How Society Forces Autistics to Become Inhibited & Passive
A “deleted scene” from my book Unmasking Autism: Discovering the New Faces of Neurodiversity
Eric, a Black queer parent in his forties had to spend years looking for a psychiatrist who would even entertain assessing him as Autistic.
He knew he wanted the potential legal protections that a diagnosis could afford him, particularly the option to take qualifying exams for graduate school in a quiet, private setting. He’d found test-taking environments to be completely destabilizing and distracting his entire life — so much so that he’d barely even gotten into his graduate program. Yet for all the exclusions he had repeatedly faced, Eric’s neurodiversity was something that white-dominated institutions around him always refused to see.
He tells me, “A former therapist said to me, trust me, if you were Autistic, you’d know by now. And I was telling him that I did know, I had known for a while, but I needed it recognized officially! You learn to get by because you have no support, then you are denied support because you’ve found a white-knuckled way to get by.”
When Eric looks back on his life, he sees the experiences of a marginalized and unheard Autistic everywhere. He has always been obsessed with horses, collects plastic horse toys, reads all about horse breeding, and goes to sleep each night by watching “stable tour” videos on YouTube. He was nearly kicked out of private school in his preteen years for refusing to wear his itchy, restrictive uniform and for having curly, voluminous Black hair that he fidgeted with, but which his white teachers saw as a “distraction.” He was open about his queerness in a matter-of-fact way his classmates found absolutely baffling to witness in the early 1990’s.
Teachers and peers did not know what to make of Eric, and so they kept their distance. Despite all this, no one flagged Eric as disabled and in need of accommodations and support.
“You’re one of the only Black kids at all-white Catholic high school and everything about you that’s out of place is just general weirdness or a sign you’re a nerd who yes, deserves to be there, but will never belong,” he explains. “I was exhausted trying to get them to…