Written in April 2023
I've written about unmasking in the past, a piece which included my progress on unmasking and attempting to rebuild a mask that works for me that actually represents me. Part of masking, for me, is the ability to interact and communicate with others seamlessly. Part of this mask is the ability to use tone, inflection, and other rhetorical devices when speaking.
Yesterday while I was recording some audio content with Autistic Radio, I put on the sort of voice and inflection that works well for a soundbite. My ability to use inflection to get my point across is very good, and I was aware that the words I was speaking were going to be part of a 3 minute clip listened to by autism leads across Scottish councils. Using these rhetorical devices came very naturally to me; I learned these skills in drama classes and was a very convincing Frank in Educating Rita, despite being a sober, 15-year-old, not-male person.
We'd discussed the way our autistic voices come across in the recording and whether we should all attempt to modulate our voices so they are easier to listen to, but in doing so, we would be breaking our own tenet of authenticity. Spectrum Voices Conversation and Autistic Radio is all about being real and presenting our true selves. So when I used the soundbite-friendly inflection, tone and pace was I being authentic? Was it, as I said at the time, my natural communication?
Having given the matter some thought I can say yes, it is. I have been able to master that skill to the point where it is now part of my mask, but it is an authentic part of my mask. I didn't have to consciously “mask up” to access that skill because it is an intrinsic part of who I am. Part of ME is the ability to speak eloquently and persuasively. Yes, it's part of the mask, but it's a part that has remained throughout the entire process of deconstructing and rebuilding my mask.
My mask now is one that I can wear with a lot more ease. It doesn't contain personalities that aren't representative of who I really am, and in fact it is now incompatible with the modules of fake personalities. The disconnect between myself and my mask is narrowing. I retain most of the ability to “fake up” in a situation where it is for my own safety or wellbeing, but the mask I wear the rest of the time is much more comfortable.
I'm sure the process of deconstruction and rebuilding will be an ongoing one; as I get older and my priorities and experiences change those factors will influence me and my mask. The difference now is that me and my mask are effectively the same person, so I won't be dually processing things on-stage and in the wings. I'll be standing in my own spotlight.