Slow On The Uptake

“What do you think ‘boys will be boys’ means if men are so good at neutralising their hormones? It’s not the convenient alibi for sexual assault that so many people are so desperate for it to mean. Do you know what ‘boys will be boys’ means? It means we are not preparing our boys for the real world. It means we know. We know that boys are at the mercy of their hormones. We’re just culturally incapable of holding them accountable for their actions, so we hold women accountable.”

Hannah Gadsby

I just watched both Nanette and Douglas on Netflix yesterday, and I couldn’t stop posting quotes from them on my Facebook page because although they were both technically comedy sketches, the subjects that Hannah Gadsby touched upon were super important & the way she brought these matters up was truly masterfully done. She helped me to better understand perspectives I never thought I’d really get on any substantial level because I didn’t relate to them by putting them into contexts & phrasings that made sense to me. Sure, I’ll never fully understand the things that I don’t personally experience, but at least now I can empathise & know why these subjects are so meaningful to others who do experience them more than I ever could before. I’m grateful for that.

The quote above is the best explanation of the patriarchy, misogyny, and feminism that I’ve ever heard because it caused me to have a paradigm shift about subjects that no matter how much I’d tried to self-educate on, no matter how much those I knew (or didn’t know) tried to explain things to me so I could finally “get it” on a deeper level, I never really could. I intellectually understood on the surface level what these things were, and could acknowledge that I’d experienced a little bit of them first hand, but I struggled to understand why certain things would set people off the way they would. After watching these comedy sketches, however, I feel like I am actually, finally, starting to understand now in a way I never really did before due to being transmasculine non-binary & autistic, so not only have I always been pretty out of touch with most sociocultural norms/systems, I don’t even perceive things through a female lens despite what I look like & how I’m treated by others. I can’t fathom what it feels like to be female any more than a cisman can.

What I just want people to know, however, is that I’m not intentionally being insensitive when I seem to dismiss certain subjects. It’s that I literally don’t see/experience the things that are being discussed, so I straight up just don’t understand what people are talking about. It’s like if you saw a pink elephant and started talking about it to me, but I couldn’t see the elephant myself. I’d be incredibly lost & confused and not be able to really relate or participate in the conversation at all. This has happened time & time again over the course of my life and caused me to experience a great deal of confusion and distress because I didn’t know that I wasn’t able to see/understand the thing that was being talked about. I really want people to understand that if it seems like I’m ever dismissing, invalidating, or responding in a way that seems like I’m lacking in empathy to something you think is a super important & serious issue, it’s a good bet that I genuinely just don’t even understand what the issue is all about, and am feeling confused which can cause me to become frustrated & emotionally charged. Sometimes I’ll have a lot of difficulty with certain subjects because my lack of understanding makes me feel so distressed that I’ll literally start crying because I really DO want to understand. I DO want to know why people are so fired up about things I don’t get just like I’d want people to take the time to try to understand what makes me upset, too.

I’m 30 now. I have lived my whole life as someone who has been treated as female. I’ve never known anything different, but I still didn’t really get feminism and why it’s such a big deal to people because when others were cruel or insensitive to me or if things didn’t go my way, I just thought it was because I deserved it or because the other person was simply choosing to be a jerk to me in the moment. I’ve realised that I’ve internalised a lot of hate & abuse for one reason or another, but being autistic means that I lacked the sociocultural context to understand why people did/said what they did to me. I STILL struggle to understand neurotypicals. I’m still constantly trying to learn more about why people do what they do because if someone isn’t neurodivergent, doesn’t have some form of mental illness, nor some other form of shared cultural context with me, I really have a lot of difficulty attempting to relate to them. And believe me, I do try. HARD.

Here’s the thing about me though, friends. Just because I don’t relate to something/don’t understand something, doesn’t mean I am not open to learning about it if you can find a way to explain it in terms that make sense to me. That’s another difficult thing about being autistic. People have tried to explain feminism, explain misogyny (the covert/institutionalised kind), explain the concept of “the patriarchy” to me SOOOO many times over the course of my life, and until now, it never really clicked because they’re related to phenomena that I haven’t personally, consciously, experienced, and the thing about all human beings, but especially autistics, is that we have a hell of a hard time trying to wrap our brains around things that we can’t relate to/don’t have the context to make sense of. This is why it’s important to find those who can explain things to us in terms that we can understand. This is why I’ve chosen to dive so hard into the autistic community. Associating with other autistics helps me to understand & process life better because they speak my language.

Like Hannah Gadsby seems to. I think that’s why I like her work so much. She helps me to understand perspectives that used to just put me off (and to a certain extent still do because I’ve had so many bad experiences with people who are so passionate about the subjects she talks about, probably because they were frustrated by my not understanding them) by putting things into a relatable context for me. We’re all different, so we’re not going to find the same things helpful or relatable, but that’s the brilliance of infinite diversity. There’s something for everyone.

Please try not to get upset if someone doesn’t like/get the things you do. Instead, try to find a way to relate whatever it is that you’re passionate about to something they’re passionate about. This way we don’t have to cancel or invalidate anything nor anyone, but rather find ways to connect the things we thought were unrelated because everything is actually related if you zoom out enough. Please don’t just assume someone is lacking in empathy or humanity because they don’t immediately understand something that shakes you to your core. Perhaps the person just hasn’t had it explained to them in the right terminology or related to context they can understand.

Don’t give up on people just because they disagree with you or don’t see eye to eye with you. They can eventually expand their paradigms, like I’m trying to do. They can eventually find a way to connect to something they couldn’t relate to before. As can you! This is part of the human process of learning & growing, and we do this until the day that we die. We will never know ALL the things because we’re finite & limited. We’re only human, so let’s help each other to human better! I’m here trying to learn, trying to grow, trying to change. Aren’t you?

Please give me, yourself, and others the time & space we need to do this because that’s what it means to be alive. Learning, growing, and changing is what life is all about. We’re all in this together, doing this together, side by side. We’re all living beings trying to figure out how to live better, but we’re not all capable of the same things nor moving at the same pace, and we never, EVER will be, so we really have to let that dream die already. Homogeneity isn’t something to be striven for anyway. It’s quite unhealthy, actually. If we claim to support diversity, then we have to make accommodations for the capacity of those who aren’t like ourselves. Please try to have some additional patience, empathy, & tolerance for those of us who are a little slower at this process than you might be. We’d really appreciate it. ❤

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