Commentary By Kim “Supermutt” Goodman
There was once a little girl pretty as can be with long hair; some people would call her a doll. To many people she was smart because she could memorize things and recite them so well and because she was very creative. To her teachers she was a good student because she was quiet and didn’t disrupt class. To a lot of people she may have looked and seemed like the perfect child. Despite her outward appearance, inside she was confused. Even though she looked and seemed so dainty, on the inside she felt masculine. She also didn’t know how to connect with her peers and used to just stand there and watch them, hoping that someone would connect with her. Everyone around her assumed that she was a loner or enjoyed being to herself, so no one connected with her. There were also lights, sounds, and smells that irritated and distracted her, but no one noticed. The little girl didn’t know how to verbally describe what was going on.
As the little girl became a teenager, her differences became noticeable. The school’s curriculum advanced from memorizing and reciting facts to using the facts that were learned over the years along with new facts that were given, and the girl was not able to keep up. Each fact that the girl learned was just a fact that stuck in her brain like a computer file. She was not able to tell the difference between an important fact and an unimportant fact. To her, a fact was just a fact, and all were equally important. She also didn’t know how to read between the lines of things or use the facts she learned and apply them to things. All she could do was recite them. She was also a direct and visual learner who needed to be told exactly what to do and be taught hands on. Her grades dropped dramatically, and no one understood why. In addition to struggling with schoolwork, the girl still wasn’t able to connect with her peers because she didn’t share any common interest with them. Each day her classmates ran home to watch music videos, but the girl rushed home to watch after-school cartoons. While her classmates hung out at the mall or at each others’ houses watching movies and listening to music, the girl would sit alone in her room playing with her toys and reading comic books. It was obvious that the girl was not as mentally and emotionally mature as her classmates were. She still thought like a child.
Once the girl’s differences started to stick out more, she was teased by her peers and criticized by her mother. Each day the girl went to school she was unable to connect with the other kids. Most of the time she sat alone, and sometimes she was picked on. After a rough day at school the girl needed to be hugged, held for a few minutes, and be told that the kids were wrong to mistreat her. Instead, she was blamed and criticized. She was often told that if she didn’t act so differently, she wouldn’t get picked on and was told that if she wanted the kids to like or respect her she had to act “normal.” The girl had no idea how to “act normal.” She only knew how to be herself. As time went on the girl learned that it was wrong to be herself, and she stopped talking about what really went on in her life because she didn’t want to be criticized or blamed for other people’s ignorant comments and actions. The girl kept a lot of things bottled up inside of her, and as more time went on, she became depressed. Slowly her self-esteem and self-confidence crept away.
The girl finally grew up and became a woman and was expected to suddenly start acting and thinking like a mature adult, but she still thought like a child and reacted emotionally like a child. The girl was not a magician who could suddenly change overnight, so she struggled to do things that “typical” adults found easy. She also had no self-esteem and a poor self-image. Since the girl could not seem to succeed at age-appropriate adult tasks, she eventually found herself out on the street and looking for love and acceptance. She was in search of a “family” to love and care about her. The girl wanted to be loved in a family sort of way and found out the hard way that love in the adult world was often tied to sex. The girl was unable to read people’s body language and social cues or see people’s hidden agendas, so she found herself in many difficult situations. She also struggled with her social and communication skills because they were not age appropriate.
The girl soon believed that there was something really wrong with her, and she wanted to know what exactly was wrong with her. She knew that she was an adult woman, but she felt like a little boy on the inside and she wanted to know why. She spent a lot of time searching for the answers to all the questions she had on her mind. Many years later, her doctor told her she showed signs of Asperger’s Syndrome, which is a high functioning form of autism, and she spent a lot of time researching it. Learning about Asperger’s made the girl realize that she was not crazy or abnormal, and a lot of things from her past started to make sense to her. Then she also found out that there were people out there that showed androgynous traits (being born one gender but feeling like the other) and people who were asexual (not having sexual feelings for a male or a female). For once in the girl’s life, she felt complete.
The girl in this story is me. I don’t regret ever being homeless. It was the best thing that ever happened to me. While I was homeless I learned more about love, caring, and being a part of a family than I did being around people who lived in homes. A lot of the people who lived on the street for a long period of time were “different” like me. Some of their parents had either passed away or couldn’t accept the fact that they were different from typical people their age. Many of their relatives couldn’t accept their differences or were not aware that they were different and assumed that they didn’t want anything out of life. These people were rejected and abandoned by their relatives and hurting emotionally but still found it in their hearts to have compassion for one another. When my street friends looked at me, they looked past my outward appearance and saw me as a human being worth caring about. They nurtured me emotionally with long hugs, encouraging words, and comfort, which was something my mother didn’t do. Their support helped raise my self-esteem. My street friends became the supportive “family” I was looking for. A lot of us struggled together, overcame obstacles together, and grew together.
Even though I am no longer homeless, I still sell the Cleveland Street Chronicle to get extra money to pay bills and buy the things I need. I’m still trying to buy furniture for my home. I like writing for the paper because I have a lot of knowledge to share. I like selling the paper because I like being near people. After spending a great deal of time alone it feels good to interact with people. I don’t get along well with people my age outside of the street because we don’t share a common interest. Most people tell me I remind them of their kids, or they are too busy trying to figure out my sexual preference.
One day I would like to own my own business so that I can hire people with differences and give them the opportunity to have a decent job. In addition to selling the paper, I also devote a lot of my time to autism awareness. In May, I ran in the Rite Aid Marathon’s 5K to support OAR’s “Run for Autism”. In July, I will walk in the Easter Seals’ “Walk With Me” charity walk at the zoo, and every August, I walk in the “Walk Now for Autism Speaks” charity walk. I also have my own autism awareness site. You can visit it at: www.supermuttwalks.info