and stress related disorders (i.e. my hair was falling out because every 10 year old bulling victim with a disabled parent just needs alopecia as well), just getting my dyslexia and dyspraxia finally recognized, having my autism outright ignored and not diagnosed at that point and I was completely relating to the X-Men and other mutants on a very real and deep level for me.
These were my people. They got me and I got them. At least – so I felt – of course I knew they weren’t actually “real” and so they couldn’t “get me” because they didn’t know me. But I really got them.
I still relate to them. I like the idea of being a mutant more than being an alien rather than what’s suggested by those on “wrongplanet” etc. I like that idea more because mutants are still human. Yes – they sometimes get counted as a different species in the comics – or merely the next step in human evolution – but the term used to describe them is “mutant” – and for them to be mutations off humanity they kind of have to be humans first. When in M Day 90% of the mutant population were “depowered” they reverted to being human beings.
They are human beings and they are different. They’re different on a fundamental genetic level, they are different from humans as a whole and different from each other. They have a whole array of different levels and kinds of mutation affecting them in all different ways. And damn it all – I find it to be a really close analogy to autism for me.
So some days I’m an X-Man.
I want to ease Human-Autie relations. I want to build in acceptance and accommodations into the system. I want people to see autism as not something to be cured but something to be embraced as part of a person’s whole being. Something to be helped, different parts of it treated in different ways to the benefit of the individual autistic and taking in to account their individual needs. To stop generic clumping together, to end harmful stereotypes. I don’t want us to be segregated away or infantilized or dehumanized. I’m okay with there being a school or place for autistics to go to learn with each other – but I want that to be a choice – not a requirement. I want people to recognize that just because we’re not all savants in some area or another doesn’t mean we don’t all have value.
And then some days I’m Magneto.
Magneto, as anyone with even a passing knowledge of X-Men (or a search engine), is a bad guy. He’s a bad mutant who headed up the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. He’s been hurt, badly, by humans. He’s seen them kill others for being mutants, he’s been targeted himself, he’s been left by partners who viewed him as a monster, he’s been used, tortured, used again. He digs a little too deep into surface offers from humans and frequently is paid for it by seeing horrible destruction hidden away that was waiting for him. He believes in mutant superiority and wants to rule over humans for their own good and the good of mutants who’ve been discriminated against so badly.
I don’t believe in autie superiority, I don’t believe in NT superiority either, and I don’t want autistics to rule the world. But sometimes – sometimes I can relate to Magneto’s anger. His pain. And sometimes to how that anger and pain can fuel a hatred. I get sometimes wanting to lash out and stop people from hurting me before they get a chance to try. I get angry with anti-vaxxers who fear autism so much they take a calculated risk that could cause the death of theirs or other children just so long as their children can’t possibly turn out like me or with people who support eugenics when it comes to those who are autistic, or those that want autistics to be segregated away for the good of everyone else. I get angry with news reporters who insist on bringing up the question on if such-and-such mass murderer was autistic or not and on mentioning autistic victims’ struggles with their condition when crime is committed against them in a way to paint their attackers as second victims, or bring up that someone’s autistic in news stories where it isn’t even applicable. I get angry with sainted mommy bloggers who insist how hard it is for them to have an autistic child. I get angry with “Autism Speaks”. I get angry with the people who see my lack of qualifications because of the people who’d rather hinder my education than pay extra to help it – or see my diagnosis in multiple areas and then spend their time treating me as a child or whole meetings being wall-to-wall ableist.
And I hate those people. I try not to – hatred is an ugly emotion and no one deserves it – but I do. I hate those people and whenever I get hurt by them I want them to hurt in return. I want them to hurt on such a deep level as I am so that they can have some empathy for what they’re doing to me and others like me.
And then I track back.
Then I recognize that mostly the reason they are hurting me so badly is because they are damaged and hurt on some level too. That as much as I have difficulty sometimes in picking up on non-verbal cues as to when I’ve hurt someone or how my well-meaning actions did so – they are equally blind to when or how they hurt me. I can try explaining but sometimes they just don’t want to listen- don’t want to see – because it’s really hard to be confronted with when and how you’ve hurt someone. It destroys a little of your self image so you can try and protect yourself from it by ignoring it- closing your mind to it when you’re called on it.
So when I recognize that. That moment when I connect my humanity to theirs. That’s when I go back to being an X-Man. That’s the moment when I gather up what few spoons I have left – polish them off – and then try again. Because keeping going despite the hurt, it’s not something I can even stop myself doing. It’s built in now. I need to try and make the difference as much as I need the difference to be made.