A reader asked:
I know this is silly, but I’m seriously depressed about not having friends. Some other aspies online have advised me to act more neurotypical and less trans. Do you think this would work?
First of all, it’s not silly. Being lonely and isolated is awful, and it’s ok that it bothers you.
I don’t think that it is a good idea to act more neurotypical or less trans in order to attract friends. I think in the long run, it will make you more lonely. Passing creates a lot of barriers (and also tends to make receptive language problems worse). Passing might increase the number of people willing to spend time with you, but it’s unlikely to get you more actual friends.
It’s hard to live with the kind of stigma we live with. You’re probably surrounded by a lot of people who are nice to neurotypical folks, but horrible to you. In that situation, it’s easy to think that you’re the problem and that you should just shame yourself into being someone people will like. But, shame is not a cure. Trying to become someone who won’t be stigmatized is likely to end poorly. You’re always going to be autistic, and you’re always going to face hate from people who think we are unworthy.
You’re not going to be able to make all of that hate go away, and you’re not going to be able to hide from it all – but you *can* have friends. Friendship is possible, even for people like us, even in this world as it is. There is a way forward for you.
Part of it might be a matter of finding people. If you are autistic, especially if you are also marginalized in another way, you’re going to encounter a lot of people who treat you badly, and probably not so many you can trust to treat you well when you’re visibly different in stigmatized ways. Even if you’re doing everything right, it can still be really hard and take years to find good friends. If you are young, this might be a lot of the problem.
Meanwhile – don’t underrate the people you interact with online. You don’t have to be in the same place for it to be a real friendship. There are advantages to being in person, but it’s not the only thing that matters.
Some of this post I wrote for another lonely person might be relevant for you too.
Aside from stigma, there are also other problems a lot of autistic people have in making friends. More on that tomorrow, and probably more on that for the rest of the week.
Don’t give up.