I saw an article the other day that said that much has been made of the inventions of autistic people, but what has not been considered is the people who exist. And this is something worthy of consideration.
If you grew up in the era when I did, gender stereotyping was that boys didn’t cry, and girls looked pretty, and boys were supposed to be rough, and girls meek, and for many boys who didn’t fit these stereotypes, bullying could be vicious.
Two things that I remember from when I was seven, one of which had its genesis in an event from when I was five were a friend’s birthday party and a visit to my paternal grandparents. I remember attending a friend’s party and we went to the local football grounds because the host wanted to play football and I sat off to the side and talked to his sister. The fact that we were of the opposite sex had no impact on it.
When I was five, my mother gave me a book of short stories that she’d had when she was little, and my father offered to read to me. I remember seeing the story “Mary Jane, the Little Doll,” and my father said, “That’s a girl’s story. We’ll read a boy’s one.” My mother wouldn’t read me the story, either. Although, to be fair, she let me read her book “Heidi” that year. But anyway, I was at my grandparents’ house and my grandmother got out some dolls and kitchen toys and I was content playing with those, whilst my brother wanted to play with boys’ toys. I remember my father being astonished at the fact that when I went to kindergarten boys played in kitchen corner and dolly corner and girls played in block corner.
Many people a few years older than me reported that when they were at school they were punished and at worst, caned for playing with the opposite sex. Fortunately, those attitudes have changed.
Another incident I remember, and my mother was angry with me because I did this, was when I was in Year Four. Well, there were two incidents, actually. At this time, I felt wrong about my masculinity, and our typical mornings at school were first up, we’d go for a few laps of the oval, then, we’d come inside, and somebody would do a presentation, someone else would have to recite a poem, and then we’d sing some science songs (that was how I learnt that stars came in four colours, red, yellow, white and blue). One morning, the boys were sent out first, and a boy called out, “Hurry, everybody! We’re getting girl bombarded.” I replied, “So what?” Much to his disgust. I also hated playing games which were boys against girls. I remember we were playing noughts and crosses and the boys had the noughts and the girls the crosses and if you answered a question correctly, you placed a nought or cross on the chequered board. I let the girls win, and my mother told me I was stupid. What I could see, even at that age, was how society was against females. I could see that boy’s misogyny. Okay, he might be happily married with three daughters, today, for all I know.
I also saw how society was against males who were more sensitive types and how they were expected to “toughen up”. It’s not just women who are saying, “Enough is Enough!” It’s the more sensitive males who are saying it, too.
Many autistic males or AMAB as I was, are more sensitive types and the world would be a poorer place without autistic people in it. They say that autistics are the canaries in the coalmines, but maybe, just maybe, if we could paraphrase Atticus Finch and say, “Don’t shoot any blue jays, but let’s allow the canaries to become mockingbirds.” Atticus Finch’s line was meant to say that it’s wrong to persecute people who do good things. So, the world would lose some lovely people if autism didn’t exist.