Hello, I have autism which includes sensory sensitivities, including sensitivity to smell.  When my spouse and I visited Lotusland botanic garden this summer, one of the other guests on a tour was wearing perfume.  I was angry because I was there to experience a place.  Plants and the earth have a distinctive smell that I want to experience as part of the garden.

The guest’s choice that I would need to smell whiffs of her perfume bothered me a lot.  It felt like a violation of my boundaries.  I have trauma about my boundaries being violated, so my emotions can be strong.

I didn’t say anything because I have a lifetime of training that my needs are strange and therefore don’t matter.  That training goes back to when I was a tiny child.

But swallowing my own anger isn’t good for my health.  I’m an autistic person who pays a lot of attention to social cues and works hard to be appropriate.  I almost never melt down, especially in public.  Instead I take on an enormous stress load from my needs being unmet if I leave the house.  That’s part of why I can’t be around people very long, and part of what disables me.


If I had upsetly confronted the perfume person, I don’t think that would have helped me, her, or the world.  She would not have said, “Oh yeah–I’m not asking people if they consent to olfactory intrusion.  I will stop wearing perfume.”  She just would have been confused–why would anyone be upset about perfume?  She would have considered me crazy in a bad way.

Being so different is exhausting.  Almost nobody responds to feedback in a way that would be helpful.  I’m accused of ridiculous things, when a helpful response would be, “Thank you for letting me know.  Understood.”

I’m accused of

  • exaggerating
  • making it all about me
  • demanding the impossible
  • asking people to bend over backward for me
  • being weak or coddled
  • selfishness
  • inconsistency, like they think I’m lying–“but you were ok with a smell last week!”

I’m sorry that people lack compassion.  My autistic differences are not understood as autism.  Because autism is an invisible disability and I present as a woman, I’m seen as difficult or drama.  Few people even understand what autism can be.


I would prefer a culture with more truth in it, and more understanding of differences.  Some people just don’t know better.

But we all have a responsibility to one another to learn about differences and respect them.  It reminds me how transness, nonbinary gender, and specifying pronouns can be difficult for some people who aren’t used to it.  But too bad.  You are a member of society, and you have a responsibility to the people around you to be respectful.  If you don’t understand it, study.

The people around you have been working very hard to accommodate your ignorance.  You can take a turn of working hard, to accommodate our actual, legit well-being needs.

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