autistic trait

lm by art

“That’s my biggest autistic trait–not knowing when I’m friends with someone,” my housemate said.

We were at the dinner table, talking about social.

“I think friendship is different when you’re housemates,” I said.  “Friendship can be like affection, reaching out, shared norms, shared language, shared values, things you do together.  But when you live with someone, you might just know you’ll see each other.  So there could be less reaching out, so you might not know how good of friends you are.”

We went on to have a cool conversation about friendship that meandered to talking about friendships with coworkers.  But I’ve been thinking since then–what’s my biggest autistic trait.


I love stimming, and it can look funny to other people.  I sway a lot.  Also I enjoy moving my arms in smooth ways, not jerky.  Sometimes I like to open my mouth wide and do weird movements of my mouth.

Vocal stims are fun and comforting, but I keep them to a minimum around other people.  I limit them to chill moving-about-the-kitchen tuneless humming sounds, usually.

Stimming might be my most autistic trait from the outside.  But inside, the differences are many.

sensory sensitive

Being sensory sensitive is derailing to my life.  It can look subtle on the outside, but it adds up.  It’s part of why I can’t be around people very much, and it’s hard to go out.

I was taking a walk with my spouse Ming this morning, and I was telling him how sensory sensitivity pushes me to the side.  I told him about a tree that caused a lot of problems for me.

the tree with bugs

When Ming and I lived in Las Vegas, there was a tree outside our house.  It was an old mesquite tree.  When I sat under this tree for a while, I would feel uncomfortable sensations afterward.  It felt like little tiny bugs were crawling on my skin, and it was terrible.  For about 24 hours, I would feel this sensation.  I never saw a tiny bug, but it was torture.

If I ever spent time under this tree, I would come inside, take off all my clothes, and take a shower and wash my hair.  That would prevent the problem.  But sometimes I would be very tired and not do that, or I would doubt my own needs, and think maybe I was under the tree so briefly that it didn’t count, or I was making it all up.  Then it would happen again and gross me out.

No other person ever complained about these bugs.  Ming spent time under that tree, and he never experienced what I experienced.  I told some people about it, and a friend said, “I believe you.”  Someone theorized that it wasn’t actual tiny bugs, but was an allergic reaction.


I was remembering the tree bugs because I was at a party at a place with lots of glass in the dirt.  I was wearing sandal shoes and danced to a queer band.

Afterward, I felt little tiny pieces of glass in my heels.  It scared me that I had damaged my feet.  I asked my spouse to look at some spots that felt especially infiltrated with tiny pieces of glass.  He held a flashlight and said he did see some sparkliness.  We took tape and put it on my foot then ripped it off to get some micro-glass out.

Then the next day I wore those same shoes, and I felt poked again.  I felt the shoes had some micro-glass still in them.  It was an “O crap” feeling.

It’s a couple days later, and my feet feel better now.  But I feel cautious about them and decided to try wearing slippers in the house.  I’m afraid of getting a difficult wound on my foot.


Other people at the party were wearing sandals also, including some flipflops flimsier than mine.  But no one has mentioned to me the problem of getting micro-glass in their feet.  I’m not making up this problem.  But it’s hard when no one else relates to something that’s very hard for me.

The tree issue–I don’t know how to call an exterminator and explain the tiny bugs, and they would know what to do.  Maybe they would come take my money.  But probably they haven’t heard of this.  I loved that courtyard, and it was sad how I couldn’t sit under the tree that was right outside my house.

It’s isolating in regular life, limiting what I can do with others.  But it’s also isolating inside me, to have these differences.  I have usual human problems.

  • staying housed
  • sleep
  • eating foods that are good for my body
  • climate change
  • stubbing my toe
  • dodging pandemic
  • losing things
  • death
  • how to perform gender
  • transportation
  • what clothes to wear
  • existential dread

But then I have weird problems too like panic in restaurants, freaking out if my chair gets bumped, smelly air “fresheners” in vacation rentals, and tiny bugs no one else can feel.


The sensitive is my skin, hearing, sight, and sense of smell.  But my sensitive is also to a hater being an asshole, access problems being ignored, interpersonal violence of non-consent domination.  Everyone around me seems to feel conflicts and power struggles as almost nothing, while for me, it’s huge.

In community, I think of myself as a canary in a coalmine.  I’m tired of doing a lot of work, feeling what other people can’t feel or push away.  I wish I could get more credit and support for that, or just recognition for carrying a huge emotional load.

No one asked me to, but I feel like a weather vane also–exposed, on the top of the building, being pushed around in the wind.  You can look at me and get information.  I could tell you at any time where trouble is brewing and what type.  But you are probably busy doing something else, something that I don’t do, like watching movies, drinking wine or smoking weed, working for money, or recovering from working for money.

psych meds

I was sedated on a bipolar cocktail for 11 years.  I slept a lot and went with the flow.  These days, I have more energy and feelings.  I like myself more and make more art.  Life is hard but much better, as a fully-feeling being.

The psych meds made life easier for me and other people.  I mostly stayed home and hid out.  I didn’t object to injustices very much.  I was tamped down.

Sometimes I think I can’t take how sensitive I am.  I get anxiety-insomnia and cry, fantasizing about being sedated again and able to sleep, not feeling 100 emotions and carrying so much painful awareness.

I feel my body’s sensations–so many of them that it’s hard to sort them and understand what’s significant.  I’m paying so much attention to the world–I can’t turn it off.  Maybe my biggest autistic trait is taking in too much information.  I can’t filter it well.

Most people seem to block out most information.  I have a hard time turning my perceptions down.


My childhood and young adulthood I was told, “Stop being so sensitive,” and, “Stop making such a big deal out of it.”  Then I stopped talking.  Later in community as an adult, I was told, “The world doesn’t revolve around you,” when I asked for basic respect and access.

Those people are not my people.  Bees, flowers, the sky, my ancestors, and Parent Earth are my people.  Ming and other autistic people are my people, and curious lovers who don’t need me to be easy.


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