“Of course, we know to love! We are probably better lovers than you are but then, you’ll never know.” – have been perennial words from Alizeh* and so many other autistic young people in their experiences of love. A disability and deaf aware account on Instagram disabilityaware_ features words by Jim Sinclair that reads, “Push for things that your expectations tell you are normal, and you’ll find frustration, disappointment, resentment, may be even rage and hatred. Approach respectfully, without preconceptions, and with openness to learning new things, and you’ll find a world you could never have imagined.”
Alizeh* loves art, her online friends and watching musicals and she identifies as an autistic, queer young girl. In this interview, she talks about the feeling of being in love and her relationship with her trans boyfriend.
Y: What does being in love look like to you?
A: Love looks like to me…well, visually as an abstract concept, it would just be like, a big bloated blob…just like almost bursting! You know, like that really airy feeling. That’s basically what love is as a visual concept. I guess…it would be like a peachy colour. I know that pink and red are often associated with love but like for me, it’s a warm colour that’s often associated with comfort and endearment, so you know. Also, I just really like peach.
Y: Would you want to draw love out?
A: Yeah…I can try.
Okay so…it’s a big, peachy blob. It’s a reddish, pinkish peach. And it’s just kinda like bubbling up. I don’t know how to draw this feeling of bursting…so I’m just going to try my best…
That just looks like a big blob…like bubblegum. I don’t know if I should make it veiny. As in like…heart veins. I don’t know if I should make it veiny.
It kinda now looks like a baby butt.
Y: Are there places in your body where you feel this love? Where?
A: It’s my chest. My chest is about to explode. That sounds like some cliché’ thing. But it feels like literally I am a balloon with too much air.
It’s just basically I make this look sometimes in our conversations (pouts, looks in awe).
Y: What’s that look all about?
A: I’m basically high.
Y: Is that how you know you’re loved?
A: Yeah, basically.
Y: Has love always looked like this to you or has it changed over time?
A: I used to think love was stinky and silly. I used to be that type. I used to think like that because I was edgy, “Oh! I am not like other girls! I don’t want a relationship! I don’t want to be feminine! I don’t want to go on with the social norms!” And now I don’t care.
It was because I had never experienced love before and now I have so oops! I am a bloated pink blob! Also, I think I grew as a person.
At first I didn’t know it was love! So basically, it was like…I met J. He was funny, I was funny. We would talk a lot. So we just became friends…I have been friends with J for like three years. Umm…in October, 2019, he made one clue that he may be interested in me. You know, I had scenarios in my head about like…oooo what if this happens! And I was hardcore crushing on him. And he did this thing and I went oo!!! So I asked him and he said yeah…and I was like wooo we’re dating now!
Y: What are some of the things about the relationship that has changed this love from a stinky, silly feeling to a big blob feeling?
A: He’s really funny. I am really funny. He makes me feel good and I am told I do that for him too. He makes me feel good about myself.
Umm frankly I don’t know what love is. Love is an abstract concept and nobody reaallyyy knows what is it. But love is in fact a feeling. Hmmm.
Y: Are there some challenges you have experienced when in love?
A: Well, I know for sure it’s love because frankly, I’ve never felt like this about other people before. I think, there are obviously going to be some problems in relationships as there are problems between two people. It’s like any other relationship. There’s going to be conflict and that’s a given. But you know, it can be solved with healthy communication and some compromise and if they’re being weird about it, that’s either toxic or an abusive relationship and you need to zoooop (get away) or shuppp (sneak away)!
Y: Tell me about ‘little’-big things you both do in the relationship to make this love possible?
A: Waiting to talk to each other. He’s funny, his face makes me happy. I am funny. I made a snail out of clay for this birthday. I am bursting. This reminds me of the old days. We talk for hours. We just talk to each other a lot. And there’s a lot of casual banter in our relationship. It’s a healthy relationship when you get to jab at each other the same way when we were friends and it’s still fine.
Y: What are some of the stereotypes you have heard from neurotypicals about autistic people in love?
A: So when I thought I was a neurotypical, I didn’t know of any stereotypes about autism. But now I know that neurotypicals think we’re absolute weirdos incapable of feeling. Or they think we’re geniuses. And we are above neurotypicals apparently and then when we have problems, they say, “you’re autistic, you should be smarter than this.” Bah bah bah. We have social issues! I only have like four friends and we’re all online. And that’s because you’ve made other spaces so dingy, weird for us.
Y: Is there a thing or two you want to tell neurotypicals about autistic people in love?
A: We love exactly in the same way as you do. Sure it might be harder because we have a really hard time doing this thing of social interaction. But if you’re open to know, we fall in the love all the same. We just sometimes don’t know how to express it very well. And that you make things so unapproachable for us. But our love is as important and as much love as yours.
Y: Thank you, *Alizeh for this beautiful conversation!
*Name of the person marked has been changed.
Yashna Vishwanathan is a Mental Health Worker at Ummeed Child Development Center and she works with children and young adults experiencing or at risk of disabilities and their families.