I have a mild addiction to the website Post Secret. If you are not familiar with it, basically, people have been submitting their secrets anonymously on the back of postcards to a particular address, which then get posted on this website. Today, I caught sight of this one and felt the need to respond:
[Description: A still from the Star Trek, The Next Generation episode, “In Theory” featuring two characters, Data, an android, and a human crew member, Jenna Jenna D’Sora, interacting. There is a caption reading, “I worry that nobody will want to marry me becuase (sic) I have mild Asperger’s”]
I am not going to speculate on how old the submitter is, but I’m glad they appreciate Star Trek: The Next Generation. Data is my favourite character as well. I bet a lot of aspies relate to him, especially ones who have less confidence and may relate to his desire to emulate humanity, but never reach it. That’s probably something the submitter feels, and I felt the same way during my teen years: Utterly unloveable, and I thought I was destined, whether I wished it or not, to live out life as a loner and a spinster because of my autism.
Part of it was because I swallowed all those stupid, awful, hateful lies about not being able to empathize, the other parts were equally not being well liked, and wondering constantly about my sexuality: “Do I like boys? Do I like girls?” It was and remains, the most miserable period of my existence.
Now of course, as an adult who has gained her independence in body, mind, and sexuality, I have a different perspective. What also helped was discovering that, contrary to my isolation and loneliness, there were many, many autistics out there like me, who went through the same things I did, shared a similar outlook and mentality to me, and were not intimidated or bored by my interest in unconventional topics. I eventually found romance with another autistic person (Jaime) and discovered that dating didn’t mean having to change my personality to fit the needs of a neurotypical partner.
Whenever I encounter something like this from a younger autistic person, the first thing to pop into my mind is usually, “Damn, we need our own ‘It Gets Better’ campaign.” A lot of autistic teens who haven’t discovered the internet or have limited access (parental units being over protective, not knowing where to look for autism-friendly spaces, living in an area where the internet access is shoddy) may not even realize how many other autists are out there.
A public campaign similar to the It Gets Better one for LGB individuals would be a grand way of reaching autistic teens who may be feeling as I once did. The loneliness, social isolation, and uncertainty felt by queer teens is quite close to how one feels as an autistic teen. I should know, I went through both. There needs to be, I think, an orchestrated effort on the part of bloggers and writers and advocates to reach out to our autistic youth. Not just on matters like love and sex, though those are highly neglected, but other areas as well. I believe in doing it personally because my outlook is that if I don’t do it, then people who know nothing about actually being autistic will try to do it for them.
To the individual submitter of the post secret though: There are autistics out there who are married, in love, and have wonderful partners. Many of them date and marry other autistics, but that’s not necessarily the key to happiness to find another autistic, there are great neurotypicals out there and people who are not neurotypical but not autistic, who have other disabilities and can relate. You will not be alone because of your autism. Asperger Syndrome is not a life sentence of being solitary and single.
But I want to stress also that having a partner is not necessary in order to be complete. Many people, autistic and not, live happily as singles, and develop their interests without worrying about “finding someone” and are fulfilled.
Whatever you want, you are not alone, and you should not view your autism as an obstacle. It is instead, the key to something larger than yourself and wonderful. It’s just up to you to unlock that door.