Polly's pages (aka 'Donna Williams')

Ever the arty Autie

ASD, gender and sexuality on the fringe.

July29

Solaris by autistic artist, Donna Williams Many parents worry about My Space, wondering what kind of people they may meet there. I started a My Space page and began to find some of the very broad social diversity of people who identify themselves as Autistic. ย ย  Adrianna, someone bisexual, transgender and into fetish, was one of them. I decided to interview her on how she envisioned that fitted in with ASD.

DONNA:
Adrianna, were you formally diagnosed with ASD? How do you reconcile being outside of the expected stereotypes? Have you found people then question your diagnosis?

ADRIANNA:
I really…don’t know! As a toddler, I exhibited many signs of autism, like poverty of speech and sensory overload. I reached most developmental milestones on time, though, and my verbal skills were pronounced, when I used them! I had a penchant for chasing people with forks and knives. My parents solved that problem by putting the silverware into a tupperware container with a lid that I could not pry open. As I got older, I learned the trouble with that behavior. An omen, maybe? ๐Ÿ™‚

DONNA:
I think a lot of non-autistic kids have late speech and some emotionally extreme kids have more full on meltdowns than others, so I don’t know that that’s particularly autistic. Of course, I’m biased, I’ve worked with over 600 people on the spectrum, probably 3/4 of them kids and most at the more severe-moderate end of the spectrum.

ADRIANNA:
I went into special education and had to stay in kindergarten for two years. I also had to attend a special school during the summer for those two years, and was still in special education for the first two years of elementary school. Every one of the special teachers I have had was really nice, and the activities were really fun.

DONNA:
I think there are a whole range of developmentally different kids and not all with have ASD. But there’s also autistic the adjective and autistic the condition and I think some who really strongly fit the adjective don’t fit the condition and vice versa.

ADRIANNA:
I believe they suspected autism, but it took my parents 11 years to admit to me that I was autistic. My father told me on my sixteenth birthday, and his exact words were, “I am probably the only person in the world who knows you are autistic.” I already knew about my autism, because one of my major interests was autism! Most people I know know about autism, and all agree that I have Aspie traits. My mother and sister still deny it all. To this day, I do not know what I was formally diagnosed as besides speech and language disordered. Asperger’s was only just added to the DSM-IV when I was being evaluated. People have questioned my diagnosis because I could communicate very well, and did not injure myself.

Early in life, I learned perceptions did not matter, so I did not worry about the prejudices of others. I was, starting in first grade, discussing adult topics with adult language exhibiting adult behavior with adults. I am the only stark raving liberal in a family of fairly conservative people. I think early on, people decided to cast out labels when it came to me, as I became known to do the unexpected and even the downright outrageous.

DONNA:
People on the spectrum have all kinds of personality traits and of the 16 main recognised ones, some traits would make someone appear and respond more ‘autistically’ than others (ie autistic the adjective here). One of those is the idiosyncratic personality trait, which fears forced conformity, is comforted by non-conformity and individuality and doesn’t care much for noticing so called ‘normality’.

I know there’s a reasonably high incidence of transsexual and transgender people on the spectrum. Where do you fit in that?
ADRIANNA:
To begin, I am technically androgynous. Both physically and mentally, I have a wide range of both male and female characteristics and interests of varying intensities, although my brain is more masculine than feminine. Some days I feel butch, others femme, and others still both, and I dress and act accordingly. Looking at me, you can tell I am a woman, but when I am in drag, it is much more difficult to tell!

Admittedly, I do not know anyone else on the autism spectrum who has gender issues. Many people on the autism sepctrum, whether they are girls with a passion for science, or boys who are not into sports, may be harrassed for not behaving properly for their gender. If that pained them, as it probably did, maybe they would find it easy to be sympathetic to those with true gender identity issues. Oppressed tend to relate to other oppressed, once they can communicate with each other. Overall, I would be much more comfortable talking to an ASD-person about my gender identity issues than to non-autistic people.

DONNA:
I don’t know, I’ve met wonderful open minded non-auties and fiercely closed minded judgemental autie-spectrum people. I’m so tired of the assumptions that all folks in a group are x, y, z.

ADRIANNA:
Personally, I claim membership to several subcultures; Goth, rave, emo, GLBT, autistic, and fetish factions. Different groups have a lot of things that I want or need. Everyone is also welcome to approach me; I do not only associate with people who are like myself.
So I am not just a member of one group, and there are a lot of things about me you could not pin in *any* group. I know no other hard-core liberal, flute-playing, science geek, teenage fetish queens! There is only one me, or anything like me, and I want to keep it that way. ๐Ÿ™‚

Various parts of me can fit into so many places, and other parts nowhere, and the result is an entire package is somone that can fit most places, and at the same time nowhere. I like that, too.

DONNA:
You are bisexual and there’s as many stereotypes about that as there are about ASD. Some bisexual folk maintain both straight and gay relationships/liasons within the same time frames. Others are monogamous, happy to be in either an exclusively straight or gay relationship. Where are you in that mix?

ADRIANNA:
Honestly I have never had a relationship, and am not actively seeking one. I tend not to bother with relationships because I cannot connect with most people. All bisexual means is that you are capable of being attracted to both sexes. It does not say anything about how they act those desires out. But if the right person just happens to come along, with whom I am compatible, and we are into most of the same things when it comes to sex, sure, I am open to it. Marriage and children would be way too much stimulation for this loner, so I will just stick to helping others and their loved ones. But do love pets and plan to have some!
I am fairly equally attracted to both, as well as those who are neither. I could easily see myself dating members of both sexes, and I think people can be involved with more than one person at once. Who can get everything they want out of just one person?

My issue is with deception. Otherwise, if everyone is content with the arrangement, then enjoy! Relationships are a lot of work for me, so I simply couldn’t manage more than one relationship at once. And yes, I think this could apply to those who are married, too. Theoretically, we could have sex with anyone, but that does not mean we will, although the fact is it does double your chances of finding a mate, triples if you count the genderqueers.
DONNA:
Sensuality, sexuality, playfulness, fun, adventure, mean different things to different people. Many people with ASD don’t ‘get’ the whole social hierarchy thing and struggle to hold enough processing of a simultaneous sense of self and other to get to grips with sex let alone hierarchy role plays. You are pretty open about being into these role plays. How do you feel this interacts with your Asperger’s?

ADRIANNA:
Depression, anxiety, anger, and mistrust came from interactions with people who did not understand me and did not want to. Having a poorly understood chronic illness and being an Aspie made escape into fantasy extremely attractive.

I loved Harry Potter, despite the fact that I had a really hard time with it at first, until I had people explain it to me and got to see the movie three years later.ย  I immediately fell in love with all of the evil characters, namely Lord Voldemort, the Malfoys and Bellatrix Lestrange. One thing that has always been true for me was that I was never what the world wanted me to be. Evil characters were the most like me in how they did not fit, their anger and desire to shun the light of day. They were real to me. Fetish gave me a chance to be these characters for a while, with consent and precaution.
DONNA:
Sometimes I think those who have grown up without immediate threat from evil are then drawn to the entertainment of it. My view is that those who’ve been victim of it, then shun it. Those drawn to power may have traits which predispose them to being excited by such things. We either have those personality traits or we don’t. It’s not that we’re all in denial, or afraid, some of us, it just ain’t our thing.

ADRIANNA:
About hierarchy: If I am feeling dominant, it is because I have a strong desire to be a caretaker, or to have control over something in my life. If I am feeling submissive, it is because I feel neglected, or that I have been run ragged, and I need someone to take care of me. The long and short of it? Fetish is something I do in private, with willing adult participants. It does not interfere with my ability to relate to others in a peaceful, caring way.

DONNA:
Do you think your interest in fetish is a phase, a hobby, and unrelated to your aspirations?

ADRIANNA:
I plan to attend college in fall of 2008. Right now, I am looking at clinical research, and I am willing to research just about anything, but have a penchant for the social sciences, drugs, and toxicology. One thing I definitely hope I will have the opportunity to study sexuality, particularly as it pertains to fetishes. Music is another major interest of mine, and I seek to go to college, mostly to focus on flute, piano, and vocal performance, and learn to play some more instruments.
I already subscribe to newsletters from a number of different organizations, and write letters and sign petitions for a litany of causes, so I hope this will lead me to a life of lobbying and advocacy. Currently I am currently working on a lot of different projects, mostly with art, writing, and music, but also some science and invention projects.
Fetish is a part of my aspirations but there is a lot more to me. To understand, to love, life, health, peace, justice, freedom, to raise up rather than bring down…those are all very important to me, and I do not keep that secret.

DONNA:
You are right, none of us are any one part. We are many things. Like I’m a consultant and professional in that job. But I’m also a wacky Dag who loves to laugh and be silly. I’m an artist with a deep aesthetic sense but I’m also a fierce pragmatist. I’m a strong egalitarian but I believe in anthropological explorations of worlds which may not seem as egalitarian as my I see my own.

Thank you for your honesty and trust.

Donna Williams *)
author, artist, screenwriter, composer.

Ever the arty Autie.
http://www.aspinauts.com

http://www.donnawilliams.net
http://www.auties.org

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