Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Autism Positivity Flashblog 2014

As my second act after receiving dual citizenship in the northern Blogosphere, I have decided to participate in the 2014 Autism Positivity Flashblog, a project meant to drown out negative stereotypes by flooding internet search results with positive messages. Here goes!

What autism IS:

Autism is a good thing.
Autism is awesome.
Autistic people are awesome.
Autistic people are experts on autism.
Autistic children become autistic adults. (duh)
Most autistic people speak verbally.
Nonverbal communication is just as good as verbal.
Most autistic people are extremely honest.
Lack of eye contact is not a sign of lying.
Most autistic people make eye contact.
Autism is a disability.
There is nothing wrong with being disabled.
Disabled people are awesome.
Autism is a separate code of body language that NTs do not understand.
Autism means passion in all of your interests.
Autism is a unique way of seeing the world.
Autism is beautiful.

What autism is NOT:

Autism is not a disease.
Autism is not a disorder.
Autism is not a list of deficits.
Autism is not a phase.
Autism does not go away.
Autism cannot be cured.
Autistic people do not want to be cured.
Autistic people do not need to change.
Autistic people are not broken.
Autistic people do not need to be fixed.
Autistic people are fine just the way they are.
Autistic people are not all the same.
Autistic people are not puzzling or mysterious.
Autism is not blue.
Autism does not justify murder.
Autism does not justify torture.
There is no such thing as mild or severe autism. All autistic people are 100% autistic.

What autism is TO ME:

Autism means meeting 30 people and remembering all of their names.
Autism means remembering something important you said 10 years ago.
Autism means literally knowing something backward and forward.
Autism means doing algebra without writing anything down.
Autism means appreciating the smell of good fragrances.
Autism means appreciating the taste of good food.
Autism means appreciating the texture of soft sheets.
Autism means appreciating the sight of well-composed picture.
Autism means appreciating the sound of background music.
Autism means never being bored. Ever.
Autism means never sending a typo because I check too thoroughly.
Autism means thinking before speaking.
Autism means listening with the intent to understand, not to respond.
Autism means actually breaking into song and dance when I'm happy.
Autism means being happy by choosing to be happy.
Autism is a life worth living even if I didn't have any special talents.


Normally when I start something new, I don't know how long I'll stick with it, so I just begin with whatever inspires me enough to begin. This time is an exception: I have enough faith in the prospect of a blog that I want to start with a proper introduction. So let me take you through a little bit of who I am and what I'm going to write about.

Hi. My name is Daniel Obejas Valencia. I considered going anonymous, but I think it's important to show the humanity behind the words, and to be open about opinions and identifiers even if they're unpopular- especially if they're unpopular. While secrecy is often safer for those with secrets, and I don't at all condemn anyone who feels the need for that safety, it takes an honesty that is loud and proud to push society towards one of acceptance. I also happen to be an actor, so if my blog increases the number of people who know I exist, all the better for my career.

Did I mention I'm an actor? I got into theatre by chance in high school (I'm in college now) and loved it ever since. At time of writing, I have a solid record in theatre and am working on getting more screen credits. I have also done a lot of improvisation recently and may work on getting into a performance team. My ideal side job is as a graphic artist, and you may see some of my work thanks to the trend of long blocks of text being broken up by images.

Don't blame the image. It was never taught any other lifestyle.
I am a cisgender*, gynesexual, white-passing biracial man. These are not all commonly used terms, so allow me to explain:
Cisgender simply means not transgender. The gender that I identify as is the same as the gender I was assigned at birth. My gender expression does not always match, which is why people often suspect me of being gay or trans, but I find the entire concept of gender expression to be nonsense dictated by culture and not neurology. He/him/his pronouns preferred.
Gynesexual may have a nuanced definition depending on whom you ask. To me, it means that I am sexually and romantically attracted exclusively to women. I don't like the homo-/hetero- terminology because it requires an additional mental process and additional information about the person in question.
As for biracial, I'm Jewish and Latin@, but I mostly look like a white guy, and I often self-identify as white. As such, I probably won't write much about racism, gay rights, or feminism because I'm not qualified to, although I do consider myself a feminist. You can't truly understand someone else's hardships until you've experienced them yourself. Empathy, yes; an understanding of cause and effect, yes, but not how a person feels; not entirely.

My only real claim to minority lies in how I think, which in terms of representation is actually far more important than one's origin or appearance. Of course, everyone has to deal with their unique barrage of prejudices, and an uncommon face or skin tone may be a bit harder to hide, but those who actually act differently will probably be the last to be accepted.

For one thing, I'm an atheist, which sadly is still a minority position. Luckily, with the advent of the internet, the abundance of easily accessible information seems to be phasing out religion with each generation. Personally, I've had a pretty cushy life compared to other atheists. I never went to a religious "school", my bio-family is not religious, and I live in fairly liberal California. I find it difficult to point out instances of religion impacting my life that aren't also detrimental even to members of that religion.

I'm sorry for talking about religion with a negative attitude. I'll go home and think about what a terrible thing I've done while not raping any children.
What tends to demand attention more often in my life is that I'm autistic. Statistically speaking, you probably have some misconceptions about what that means, so I advise becoming more educated before making assumptions about me. Better yet, don't make assumptions at all. If you want to know about me, ask me and listen to me. I do not represent a single other person, and no one represents me. I don't assume that any two people are alike just because they're both neurotypical, so don't assume that any two autistics are alike. I'm not even going to use the label if I don't have to, because all I can write about is me- not 'my autism'- just me.

One aspect of me that I've attributed to autism ever since my diagnosis is that I can't write. That probably doesn't make sense to you after reading all of the above that I wrote, so I'll try to clarify: Sometimes I can't write, and sometimes I can, and so far it's been impossible to predict which one will be the case. It's certainly not my choice. I don't say "can't" when I mean "can but don't want to" because I can but don't want to lie. It is my choice whether I try to improve my skills, and that is why I'm starting a blog: To say that I can write more often than can't. I've been told that I'm quite articulate when I do speak, and I'm starting to believe it.

Acting NT will not primarily be an autism advocacy blog, or an anti-religion blog, or a 'not all cishet white boys are bad' blog (though I'm not... ladies...) but merely whatever inspires me enough to conquer the blank page. There is no set schedule for when to expect new content. Not every post will be controversial, and may be as simple as a review of the latest movie I saw, or something interesting that I took a picture of. My goal is to always be insightful and entertaining.

*EDIT 5/5/2015: After much internal deliberation, I've decided to leave the original text intact as a historical record, but add this note to reflect my current identification: I am gendervague, which means the neurotypically defined concept of gender does not resonate with me. That doesn't mean all neurodivergent people are genderless; it's just my subjective experience. You could call me nonbinary or agender and I wouldn't say you're wrong, but gendervague is more precise. I am not bothered by any pronouns, but if you need some guidance, go with they/them/their.