Feminist Aspie

Make Me Scream Your Screams: Why “auties can’t lie” couldn’t be further from the truth

on July 19, 2014

For this week’s blog post title, I was massively torn between the entirety of the lyrics from two Muse songs; so, this is Showbiz, this is Citizen Erased, both really resonate with me for reasons I’ll discuss below, and both are really worth a listen. [SPECIAL INTEREST INTENSIFIES]

– – – – – – –

I never really got the “autistic people can’t lie” stereotype because, I admit it, I think I’m quite a good liar. I mean, I’ve kept this blog hidden from almost everyone I know (I only know of two real-life friends, and one online friend from outside my FeministAspie stuff, who are aware of it, all by choice) for over a year and a half now. In my teens, I used to write song lyrics (in hindsight, pretty awful with a side dish of internalised misogyny) and also kept those hidden. For some reason, in the early stags of a special interest, I tend to keep that hidden too. Then there’s the usual “I’m fine” stuff. Sometimes, I think being autistic actually helps; I’m constantly fidgeting and I never make eye contact anyway, so all the traditional neurotypical-centred “tells” get lost in my usual mannerisms. Autistic Stereotype In “Not Always Absolutely True For Absolutely Everyone” Shocker.

But frankly, that’s all a little bit beside the point. This stereotype particularly bothers me because, for a group of people who are supposed to be unable to lie, we’re very rarely believed.

Autism is, and has always been, defined and discussed almost entirely from the point of view of a neurotypical outsider. We’re seen, not as autistics living in an autism-unfriendly world, but as defective neurotypicals. I’ve essentially always known my diagnosis, yet it wasn’t until I ventured into the autistic community on Tumblr, aged around 16, that I was told sensory issues are an actual real thing. Autism is seen as a social disorder, a behavioural disorder, with no thought for how we experience the world, why we behave the way we do. Hence why stimming is seen as a bad thing, meltdowns are seen as tantrums, and any attempts to avoid or minimise sensory overload are seen as manipulative.

A lot of things held up as almost universally fun, I find overwhelming. Summer. Parties. Summer. Crowds. Summer. People. Summer summer summer summer summer. I’m a giant bundle of sensory overload wrapped in panic wrapped in a very thin layer of “I’m fine, why wouldn’t I be?” because the alternative would be attempting to explain it and getting mocked and ridiculed and told I’m over-reacting. But when I’m overloading like that, I’m, well, not that good a liar; I’m too drained for that. From my point of view at least, my entire tone and body language is a giveaway; not really making much of an attempt to continue conversation, muttering to myself, fingers fluttering, that ubiquitous “sorry!” and an occasional “ugh” noise and a facial expression that’s probably very blank. Most other people, who are supposed to be amazing at picking up non-verbal communication signals, either don’t pick this up at all, or just pick up “she’s being Visibly Neurodivergent and this is A Bad Thing and she needs to stop that”. Most other people, who are supposed to be better than me at really thinking about a person’s motivations and feelings rather than taking their words at literal face value… just take my words, fabricated out of a learned desperation to not be Visibily Neurodivergent, at literal face value.

So I get desperate, I get frustrated, I get really moody and blunt and pushy. It’s not something I’m proud of, I feel awful once I feel safer and calmer, but I feel like I’ve run out of options. Everyone else seems to interpret this as “Well, as you all know, I hate fun, and I don’t have the social skills to be nice and polite and quiet about it, so I’m going to threaten a tantrum because I’m just that manipulative” when the reality is “This is really painful and horrible and I’ve managed to cope with it for this long but now I’m seriously worried I’m going to have a meltdown if I don’t get out to somewhere safe right this second”. For a long time, I even believed the former interpretation myself, and thought myself to be a pretty horrible person for acting in that way.

These problems are constructed, through viewing autism only from the outside, and then used to justify our elimination.
We’ve been taught to put “looking normal” before our own needs. To hide away.
To lie at all times, at all costs.

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11 responses to “Make Me Scream Your Screams: Why “auties can’t lie” couldn’t be further from the truth

  1. The outsider view of autistics seems to rely heavily on the deficits model: If autism is defined by impairments in social, communication, and repetitive/restrictive behaviors or interests, then autistic behaviors is seen as bad and therefore something to decrease in frequency. That frustrates me to no end.

  2. notesoncrazy says:

    I want to like this a million times, but I can only like it once apparently. Please count this comment as the remaining 999,999 likes. Thank you.

  3. I’ve often wondered about how people could not understand body language signals. I think it’s pretty obvious when I’m uncomfortable and I think it’s pretty obvious in other people when they’re uncomfortable. I guess maybe people just write it off as abnormal behavior and therefore not a sign of communicating anything. It’s interesting to me though that people say they’re trying to communicate with autistics and yet they pass by the obvious signs of communication that are being used.
    As far as the lying thing goes though, I’ve noticed with myself that I can’t really tell a straight out lie. Like I couldn’t say a pen is black if it’s really blue because it just wouldn’t be true and therefore is illogical to say. However simply not saying anything or leaving out truths is something I can easily do. I don’t know if there’s anything to say that all autistics are that way though or if it is just an individual thing.

    • Thanks! 🙂 I think you’re right about autistic body language; it’s automatically seen as a bad thing which must be stopped, so the idea of communication doesn’t come into it. As for the lying thing, I find it fascinating that there’s so much variety in autistic people in terms of our traits; for example, I really don’t think I’m very good at reading (neurotypical) body language without being prompted.

  4. This. So many this. I’ve never understood how someone could follow up “my experience is…” with “no, it isn’t.”

  5. […] Feminist Aspie on the myth of autistic people being unable to lie […]

  6. Tyler Ford says:

    FeministAspie, I agree with your statements here. I feel like most of the NT’s around us think we’re manipulative too, but in all honesty, we’re not. I’ve even been called “manipulative” by my own cousin which is preposterous to me. As for me having a meltdown, it’s usually because someone is yelling at me or arguing with me to the point to where I have to yell. My granddad even said that “meltdowns make you something you’re not” and that I “throw temper tantrums like a little titty baby” and I was blunt with him and told him “Do you even KNOW what the difference between a meltdown and temper tantrum is? No? I didn’t think so.” and I also got to the point to where I told him that “he doesn’t seem like he cares that much about me” and I’ve come to the conclusion that he doesn’t. My grandma also said that he acts like that because he’s old. And since when does being old make you a cranky person?!? I’ve met friendly, elderly people out there that are old so that shouldn’t be much of an excuse. Sorry for my rant… 😐 Anyways, the point is…. I’m considered an outsider to my family because I’m an autistic teenager (and yes, I’m 17 and in that matter, male… :P) I do admit I lie sometimes but usually when that happens, I’m afraid to tell the truth. In my mind, whether I tell a lie or the truth about an incident, the same thing’s going to happen anyways.

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