For as long as I remember before I learned I was autistic, I’ve felt that I didn’t belong. Other humans were strange, unpredictable and often intimidating. I rarely made connections with them the way they always seemed to make with each other. I could tell I was different. I thought there was nowhere in the world where I fitted in.
After my diagnosis, the idea that I was born on the wrong planet came as a relief to me because it captured this feeling, that had hung over me my whole life but I’d never been able to fully express. And the wrong planet metaphor says I’m not a wrong person – it’s not that there is something wrong with me but that I don’t fit well with the rest of society.
The wrong planet metaphor is popular in books, websites and blogs, and I assume that this is because other people relate to this feeling too. But Autistic Bitch From Hell pointed out that when a minority group is seen as not fully human it makes it easier for people to justify prejudice and discrimination against them. When we publicly describe ourselves as being born on the wrong planet we’re probably unintentionally supporting other people’s attempts to dehumanise us and helping ableist attitudes to persist.
The wrong planet feeling lessened as I learned there were other people like me and when I met them online and in person. This makes me think that the wrong planet feeling is not simply something inherent to autism but is at least partly due to being in the minority. It makes me think it can be overcome.
It’s not surprising we feel like aliens when we’re surrounded by people who think differently from us, when we might not even be aware that people like us exist, and when people like us are not realistically represented in the media.
I’ve felt isolated by my mental illness as well. Like people with mental illness, Autistic people are disabled. This means that we live in a society that has not been designed to cater for our needs and our ways of being. That’s bound add to the feeling that we were born in the wrong place.
I think we should move beyond wrong planet, and treat it not as a truth about ourselves to be accepted but as something we should try to change. We can introduce Autistic children to each other so they know they’re not alone, we can teach people the truth about Autism, we can challenge disablement, and we should tell the world that Autistic people have as much right to Earth as anyone else.