Autistic Speed Dating and the Horrors of Media Representation
When I came across an article about “neurodiverse speed-dating” my cringe reflex was immediately activated. As middle-aged queer AuHD person I can’t think of anything worse. A response was already agitating itself in my brain.
Reading the article gave me the irks pretty much straight away but for other reasons. The use of the phrase “living with autism” and the persistent use of “neurodiverse” to describe an individual didn’t bode well. And I’m getting a bit irritated with this trend of using “neurodiverse” in a euphemistic way when they usually mean Autistic.
That’s right, it wasn’t written by a neurodivergent person, nor would it appear to be written for a neurodivergent audience. Think Love on the Spectrum: a cutesy feel-good piece for the entertainment of neurotypical people.
I think I was so irked by the way the way the article was written that it overshadowed what it was about: an Autistic man in regional Australia who wanted to give himself and other neurodivergent people an opportunity to connect. A neuro-affirming social worker helped facilitate the event.
Instead, the article centred a neurotypical perspective at the expense of an Autistic one. While quoting participants about their experience, it consulted a researcher from a non-autistic led organisation about masking.
It is beyond doubt that Autistic people themselves are the experts on Autistic masking so why consult someone without lived experience?
All that aside, how does speed dating rate as an option for Autistic people?
It provided a fresh alternative to the apps which one participate beautifully described as “a daily thing you do like checking the news.” Dating apps are a nightmare for anyone but adjacent to hell for Autistic people. Opportunities to meet face to face in a safe environment are precious.
It’s a way of getting neurodivergent people together when meeting people is a pretty hard thing to navigate as an individual. Even if it doesn’t result in romance, it can help break down isolation by helping…