Reviews TV + Movies

Love On The Spectrum – Some Thoughts By An Autistic Queer Person

There I sat, stimming as we autistics call it. If you were to see me then you would probably do the same thing many people did before you – guess I’m an unapproachable person and move away. My self stimulatory behaviours, or stimming for short have a tendency to do that – I might be jumping flapping my hands around or biting the living hell out of a pen cap, some of us prefer to rock back and forth or smell certain things or feel certain things or do any of the other myriad of activities that give us sensory stimulation. Us Autistics have a very close relationship with sensory stimuli, whether it is too much or too little we tend to have a problem with it. We come out as weird in this world that fails to understand us and our ways, maybe that works both ways, with us not able to understand a lot of the ways the world works – like how to make friends or how to behave on a date.

Coming to dates, that’s exactly what I was watching – a Netflix series called “love on the spectrum” showcasing Autistic people dating other Autistics. It was definitely a revealing look into a world unseen by most but too uncomfortably familiar to the Autistics. It showed the dating lives of autistic people – something a lot of people (sometimes even ourselves) think is impossible. The show showed dating lives of people with varying levels of need. There is a popular saying in the Autistic community that if you have met one Autistic you have met one Autistic, as Autism presents itself differently in every individual. The same can be said about our dating lives – each is different from the other. Ours is a spectrum that is more complex than can be approximated on to one axis of a graph.

Coming to what the show did well, I guess what it did give us was good representations in the media – something we are in dire need of, might I say with more urgency than queer representation on the screen. Most times when autistic people are shown in the screen, it is in deeply offensive, degrading way just like the society thinks about us – a bunch of weirdos who just can’t fit in, a burden to our families and something that should be eradicated from the face of this planet – something that is even done by our “saviours” (look up the video “I am Autism” on YouTube and see for yourself). The show gives a perspective on how the needs of every autistic individual is different – how we, in our “rigid” “structured” ways try to piece out something that many of us feel is from another planet. Another thing I think the show did was to show that queer Autistics exist – something a lot of queer folks have trouble wrapping their head around. There has been this false narrative that if an Autistic person is queer, they are asexual (Ace Autistics do exist but not all queer Autistics are Aces) and it needs to go away. It also shows how differently us Autistics perceive different things in relationships – like how many of us want a stable permanent relationship – this arises not from heteronormativity but from some of our inherent inability to deal with change, which is a constant thing in many short term relationships as is common with many queer relationships. We want relationships that can give us a break from the overload that the neurotypical world forces on to us. I also like the portrayal of Autistic couples who have stood the test of time and reassures you to keep looking for that one person.

Here are some of the things I did not like in the show. For one, I did not like the way the neurotypicals were too imposing on the Autistics (as is ever the case). While I do agree that a relationship therapist can be helpful, I do not think they should stop an autistic person from doing what they do to comfort themselves, something that is a carry forward from the way society treats autistics like the horrible ABA (Applied Behavioural Analysis) techniques used to make us comply with the neurotypical way of life (The YouTuber Stephanie Bethany did a very good expose’ on it. Do check out that video. She’s Autistic as well so you will hear the autistic perspective and not the narratives of our “saviours” which often drowns our voices). I would also have liked more queer representation,  in the show as more fraction of Autistics identify with non cis-heterosexual identities than in the neurotypical crowd. I also would like there to be trans people in there as trans Autistic lives matter. I also wonder what it would have been to include neurotypicals into the mix (Although from personal experience, I do not wish it on any Autistic person. But who knows… maybe there are nice neurotypicals out there who accommodate us and all our needs).

In conclusion, do I recommend the show? Well, yes. Do give it a watch. It is one of the more accurate representation of our lives seen on screen I have found were Autistic people are allowed to speak for ourselves. But do not consider our stories limited to just these. A fellow Autistic said in the show that 95% of us remain alone.(Me and a few autistic queer friends tried to find the source of this but was unable to find it. The closest we found was a study and that said just 31% of Autistic people ever had a partner and only 9% were married, compared to neurotypicals were the marriage rate was 50%. On the person’s defence, they did say they were not sure about it) It is not that we don’t crave for the same love and affection that the neurotypicals do, sometimes we feel it even more than you. To my fellow neurotypical (Autistic with ADHD, whatever it may be) on the pursuit of love, I want to say I feel your struggle. The neurotypicals tend on average not to care much about our lives, be they queer or otherwise. But the courage that we have to exist every single day is something I feel they can never achieve. In spite of the glaring statistic in front of us, we keep on hoping bravely for companionship. We keep marching bravely forward even though there are only few hands to hold on the way.

I think it is time the able bodied able minded queers take a hard look at what they are doing to us queers with disabilities. And many of us without the caste-class privilege don’t even get our voices out and a lot of us are non verbal and can’t communicate through regular means. Queer liberation doesn’t mean shit till it stands for liberation of ALL queers. Amplify disabled voices. Our voices deserve centre stage and we should have more than autism forums on the internet and support groups to raise our voices.

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Abigail Silversmith Irfan is an undergraduate student, majoring in physics chemistry and math. She writes poems, does mountain biking and tries to engage in political dialogues about being queer whenever she can. She is trans and goes by she/her pronouns.

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