Can We Autistic People Get a Little Empathy?

Feeling weird and not watching a movie tonight

James Finn
Nov 24, 2020 · 5 min read
Image for post
Image for post
Amazon Prime’s movie offerings for me tonight

I don’t watch a lot of movies. I’m autistic and movies are hard.

Part of my autism is an extreme sensitivity to visual stimulation. On a bad day when colors are too bright and things I see move too fast, all I want to do is retreat into a dark room and put a cool cloth over my eyes. I don’t say that to elicit sympathy. Hell, I rarely admit it. We all have our challenges, and mine are no more special than anyone else’s.

Sometimes I’m not sure how cool people are with me

I tell my friends I have a hard time reading between lines — that I usually take things literally even though I know I shouldn’t. I tell them I can’t stop just because I know. I tell them all I can do is try, even though trying is often confusing.

Sometimes when I watch my friends laugh at jokes, I want to cry

Because I know for sure I’d never get the jokes unless somebody explained them to me. Hell, I often can tell from cues that something is a joke. I often can use my (pardon the arrogance) formidable intellect to analyse a joke and come close to knowing why it’s funny.

Movies make me sweat

I love storytelling. Heck, I’m an accomplished storyteller. Since I was a 17-year-old Marine Corps recruit, nothing has given me greater pleasure than gathering a group of people around and telling stories that make eyes sparkle and jaws drop.

I have a hard time WATCHING stories

I’ll tell friends I don’t want to watch their YouTube masterpiece or their TED talk, and I can see they don’t buy it. Maybe it’s my fault. I say things like “Reading is so much faster. I don’t like video because it’s slow and inefficient. Can you please send me a text link?”

I wanted to watch a movie tonight

I was really in the mood. I’m in one of those phases where art films are really cool. I’ve watched four in the last three weeks, which for me is quite the feat. Sometimes I’ll go a whole year without braving two films.

I don’t know why I’m writing this story

I can’t expect Amazon Prime to redesign their marketing because I’m autistic. I can’t expect the majority of human beings to change their communication habits because my autism makes it hard for me to understand them.

Imagine they won’t tell you, because they’re afraid you’ll think they’re weird

Some of us are cool with being “weird.” I’ve taken pride in weird for decades, maybe because I don’t have any other choice. Pride is how I stay sane. But sometimes I wish I could let go of my pride and ask for a little accomodation.

No hard feelings, and I hope you understand. I know you don’t owe me anything, but I sure would appreciate a little empathy.

James Finn - The Blog

Collected Writings.

Sign up for The Update

By James Finn - The Blog

An occasional reminder of interesting stories Take a look

By signing up, you will create a Medium account if you don’t already have one. Review our Privacy Policy for more information about our privacy practices.

Check your inbox
Medium sent you an email at to complete your subscription.

James Finn

Written by

Writer. Runner. Marine. Airman. Former LGBTQ and HIV activist. Former ActUpNY and Queer Nation. Polyglot. Middle-aged, uppity faggot. jamesfinnwrites@gmail.com

James Finn - The Blog

Collected Writings. Stories and ramblings from a long-time LGBTQ thinker and activist.

James Finn

Written by

Writer. Runner. Marine. Airman. Former LGBTQ and HIV activist. Former ActUpNY and Queer Nation. Polyglot. Middle-aged, uppity faggot. jamesfinnwrites@gmail.com

James Finn - The Blog

Collected Writings. Stories and ramblings from a long-time LGBTQ thinker and activist.

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store