I sense patterns in human behaviors. Sometimes they manifest into tangible patterns I can explain. Other times my body just reacts in ways that I know aren’t my normal reactions to people and situations, unless the other person or situation becomes problematic for me. I feel these patterns within my body through all my senses. Some separately, some all at once. It is hard to explain to an outsider that’s never experienced such a thing, and many actually haven’t. Not on the level that I do. It goes beyond a gut feeling for me. My body reacts in ways I can’t often control. I believe it has to do with me being autistic. I had to also become truly self aware to understand what it meant. Before it just manifested as a garbled mess.
Because I have depression and anxiety people have often used those things to discredit me over this. It took me 41 years to accept this about myself, through the acceptance of my current therapist. So often I’m either looked upon with disbelief or others claim they too know exactly what I see, yet none of their other actions line up to this being true. Which then later causes friction for them to not believe me.
This has caused a lot of trauma in my life. When I didn’t believe in my abilities, I allowed too much abuse and toxicity in my life because I didn’t trust my freakishly accurate intuition. When I’ve begun believing in myself and being more self aware and in tune with my body, I realized how angry people get at me for challenging their perception of others or themselves. I’ve lost decade long friendships over my seeing people for who they really are behind their good intentions, because my friend didn’t want to believe such things about a friend of theirs.
I’ve learned to keep a lot of things to myself and that I’m mostly unique in how I now am able to process the world through these pattern recognition skills. It has made me become very guarded and isolated from the majority of society. I’d rather be alone with my cats, than constantly have people come at me aggressively when I tell them they (or a person they like more than me) is doing something wrong.
But sometimes someone or something push me to limits that I have to speak up. Despite the anger and abuse I know I’ll receive for doing so. I have been a fighter against my abusers since I was a toddler. I’m not even exaggerating there. I don’t intend to back down to people in the public eye that want to try and abuse others through their actions.
I’m not here to convince you who’s right or wrong over the ongoing debate about whether or not the musician, Sia, should or should not have cast neurotypical dancer, Maddie Ziegler to portray a “non verbal low functioning” (Sia’s problematic words, not mine) autistic person in her yet to be released movie, Music. I feel like I have nothing new to say that already hasn’t been said by many others out there writing about the trailer since its release.
What I do want to talk about is how, when the trailer came out many people began pointing out why they had problems with a non autistic person playing the role about an autistic person. It doesn’t matter if you agree or not with the reason others have these issues, the way Sia and her supporters have responded (and continues to) is just with a total lack of empathy for a community she claims to want to represent.
When an autistic actress simply stated that they could have been available to act in this movie on short notice, Sia’s compassionate response was “Maybe you’re just a bad actor.” Then began becoming seemingly maddened by telling people they just needed to watch the movie before making judgments. If the trailer was already this upsetting to some that were brave enough to speak up, why would anyone suggest something that could cause them to be triggered even more?
Since then things have only escalated. What I’m seeing and sensing from what I’ve learned about toxic patterns in people, is not settling right in my body and I can’t fully dissociate from it like I used to. It’s causing me severe mental distress and I’ve had to take some time off social media due to it. I even deleted my Twitter because of the rage I felt to see such a total lack of empathy from Sia and her fans.
The most disturbing thing has been her many Tweets that keep saying, “I love you, keep going!” Seemingly ignoring the pain she’s caused and acknowledging the support she’s gotten from her fans to not be held accountable for her bad reactions over this. It does not feel like the actions of someone that has good intentions for everyone in the autistic community. It feels like she only wants to support autistics that agree with her. Which isn’t how being an ally actually works.
Whether this is Sia’s intent with these tweets, or what her intentions are, it is very triggering to see and not good for those of us trying to speak up. Whom have often, already been bullied a majority of our lives for not only being different, but speaking up about injustices that we saw and weren’t okay with. Many of aren’t even asking to ban the movie (though I do not think it needs to be released ever), they just want to be heard why they feel it to be problematic. Yet anyone speaking out to why they find it problematic are being yelled and bullied then told they’re the bullies in a deflection effort.
It’s past the point of debating who’s right or wrong about casting choices. If Sia’s done all the research these last 3 years that she’s claimed to, how does she not know at this point how much trauma the majority of us face for not being listened to when we try to communicate to others that something is hurting us? Either emotionally or physically. How often many of us try to communicate to others that something is causing us pain, discomfort, or severe distress and are told we’re just exaggerating or completely making things up? That we need to be quiet and shut up. No matter how nice we word it, many of us are accused of being told how problematic we are being to simply speak up. We are tone policed often, even by our own neurokin.
If Sia truly cared about the community she’s claiming to want to bring awareness to, why would she actively not even want to hear people who are clearly in emotional pain about it? Even if she disagrees, why would you not want to have a conversation with people who are clearly hurt over this, instead of trying to actively silence their voices on the matter?
Many of us are still trying to find our own voices after years of trauma through the noise of more trauma when people tell us to still continue to shut up. Those of us standing up against ableism in the community seem to be a marginalized group, within a marginalized group. A terrifying thing where even our own neurokin will turn against us to defend those treating us less than human. So we often have other autistics insisting we need to just shut up and chill, and simply get over these issues that clearly cause us distress. All because they haven’t dealt with their own internalized ableism and have learned to bully others standing up for themselves, like they’ve been bullied themselves, but might not even realize it.
It can be frustrating and dehumanizing. People rather yell at us and demonize us, than turn inward and face hard truths about themselves and what ableism really is and how it is intertwined into systematic abuse. It can be confusing and enrage many of us. Especially when our own neurokin turn against us in these types of debates. We continue to be talked down to and called horrible, demeaning things to make sure our voices are never heard again. Just for simply speaking up.
Maybe we get angry and don’t say things in the best way. But when we’re constantly saying these things nicely and being ignored, the frustrations are going to come out. We’re exhausted and traumatized. We shouldn’t be the ones expected to cushion everything out of our mouths to be pleasing to the people we feel are oppressing us.
When an organization, like Autism Speaks, that’s historically known for being problematic to the autistic community openly admits they disagree with Sia for her choices in casting a Neurotypical actress instead of an autistic one, I can’t help but directly question if she is doing this for the community she claims to want to help, or for herself to get praise? What I’ve seen Sia do to the autistic community is wrong, beyond her casting choices. This doesn’t feel like someone I’d trust or want to see a movie they claim is supposed to be about loving autistic people. It feels like the exact opposite from my perspective and many others.
When you have Sia and her fans more upset over her feelings being hurt because we don’t like a movie she made that is supposed to represent a marginalized and oppressed group, than about the trauma it’s actually causing to those in that actual marginalized group; you have to wonder how detached from reality these people really are? But it doesn’t stop the damage that’s being inflicted because these people aren’t willing to stop and listen to why we’re actually hurting over this.
I don’t need to watch her movie, to know she has no clue how to properly represent or care for the community she’s trying to bring awareness to after how she’s responded to criticism. I see Sia for who she really is by her response to all of this. I see her for the harm she’s caused as of late and can’t forgive or forget it. I know what my gut is screaming about what her intentions really are and they aren’t positive reactions to the goodness that’s being claimed to be going on here. I finally trust what my body and mind is sensing. I know many others won’t understand and will throw their hate at me for it. That’s okay. I can’t stop them. I just know “I Sia Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing” and I will continue to speak up in the ways I can about what I feel is going on that’s wrong.