Masking Lies

…on the other hand it could be argued that higher functioning autists are the biggest liars on the planet.

Hear me out.

Masking. It’s a term commonly used in the community to describe the adaptations autistic people apply to their behavior to better fit in to normal society. In other words, it’s the act of putting on a mask.

For example, one common trait of autistics is called stimming. Per Wikipedia:

“Self-stimulatory behavior, also known as ‘stimming’ and self-stimulation, is the repetition of physical movements, sounds, words, moving objects, or other repetitive behaviors.”

Stimming is different from person to person. For some it’s rocking, hand flapping, excessive blinking, or spinning objects. As a kid one of things I’d do when sitting was shake one of my knees up and down as fast as I could for as long as I could. Oh yeah, and I’ve been a life long hair twirler. Specifics aside, stimming tends to trouble most neurotypicals because, well, when it comes down to it the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness only really applies to people who behave “normally”.

Obviously, these behaviors can be extremely counter productive in day to day life, even for the highest functioning of us. I’d never, for instance, twirl my hair in an interview (and generally force myself to refrain in public). Fortunately for me, I have only a few stimming behaviors, and while I’m not always aware of when I’m engaging in them, I am able to mask just enough to not look like a complete freak, dork, or _insert_your_superficial_judgement_here_. But it feels like a lie. I’m pretending to be something, someone else just in order to be able to make it in and out of the grocery store without being stared at, treated differently, or even potentially being bullied. And true, to some extent everyone changes how they act as situations require, but for autistic people this need to put on a mask just to prevent being mistreated is a critical survival mechanism.

For someone like me, who values authenticity so highly, even the white lie of not twirling my hair when every impulse wants to just twirl like crazy, feels like an intentional perversion of the truth. And yet I understand that when I do it in public, someone will always look at me funny. It’s tiring. But we live in a world where neurotypical tribalism trumps broad inclusion.

Enough for now.

Happy Friday.


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