When it comes to being queer, it is just something inherent to my identity that I’ve accepted since middle school. I’ve been fully “out” as bi since I was in ninth grade, and came to terms with being agender in college. It’s not something I feel is necessary to hide, and if someone reacts the wrong way then they’ll probably catch, if not my hands, then a good verbal lashing.
When it comes to being autistic, I’m perhaps shier. It’s a newly realized aspect of my identity, and I’m still coming into my own understanding of it. I still feel that nagging sense of, “I’m just talking about it for attention,” “I’m lying to myself and everyone and all my doctors,” and, “It doesn’t even matter.” That oh-so-familiar self-doubt of being halfway out of the closet. Then I talk to other autistic people, and a lot of them feel the same way, especially being newly diagnosed later in life.
There are even research papers exploring the parallels between being autistic and being queer. Knowing there are people who oppose you, who think you should be “cured” or “changed.” Feeling a sense of isolation amongst your cishet/neurotypical peers and a sense of belonging in (segments of) the autistic and LGBTQ+ communities. Getting sick of people trying to debate your humanity with you.
When it comes to those more isolating aspects, I am personally infinitely blessed to be surrounded by people who are comfortable with my queerness and autism, and for the most part my mental illnesses.
Up until today, I think while most people at my workplace knew I was queer, I had told only one or two about being autistic. But then here comes the ol’ “Light It Up Blue”/ “Autism Awareness Month” nonsense that gives plenty of autistic self-advocates a headache, and probably a few anxiety attacks, so I felt like I had to at least say something just in case someone else was planning on “Lighting It Up Blue.” I hate confrontation. Better to take preemptive action by typing up my views on the matter in a mass email to every full-timer in the organization. Thus far, all responses have been very positive. I can certainly rest knowing that if someone missed the memo and does “Light It Up Blue,” I’ve equipped my colleagues with the information to call it out.
There are probably extremely few workplaces in which someone might feel comfortable doing something like that. But in the context of my own workplace, being an outspoken advocate is what we’re all about. Challenging rape culture also means challenging ableism, transphobia, racism, and all the myriad other factors that can affect how a person experiences sexual violence. If I want to be a helpful advocate for autistic survivors of sexual assault, then who better to practice on than myself?
These are my words:
I’d like to introduce, for those of you who do not know, a cause near and dear to me: Autism Acceptance!
Nationwide, April is widely known as Autism Awareness Month. Specifically, April 2 is designated as Light It Up Blue for Autism. The color blue was selected to represent the fact that boys are overwhelmingly the ones diagnosed as having Autism Spectrum Disorders. A lot of those in the autism community, including myself, feel that this does not paint a very accurate or inclusive portrait of autism – young autistic girls are often misdiagnosed as children and don’t receive their ASD diagnoses until later than boys, because many health professionals aren’t aware it can even affect girls. Autism in girls also tends to present differently than it does in boys, and hasn’t been extensively researched as it has in boys. Therefore, we would like to challenge the stereotype of autism being a “boys’ disorder” by encouraging people to wear RED INSTEAD!
We also prefer the phrase Autism ACCEPTANCE, rather than simply Autism AWARENESS. We feel that while many people are certainly aware that autism is a thing, a lot of the nationwide dialogue around autism stems from misunderstanding and sometimes even prejudice. For instance, the best known autism organization in the United States is Autism $peaks, which plays its own part in producing hysteria and prejudice around autism. Very few actually autistic individuals serve any role in the organization, undermining the activist motto “Nothing About Us Without Us.” Against the wishes of actually autistic individuals, their funds go toward research for finding a cure (that will probably never exist). Because autism is pervasive and colors the way we experience the world, a search for a cure implies that who we inherently are is bad and wrong.
We believe that the real challenge to face is fighting societal ableism and existing eugenicist beliefs surrounding people with disabilities and our right to exist as we are. Many of the challenges associated with autism stem from communication barriers that arise from overstimulating environments and poor accessibility, including communicating with autistic individuals in ways that work for them (which for many does not involve speech at all, and certainly limited eye contact). But whether someone is verbal or non-verbal, communication is key! AUTISM ACCEPTANCE means accommodating autistic individuals’ unique communication needs, which varies from person to person, rather than expecting autistic people to communicate in traditional ways. AUTISM ACCEPTANCE means celebrating neurodiversity. AUTISM ACCEPTANCE means learning about autism from those it DIRECTLY affects – actually autistic individuals!
Because I could probably write a multi-volume encyclopedia on the matter, I’ll leave it at this. Here is a link full of wonderful resources, and of course I’m always willing to answer your questions!
As for myself, there’s only a couple of y’all who I have informed about being autistic, so consider this my coming out autistic! (And as a queer person, I must confess that “coming out” autistic, which I was diagnosed as only a couple years ago, is certainly more intimidating for me than coming out queer, which I’ve known since I was a young child!)
Thank you for reading!
#RedInstead #AutismAcceptance #WalkInRed #CelebrateNeurodiversity