Sarah Kurchak on a dilemma many autistic people have experienced when sharing their diagnosis:
Where I saw the first irrefutable proof of myself, though, so many others saw a referendum.
I spent twenty-seven years trying to convince people that I was normal enough to accept, or at least leave alone, and no one ever fully bought it. When I finally knew why that experiment was such an ongoing failure, though, few believed that either. I was using it as an excuse. I was exaggerating. I was faking. I was not as autistic as someone else someone knew and was, therefore, not really autistic.
These comparisons only ever go in one direction. No one has ever said to me, “Temple Grandin is a successful scientist, writer and public speaker, and you have the career of a mildly plucky freelancer half your age. You can’t possibly be autistic.” I suspect that this is because no one is genuinely trying to weigh what they know about me against a set of diagnostic criteria, or fit me into their greater understanding of autistics in the world. What people are really doing when they’re trying to determine if I’m really autistic is figuring out if I make them uncomfortable or sad enough to count. If I show any coping skills, any empathy, any likability, any fun—essentially any humanity—I complicate the narrative too much and usually end up ignored.
This separation between real autistics and people who are “just quirky,” “just awkward” or “almost too high-functioning to count” is a mental dance that non-autistics have to do whenever they’re confronted with a 3-D autistic human being in the flesh. Otherwise everything they’ve ever thought, everything they’ve ever been told about us, starts to seem a little monstrous.