Jay Edidin’s TEDx Talk About Autism, Gender, and Finding Yourself Through Stories

Jay Edidin—the mind behind @WorstMuse, one half of the podcast “Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men,” a crucial contributor to this year’s Buzzfeed article about alleged sexual harasser Eddie Berganza, and ComicBook.com’s Comics Person of the Year 2017—gave a TEDx talk in Cambridge, MA last October, and it’s now been posted to the TEDx YouTube channel. In “You Are Here: Finding Ourselves and Each Other in Stories,” Edidin talks about the ways that stories have influenced his life as an autistic trans man and the ways that “what we see in stories limits what we recognize in real life.”

In particular, Edidin speaks about writing an essay titled, “I See Your Value Now: Asperger’s and the Art of Allegory,” which was about “the ways that I use narrative and narrative structures to navigate real life.” When he looked at discussion surrounding the essay, he realized that many of the readers had assumed he was a man, even though at the time he was writing under an obviously female byline.

But that, of course, was nothing new. “The fields I’d worked in, the beats I covered, they were places where women had had to fight disproportionately hard for visibility and recognition,” Edidin explains. “We live in a culture that assumes a male default, so given a neutral voice and a character limit, most readers will assume a male author.”

But when Edidin looked back at the content of the essay, he was surprised to realize that the only characters he’d written about closely identifying with were male. “While I had spent a lot of time thinking about gender,” he says, “I’d never really bothered to think much about my own … I mean, I knew something was off. I’d always known something was off, that my relationship to gender was messy and uncomfortable. But gender itself struck me as messy and uncomfortable, and it had never been a large enough part of how I defined myself to really feel like something that merited further study, and I had deadlines, and … so it was always on the back burner.”

And so, in the wake of the essay realization, Edidin embarked on a quest to find a female character he might identify with, sourcing suggestions from the autistic community and the internet-at-large. I won’t spoil the rest of the talk, but it digs into the ways that stories can help us to understand ourselves – or, if we don’t see certain stories represented, can hinder our ability to understand ourselves.

If you’ve ever enjoyed listening to Edidin work through his thoughts on any of his other projects, you’ll definitely find this an engaging, characteristically thoughtful look at narrative and the self.

(Featured image: screengrab)

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