Following a twitter conversation late last week I was introduced to two phrases I’d not currently heard before “Aspie Supremacists” and “Shiny Aspies”. I had to google both these terms to fully understand their meaning. From what I’ve read, Aspie supremacists are autistic people who hate autism, autistic people who revel in the fact that they, themselves, do not appear autistic and can pass with little effort for someone who’s Neurotypical. They like to use the terms “high functioning” and how Aspergers isn’t a form of Autism but a completely separate neurotype. They will even go as far as describing Autism as a disability and by nature of their perceived lack of disability they are better than “everyday” autistic people. Some even go as far as claiming their particular brand of neurotype makes them not only superior to “lowly autists” but also most neurotypicals too. They see their Aspergers as a gift, a superior form of thinking unclouded by emotions, purely logical and focused.
There is a distinct overlap between the more extreme Aspie supremacists and so-called “shiny aspies”. For the most part (from what I’ve read at least) Shiny aspies admit they are on the autistic spectrum. They too often refer to themselves as “high functioning” and take pride in their achievements such as being able to talk to people, holding down a job, dating and getting married and all the other trappings associated with successful neurotypical lifestyles.
They often go out of their way to appear “normal” and “pass” in their day-to-day life. When they do let their aspie side show it’s in controlled bursts of geekery, presented to their neurotypical peers in a way that would seem non-threatening. They’ll impart their extensive knowledge of Star Trek or Wax lyrical about number theory, sing Lehrer’s elements song or quote Pi to 250 decimal places.
They tend to look down on less fortunate autistics and consider themselves above them and superior to them. When undergoing diagnosis they sigh in relief at a diagnosis of Aspergers but would protest and appeal against a diagnosis of Autism. Autists are disabled, they are not ergo they are not autistic. They may be on the spectrum but they themselves are so far removed from the poor disabled low functioning autists that they’re practically a different species.
And this is the point where this blog post takes a slightly unexpected and dark turn.
I myself am, what most people would call, a shiny aspie.
WAIT!! No… Don’t jump to conclusions. I DO NOT consider myself separate from my autistic cousins; I DO NOT consider myself superior in any manner to other autistic people. I realise that I am autistic by definition and by diagnosis. We’re all in this boat together and no one of us is any better than the rest.
I do pass very well. I hold conversations and host dinner parties. I will hold a person’s gaze when talking to them and ensure to return eye contact where appropriate. I do not talk with a monotone robotic voice, I joke, I laugh. I revel in my work, a high paid job for a very large multinational company. I’m married and my wife and I own our house in the suburbs. I’m intelligent. I’ve a masters degree in mathematics and I was once a fully paid up member of Mensa. And yes, I too sing Lehrer’s elements song and can quote pi to 250 decimal places. Look at me and you do not see someone with autism, look at me and you see a successful middle-aged middle-class man with odd geeky quirks. I’m oddly naïve at times and sometimes don’t always get what people are asking me. I can get confused easily but this is usually attributed to my “mad scientist / bumbling professor” demeanor. I refuse to show my aspie side in public. I deny who I am with a perpetual mask of normality.
I don’t feel autistic. Maybe because I wasn’t diagnosed until I was 46. By then my mask and my quirks had fully integrated into who I was. Only via twitter and this blog have I started to truly explore my autistic side. I realise I’ve more in common with my autistic brethren than I first thought.
I’m thankful that I pass so easily. I have it easy. I’ve got “neurotypical privilege” coming out of my ears. As I get older and more tired from wearing this mask, more and more I’ll inadvertently let it slip. My shine is becoming tarnished with time, I can no longer classify myself as a shiny aspie.
I’m Pete and I’m autistic.