A face to face with « Masking ».

Sometimes in your lifespan, there are very short but surprising things that can occur.

From the external, it can appear casual but for you and your insight it can be shocking. Something so shocking to you, you are far from forgetting about it for a long time. This image sticks into your mind with such a grip you’ll eventually end up finding the time to write about it because this short event inspired you into attempting to explain a social phenomenon which is way more important than people may think.This is what happened with me and it drove me to write about the not-so-talked about topic of alienation while disabled and in that case Neurodivergent.

It happened back in June, I was in the corridors of the former center used by the charity group “Asperger Amitié” for its “social skills” group activities and so on.After finishing an activity there, I was about to leave. I had this habit of hanging out with other autistic friends. We used to get on a small trip through the streets and parks of Paris all together and eventually end up in a bar. I was eager to leave just waiting for one of my chap to get out of the toilets. And then it happened. This boy came to me. This teenage lanky autistic boy I’ve never ever seen in the groups before.He was nearly as tall as I am and had a non-blinking straight staring gaze. I saw that from beginning to the end as he was walking slowly straight to me, he was maintaining this stare. He took a few more steps to finally stop right in front of me at just 2 feets away from my body as if his stop was driven in an extremely automatic and calculated manner. Keeping up with his straight stare, he extended his harm to shake my hand, still in a very mechanical way as if he was following a protocol check list. He then said “Hello how are you? What’s your name?” to me, still with his straight look locked into my eyes.

It was something that immediately shook me up form my bowels to my spine. I knew exactly that this boy wasn’t doing all this in a genuine and instinctive way. It was unnatural. It was just a pushed-to-the-extreme mascarade. For the first time I experienced “Masking” from an external sight as I never did before. And it was shocking, because I was asking myself: « What did this boy have endured? What was pushed into him? What was he forced to learn? And even internalize to act in a way that is incompatible with his Neurodivergent functionning? Did he was forced to learn all this the “Hard way” thanks to peers bullying? Did his parents shoved him up to his mouth months and years of conversion training to act in a NT-centered socially appropriate way? Was he shaped by people who still hold illusory faiths in making out a ND boy an NT kid they always dreamed of and this using the worst damaging methods? »

All these questions flashing up to my mind drove me to write for my page and latter for the Aspergian blog about this concept I at first struggled to name even though it always existed nonetheless. This whole mascarade. Alienation. Being driven to believe you can only exist by giving up your natural ND body-language and expression for the benefit of a mechanical unnatural NT-acceptable body-language and communication. This boy as I saw him was just half of a person, in the sense that he was certainly forced to sacrifice and give up his true side to accommodate the confort of NTs. Perhaps, the most disturbing thing about this experience is that unless I’m lucky enough, I’ll probably never have the opportunity to interact with this boy again. Just having the time to talk to him and putting my efforts into telling him about what he deserves and with a little more time for self-reflexion, aim him onto the right path to unlearn internalized BS and finally learn to be himself. His true autistic self. This is not only about this teenage boy, but it is a story shared by way too many autistics who don’t even realize they don’t have to pretend at high levels to be like this to exist because this society doesn’t benefit and put forwards the tools to learn about this alienation spiral and unlearn it in order to finally be yourself and begin to cultivate a true sense of self, which is something that thanks again to alienation, is lacking a lot in ND lives.

Premier article de blog

On the unaddressed dangers of
Autistic alienation + complacency
.

If there is according to my experience throughout the autistic community one topic I estimate is not talked about that much, it is the issues related to alienation mixed up with complacency experienced as an autistic living in a NT-centric society.

Firstly, what is alienation?
This term has different definitions according to the field of topics you’ll look at.
However, the most accurate and correct definition of the term I could find to explain Autistic alienation as a fair comparison is the definition provided by Karl Marx and his analogies to industrial labor to describe the concept as ‘alienation’ here is an issue present in the working class.
According to this demoskratia article:

https://demoskratia.org/marxs-conception-of-alienation-7e9d47b78220

Alienation is « in a generalized abstract sense, is the loss of control over an attribute of the self, one in which the actor is separated from any sense of agency in relation to the attribute. It is a historical objective process that comes into being from the relations and forces of production in the specific mode of production in existence. « 
According to Marx, the working class stop thinking about basic stuff and personal needs to the benefit of their labour and tasks as if they were disconnected from their priorities.

Back to Autistic alienation, I realized this process functions in the same way as Marx explained.

It is widely adopted by an NT/ableist society that NDs should be worth productive members of their community.
Sometimes this vision of disability is used as a basis argument to claim that even though disabled people are disabled to not say
« broken  » their skills and talents is what will make them productive to an abled society and help them to « overcome their disability » simply because having some great skills in certain areas is the only reason you’ll be seen as « salvageable ».
Nothing is done because of compassion or ethics, all this is motivated because you’ll be a useful productive tool to society no matter how low-wage you’re paid for that.
‘Better being a low-paid tool for the sake of productivity than being euthanized for being broken’ they’ll argue.

As a result, just like in the Marxist theory, autistics who have become these productive tools are slowly distancing themselves from obvious personal needs they end up completely forgetting and neglecting.
Needs like having to earn more to by enough food because youe low wage does not allow you this at all.
Remembering that you have the right to value up your rights and earn more to live decently.
Sometimes Autistic alienation takes other forms apart fr the working sphere.

It can sometimes manifest as someone not knowing that they have the right to tell people baby-talking to them as grown up adults to just stop infantilizing them in such ways.

It can also be things like not knowing that your life does not depend or is meant to be rythmed by never ending intrusive questions by martyr parents about your private life. If someone is being intrusive as such you have the right to tell them to stop or just refuse to be invaded by parents ™.

All these issues can be described as general obliviousness to oneself ‘s rights and needs to the benefit of always appealing to a societal ableist routine disabled are supposed to bow to.

The inability to say « ‘No » or « Stop » makes it worse.

But what makes it even worse is this general attitude of complacency of the Autistic individual as a result of experiencing all this.
Complacency is defined by Reverso translation dictionary as :
« 1. kindness ; accommoding attitude 2. indulgence ; leniency 3. complacency ; self-satisfaction ».

In other terms, you’ll find self satisfaction in this unequal and unfair position as a ND person, but will relativise it by showing in return kindness because after all it could have been worse for you.

This consequence impact on your mind can vary depending on mutual factors like long term exposure to injustice, internalized ableism, resignation, or even early education principals teaching you a way of thinking you’ll struggle breaking away from.

Everytime I go to Autism NT-lead groups, I’m confronted with multiple profiles of Autistics displaying all these traits.
It rsnges from autistics who have being taught by their family from early stages they’ll only live as sheltered individuals, others that have internalized the idea of ND desexualisation as if « True autistics are meant to be 40-year old still virgins ».
Or people perpetuating ableist jokes to be more accepted, because « Self-derision is the miracle key ».
People who think it is OK to just earn way below what their skills allow them to do, because they didn’t figured out they HAVE the right to have doubts about how played by and underpaid they are.

These people are like « bluepile » individuals from the movie « The Matrix » (1999). Humans living in a virtual tightly controlled and routined reality who aren’t woke yet and will struggle to get woke unlike their « red pile » counterparts.

The Matrix is an adaptation of Platon’s Cavern Allegory and Autistic alienation fits this narrative very well in my opinion.

Part of autism advocacy is helping fellow autistic folks to realise they can and have advocate themselves for their rights and needs to be respected without being submitted or acceptant of an ableist lifestyle.

Guess what…
5 years ago I was like that.
To me, being Autistic meant conforming to stereotypes and using your  » special interests card » as a shock but sole valid argument to be worth salvageable and accepted.
I’m far beyond that now.