You Don’t Have to Be Neurotypical

As the Lady of the Manners has mentioned before, she is frequently humbled by some of the heartfelt, heartsore letters that Snarklings have written to Gothic Charm School. And the Lady of the Manners often worries that she isn’t really able to help; she’s a well-meaning Internet Auntie, not a professional. But even with those concerns, she IS determined to help as much as she’s able, because that’s what everyone should do. Sometimes the help is focused on music, clothing, and books, and sometimes it’s focused on reassuring people that they are a goth. And sometimes, it’s a little bit of both.

Dear Lady of the Manners,

I’m twenty-seven (turning twenty-eight in October) with Autism and have wanted to become Goth ever since 2009 but so many things have stopped me. Back then I didn’t know about the Internet due to being in a Christian school since third grade so I didn’t know I could search things until 2010. Back in 2011 I made a friend who was Goth and asked for her advice but she told me that because of my Autism, I was to naive and childish to be one. Later on I learned about different Gothic subcultures and got interested in Baby Doll and Victorian Goth. When I told her about the ones I was interested in, she told me I was to tall and chubby. Since 2014, I decided that I would become Gothic but I don’t have a job and my little sister and mom care for me. I’ve been trying to get a job since 2009 so I could help but the only job available in town has been ignoring my application. My sister buys things for me but I never let her know about the expensive things I want. Please forgive me for the long introduction, my question is do I have to be skinny and shorter to be a Baby Doll Goth or Victorian? Also do you know any cheap online stores that sell those types of Goth clothes? My mom says that Autism doesn’t affect who I want to be but does it?

Have a blessed day,

Right off the bat (that has possibly left the bell tower, but possibly hasn’t), your mom is correct: autism absolutely does not affect who you want to be. Whether someone is neurotypical or atypical has no bearing on if they “can” be goth. Do you have an appreciation for the wide range of fascinations and beauty that can be found in shadowy subjects? Congratulations, you are a goth. As always, the Lady of the Manners suggests doing some exploring and research to learn more about the subculture – the music, the aesthetic, the history – but don’t feel that you aren’t a goth unless you’re able to pass some sort of test. For one thing, there isn’t a goth test (or goth points, or an Eldergoth Cabal), and for another, your autism wouldn’t have any impact on those (ridiculous) things if they did exist.

As to your “friend” (those are quotes of intense disbelief and scorn, in case it wasn’t clear) who said you were too naive, childish, tall, and chubby to be a goth, the Lady of the Manners has some choice words: They. Were. Wrong. Deeply wrong. There are no physical requirements to be a goth; height, weight, and skin color are all irrelevant. So are age, gender, sexuality, beliefs, or temperament. Goth is a collection of interests, not checkmarks. Your “friend” saying these things to you when you expressed your interests shows them to be misguided at best, and a bullying gatekeeper at worst. Gatekeepers in our community are terribly easy to spot, as they’re the ones who try to enforce rules about who can and can’t be goth. Have an understanding about the “outline” of the subculture and how dark, fantastical ideas stretched shadowy fingers to shape a type of music and fashion, but if someone tries to tell you there are Rules of Goth, ask them who defined those rules and how do they suggest you learn what those rules are. Or laugh at them. Or both.

(That’s the thing that annoys the Lady of the Manners the most about gatekeepers: they’re very quick to proclaim that someone isn’t a Real Gothâ„¢, but never offer any insight or information. The Lady of the Manners isn’t saying they need to make a presentation or teach a class, but if someone is so caught up in dictating what is and isn’t goth, they should at least be able to provide an example or two of what they do think is goth.)

Finally, the Lady of the Manners has a few suggestions for finding the goth styles you are interested in:

  • If you are looking for Victorian-flavored clothes, also look for steampunk. There’s a fair amount of crossover between the style families, and things may not always be labeled as goth.
  • If you search “Baby Doll”, you will probably run into sites and clothing that is aimed at fetishests. Which is fine! But if you’re looking for clothing that is more along the lines of “fancy doll in a modest frilly dress” instead of “short ruffled dresses that are infantilizing and probably show off your underwear”, then the terms “gothic lolita” or “elegant gothic lolita” will probably be more helpful. (The gothic lolita style has nothing to do with the book Lolita.) The site is a good source to see examples of the various styles that make up those terms.

As to some cheap online stores that sell those types of goth fashion:

  • Chic Star has a good selection of blouses, skirts, jackets, and dresses that can be adapted to the Baby Doll or Victorian style.
  • Amazon. Yes, really! There is a dizzying array of goth fashion on Amazon; the Lady of the Manners searched using the keywords “gothic Victorian” in the women’s fashion category, and made herself stop browsing after three hours, even though she was nowhere near the end of the results. Most of the clothes toward the inexpensive end of prices will almost certainly be made in China, and may run as much as two sizes smaller than you’d expect, so keep that in mind if you order anything. But the Lady of the Manners will also say that she’s purchased some very nice Victorian-style blouses, skirts, and full-skirted jackets from Amazon for not a lot of money, so it’s worth a shot! Just be sure to read the reviews of the item, and pay close attention to any that mention the size range.
  • Mainstream mall or “big-box” stores, such as Target, Forever 21, Torrid, and so on. Mainstream trends always borrow from goth fashion in one way or another, and you can frequently find Victorian or doll-like clothes, especially during autumn and winter. Also, those sorts of stores always have sales or special promotions, and offer discounts if you (or your mom or sister) sign up for their mailing lists.

The Lady of the Manners is very, very glad you decided to write to Gothic Charm School, and hopes that you are able to explore goth to your spooky heart’s content.

Do any of you have words of encouragement for L? Suggestions for fashion sources or how to deal with gatekeepers? Please comment!

(Comments are, as always, moderated. But the Lady of the Manners loves reading the comments, so please do!)

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17 Responses to You Don’t Have to Be Neurotypical

  1. Kitsune says:

    Dearest L,

    I am the same age as you and also Autistic, and I would definitely consider myself goth! If I can be, then you can definitely be too. <3

    Spookily yours,

  2. Trystan says:

    Accessories! One of the most affordable ways to start out a goth look is to find (or even make) interesting accessories that you can add to a simple outfit in black or dark colors. Look for a little Victorian-esque hat or a Goth Lolita style ruffled lace collar & cuffs or a small cape, for example, which you might find on Amazon or Etsy. Pretty jewelry can be found at different prices too. The great thing about accessories is that size doesn’t matter that much. Good luck!

  3. Gale says:

    Oh my goth….. You’re awesome. As a chubby goth with autism, you’ve made my day and are now my favorite goth aunty. 😉

  4. Jo says:

    I agree with the part about height and weight being irrelevant. I’m 6ft tall and in the plus size clothing range. I don’t let this get in the way of going after the Victorian style aesthetic that I love so much. I just try to choose items that suit my height and shape as I know that I can’t pull off some of the really over the top flouncy looks, they just don’t look right on me. That’s not say that they won’t look right on someone else with the same sort of stature. Everyone is different, I say do whatever makes your spooky heart happy and just be you.

  5. Sylvanna Seydel says:

    I am an Elder Goth with autism. And it makes me so @%^&%#@#ing mad that this so called “friend” said autism disqualified you from being a goth. This is not a friend. I feel like I know more neurodivergent goths than I know neurotypical goths. People with autism look at the world from a different perspective from neurotypical people, which is incredibly compatible with the goth subculture which looks at the world from a different perspective from the dominant culture. It sounds like you live in a small town, so this may be difficult, but it’s time to find a new friend who doesn’t put you down.

  6. Kal says:

    I’m goth, autistic, disabled and in my mid-40s. Your “friend,” dear L, is a ludicrous walnut and should be ignored until the sun blows out; no true friend would discourage you from healthy interests with abuse and shame — and make no mistake, sweet little bat, that is *exactly* what was done to you.

    As others have said, your interests make you goth, not your appearance, nor any spurious “rules” others may insist upon. The only “rules” should be your own in terms of what makes you happiest.

    If you’re good at sewing (if not, it can be learned; there are ample tutorials online), I suggest finding fabrics you like that are both easy to manipulate and won’t set off any sensory issues you may have. A bit of lace or some other decorative item to your liking can adorn collar, wrists and hem, and it doesn’t have to be more complicated than that if that’s all you can manage. Try not to be discouraged: everyone started somewhere, even the glorious Kambriel.

    I wish you the best of luck, L. May the Great Pumpkin smile upon you.

  7. Old Goth Mom says:

    An inexpensive idea might be to go to a Goodwill or thrift store and find some items that can be transformed into the look you want. It’s fun to create your own look, and exercising your creativity is good for you! You could find a frilly ruffled blouse from the thrift store and get a box or two of Rit Dye in whatever color you need and make the blouse your own! Add some grommets or laces to the front or the sleeves for a new look. You can look up the clothing of different time periods online (like Victorian, for example) and with a little tweaking you can have a unique piece for very little money. Have fun!
    (ps If you’re new to dying fabric, be sure to buy fabric that can be dyed easily like cotton or cotton blends. Always check the dye instructions!)

  8. Hecate says:

    I, too prefer the cemetery shadows and ”˜creepy’ stuff galore. I, also have autism (& a brood of faux skeletons etc.) I usually get my ”˜goth’ clothes at my local goth shops and heck even
    *gasp* (not really) I got an awesome black ”˜goth’ ”˜high-low’ lace sleeves dress at hot topic!

  9. Wraith says:

    As a gothy, autistic woman of twenty-six, I feel compelled to weigh in. No one is DEFINED by autism. It influences your life, certainly… but it does not make you less of a person or individual. There are autistic goths! There are also autistic cheerleaders, actors, scientists, farmers, chefs, motivational speakers, PTA members, beauty gurus, stay-at-home parents, shoe salesmen, and whatever else you can possibly name off the top of your head. Autism does not preclude you from ANYTHING.

    My advice to L. is this: let your “friend” know that she is being highly offensive with her stereotyping of neurodiverse individuals. Contrary to her uninformed beliefs, we are not “childish and naive”. Autism has never been a one-size-fits-all deal, and those on the spectrum have as diverse a range of personalities as exists in this world. (On that note, I’d like to mention that I myself am probably the LEAST naive person in my circle of friends/family. In fact, I’m often the one to shake my head at the naïveté of others, or be the “designated cynic” of the group, lol.)

    Personally, I would advise cutting ties with this hyper-critical “friend” altogether. There is a line past which a “friend” becomes merely a toxic presence in your life, and I’d say she’s crossed it.

    I wish you the very best, L.! Be you, and don’t let anyone else tell you who that “you” is or is not!

  10. Danielle says:

    I’m a 33 year old woman who is on the spectrum myself. I was born with Spina Bifida and hydrocephalus which are birth defects. I have a short waist and a somewhat larger tummy. I also use a wheelchair. Sometimes I’m not able to wear or afford Goth clothing that I can wear in my wheelchair. I find myself frustrated, but I know it’s not just the clothes that make a person a Goth it’s the love of things other people would find weird and an appreciation for the dark side of life.
    I myself love cemeteries, vampire romance novels,old buildings,ghost stories,odd history and classic Horror movies.

  11. Orionova says:

    L, I am an Aspie in my 40s. I am also somewhat naive, and a goth of many years. There is no Goth Law that states that you cannot be naive to be a goth. Judging from what your ‘friend’ said, you may not even be naive and she is trying to gaslight you. I don’t know. What I do know is that you have been drawn to the goth subculture for nearly ten years. You, dearest, are a goth.

    Good luck to you on your journey, little bat. There’s a great big, beautiful goth world out there, and goth friends for you to make who will treat you with respect.

  12. Azereaux says:

    Well, if a dear aspie friend of mine can pull it off (though I admit to a hint of jealousy at their impeccable style and taste. Oh if only I could pull off some of their finer looks, but I digress), then one’s neurological quirks shouldn’t be an issue.

    Hell, as an overweight dude in his 30s with an unfortunately high hairline and bipolar (and even after seeking aid in controling it, I still havent gotten used to “normal” emotional variation, and probably won’t after so many years), I still manage. Just ignore the would-be bouncers at the gate; the clubhouse is open and welcoming new members.

    Don’t let them exclude you or discourage you. If said gatekeepers, “friend” or otherwise, declare you mad for trying, then be delightfully mad. Be you (even if that means flying the midnight colors in the summer noonday sun)!

  13. If you ask for permission, chances are some twit will deny you permission.

    Do what you want, and provided you are not doing harm as well, enjoy. This applies to being goth and many other things.

  14. Courtney Shepherd says:

    I am a 22 year old, 5 foot 4 inch, African-American, chubby, autistic college student and come from a heavily devout Christian family. If you want to be goth, then do it. Nothing is stopping you. Be your own person and don’t let your so-called “friend” tell you otherwise. As long as you are happy, that is the only thing that matters in this.

  15. Queen Thrift Bat says:

    I myself am not on the spectrum, but I am not a stereotypical goth. To be blunt, I’m a brown girl with Indian parents living in a very small, very white, very “normal” Arizonan city. But!!! I don’t let that stop me. I get teased and outright insulted by a LOT of people, and still others are disturbed and perplexed by my style and subculture. My parents are shockingly and awesomely supportive, if a little dubious, when it comes to my gothness. Nonetheless, I love Goth. I love cliche vampire romances (NOT Twilight!!) and lace and long skirts and velvet and Nox Arcana. You don’t need to fit anyone’s mold, ever. You are yourself, you are incredible, and you are exquisite.

  16. Infiltrat0r_n7 says:

    I’m going to be blunt here, but that person does not sound like they’re your friend. A friend wouldn’t say things like that to you. A friend wouldn’t put you down.

    Autism does not stop you from being who you are, it does not stop you from being goth. You can’t be too tall, short, fat, thin to be goth. If you drawn to the hallmarks of the subculture than you probably are goth. If you want to listen to the music and read gothic literature, watch gothy films then go for it, don’t let anyone stop you.

  17. Desdemona says:

    Dear L,
    I, too, am an autistic goth, and I also find it hard to adapt to the subculture. Well, not so much adapt, but merely get into it due to the oppression. Many people will be Gatekeepers and try to put you down, but goth is a subculture where we can all come together and be comfortable. The “normies” don’t understand us so we use goth as our safe haven. Sure, some goths are elites scum, but don’t let them get to you; they’re all poseurs. I, too, get made fun of because I’m “not goth material” because I’m an otaku who’s obsessed with Japan. Just ignore them; they won’t be in your life for long.

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