Wednesday, June 2, 2021
Autism Answer: Getting Past The First Part
I'm suddenly seeing it more and more, I love that I'm seeing it more and more, and I can't wait till I'm not seeing it at all.
That's how I feel about the diversity and inclusion I see in shows and in print. Finally, there is more representation and inclusion for people I love. Autistic people, overweight people, older people, gay and trans and non-binary people, physically disabled people, black and brown people. Mixed groups and unusual relationships. I could go on.
Now, I have to be entirely honest. I'm fairly new to watching shows. I've always been a fan of movies and books, but I have generally avoided watching shows. Not because I don't think they're good but because I don't trust myself to nibble on them in moderation. However, in my love life at the moment we are having a blast watching shows and smooching between episodes. (Okay, sometimes we smooch during episodes, too. This is why shows are great! Unlike movies, you can smooch during the show - especially sitcoms! - and not miss out on any urgent or necessary plot points. Even with the real good shows where subtlety and sophisticated storytelling are employed, there's so many more hours of show to help you get caught up. So, smooch away!) So if this diversity and inclusion has been more of a gradual graduation and not so much of a fantastic splash, as it seems to me, then my observation will be old news to you. But I hope you'll permit me to appreciate it out loud anyway.
When I watched shows in my younger years, I rarely saw people that reminded me of the people in my family (my mom was a single mom with eight kids - six adopted, four with autism and other diagnosis that included fetal alcohol syndrome and mental retardation - three of my brothers are native American, mom is bisexual, a creative entrepreneur and has been diagnosed as "historically Asperger's") and if I did see someone with any similarity to folks in my family it was generally in the form of a character who never changed, was whittled down to a stereotype, and was not the main character of the show.
I think this is partly why it was so hard for me and almost everyone we met to believe my mom when she insisted my brothers were far more capable and complex than we allowed for. When she would beseech us to see them as so much more than a character who would never change and grow, we couldn't fathom where she got this assumption. She confused us by asking us not to see them as challenged but to instead see they had uncommon challenges. Because, yes, they had challenges. My youngest brother, Rye, ran with desperate speed and agility to wrap his little lips around hot tailpipes for a reason. Mom insisted if we cared enough we could help him by figuring out what that reason was in order to find a new way to give him what he needed while keeping him safer and his lips less blistered. I have no idea where she got this certainty, but I know she was right.
There are so many people in the world like the ones in my family. Yet, we rarely see them. They're not the most common, but they are common.
Lately when I watch shows and see commercials, when I see print ads and read stories, I notice how many more of the less common people there are. And in more sophisticated and complex ways, as people with more to them than only the part we would label. I love that!
It still feels a little bit forced, or too purposeful, sometimes. Like, maybe the characters are there merely to say "see, we put them there" or something. But that's partly because we aren't used to seeing it so much. Sure, some of it is likely pandering. But I think it is largely genuine.
The thing is, we have to get past this first part.
This first part where we make mistakes, where we notice it everywhere, where we struggle with our human nature to resist change while insisting everything needs to change, while we remember that a lot of people think diversity and inclusion is actually the wrong thing to do, and while we opine that we're doing it in the wrong way but struggle to agree on the right way. We have to get through this first part and get to the part where people are more willing to be who they are, to take their disabled loved ones to the store more often, to hold their same-sex spouses hand on the walking trail, to wear a bathing-suit in public regardless of thigh size or body hair or surgery scars.
I think once we get past the first part it will become like so many other things. Seeing ourselves represented we are more comfortable being ourselves, the public spaces become more accessible to the various disabilities and we meet more of our disabled neighbors, the husbands take their children to a park and so many people don't bother thinking "good for them" or "what is this world coming to" or things of that sort because we are past the first part.
I think it is deeply important to pay attention what we let ourselves get used to. People who have spent a life being abused are used to being abused. This is something worth changing. And being used to caring about and considering very few people who are disable or sexually diverse or not traditionally attractive is something worth changing.
And then one day, as it is with so many things, we'll be past the first part and onto the part where we see how it plays out. People and societies are always evolving so this is a never-ending gig. Paying attention. Making changes. Getting past the first part.
But, for the most part, I like what I'm seeing.
And I like looking forward to when I don't see it anymore.
Hugs, smiles, and love!!
Want to see a pretty cool award winning project where my mom, Dr. Lynette Louise ("The Brain Broad")
made us kids invited us kids to be actors and crew members for the pilot episode of her comedy series Living with Lynette? Well, lucky you! It's available for viewing on YouTube and Vimeo!