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QuinnPRK
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10 May 2016, 6:16 pm


There’s a term I’ve used a few times in my columns, “The Mask.” It’s something central to the autistic identity, something understood in the LGBTQ movement, commonly known as ‘The Closet,’ and a part of black culture in America, often described as ‘Acting White,’ but not discussed enough in the world of autism. People need to understand autism as an Identity, inseparable from someone’s personhood, and understanding the mask is one of several keys to understanding autistic people, the autistic struggle, and the self advocacy movement. In short, the mask is what it means to be autistic. What is “The ...



Fnord
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10 May 2016, 6:42 pm

Oh, puh-leez ... :roll:

Having autism does not define my identity any more than does having dandruff.


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mikeman7918
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10 May 2016, 9:12 pm

Fnord wrote:
Oh, puh-leez ... :roll:

Having autism does not define my identity any more than does having dandruff.

Except that autism effects how your brain works, and how your brain works determines your personality and identity. Autism may not be the only thing defining who I am but it is a big factor, it's the reason I am so quiet, introverted, obsessive, and overall strange. You can't say the same about dandruff.

In response to the OP, that article looks interesting and I am reading it now.


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10 May 2016, 10:23 pm

The mask that I show to the world is that of a North American employee dressed in professional colours and attire who doesn't wear a German helmet. It means the difference between having a job and being unemployed. I can wear any type of head dress and colours I want during my free time. I share a mask to the suburban world when I visit my parents by keeping the German colours at home and in my area and wearing more peaceful colours when I go to visit my mum. I also Sweet Pea my mum when I'm visiting with my parents.


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10 May 2016, 10:58 pm

Good column.

I think this whole masking business makes it difficult to socialise with NTs, because I have to lie to them.



mikeman7918
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10 May 2016, 11:51 pm

I have read it and it's quite good. It sums up pretty well why I tend to keep my diagnosis between my family, close friends, and I.


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Edenthiel
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11 May 2016, 12:50 am

Fnord wrote:
Oh, puh-leez ... :roll:

Having autism does not define my identity any more than does having dandruff.


Good for you! So, would you say it has had little to no effect on your daily life then, or that you are dead inside*? Also, moderate dandruff actually does affect how people present to the world around them if they are at all self conscious about it. I feel I have to ask; if being autistic is not a part of who you are and how you relate to the world at large, what is included in your identity? And while you may not feel that autism defines your identity in any part, does that necessarily then have to apply to everyone else, too?



*By that colloquialism I mean "repressed or emotionally unavailable, even to yourself", not that your organs are no longer functioning!


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yourkiddingme3
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11 May 2016, 8:22 am

Just joined this website today, and your article is the first I read. Your write beautifully. (Which is not to say I couldn't edit your post to make it tighter.)

I'm really, really sorry I'm four decades older than you. Had I met you at Yale in the early seventies, I would have fallen in love.

Nowadays, having fledged one closer-to-neurotypical son and one ADHD trans daughter, I just want to mother you. Sigh. Please don't hold it against me.

In my day, "high-functioning" autistic were just considered jerks or c****. We had no diagnoses, and we didn't know why people reacted to us the way they did. Hell, I didn't have a formal diagnosis until last week, and am on a steep learning curve.

Your article was impressive for many reasons, but the thing I liked most was your conclusion: sometimes we must adapt, and sometimes the neurotypical must adapt. The trick, of course, is that we cannot expect them to adapt if they don't know who we are.

As I dip into online autism culture, "The Art of Autism" website has posted a brief article you may find useful on when and how to adapt in the work environment, entitled "Workplace Tips for Aspies."

Now I'm going to read the rest of your articles. :)



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11 May 2016, 8:32 am

Edenthiel wrote:
... would you say it has had little to no effect on your daily life then, or that you are dead inside*?
Neither.

Edenthiel wrote:
... moderate dandruff actually does affect how people present to the world around them if they are at all self conscious about it.
Does your dandruff define you? How about the color of the polish on your nails? Do you let your shoes and clothes define you?

Edenthiel wrote:
... if being autistic is not a part of who you are and how you relate to the world at large, what is included in your identity?
I did not say that autism is not part of who I am, I said that is does not define me any more than does having dandruff. Please pay attention! Autism is just one facet of my being; it is not the dominant facet, therefor, it does not define who I am any more than any other facet.

Edenthiel wrote:
And while you may not feel that autism defines your identity in any part...
I did not say that, either. Please pay attention!

People who want to make autism their be-all and do-all can go right ahead and change their names to "Autism", for all I care - let them allow autism to dominate and define them. I'm going to actively keep developing a personality (an "identity") that is dominated by my accomplishments as an electrical engineer, a musician, a husband, a father, and a grandfather.


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goatfish57
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11 May 2016, 10:40 am

There is a Japanese proverb that says, "The nail that sticks out will be hammered."

Everyone wears many masks. That is what we must do to survive in our world. It is not a prison or shackle, it is a tool to be used when necessary. Just imagine, you are in ISIL controlled Syria. Without your mask, you will be dead.

Be grateful that you live in a modern free society that permits you to let your freak flag fly. I think it is great. But, do not confuse it with a basic human right. Being able to live without a mask is a gift

For me, learning and fashioning appropriate masks is a difficult task. I have failed at it for most of my life. I envy people who can adapt to their surroundings and succeed. The mask is not your identity, just a means to get along in society.



Last edited by goatfish57 on 11 May 2016, 10:43 am, edited 1 time in total.

Ettina
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11 May 2016, 10:41 am

Fnord wrote:
People who want to make autism their be-all and do-all can go right ahead and change their names to "Autism", for all I care - let them allow autism to dominate and define them. I'm going to actively keep developing a personality (an "identity") that is dominated by my accomplishments as an electrical engineer, a musician, a husband, a father, and a grandfather.


You listed yourself as being an electrical engineer, a musician, a husband, a father and a grandfather. If you can define yourself as all of those things at once, why can't you define yourself as autistic too? Why do you think autism has to be either 'so defining you're basically named Autism' or else 'no more defining than dandruff', and yet you don't feel the same way about being an electrical engineer, a musician, a father or a grandfather?



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11 May 2016, 11:29 am

Autism is not that central to me as a person.
I and probably others who know me would say that my traits and behaviors are just me.
I don't mask, and don't relate to the article.
Possibly this is the reason I don't read or listen to other people's autism stories on youtube or blogs or books.
The more big deal someone makes of autism as their identity, the less I relate to them.


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11 May 2016, 11:39 am

goatfish57 wrote:
There is a Japanese proverb that says, "The nail that sticks out will be hammered."


Yeah I've pretty much proven this experimentally, although I don't have a proper write up of the experiments.


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yourkiddingme3
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11 May 2016, 11:49 am

There is an old philosophy joke about identity that might be on point here:

A jock takes an intro philosophy seminar to satisfy a distribution requirement, and the first class covers the much-debated topic, "what is identity, what is the self, are we the same self yesterday as tomorrow?" The professor covers theories like: there is a "soul" that contains the "essence" of each person's identity, regardless of that person's actions; there is no "essence" of a person, there is only the person's actions; there is a genotype that expresses itself in a limited range of phenotypes; the idea of a "person" is illusion, we are all one, distinguished only by the degree to which we fail to recognize that fact, etc.

The jock is stunned. He can't stop thinking about these competing theories; he loses all confidence in his sense of "self." He can't sleep. He walks the city streets. Finally, around midnight, the jock tracks down the professor's home address and knocks on his door.

Bleary-eyed in his night-clothes, the professor opens his door.

"Who am I? Damn you, who am I?" screams the jock.

The professor replies, "Who wants to know?"


So, maybe the arguments on this post could use some context: Under what circumstances, if any, do each of you believe that your "autism" (itself just a collection/cluster of traits that psychiatrists define and redefine in their DSMs for purposes of helping unhappy people adjust to "naive reality") is important to, FREX: (i) your day to day functioning in the world; (ii) your self-perception; (iii) the perceptions of others who have an impact on you (like hiring managers, spouses, sports team members, grant money providers, admissions officers).

BTW, I now understand that neurotypicals (if not everyone) perceive my efforts to be helpful as plain old bossiness. Oh well. Too late for this new understanding to make a difference in my career or marriage. :)



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11 May 2016, 11:49 am

Ettina wrote:
Fnord wrote:
People who want to make autism their be-all and do-all can go right ahead and change their names to "Autism", for all I care - let them allow autism to dominate and define them. I'm going to actively keep developing a personality (an "identity") that is dominated by my accomplishments as an electrical engineer, a musician, a husband, a father, and a grandfather.


You listed yourself as being an electrical engineer, a musician, a husband, a father and a grandfather. If you can define yourself as all of those things at once, why can't you define yourself as autistic too? Why do you think autism has to be either 'so defining you're basically named Autism' or else 'no more defining than dandruff', and yet you don't feel the same way about being an electrical engineer, a musician, a father or a grandfather?


I was just going to ask that question. It's not that black and white. I identify as a contributor to my community, an artist, a Canadian, a German and autistic. Autism Speaks does not speak for me. I also do not allow autism to dominate me and control me. I've developed a personality that includes everything that I've described in my identity sentence. I doubt that anyone on WP wants to make their autism their do all and be all. Everyone on WP that I've known define themselves by their qualities and also their autism. Things aren't as black and white as they were in the 50s. I'm also not going to call myself Autism.


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