Detecting Asexuality, “Diagnosing” Disability

There is a story I have alluded to in the posts “Memories of a Special Education”, “Clearing Up Doubts by Reading About Others’s Experiences” and :Commitment, Family, and Friendship”. Since the theme for this month’s Canival of Aces is Disability and Asexuality, it seems like a good time to connect the dots between these stories.

First of all, I have ‘expressive language disorder’ (ELD). That is why I was put in ‘special ed’ in the first place (and rightfully so). In my case, it meant that I literally learned how to read before I learned how to speak.

In my case, ELD is not a disability because I have learned how to use expressive language well enough that I can integrate with broader society. Per the social model of disability, I experience life as an abled person.

The person who tried to convince me that I ‘have Asperger’s syndrome’ in “Clearing up Doubts” and the relative I ‘broke up with’ in “Commitment, Family and Friendship” are the exact same person.

When she was trying to convince me that I ‘have Asperger’s syndrome’, she claimed that she was ‘fascinated’ by Asperger’s syndrome, and that she had done lots of research, and one of the bits of ‘evidence’ that I ‘have Asperger’s’ that she brought up was the fact that I had a speech delay as a child.

Now, if you know a bit about Asperger’s syndrome, you are probably thinking ‘but a diagnosis of speech delay and Asperger’s syndrome are mutually exclusive’. Well, *I* knew almost nothing about ‘Asperger’s syndrome’ at the time, so I had no way of detecting that red flag. In retrospect, this is evidence that my relative was trying to find anyway possible to connect me to ‘Asperger’s’ so that she could get me under her power.

One red flag I subconsciously noticed was that, before this ‘heart-to-heart’ talk where she told me ‘you have Asperger’s, let me fix your life’ is that we went to an expensive show beforehand. My mother said I should offer to pay for my ticket, and I agreed. But when I made the offer, my relative did not refuse by saying ‘oh, you don’t need to pay, it’s my treat’. She refused by saying ‘people with more money pay for expensive things on these outings, people with less money do not pay’. Of course, the whole point of offering to pay for my share was so that I could relate to her as an equal – this is the same principle in play when fathers admonish their daughters to always pay for half of a date with a man. She had no interest in relating to me as an equal, and I am pretty sure that the main reason she invited me to the outing was so she could ‘buy’ a meeting with me (i.e. the show was a bribe). Paying for my ticket would have denied her that power over me.

Not to mention that she was asserting that she knew about proper social protocol, I did not, and therefore I should accept her ‘teachings’.

At this point, you’re probably wondering ‘what does any of this have to do with asexuality?’

I’m glad you asked.

I described all of the above to show you the lengths to which my relative was going to so she could manipulate me into thinking that I ‘have Asperger’s syndrome’ and therefore I need to let her ‘help’ me.

At the time of this meeting, I was already identifying as asexual, though I had not told this relative about it (I still haven’t, since I refuse to communicate with her). She was drawing on every single detail she knew about my personal life and trying to twist it into evidence that I ‘have Asperger’s syndrome’. One of the things she mentioned is how I do not try to get boys’ sexual attention. Of course I don’t try to get boys’ sexual attention, I don’t want it! I even thought about this at the meeting, but I didn’t want to bring up my asexuality because I was already feeling overwhelmed. I have no doubt that, if I had brought it up, she would have immediately declared it another symptom of my ‘Asperger’s syndrome’.

Instead, she explained that normal people don’t act like me, that it is almost impossible for teenagers to resist the intense marketing which tells them to behave in a certain way, and the fact that I was apparently immune to the marketing meant that my brain must be wired differently. It couldn’t possibly be explained by, say, teenagers having critical thinking skills, and deciding they didn’t want to buy what the corporations were selling them (I myself knew a number of teenagers who didn’t act the way my relative seemed to think that marketing makes teenagers act, and I’m pretty sure at least some of them were neurotypical heterosexuals).

She also was probably aware of my lack of boyfriends (and girlfriends), and possibly concluded this was because I didn’t have the social skills to get one, rather than because I didn’t want one. Then again, if I did make it clear that I really didn’t want a boyfriend/girlfriend, she would see it as more ‘evidence’. She was twisting everything into ‘evidence’.

So, what is the link between disabiliy and asexuality here?

– I am almost certain she picked up on some signs of my asexuality, and mistook them for signs of a disability (in this case Asperger’s syndrome)
– The deeper current is that both asexuality and disability are not ‘normal’, and therefore when you don’t act like a ‘normal’ person, people assume that there is something ‘wrong’ with you. My relative was claiming to be very Disability Positive during this chat, and saying that There Was Nothing Wrong With ‘Having Asperger’s Syndrome’ … it just meant I had to accept her ‘guidance’. She was not precisely saying that Asperger’s Syndrome (or, indirectly, asexuality) were inherently wrong … but she was definitely claiming that I needed ‘help’ and to have my life ‘fixed’.
– If we lived in a society where most people accepted neurodiversity, or ever just a society where autism was more widely and better understood, my relative probably would not have tried to use a bogus diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome to try to manipulate me (of if she had, I would have shot her down much quicker and with much less distress). Likewise, if we lived in a society where most people accepted all intimate relationship choices (including the choice to not have romantic/sexual relationships), or even just a society where asexuality was more widely and better understood, my relative probably would not have pounced on my lack of a romance/sex life as evidence that I needed ‘help’.

In short, we need to increase and broaden support for neurodiversity,
the freedom to be non-sexual/romantic, and generally make society a better place for people who are not ‘normal’.


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3 thoughts on “Detecting Asexuality, “Diagnosing” Disability

  1. Pingback: Linkspam: November 15th, 2013 | The Asexual Agenda

  2. Thank you so much for writing this! I’ve had a similar experience.

    A few years ago, before I knew I was asexual, I had a ‘friend’ who had been a really close friend, but suddenly started being very manipulative with me, somewhat similar to the way you describe. He had a crush on me, and was trying to tell me that I might be asexual and that would be a very bad thing, and giving me advice to try and change or avoid it.

    He also manipulated me in other ways, trying to use some ways in which I’m different as an example of how I didn’t understand basic things about society and I really needed help. He generally talked about this other girl he knew a lot, as an example of what was “normal.” For awhile, I started to believe him. I would go through cycles of believing him, and then deciding he was wrong. As a result of this, he blamed me for “confusing him” and “not being direct.” This whole time, he was trying to frame it as me needing help and him helping me.

    As crazy as it sounds now, I still considered him a close friend for about 6 months after this started happening. After about 5 months of this, I was starting to think that maybe our friendship wasn’t healthy for me. Over the next few months, I started to talk to him less and less, and after awhile, I cut off our friendship. I can now see what he was doing so much more than I did even when I decided to stop talking to him, and I’ve never regretted ending that friendship.

    Since then, I’ve realized I am in fact asexual, and I’ve heard many stories on AVEN of people being manipulated like this.

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