COVID 19 Artist Feature Three: Cole Cooper

I am 10 years old and my sister is 8. Our parents leave us home alone for the first time. They tell my sister that she’s in charge and that she needs to take care of me and make sure I eat.

I am 13 years old and notice for the first time how my classmates talk to each other as if nobody else is listening while I am sitting right in front of them. They share secrets and promise not to let anyone else find out. I wonder why I don’t count. 

I am 15 years old and my neuropsychologist tells me that she’s surprised that “someone like me” is in a relationship. 

I am 16 years old. My significant other’s mom tells them she feels uncomfortable with our relationship because she feels my partner is taking advantage of me. She asks them if they have a thing for r*tards. 

I am 17 years old and I write a story that I post online. I write about a character who’s a lot like me, who’s autistic and doesn’t talk much. I write about him flirting with another man and using sexual language. Someone who reads it becomes angry with me and says that I’m ruining the character’s innocence, that it’s disgusting to write about him like that. I wonder if they would say it was disgusting if they saw me flirt with someone too.

I am 18 years old and my mom tells me that she doesn’t know if I can handle college or living on my own. I should stay at home and go to the local community college instead. I score one point below perfect on the ACT. She doesn’t change her mind.

I am 20 years old and my college professor pulls me aside after class. She tells me that if I ever have any problems understanding the material or the assignments, she can help me and make them simpler for me. If I want, I can work with another student on any of the assignments or exams to get some extra help. I want to tell her I teach a college level class too but the words don’t form in time.

I am 20 years old and at a consultation for gender-affirming surgery. The first question I am asked is whether I understand why I am there. Is someone else pressuring me to get surgery? Did someone tell me I should do this, or is it really my own decision?

I am 21 years old and in the car with my family when I realize I’ve forgotten something. I say I don’t want to turn around and go back. My dad turns around anyway. When my mom complains about turning around, my sister defends my dad’s actions, saying that turning around will make my life better. I repeat, again and again, that I don’t even want to turn around, but nobody even reacts. They keep fighting. We get back home. I didn’t want to turn around.

I am 21 years old and at the doctor’s office for an ear infection. The doctor looks in my ear and exclaims “Ouchie!”. When he explains how to use the ear drops, he is talking to my partner instead of me. 

When I am 25 years old, will every mental health professional and support worker I meet still comment with surprise on how self-aware I am? 

When I am 30 years old, will people still tell me how incredible it is that I can live by myself?

When I am 40 years old, will people still look worried and alarmed when my partner calls me a pet name in public?

When I am 50 years old, will I still be treated like a child?

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