Changing people’s opinions is hard. There’s a better way.

photo by Guillaume de Germain

Don’t let anyone tell you that marches and signs and protests don’t matter, that they don’t change anything, because science shows quite clearly that they do.

You want to change the world, but too often it seems hopeless.

If you agree with the above sentence, I can say with a high degree of certainty that you hail from the left end of our political spectrum. Not just because the political power in America this election cycle rests largely with the conservative party, but because for liberals, the desire to change things is almost definitional.

From social science we know that…

Photo by David Mark

Science shows that principles are no match for money

“The odd American idea that giving money to political campaigns is free speech means that the very rich have far more speech, and so in effect far more voting power, than other citizens.”

— Timothy Snyder

“I don’t care who [politician’s name] takes money from.”

I saw this comment on a Facebook post recently, and it shocked me. I had to remind myself that not too many years ago, I might have said the same sort of thing. …

How could my most extraordinary skill also be my greatest weakness?

[content warning: child abuse]

When I was twenty-four, I hit a low point in my life. I had been deceived, betrayed, and abandoned by someone I was deeply in love with. I was devastated by this loss, but my reaction went way beyond heartbreak. I lost all ability to function in the world, because with that betrayal my entire worldview had shattered.

Learning to read people had been a survival tactic for me. My mother was a sadist, almost certainly a psychopath; my father had poor control over his temper. I remember the particular moment, the year I was thirteen…

But my clumsiness was a clue I didn’t know how to interpret

I learned the word ‘proprioception’ in my late twenties, in the best of all possible ways: the guy I was living with at the time told me, “Wow, you have really terrible proprioception.”

I was terrible at lots of things, but this one was new to me. Proprioception, it turns out, is about knowing the position of your body in space: feeling where the edges of your body are, without looking at them. It’s a physical sense — not as often mentioned as sight or sound, but pretty darned important for all of that.

The ex who gifted me this…

Collecting the diverse voices of autism

ReCognition was created for the ‘Lost Girls’, not all of whom are actually girls: people whose autism has gone unrecognized because they do not conform to the stereotypical presentation expected of autistic boys.

Our genders — whether felt or assigned — have affected how our autism is expressed and perceived. ReCognition focuses on the lived experience of autistic women and gender-diverse people, with the following aims:

  1. helping autistic people who were not diagnosed as children recognize and discover themselves
  2. sharing experiences so that autistics can see we are not alone, and information that will help us cope and thrive
  3. exploding the stereotypes of autism among neurotypical people by showing diverse autistic points of view

Would you like to write for reCognition?

Submission guidelines and general tips

ReCognition is looking for original essays by female and gender-diverse autistics. (As is common in the broader autistic community, we consider self-diagnosis to be valid.)

What kinds of work we publish

We are currently focused on first-person essays, and submitted pieces should reference autism in some way. We’re not currently looking for reported features, or for you to tell someone else’s story.

We are interested in articles that offer suggestions for coping as an autistic, but please present them in the context of your own experience, not in the form of traditional ‘self-help’. …

Some autistic brains do a lot of heavy lifting behind the scenes

When I was twenty-four, in the course of a conversation with my therapist, I created an analogy that I would use throughout my life: when I walk into a room of people, I immediately start running ‘social calculus’ on everyone in sight.

It really did feel like doing advanced math: it was that complicated, that deliberate. And I could tell, even by twenty-four, that I was putting out more effort than everyone else I knew. Other people seemed to be doing social arithmetic, not social calculus. Their conscious awareness was surface-level at best. …

I’ve been hiding my autistic stimming, even from myself

When I first began to consider the possibility that I might be autistic, several arguments against it immediately sprang to mind.

One of these was: but I don’t stim! Or rather — I do, because everybody self-stimulates once in a while, but I don’t stim the way autistic people do, repetitively and constantly. I don’t flap my hands, or rock, or hit my head — in fact, I can’t ever recall flapping my hands or hitting my head, even when I was an abused kid and had all the reason in the world to do so.

But once I started…

Out of the blue, a picture emerges

We all have stories of self. Whether we tell them to other people, or we hold them in our most private hearts, humans structure our memories and our identities as a narrative.

And we all want our stories to make sense, do we not? We like things to demonstrate causality: I am this way because that happened, and that happened because of this other thing.

Of course, we’re rarely just one story. Our selves are more anthology than novel. …

hereby released into the public domain

In 2013, during our thirteenth year together, my partner Jak and I chose to become legally married. We wanted to hold a ceremony for the occasion but had no desire to spend large sums of money to do so.

Instead we held a ‘guerrilla wedding’: we wrote our own ceremony, asked a friend to officiate, and spoke our vows in a public venue (Seattle’s Japanese Gardens) witnessed by just eight people. I wore a hand-me-down dress; Jak bought a shirt at Goodwill and borrowed cufflinks. Two of our friends took photographs.

In the spirit of openness and sharing which has…

Karawynn Long

Autistic polymath reader & writer.

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