21 February 2017

There Ain't No Party Like an Autistic Party (Because I Just Stay Home)

I wish I’d known what a shutdown was when I hid in my Disney Princess Tent in a corner of SadistFaction’s apartment, waiting for the party to be over.

Some of you will remember that party, a few years back. It went until 3am. I had been excited to see my friends, excited to play. Until the party kept going, and going, and going. I was supposed to be staying the night, and at that point still lived on the other side of the city. I don’t handle cabs well (something about being alone in a car with strangers. Let’s not go there). So I stayed, hiding in a children’s tent Daddy had bought me to colour in while he watched hockey. I hid, and I shook, and I cried.

I remember friends checking in on me, and the assumption, as ever, was that I was not very good at handling being present when my Daddy was playing with other people.

Which, uh, yup, this is a true thing about me. Fact! I do not handle that well. It took me a long time and conversations with much wiser people than me to finally grasp that being poly didn’t mean I had to actually be comfy physically watching my partner play with others. Fancy that. That I wasn’t some green-eyed monster for preferring to just let him have his fun without me and come home for snuggles. Which is what I do now, which enables me to watch whatever I want on his huge TV AND have a satisfied Daddy come home to tuck me in. WINNER.

However. Hiding in the tent. That was something else.

When people think about Autism, one of the things they think about, whether they know that’s what it’s called or not, are the meltdowns. If you’ve watched a movie or TV show with a stereotypical portrayal of an Autistic person*, then you have seen a meltdown. Rocking and screaming or crying, head banging into walls, flailing arms, self-harm. Part of being Autistic means that it feels like the volume on everything – all your senses – is turned up to eleven all the time. So overwhelming environments, especially ones where you feel trapped – those are turned up to more like fifteen. Cue the headbanging (which, yes, I have had and continue to occasionally have this type of meltdown. And let me tell you, if you told young living-in-a-small-punkrock-free-town me that when I was thirty and marginally cooler and living in an honest-to-goodness city that this is still the only kind of headbanging I would be doing, she would be *sorely* disappointed.)

What I had in the tent, though, that wasn’t a meltdown. The meltdown came later, when everyone finally left, when I managed to shuffle out into the kitchen to wave goodbye to the last stragglers before collapsing in a sobbing heap on the floor, unable to breathe. Nope, in the tent, what I had was a shutdown. I have two theories about why you see more meltdowns than shutdowns in media portraying folks on the spectrum. One, anecdotally, shutdowns seem to occur more in women than men, and most Autistic characters in movies and TV are men (that’s a whole other rant). And two, shutdowns are just not that interesting, visually. It’s literally just like powering down your computer. Well, actually, it’s more like your computer overheats and crashes and you start to panic because you really really need to use it, like, stat, for something really important, and you’re not sure how long you’re going to have to let it cool down before you restart.

When I’m in a shutdown, I have very little ability to function. I generally go non-verbal, or if I am able to speak, it’s in short sentences, barely above a whisper. I cannot keep myself safe. If it happens in public, I am utterly vulnerable. My body more or less shuts down. I remember that party so vividly. I remember trying to force myself up and out into the main room, to speak, to cry out, anything. I couldn’t move my body, not even to go ask for help. I covered my ears. I curled up in a ball.

The thing that people don’t seem to get sometimes about what I experience is that it’s not the same as anxiety. That’s not to say that anxiety isn’t debilitating as well; I have expertise in that area as well. But the kind of overwhelmed that I get – it’s physical. It is a physical pain. Sensory overload is basically when all your senses go “nope, I’ve had it, that’s enough for me, thanks”.

I’m writing about this now because, honestly, I’ve been feeling bummed out about missing my friends from the scene. And I don’t need to justify myself to anyone, I know that. But it kind of helps to justify it to myself. I can’t go to parties anymore. Period. A couple of times a year, I go to a queer party, and I stay a couple of hours, and I leave before the playing starts. The specific events I go to are ones where I know I have a safe space, where I know that there are people there who understand my challenges and who know what to do if something happens to me. That’s it for me.

But I was at a munch on Saturday seeing wonderful friends, and everyone was talking about the party they were all going to that night, and I felt a pang of regret. I miss everyone so much. I really do. More than I can describe.

I’ve been working so hard on my self-care lately. I don’t want to dwell on bad things that have happened in the past. But out of the six years I’ve been part of the Montreal fetish scene, I spent about five of them trying to pretend I wasn’t Me, trying to pretend that if I pushed myself past my boundaries enough times then they’d stop being boundaries. And as much as I miss you guys, I don’t miss the shutdowns or the meltdowns. I don’t miss wondering what was wrong with me every Sunday morning when I’d wake up in tears.

There’s probably a happy medium for me somewhere. I’ll keep working on finding it, and I’ll keep treasuring the people who have taken such good care of me while I’m looking. But I won't regret taking care of myself. Not for one more minute.

With great love,

 (*side note: I use identity-first language, i.e. Austistic person, not person-first language, i.e. a person with Autism. It’s not something I’m afflicted with; it’s a fundamental part of who I am that can’t and shouldn’t be separated out from me.)

31 January 2017


Is a place that I know well 
It's the distance between us 
And the space inside ourselves 
And emptiness.... 
Is the chattering in your head 
It's the call of the living 
And the race from life to death 
Woa and I know Yes and I know What you feel... 

And I've got a longin' 
That's hard to find 
Won't give me no peace of mind 
Something that I've lived with all along 
Days and weeks and months and years 
Filling in the time my dear 
Tryin' to find the place where I belong

- Annie Lennox, "Loneliness"

I feel unbearably lonely lately.

Not the loneliness of being actually alone. I leave my house, I go to work, I make myself socialize. I have individual people I love, individual people who love me back. I am lucky in that sense. I am not alone.

I’m feeling the loneliness that stems from the lack of a community, I think. Or maybe my lack of close relationships just becomes more acute without at least a group of peers. Up until a few years ago I was mostly able to stave off these feelings because I at least marginally belonged to the artificially constructed community created by school. But in truth, I’ve never had a group of friends, and that’s something that bothers me more and more the older I get. I struggle with all interactions, but I especially do not know how to interact with groups. If I absolutely have to interact with more than one person at once, I’ll cling to the person I know the best and basically focus all of my attention on them. Most interactions in general leave me feeling lonelier than when I started, because I'm not making any kind of connection with the person or people in front of me.

I find this so difficult to explain, because when I do, people just reassure me that “everyone feels this way” before they rush off to have coffee with their group of friends or “catch up with their old gang” from high school. And for a long time, I assumed it was an autism thing, but the more I interact with other autistic folks, the more it seems like it’s just a me thing – even the most socially awkward of my friends on the spectrum have their gaming group, or their knitting group, or even just a group of online friends they have in jokes with. They have people they can be themselves around.

Lately this is eating at me for reasons I can’t quite explain. I burst into tears at tweens an actual third of my age (when did I get old enough to equal three times a tween???) hashtagging their squad goals, whatever the heck that means. I cannot watch a fucking yogurt commercial, where women in Lululemon pants laugh together about how great their digestion is going to be after all these probiotics, without teetering on a meltdown. It feels like I am missing some fundamental part of the human experience that is only closed off to me and that is just this casual, everyday, taken-for-granted thing for everyone else.

Again, none of this is technically new to me, even from when I was a little kid. I have always been weirdly close with my family while not actually feeling as though I am a part of my family, or like we are anything but a random assortment of people who happen all relate to one another. They are a bit like strangers I love very much. I am closest with my mom, and we talk almost daily, but I would still never dream of telling her an emotion I was experiencing about a personal matter.

Interpersonal relationships puzzle me on so many levels. The girl I consider my best friend is someone I’ve known since I was five, been close with since probably fifth or sixth grade, I’m an honourary Auntie to her amazing daughter… and we speak once, maybe twice a year. When we do talk, we talk almost entirely in a set of pop culture references that are really only funny to us. I love her to bits and I’d fight dragons for her if it ever came to that. But all this without any actual communication or feeling of connection.

I’ve been pushing myself to be more social lately, and I think that’s contributing to the lonely feelings. Every interaction just seems to drive home to me just how little I understand about having friends. Some of it is that I am trying really hard to be a somewhat social person – as much as my spoons will allow – and people seem to be excited to hear from me and see me when I make contact, but… I don’t think anyone has initiated contact and reached out to spend time with me in… well, years, actually.

People like me. That’s not the issue. I’m generally a likeable human, apart from being someone who talks WAY too much and always realizes they're coming up on a boundary shortly after sprinting/skidding across it. And it’s not a matter of not trying. I’ve pushed myself onto the fringe of many a social group and been more or less tolerated. In junior high, for about a year I went every day to lunch with this group of three girls. They were already a group of friends but they seemed okay with seeing me every day, and I was over the moon. I remember saying to them one day that I was excited to be part of their group, and they all kind of did this little side-eye thing before the nicest one said in her kindest voice: “well, I mean, you’re not really one of us”.

I think, what I want more than anything, is to be part of an “us”. It kills me that I don’t know how to do that. If they gave out points for trying, I’d be topping the leaderboard, believe me.

I don’t really have a clever or pithy way to end this post. Usually, when I write about something I’m facing, it’s a way of helping me to work out a solution. My best guess for a solution in this situation is that I need to just suck it up and accept that I’m not meant to belong in that way, but that feels like it’s going to leave me more depressed than I was when I started writing, so that won’t do.

Somewhere, deep in the dark recesses of the internet, there’s a still-existent website that hosts much of my wonderfully terrible teenage poetry, which, in true Katie fashion, runs the gamut from philosophical musings on Tigger from Winnie the Pooh to alarmingly angsty stuff that is thankfully not searchable by my name lest it be a red flag of psychological unwellness to my future employers. And while I know that “nobody understands me” is basically the battle cry of teenagers everywhere, it feels like everyone else either outgrew it or learned to hide it better than I have.

On a near-daily basis I ask my Daddy some variation on “am I yours?”; “will you keep me?; and “do I belong to you?” I know he wonders why it never seems to sink in that the answer is a resounding “yes”, but the thing is that I already know the answer – it just helps to keep hearing it. Belonging, to me, is an emotion as much as a state of being, and it’s one that’s always felt out of reach to me. For now, though, feeling for that one minute a day when I ask that question and get my answer that yes, I belong somewhere, to someone – there is at least one “us” to which I am an integral part - that’ll have to be enough.

With great love,

08 January 2017

On Letting My Soul Shine in 2017

When you can't find the light/That guides you through a cloudy day,
When the stars ain't shinin' bright/You feel like you've lost your way,
When those candle lights of home/Burn so very far away,
Well you got to let your soul shine/Just like my daddy used to say.

He used to say soulshine/It's better than sunshine,
It's better than moonshine/Damn sure better than rain.
Hey now people don't mind/We all feel this way sometime,
Got to let your soul shine/Shine till the break of day.

-The Allman Brothers Band, Soulshine

2016 was a year of spectacular suckitude for many of us. The deaths of our musical, athletic, and cinematic heroes aside, it feels more broadly like there was an overabundance of woe and calamity, from ill health and loss on the personal level to the world going to hell in a handbasket more generally. Whether this is just due to how our brains perceive the universe, acutely picking up on pain while ignoring beauty, or due to some sort of actual quantifiable calamity is kind of moot (and hearing how other years “had it worse” is not helpful – way to be super tone-deaf, New York Times.)

Globally, I have pretty limited control over whether or not 2017 carries on in 2016’s proud tradition of sucking donkey balls. We certainly have plenty of reasons to think it’s going to be a tough one. On the personal level, though, I have some thoughts.

See, I haven’t made any resolutions this January. I’m not really big on resolutions. I did make a number of plans and colour-coded schedules (god, that should be a fetish), broken down into achievable steps and goals. These mainly involve Very Boring Grownup Tasks, like sticking to a bedtime that works for me, planning my meals ahead, and flossing on a semi-regular basis (i.e. more than just directly before every dentist's appointment. Apparently, you can’t just skip the rest of the time and then aggressively attack and inflame your gums for ten minutes twice a year. WHO KNEW?) These tasks mainly have to do with knowing what it is I need, as an Autistic introvert, to keep myself in good enough mental and physical health to maintain healthy relationships, and to have the energy to pursue the things I love. 2016 was a year of even deeper solitude than usual for me. In some ways, that gave me some rest I needed. In other ways, though, I lost out badly. I had relatively little human contact, and could manage less and less as the year went on and my health spiralled (Side note: 2016 was also the Year of the Auto-Immune Diagnosis for me. Don’t look for it on the Chinese calendar; I think it’s one of the ones that got dropped in favour of the Year of the Snake. Solid choice on their part; snakes are much cooler.)

So no resolutions, just taking advantage of that “fresh start” feeling of January to try create a space where I can take better care of myself throughout the year. Secretly, though, I do have something in the way of a larger (and thematically richer) target in mind.

The thing about the relentlessness of the pain and the sadness out there in the universe – pain and sadness that has been there forever but that has felt a little too close to home for many of us recently – is that it can blind you to some of the neat stuff. And when I say neat, I mean breathtakingly beautiful. Glorious. Dazzling. One of the fun things about the way my brain works is that I feel everything a little too much (I may know I’m autistic now, but as a kid my parents basically just had to keep reading “Raising Your Highly Sensitive Child” over and over again.) My capacity for hurt is set way too high. So too, though, is my capacity for joy, when I have the energy to find the space inside me for it.

So, yeah. I guess I have a resolution after all, if we have to call it that. I’m not resolving to socialize more or practice my guitar more or do anything else that brings me happiness but requires energy, because I know those things will come when I am ready. Instead, I’m just resolving to be good to myself in very practical ways. To put away my laundry and make my bed and write up my grocery lists far in advance, not in the name of self-care in the abstract or earning the every-elusive Functional Adult Merit Badge, but as a concrete way of rebuilding my joy-capacity. Like changing the oil in your car not because the little light comes on and you know you should, but because you know it will provide you with better performance in the long run (Look Daddy, a car metaphor just for you! Did I do it right? Is that what that light means?). And it will be tough and painful in places, and I will call myself an idiot multiple times for thinking that flossing = noticeable overall increase in jubilation.

But I’m going to try, because futile optimism à la Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt has always been one of my best qualities.

In 2017, I resolve to let my soul shine. Just try and stop me.

With great love,

04 December 2016

On Being a Happily Unsexy Penguin

A Yo Yo Ma concert is a weird place to realize you’ll never be sexy.

I mean. I’m not sure there’s a really normal place to have that thought? And I’m not sure what sort of thoughts classical cello is meant to inspire. Nevertheless.

The thought itself wasn’t Bach-related. There was a stunningly beautiful woman seated ahead of SadistFaction and I. She seemed more interested in taking selfies than in the music, which bugged me, but it bugged me in different way than the guy on the other side of me texting did, which is how I knew I was jealous.  She carried herself with the full knowledge of her beauty, a degree of confidence that felt shocking and invasive to me. Tight pants, and a bra peeking out from under a fitted blazer with just one button done up. Sweet Jesus. As a queer, insecure girl, when looking at a woman like that the line between attraction and envy for me can be so fine I never know what side I’m on (the real answer, of course, is that I’m usually straddling it). I looked at her, and I thought… “Damn. I could never be like that.”

When I say I’ll never be sexy, I don’t mean, of course, that I don’t think anyone will ever want sex with me. I don’t even mean that I don’t think anyone checks me out, or likes it when I post scantily clad photos. But when I try to be consciously sexy – the pout, the posture – I am trying. Hard. It is an effort. And more often than not, I’m asked instead… “Why aren’t you smiling? You’re cuter when you smile.”

And I am, you know. Super cute. Devastatingly cute. Lovers fall prostrated before my cuteness, dontcha know. I can be hot, too. I have some low-cut tops and some bras that create a truly glorious illusion of cleavage. I have serious hips, hips that don’t lie, hips that if they knock you down, you stay down.

But sexy? I’ve wanted to be sexy since well before it was a healthy idea/ideal for me to be aiming toward. I tried being thin, and being overeager. I tried being innocent, and I’ve tried being bold. And every time, it was like putting on a skin that didn’t fit. And I thought I just needed to try harder.

That’s not the answer, though. There’s not a magical weight, a magical amount of self-confidence, or a magical posture. I am not sexy, in the same way that I am not athletic. I can work hard and trick people’s perceptions for a moment, in the same way that I can run fast for terribly short distances.

I used to sob after gym class, every time, because I was not used to failure. I worked so hard, but my body is meant for other things (tripping while walking *up* stairs, primarily.) For years, as a competitive, people-pleasing perfectionist, this devastated me. My brain could always do anything I asked it to. Why couldn’t my body?

Eventually, though, I accepted that I could be a klutz, a dork, a graceless penguin, and… I could still do sports (I mean, not a lot, as evidenced by the expression “do sports”). Actually, when I stopped pressuring myself, they started being kind of fun. Did you know that if you can laugh when you accidentally hit yourself in the head with a tennis racket instead of hitting the ball – and yes, I’ve done that – it becomes funny instead of embarrassing?

I need to learn to laugh at myself more. That’s never been my strong suit, but unlike innate sexiness, I’m fairly sure it’s an attainable goal. I need to learn that if I’m happiest when dressed like my Hard Femme Pretty Princess self, combat boots and flowery tights and 50s dress, then that’s when I’m my best self. I need to learn that appreciating what I have is healthier than bemoaning what I don’t.

They took pictures of us at work recently for our website, and we just got them back. I hated mine. It was taken from alarmingly close-up (like, do people checking out my office online need to see my pores?), and I thought I looked a bit like a chipmunk with too many chins storing nuts for the winter. I asked a co-worker what she thought, cringing as I waited to hear the bad news.

“Oh my god, your smile is amazing!” she said. “You have a smile that makes me feel like you’re everyone’s friend!”


I think I’ll leave the sexy pouting to the professionals.

With great love,


01 October 2016

Autism, Toxic Friendships, and Passing Privilege

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the theory that Autistic women learn to pass as neurotypical more easily because as kids other girls sort of take us under their wings and nurture us.
And I’m not wholly opposed to the concept. I did have some very close friendships as a kid, often with girls a few years older than me, who told me they wanted to take care of me and teach me to fit in and teach me about dating and all that fun stuff. And in a sense, that’s what they did. But what that story leaves out is how manipulative and abusive some of those relationships were.
Now, that’s not to say I didn’t have positive femmy-friendships as a kid. I did. I had… well, I had one. One major one. Still my best friend to this day. But she was my best friend in large part because we were BOTH awkward and dorky and more or less adorable little weirdos. Her less so than me, but put it this way - the first time I met her (now)husband, he didn’t understand the first ten minutes or so of our conversation, because it was entirely composed of Buffy quotes and hand-clapping games. She’s taught me a hell of a lot in the 25 years we’ve been friends. But none of it had the slightest bit to do with passing for “normal”. Together, we scoff in the face of normal.
Those “guiding friendships”, though, that the scant literature on Autistic women talks about - oh boy, I sure had those. Some of them taught me to fit in by encouraging my eating disorder. Some of them taught me to fit in by pressuring me into sex with their male friends. Some of them just seemed to exist in order to remind me constantly that I wasn’t a “real girl” yet.
People talk about the risk of abusive relationships or abusive sexual encounters for Autistic folks. They don’t talk nearly enough about the risk of abusive friendships. All of these relationships fell apart once these girls realized that their little pet project wasn’t getting any better - essentially, that I was still frustratingly Autistic (although I didn’t have the word then) despite their best efforts.
I am a glorious, perfect target for abusers. Maybe a bit less so now than when I was a teenager, but still moreso than I’m comfortable with. I have zero ability to recognize malice and near-complete trust in humanity. I desperately need to be liked. When I am out in public I move awkwardly (hunched penguin shuffle) but I smile at every stranger - a Sunday School teacher once told me I should, and I’ve never been able to lose the habit (pardon the Catholic pun). I’ve often relied on partners or people I’m close with to help me judge new people in my life. The last two men I dated both promised they were incredibly good at this, and often told me who to trust or not to trust. They both raped me (oddly enough, both of them later claimed that because I froze instead of screaming or hitting them when they kept going after multiple “no”s, I must have changed my mind and consented - because nothing says “yes” like traumatic paralysis). In retrospect, some of the people they drove me away from were probably good people.
Like many Autistic women, I’ve experienced sexual assault an alarming number of times (I mean, once is alarming. But I’ve experienced it enough times that my stories start to lack credibility - how do I keep finding these men? The answer, of course, is that they find me.) But some of my biggest scars come from my failed friendships - these lovely, nurturing relationships with women who helped me pass as neurotypical by acting as daily reminders that I was weird and broken and that no one would ever love me the way I am.
The friendships I have now are few and far between, but they have one thing in common - they are all with people who celebrate me the way I am. People who encourage me to flap my hands and stim around them, people who think it’s cool (or they at least, you know, good-naturedly tolerate it) when I ramble on about special interests. People who know to ask before touching me and who aren’t offended when I say no or when I get overwhelmed. People who love me. 
Let’s stop pretending that passing is some wholly uncomplicated privilege. Yes, women may more easily pass as neurotypical, for a whole host of reasons. But we’re passing at a hell of a cost.

26 June 2016

Quick Update

Just a quick note to say that I'm still around - I've just been struggling a lot with getting my thoughts from my brain into the computer lately. Rest assured that I'll be back and thrilling you all with my terrible life decisions and worse mental health as soon as I can :P

With great love,

27 May 2016


"Please be careful with me/I'm sensitive/And I'd like to stay that way"




I once got a bad grade on a high school physics test and wept.

The teacher took me aside and told me that I would never make it in a world full of men if I let them know that my failures hurt me.

She told me to harden myself against the world, to build a shell,

Because there was no place out there for a girl like me.



It took me so many years to find a name for the rawness of my skin,

The feeling that other minds brushing against mine might make me bleed.

My parents read "Your Highly Sensitive Child" and wished for a miracle while my first almost-girlfriend took me to Church so we could pray our gay away.

I closed my eyes and wondered if I could pray my whole self away instead.

Why stop there?



Little girl playing at grownup.

I kissed the boys but it was me who cried.

And when we finally fucked

In the back of cars, in musky bedrooms, music drowning out my painful silence,

I feared we'd overlap

And I would disappear.



For the first year of my life I wailed at the slightest touch.

They held me so gently,

Not knowing how their gentleness scraped at me,

Until they gave up altogether.



I've spent the equivalent of eons trying on other people's flesh to find one that fit.

"Be yourself", they said.

"No, not that self".

"Some other you, go find her and come back, we'll wait."

They didn't wait

And I never went back.