or, making yourself explicable to others


After I realised I was probably on the spectrum. I also realised that some of my behaviours are (unconsciously) for the benefit of others, to make myself more legible to them. A lot of my thought processes don't run quite the same way as most other people's, so there's a certain amount of translation that I need to take upon myself to make me explicable to them. That's a fairly hefty amount of mental strain, but experience taught me it's often better than the alternative. The world is not kind to people who don't align along certain axes.

People don't tend to really appreciate that actually my reasons for doing something tend to be the result of long reflection and that leads to actions which might seem inexplicable, but which are, I promise you, sensible and purposeful. They just see the peculiarity. Trying to describe the whole process often doesn't go over particularly well either; folk don't want legibility to be effort for them. I've historically been able to get away with this more than others by virtue of my general dependability and competence, which grant me a large number of idiosyncrasy credits. It's a lot easier with my friends and close family, who are either like me or understand me enough that it's not a problem. There's still a sense, though, in which a lot of the time I'm not quite able to fully be.

Anyway: all this made me think about something I read a while back about neopronouns. I do have a lot of sympathy with their neoproponents. I have a very low tolerance for discomfort so I recognise the importance of finding a way of being addressed that makes people feel more comfortable in social settings. That said, I think I'm probably with the author that the singular 'they' is generally the way things are likely to go. It's an existing word that might feel a bit weird in the mouth initially but has the benefit of already being somewhat familiar and not feeling like some completely weird new thing. I'd like the other ones to work, but it gives me the same gut feeling as the stuff I was talking about at the top: that the world will not be kind to this.

Historically this seems to have been the case: folk have been trying to get neopronouns going for ages and it doesn't seem to have taken off. I generally suspect asking normal folk to accept too byzantine or too anything-goes a system is a hiding to nothing, but also from the point of view of someone who has a very difficult time remembering names, I think adding in a whole bonus category to remember seems a bit of a stretch. Norms which might work in a small tight-knit community are not necessarily transferable to one's day-to-day—they don't respect the tradeoffs necessary for non-close, non-online social interactions.

People like being able to assume, not having to specify everything, and not have everything specified. They like tacit understanding, it makes them feel more easily connected to others. It makes the world more legible to them. This, when you get past the usual boring right-wing bellowers, is why some folk just don't like e.g. pronoun declaration. It takes something that feels to them like they should be able to 'just get it' and puts an artificial-feeling structure on it. Encountering this, weirdly, lets me get into the headspace of the people I mentioned in the first bit.

As I said earlier, legibility isn't necessarily just about the understanding, it's about the ease of it. Sure, it'd feel natural after a while if they did it a bunch but again, outside of the norm-groups that do this already I don't see the likelihood of this spreading as all that high. This does rather make my brain kick into techno-solutionalism mode, though. I see a lot of this problem as practical; if folk were able to wear pronoun badges all the time it would make all this a lot easier. There's a big push for AR technology at the moment, so what about having your phone broadcast your name and pronouns via Bluetooth or something, so interlocutors would be able to just 'see' your pronouns? If you’re a metaverse person (which I’m not, particularly), it’d be even easier on there.

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