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Imagine, if you will, a world where it is considered barbaric to bump into anyone in public. And you’re blind. Oh, and everyone is required to wear sunglasses all the time, so people can’t tell whether anyone is blind, and some people don’t believe blindness exists at all.

It is possible for you to learn alternate methods of sensing your surroundings, but it’s hard. No matter how hard you try, occasionally you’re going to bump into people anyways – maybe you were tired and distracted, maybe someone moved too quickly for you to sense, maybe some jerk tripped you on purpose.

Now, some people respond to this by loudly proclaiming “blind person coming through, watch out, watch out, not my fault if you get in the way,” and then blithely walk where they wish, bumping into lots of people and stepping on their toes. That’s not very nice, and anyways, many people suspect that they’re not blind at all, just jerks who wanted an excuse to hurt people.

Other people are so terrified of bumping into anyone that they curl up into a ball muttering “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, please don’t bump into me.” That’s no way to live, but they can’t think of any alternative besides option 1 above.

Eventually, groups of blind people find each other, and set up spaces where there are clear non-visual clues about where to walk, and nobody really minds if you bump into them now and then so long as you don’t seriously injure them. Some people are more careful than others, and there’s debate about how much care ought to be expected and whether it’s okay to punish someone who’s utterly careless, but mostly people get along and the ones that were curled up in corners start to come out of their shells (bumping into a lot of people in the process, but they’ll get better at that in time).

At the same time, however, there’s another group of people… well, sort of, because they have funny voices, and they haven’t quite been considered people in the past, and for a long time it was fine to walk into them, or even beat them up, and nobody cared. But they’ve been fighting that long and hard, and they’ve finally got the anti-bumping laws to apply to them too, even if a large minority still ignores those laws and acts like they’re crazy for being upset when someone bumps into them, or denies it ever happened. They’ve built their own funny-voice-only spaces, but regular people keep trying to break into them, so they have to work hard to defend them while also working hard to defend themselves whenever they’re not there.

Some of the funny-voice people are blind too, and fuck is that ever confusing. Should I expect other people to stop bumping into me now, even though I bump into them still because I’m blind? What if the person is blind? Should they have been more careful, or was this just one of those unavoidable times? And oh god, what if I bump into a funny-voice person, they’ll be so mad at me for not treating them like a person but really I just didn’t notice them, but maybe I should have been more careful, maybe I should just stay far far away from them so that I never accidentally bump into them… Maybe I should retreat to the safer blind-friendly spaces (even though less people will consider me a person there).

But now it turns out those blind-friendly spaces are sitting on top of a gold mine, and regular people keep coming in to mine for gold. And the funny-voice people don’t want to be left out of the gold-mining like they always were when they weren’t considered people, so more of them are coming in too. But the regular people don’t want to share their gold, so they keep bumping into them trying to hurt them, and the blind people are bumping into them too – either because they’re blind, or because they want to hog the gold too, or both – and some blind people are regressing to their pre-friendly-space behaviour, and the funny-voice people are getting injured and really pissed off about everyone bumping into them all the time and some sound ready to just fucking punch everyone…

And here I am, blind with a funny voice, wishing everyone could get along somehow, and wondering if I can ever get any gold myself without bumping into all these goddamned people (or getting injured myself). Some days, curling up into a ball seems like a much easier option all around, but I worry that if I do that, people will say “see, funny-voicers aren’t really people” or “see, blind people can stop bumping into anyone”…

So yeah, I have aspergers, and I’m going to say some stupid shit sometimes and cross boundaries unintentionally. And yeah, I’m female, and I deserve to have my boundaries respected. I’m doing the best I can to minimize the former, and be assertive about the latter without traumatizing other aspies. And once in a while I’ll be a jerk when I know better and could stop myself, but I’m doing my best to minimize that too.

But I still wish everyone could just get along…



{August 29, 2014}   On boundaries

So… Julie Pagano blogged about boundaries and consent. You should read it.

…go on, I’ll still be here when you get back. :)

Anyways, it’s a good post, but I felt like the first point (Entitlement) could be elaborated on. It’s something I misunderstood at a fundamental level for a long time. I honestly thought the rule was “you can have boundaries, if you have a good reason for them.” Somehow I grew up thinking it was ok for other people to demand a reason for my “no” (in any situation other than sex) and judge whether it was a valid reason. And, of course, that I could expect justification from other people.

I like making people happy. I hate upsetting people. So I was totally happy to give people what they wanted… after I understood why they wanted it. After all, being confused really sucks. I hate feeling confused, I hate uncertainty. I hate wondering whether I did something wrong or if the other person was just having a bad day or whatever. And being an aspie, I’m confused a lot. :)

I think I did have a bit of a sense that I wasn’t handling things quite right. But having no idea what the Right Way was, I didn’t know what else to do. Lots of people have conflicting opinions on social norms, and some of them have their own agenda colouring their advice too, so I don’t know who to trust. So, I just keep listening, until someday something clicks and another bit of social behaviour makes sense, and feels right. (It helps that I’m following some prominent feminists on twitter lately. They’ve had to think about and experience this shit a lot, so their opinions tend to be quite sensible.)

I’m not even sure when I figured this one out. It was probably a gradual thing. But I do remember how good it felt to realize that I didn’t have to justify my boundaries. That I was allowed to just say no, or ask someone to stop doing something, or block someone, and I didn’t have to figure out a bullet-proof justification first. That was a huge weight off my shoulders, and suddenly I felt more confident and.. I dunno… adult.

It still feels bad when someone has boundaries where I’d prefer they didn’t, but, instead of trying to understand what’s going on on their side, I have a sort of deeper understanding: I understand that they’re allowed to do that, and that it’s important to their sanity and freedom as an adult to have that right. And that’s more important than my discomfort, even if the discomfort does suck. Accepting the discomfort makes it much less likely to turn into a panic attack, too ;)

I’m kinda scared to hit the publish button now. This is such a murky confusing subject, and I might still have said something incredibly stupid. I might still be wrong about a lot of this stuff. Or someone might try to tell me I’m wrong when I’m right. Either way they might be mean about it. The internet is a scary place. But, I hope this post has given some people food for thought. This stuff is worth thinking about, over and over again, until we do get it right.



et cetera