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Oh noes! A bisexual kid with a disability!!!

February 10, 2012

I seem to be having one of those days where writing is kinda-sorta working. I was going through archives at one blog, trying to find another post where somebody else mentioned in comments that they seemed to have on-or-off settings with their sexuality, and ran across a comment on a different post that got me writing ranty e-mails to Mr. U again. (I swear, sometimes he is probably sorry to check his mail. ;)) But, both to spare him the direct ranting and because it touches on several themes I’ve talked about here before, I thought I would modify it slightly and turn it into a post instead.

Note: This is another case where my concern is more with the societal themes this example illustrates, than with the specific example. And my “wrap words around ideas” module is still not working so well today–so, although I have not tried to insult anyone besides the obvious people who think other people’s sexual orientations are any of their business, I actually hesitated to post because of possible unspotted brain farts and poorly chosen words/phrasing. The “disrespect or disability?” thing keeps me quieter a lot.

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From what I’ve seen, this guy gets lots of weird “ask the Great Aspie Oracle” questions in comments (glad I haven’t so far here *crossing fingers*), but this one is a pretty good example of why I sometimes despair for humanity. And why I’m glad the Loud Hands Project has gotten rolling, besides It Gets Better/Make It Better (my preference in a lot of ways). Again, shame I haven’t been able to do much to help with that so far.

But, the comment:

My 12 year old daughter has mild Asperger’s. She told me yesterday that she’s bisexual. Is sexual orientation an issue in general for aspies? Is this possibly just a phase/obsession or more likely a long-term issue? She told a friend who was uncomfortable and told an adult who then told me. She has few friends and I’m afraid this revelation may have ruined this and associated friendships. Help!

I have trouble unpacking all the things that are WRONG here–and wrong in an all-too-fucking-common way. Funny, we were just talking about the prevalence of biphobia[Directed at Mr. U]

Non-het sexual orientation is an “issue” which will hopefully change. (Sometimes it does, for some people–like just about anything else, with time and life experience–but that is none of their parents’ business anyway, and it may change into anything.) It may have something to do with the “mild” Asperger’s (also most likely a disturbing “long-term issue” to someone who slaps on descriptors like that, IME). No indignation at the friend’s betrayal of confidence and the other adult’s reaction to this dirty little secret, but concern that maybe the kid has alienated people with talking about her “issue”. Getting all xenophobically uncomfortable and ostracizing a kid is a totally reasonable reaction to hearing something like that–and having what few “friends” you might be able to hang onto is so much more important than being honest about who you are. And maybe all of this horribleness can be somehow fixed with advice from some random blogger. It’s worth asking random bloggers about your child’s sexual orientation, in the first place–because obviously especially a disabled kid can’t possibly figure this out for herself. Especially if maybe you can blame the whole thing on her disability.

This went all over me more than it might have otherwise, with having been outed to my mother by a friend when I was 18–and then gotten hostile and outright nasty mental health concern trolling with threats of forced “treatment” rather than anything like acceptance. Very specifically from being a “confused” what I then thought of as bi person.* (The “confused” bit is projection–because you’re confusing them by not fitting neatly into their little mental boxes–but these kinds of reactions can help make somebody confused and, erm, suicidally depressed over the longer term. Ask me how I know.) Terrible affliction, eh? And terrible that anybody would even talk about something like that. BTW, I ended up having to do some really bad CYA lying about that being a joke, hahaha, of course I’m not horribly psychologically twisted like that, to keep from maybe getting chucked into a psych unit–based on making someone uncomfortable and the projection from that. (That kind of intolerant response wasn’t because I was bi, per se, you see–which would mean she was an intolerant person–but because my own personal craziness-which-needs-treated made me think I might be something that doesn’t really exist. Yep.)

AFAICT, the blogger was trying to be too polite in his response, and that also irritated me. (With the “she might not know what she’s talking about at that age, and it might indeed be a phase” themes.) Verging on tolerating intolerance? (I hesitated to mention the response at all, not wanting to look like I’m trying to start any kind of conflict. But, these are also some common and not-so-helpful societal themes.) In part:

It’s probably more likely that she’s simply describing how she relates to people or who she finds attractive.

I guess it’s probably more likely to be a phase but there are quite a few bisexual aspies around. It’s just to early to be concerned yet.

And sexual orientation is what else, then? And it’s somehow appropriate to be concerned later on? OK.

What kind of message does this whole discussion send a 12-year-old who has apparently not totally learned yet what kind of response being honest will get you sometimes? (And we’re right back around to the learned social anxiety/PTSD theme…) And who is trying hard to come to terms with her sexuality; invalidation based on age is going to help?  To be fair, I can totally get behind the ‘probably a good thing to just “accept and move on”‘ bit, though am not sure about tying that to “[p]rovided that she’s not sexually active”. (Which seems a slightly different topic, regardless of orientation.)

My own brief, rather general take, while I’m on the soapbox: Yeah, there really do seem to be a lot of openly assortedly queer, gender variant, and asexual people on the spectrum. It’s hard to tell whether this is from actually a higher rate–with much insulting catastrophizing often involving wonky hormone hypotheses from bigoted concern troll non-autistic people–or mostly a “people think I’m weird enough already; in for a penny, in for a pound!” effect.

Not to mention my own speculations about some socialization just not taking so well sometimes, especially looking at the number of fellow nonbinary people with regard to both gender and sexuality. (Not dissing people who do/can identify within that binary, of course; it just does not work for everybody.) Certain social constructions can look kind of threadbare sometimes, with those good old “social deficits”. Not surprisingly, the “How reasonable is it to expect a person to pretend to be someone/something they’re not, in any respect?! Damned if I’m going to continue trying, when it doesn’t even keep me from getting treated like shit” theme is very, very common among the people actually directly affected that I know. Including myself, yeah.

The age theme reminds me of one interesting post I found a few days ago, through Natalie Reed:

Maybe You Should Never Transition: On The Four Cisnormative Corridors Of Denial, at Cisnormativity.

We are seeing the emergence of a new variation on an old, cissexist theme: “No, it’s not a good time for you to transition. This is going to be so hard on us. Oh won’t you wait or reconsider this choice for us normal people?”

With this sentiment now being openly directed at trans people during their childhood — now that trans children have been magically made ‘real’ within the cisnormative imagination — it is finally possible now to reveal to cis people plainly that saying, “Maybe you shouldn’t transition right now,” to a trans person is a message which does occur at every age and at every turn.

Their subtext is plain and unambiguous to nearly every trans person: “Maybe you should never transition.”

Probably thanks to unusual body awareness (an aha! post I have kept meaning to get around to commenting more about), I have not personally experienced much in the way of physical dysphoria that would make me need to transition in ways that most people consider horribly drastic, disconcerting at some deep levels, and thus to be discouraged/obstructed at all cost. (Other than keeping coming back to the idea of top surgery.) The closest I have come is an internalized version of “you need to let other people’s (often imagined) wishes and expectations override your own in figuring out how to make peace with how you express/present your gender in the world, as a married person fast approaching middle age”. Annoying as hell sometimes, but not actively dangerous.

But, though it is not the same in many ways and in most of the details–and I do not want to either conflate or hijack–similar “you can’t possibly know what’s good for you, or who you even are” themes apply to being publicly queer in some way, which vary through the different stages of a person’s life. But, that resistance is also always there. Kids can’t possibly even know what their sexual orientation might be, and we can always hope that any orientation they express that makes us uncomfortable and might “attract” derision and abuse from other people (always a good excuse!) is just a phase they’ll grow out of to become Normal. That’s before you even throw any kind of other “deviation”–such as disability–with the attached value judgments, into the picture.

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* Now I prefer to describe it as multisexual, with fewer binary assumptions built in. Thanks to Savannah for pointing the term out on a mailing list; “pan” definitely did not fit, either, but–much like multiracial–that just about seems to cover being attracted to people of multiple, but not all, genders as well as any label is going to fit.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. February 11, 2012 7:13 am

    Hi, as a bi/pansexual autistic person I think that comment is terrible and the reply too, I feel bad thinking about how that girl, betrayed and having her sexuality denied and treated as a problem.
    I feel suicidal at times because I am not accepted as bisexual and the only times I talked about it I received the it’s just a phase comments and you can’t know until you date a man, it was an ignored subject and hidden, it made me confused, I am used to having my perceptions denied but I can’t deal with that.
    I don’t speak about this with anyone and it’s terrible.
    People must think that there is a normal sexuality and everything else is a problem and parents must hope for their children to not stay on this phase, if you put disability together things get more complicated because disabled people are not sexual and if we can be normal enough for that we must be hetero, something must be seriously wrong if a PWD is not heterosexual. (Ñot saying that being asexual is anormal, just that it’s the expected for PWD, some of us are and some of are not)

    I have no idea what mild asperger is, it feels like saying that she is almost normal, just a little bit of asperger that is the problem.

  2. urocyon permalink*
    February 16, 2012 8:40 pm

    A post about an excellent report from BiUK in association with Open University, which I ran across just a couple of hours ago:
    https://plus.google.com/u/0/117558002753853333721/posts/Ngv9PvTEnHF

    Direct link to the report:
    http://www.bisexualindex.org.uk/index.php/TheBisexualityReport

    I was also less than surprised to see in there, in the context of mental health concern trolling:

    Research has also found bisexual people to have negative experiences with health professionals, both in the wider context of LBGT experience120, and in particular. For example, one US study found that over a quarter of therapists seen by bisexual clients erroneously assumed that sexual identity was relevant to the goal of therapy when the client didn’t agree, and around a sixth saw bisexuality as being part of an illness. 7% attempted conversion to heterosexuality and 4% to being lesbian or gay121. Many therapists were openly uncomfortable about bisexuality. The UK Mind study cited above suggests that the situation may well be similar in the UK. It found that a third of bisexual men reported that health professionals had made a link between their sexuality and a mental health problem122.

    While I’m not going to lie about it if directly asked, I usually see no reason for my sexual orientation to even come up outside of certain contexts. Some of the attitudes and assumptions there, and the crap people feel entitled to say… *sigh*

  3. February 20, 2012 3:29 pm

    This isn’t relevant to this particular blog post, but i wanted to let you know about it and as i couldn’t find a contact email for you, i thought leaving a comment here seemed the most plausible way to reach you…

    Call for Papers: Anarchism and Disability panel at Anarchist Studies Network conference, Loughborough, UK, 3-5 September 2012 http://is.gd/PMmcGw

    • urocyon permalink*
      February 20, 2012 6:22 pm

      Thanks for the pointer, and for thinking of me with that. :) And glad to hear from you and see you post again. (Though I certainly understand there are tons of complicated reasons this just doesn’t happen sometimes. :-|) While I do have your feed in Google Reader, I just haven’t had the spoons to keep up with it very much lately; I’d have probably seen the post eventually, but it may have been a while!

      It’s an important topic that needs a lot more attention, and I’m definitely interested in helping with that if I can. With any luck, I’ll be able to submit something, even if calls for papers are a tad intimidating when the “wrap words around ideas” module is working better than it has been lately. ;) And, hopefully by the time the conference rolls around, it will be easier to maybe check it out anyway. I wasn’t even aware the ASN existed, and their site looks very interesting.

  4. May 11, 2012 2:42 am

    The business about “she doesn’t know what she’s saying” and “OMG she’s going to lose friends if she doesn’t shut up about thinking she’s bisexual!” really made me sad. I waited years after I knew I was … not heterosexual (didn’t know I was bi yet, thought I was a lesbian) to tell my mom, because I didn’t think she’d believe me if I didn’t have lots and lots of evidence for it. If the girl’s mom doesn’t take her seriously when she tries to reveal something important about herself, she might well choose not to reveal other important things about herself.

    • urocyon permalink*
      May 11, 2012 4:58 pm

      Exactly. :( That was probably what bothered me the most about the mother’s response; it also suggests a pattern of just not taking the girl’s concerns seriously. And that is a really important topic.

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