Thanks for joining me!
Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton
Thanks for joining me!
Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton
Q is for queer. What’s that got to do with autism and being autistic you may wonder. Well as it turns out a significant amount. Large portions of the autistic community identify on the LGBTIQA+ umbrella. There are quite a lot of us that are autistic and queer.
Recent studies show empirical data that 35% of autistic folk are queer. Anecdotally many of us believe this is a conservative result and believe that the real number is somewhat higher than this. Whether we are correct on that belief or not is not that important because we already know that the intersection of autism and queerness has a high prevalence. A much higher prevalence than for the non autistic community.
Why does this matter? It matters for a bunch of reasons. Not least because it places us in a situation of being twice marginalised, twice oppressed and fighting for our human rights in multiple domains.
Lots of ink has been marked in hand wringing asking questions about why this is so and whether this is just an interesting correlation or is there something more significant that has created this human situation.
I don’t know the answer, sure it is interesting to speculate that perhaps the same genes and epigenetic factors are in play. Maybe that’s true maybe that’s not true, interesting but not really that important.
What is important is how queer autistic folk are able to make our way in the world and have the best life possible. That’s the important piece here. In the end we are autistic folk who are queer here and refuse to live in fear.
Autistic folk struggle for self determination. We struggle to see a reality of nothing about us without us. We struggle to see our lived experience, our insight and our insider knowledge about what autism really is like recognised by both the professional and the parent communities around the autism space.
Queer folk struggle also for self determination. Just recently in Brunei we have seen a horrendous law of the death penalty by stoning come into play. Bi+ folk are regularly and consistenly erased and told they are selfish, promiscuous, undecided, just not decided and equally horendous things. Trans folk are forced into sterilisation in order to simply have their identification documents reflect their correct gender. Non-Binary folk are continually told they are deluded. Asexual folk are almost completely erased from visibility. Some of these issues occur not just from those outside the queer spectrum but within it.
Living as a queer person is hard. We are subjected to people deciding on the validity of our existence throughout the world on a regular basis.
Living as an autistic person is hard. We are subjected to actions designed to fundamentally change us. We are subjected to a public narrative that people must be aware of us. Whenever a lone gunman shooting occurs we are subjected to the shooter being said to be autistic in the media.
Living as a queer autistic person has the combinations of those difficulties, they are compounded and then there is the unique difficulties that come with those thing. For example trans autistic folk being denied care because their identity is declared invalid and simply a special interest. Other queer identities who are autistic find similar discarding of their identity by professionals and family because they are not seen as able to have adequate self determination of themselves.
Being a queer autistic also makes moving between those communities as a queer autistic person is also difficult at times. We face accessibility issues accessing queer spaces due to a range of different circumstances, some are ableism, some are sensory factors, some are ignorance. Being queer in autistic space can also be difficult due to the predominance of cis straight and mostly white men who are dominant vocal and powerful in those spaces.
You would think that our access to autistic spaces would be easier given there are a lot of us. Well things are on the improve I think, but cis white male homophobic and transphobic views are still certainly in play.
Q is for Queer.
I’m a queer autistic person and I am fabulous.
Q is for queer
We’re queer we’re here and we will not live in fear!
Previously published in The Establishment
Concentration, empathy, and attention have long been linked to a pair of eyes meeting directly. It’s often intimated that if someone isn’t looking you in the eye when they speak to you, they should be treated with suspicion, or at the very least the content of what they said should be treated as such. “Look me in the eye and tell me that” is a term used almost interchangeably with “tell me the truth.”
But what if it’s difficult for a person to maintain eye contact? Should that person be judged as insincere, untrustworthy, or socially flawed?
For those with autism who struggle to hold someone’s gaze, these assumptions are often made. And, as someone who’s suffered as a result of these assumptions, I want people to understand why they’re so damaging.
Difficulty in maintaining eye contact is such a known part of the autistic experience that John Elder Robinson titled his autobiography about life with Asperger’s Look Me in the Eye. The Indiana Resource Center for Autismdescribes the many ways this difficulty can manifest:
“Some people who have autism actively avoid eye contact and appear confused and anxious when it occurs. Some seemed to make eye contact relatively early but later reported they were actually looking at something that fascinated them (such as their reflection in one’s eyeglasses). When cued ‘Look at me,’ some make eye contact that recipients experience more as a staring gaze than as a communicative exchange. Some gradually learn to make eye contact and to read simple meanings that they have come to understand through experiences with what happens to them when a particular person’s eyes have a specific look.”
While research on this is limited, there are some theories as to why eye contact is hard for some with autism. It’s been suggested that in children with autism, for instance, an inability to hold eye contact has to do with a reduced ability to govern eye movements.
Of course, none of this to say that eye contact is an issue for every autistic person; the saying if you’ve met one autistic person, then you’ve met one autistic person very much holds true in this case. But it’s clear that it’s an issue for some in the community — and equally clear that there’s a stigma attached to it.
In Look Me in the Eye, Robinson listed his inability to hold someone’s gaze as one of the reasons he was branded a “social deviant.” I regularly see posts in support groups on social media in which parents comment on their child with autism not providing the “desired” eye contact. And this stigma cuts both ways: I have also heard stories about people being unable to gain an autistic diagnosis because their eye contact was too good.
There are also many therapy programs designed to “encourage” or “improve” eye contact in autistic children, including in Applied Behavioral Analysisprograms. Research and educational documents with titles like “Teaching Eye Contact to Children with Autism” and “Making Eye Contact A Reinforcer” further aim to “help.”
The suggestion is clear, and even explicit: An inability to hold eye contact is a “social deficit” that must be “fixed,” rather than a perfectly normal and acceptable aspect of the autistic experience.
I know from personal experience that such suggestions can do real harm.
When I was growing up, eye contact was mentioned during confrontations at home where my truth was demanded. “Can you look me in the eye and tell me that?” I was asked. But I can’t recall either of my parents ever saying outright that I should look people in the eyes more, or that it was an expected part of communicating with others. Problems didn’t really occur until my early school days, when teachers insisted that I should look the person I speak to in the eye. During these exchanges, I learned for the first time the pain and trauma that could come from meeting eyes across space.
Yes, I do mean pain, and yes, I do mean trauma.
Eye contact actually hurts me. If I meet the eyes of another and hold their gaze for more than a microsecond, I experience sharp discomfort throughout my entire body. When making eye contact, I also feel that my very soul has been laid bare — that my every inner thought is on display, and that my mind can be read and my secrets made public. The best I way can explain it is that it’s like being opened up totally from the inside out for all to see.
It’s a horrible experience, to put it bluntly.
This is, of course, my unique experience. But I am seemingly not alone in it. And I have to wonder: Instead of focusing on how to teach autistic children how to maintain eye contact, wouldn’t it be better to teach society that some people will look you in the eye when they talk to you, and some will not? And that this is perfectly okay?
A lack of eye contact isn’t a sign that a person lacks attention, empathy, or care; there are better and more effective ways of gauging these qualities in a person.
Just because I can’t hold your gaze doesn’t mean I have a problem. But it’s time to confront the fact that our culture does.
Meltdown is part of the vernacular for both autistic folk and those that love and live with us. Meltdown is like the ever present unwelcome guest that could make an appearance into our lives seemingly without warning and with no real idea of where it came from.
Well, at least to the uninitiated that is.
Meltdowns are always proceeded by situations, signs, triggers and contexts which point to them occurring. They are never really without warning they are never really uninvited.
Learning to see and react to these signs of course is where the learning is and where by we can act in ways to release such triggers and make life that little bit better for ourselves and our autistic loved ones.
A meltdown is ‘an intense response to overwhelming situations’. It happens when someone becomes completely overwhelmed by their current situation and temporarily loses behavioural control. This loss of control can be expressed verbally (eg shouting, screaming, crying), physically(eg kicking, lashing out, biting) or in both ways.
Meltdowns are intense and horrible things to endure — both for the one experiencing it and those witnessing it.
A meltdown is not a tantrum — even though it may look for all the world like one. It may look like but what is going on for the person is not unacceptable behaviour to get what they want but a very real very visceral response to being overloaded and unable to deal with, process and cope with the situation at hand.
Meltdowns are visceral.
Being in a meltdown is horrible.
Personally I am thankful I have managed to identify a lot of my triggers for meltdown and so live mostly without them. I haven’t had a genuine meltdown for a couple of years. But, Meltdown still lingers as that potential uninvited guest. If I don’t take care of myself, be aware of my sensory load, be aware of all the things I know that can trigger a meltdown that it can come crashing in and enact itself very quickly seemingly without warning.
I despise having meltdowns. For a long time, most of my life in fact, I thought my meltdowns were tantrums. Because that was what I was told they were by abusive carers. I believed them. But I could never stop them. They were never a choice and I could never work out why I had zero control over them.
Post meltdown I feel utterly exhausted, utterly horrible and utterly ashamed. Yes ashamed. Cognitively I know, especially post meltdown that my behaviour was unacceptable and often scary for those close by. Even within a meltdown I experience a sense where I am somewhat outside of my body and a spectator to what my body is doing. I can even look at that behaviour as a spectator and know it is not acceptable, dangerous and could hurt both myself and others.
But in the moment I genuinely lack control.
It is as though I am in a car racing down a steep hill towards a giant precipice with failing brakes. All I can do is hold on and endure and hope for all hope that it doesn’t end in disaster.
Meltdowns are scary. They really are, are and I have never met a fellow autistic person who doesn’t wish they could just stop having them forever. We hate and despise them just as much as those around us do.
M is for meltdown…
There is lots we can do to avoid and minimise their likelihood. We can manage our environment, our energy, our exposure and such things to minimise as much as possible the chance of a meltdown event. We can mitigate but not eradicate.
When a meltdown does happen not much can be done really except riding it out. There are a few things to do to ensure the person having a meltdown and those around are safe. Try to ensure the person is in a place where they won’t hurt themselves due to the environment — ie sharp corners etc, remove any unnecessary people, minimise interaction, offer comfort, stim toys, quiet, darkness.
Post meltdown we feel awful and are often exhausted. Such an event is energy sapping both physically and emotionally. Autistic folk often need after a meltdown the freedom to just be, to sleep, to hide away under a blanket to soothe.
I for one need time to recover both physically and emotionally, usually through sleep lying down in a darkened room. During this time I will spend time in my thoughts, thinking about how terrible my behaviour was and how I can best regroup and re enter relationship with those around me. I also spend that time thinking about the situation and what it was that tipped me over into meltdown.
As horrible as a meltdown event is there is opportunity to learn about ourselves from the event.
M is for Meltdown…
They are an everpresent aspect of being autistic. Never can they be expunged from our experience but they can be managed, we can learn how to experience them as safely as possible. And yes we can learn how to see them coming.
Seeing them coming is just the first part acting to release the pressure is also incredibly important. I try to do this, sometimes I fail.
I really important factor of self agency for autistics is releasing pressure that leads to meltdown. If an autistic does not have that self agency they may not be able to act to release pressure, to remove themselves from a potentially triggering environment and this is a recipe for disaster.
M is for Meltdown
We hate them.
You hate them.
Let’s work together to minimise them as much as we can.
G is for Gender …
Throughout this piece TGD is used as an acronymfor Transgender and Gender Diverse
You may have noticed I have been re posting a series of posts I wrote a few years ago which can best be described as an alphabet of autism. Over the last several days it has become clear to me that I missed a few issues as I went through this process previously. For example, I had G is for Game On and Q is for Quack. It seems far more relevant now to have made those posts about Gender and Queerness. So, it is time to rectify that.
G is for Gender, Gender Identity, Gender expression.
Let’s be clear there are not only two genders and gender is absolutely not tied to biological features such as genitals. If you can’t accept the reality that there are infinite possibilities of gender then perhaps don’t read on.
Let’s also be clear that Trans and Gender Diverse(TGD) and Intersex are not to be conflated.
Gender identity and expression are very important issues generally but extremely important in the context of autistic folk. There is an evolving body of research which shows a correlation between Trans and Gender Diverse folk and Autism. It is getting to the point where this simply can’t be denied. It is in autistic community a very common intersection.
Autistic folk have something of a battle of having themselves seen as autonomous human persons in many spaces. This is even more true of TGD autistic folk. Thanks to a history of autism research and therapeutic practice that has focused on cause cure and conversion autistic folk have had to fight every step of the way to construct their identity and have that identity accepted as a valid human identity.
TGD folk also have a similar fight around their identities being accepted.
When autism and gender identity intersect in a human person then that person has a journey ahead of them where they will, far too often, have to justify their identity to others, and sadly often to those closest to them and those that are meant to care for and support them.
As an autistic person who is also trans I have had to hear on many occasions comments that attempt to invalidate who I am. Comments such as these are commonly delivered as if they are meant to be sincere. They are not. There is simply no sincere way to tell a person their very identity is invalid.
“Oh you’re not really trans it is just your current obsession” — there is nothing sincere in such a statement.
“You don’t have the social capacity to understand the social construct of gender” — nothing sincere here
“you can’t be trans you don’t understand human emotions”
Apparently, it is autistic folk who are said to lack empathy! I have experienced very little empathy in any of the above comments.
This is not a gender 101 post if you are interested in understanding gender then google is your friend.
G is for gender…
We know there is a high proportion of TGD folk within the autistic community. We know this! Research is confirming this consistently. And yet specific services and spaces for TGD autistic folk are few and far between.
We know this and yet local, regional, state and national autism task forces and strategy think tanks fail again and again to make TGD and Queer folk generally a priority in these discussions. Research shows that upwards of 35% of autistic folk identify on the LGBTIQA+ spectrum and yet are consistently forgotten about in strategies for autism and autistic people.
This is simply not good enough.
G is for Gender…
The fact that strategy and research in this area for the wellbeing of autistic TGD folk is a case of neglect by the professional autism organisations.
We know that the life expectancy of autistic folk is one of the lowest of any group of people — lower even that that of Indigenous Australians.
We know that around 50% of TGD folk have attempted suicide before they reach the age of 18
When these two things intersect the risk to autistic TGD lives is palpable. Governments and professional organisations need to stop pretending we don’t exist and stop erasing us from strategies and plans and start living up to their goal of supporting autistic folk.
G is for Gender…
As the gay men in the early 80’s cried “we’re queer, we’re here and we will not live in fear” so too to we autistic TGD folk proclaim we’re here too. We need you to see us. We need you to acknowledge us, we need you to consider us.
G is for Gender …
Our identity is valid, our pronouns are valid, our gender expression is valid.
We are valid.
G is for Gender …
It may seem like an inconvenience but getting our pronouns correct is important. Referring to us by the words we use to describe ourselves and not invalidate or belittle is important. I don’t really care what you actually believe about us but it is our identity and it is simple respect to respect it.
As autistic folk making our way in public spaces can be difficult in its own right. Making our way in public spaces as TGD autistic folk can be even more so. Public bathrooms for autistic folk are often hell, loud noisy dryers, harsh lighting, a myriad of smells etc. This is even more so the case when you have to negotiate that space with the fear of being told you don’t belong there, being harassed and publicly outed ads another layer of complexity to all of this.
G is for Gender…
We are here, we are diverse and we are magnificent.
We ask simply that you see us, include us, and celebrate us.
G is for Gender …
And Gender is fabulous!
It’s TDOV again, that’s International Transgender Day Of Visibility for the uninitiated. It’s a day on the calendar where we trans folk tend to celebrate who we are, what we’ve accomplished and what’s left to do.
I love today because I love the fact that who I am is celebrated, that me being visible is ok, that today I can be out proud and loud about me and it’s kind of too bad for anyone that doesn’t like it because hey I can point them to the calendar and say look it’s my day to day so please let me just celebrate it with joy.
This TDOV I want to challenge a narrative. It is the narrative that most cisgender heterosexual people seem to believe is the only narrative for trans people. It’s important to that I challenge it because whilst this narrative is true for some trans and gender non diverse folk it is certainly not true for all of us.
I’m here to say today, that I was NOT born in the wrong body. I was born in my body. It’s not a wrong body it’s a beautiful and wonderful body and it is mine for life to make the best life I possibly can with.
Of course that’s not to say that my relationship with my body is not complex. It is. Yes there certainly are aspects of my body that cause my gender dysphoria at times. Yes certainly there are steps I have taken and will continue to take to adjust my body to improve my complex relationship with it.
That relatiohnship with my body I spoke of it really is interesting and complex. There’s a lot at stake for trans folk negotiating their relationship. I know I have to question myself about my dysphoria at times to ascertain if the dysphoria is actually about my relationship with my body or is it about the dominant trans narrative of beihng born in the wrong body. Yes it’s complex.
Absolutely I was assigned the wrong gender at birth, but this doesn’t equal being born in the wrong body — well not for me anyway.
A few salient points may be called for:
I was assigned male at birth because a doctor took a quick peak between my little baby legs and said — it’s a boy!
I never felt like, connected with or was able to own that gender I was assigned.
I eventually was able to come out and declare myself to be a trans woman.
I genuinely have had and continue to have gender dysphoria related to my physical body some of which I can make changes or corrections too and some I can’t — But as I’ve stated no this does not equal born in the wrong body.
I have absolutely spent large sums of money to eradicate facial hair from my face
I absolutely spend money every month on hormones to adjust the balance of hormones in my body — This does not make my body wrong it does though greatly help with how I feel and move in the world.
I may or may not engage in any number of other procedures throughout my life. If I do it is incredibly important that I ensure I do this because it is genuinely about my relationship with my body and not about a narrative that is imposed upon me stating my body is wrong.
I say again TDOV is absolutely about celebrating trans lives and trans bodies. It is in my view very much akin to a Pride Day celebration day.
Today I visibly, openly and joyously celebrate my transness, my trans body and loudly proclaim I am trans I am beautiful and my body is wonderfully my body and is not in any way a wrong body!
Content Warning – Conversion therapy abuse
In Australia and around the world lately there has been a whole lot of talk about conversion therapy. Often it is tagged as gay conversion therapy, especially in the media, but I am going to call it what it really is and that simply is conversion therapy.
This insidious out practice takes the form of official programs and an evil ideology that has some basic tenets to it.
These are some of the ideas that are inherent in this ideology. There are others. In practice vulnerable people are put through a process of being told to believe they are broken and must be fixed. This often occurs during adolescence, especially for those whose sexuality is deemed broken by this ideology and its proponents.
Currently there is a film running called Boy Erased. It’s a hard watch but it needed to be viewed widely in order for the wider public to have even a small insight into this horrendous ideology and how it plays out in practice in a programmatic way. It’s not easy viewing and you will need tissues and a safe person or group to debrief with afterwards.
It is no small wonder that many people subjected to this ideology lose their lives to suicide as a consequence. It is that damaging!
Many will find this ideology unbelievable and struggle to understand that this happens in their country today. Well believe it because it does.
As I watched yesterday I was struck by a couple of things. Firstly the need for the wider community to see it in order to understand. Secondly, I was struck with the realisation that personally I had experienced this ideology first hand, continually and violently well before I was an adolescent.
It is no wonder that around 40% of trans people have suicidal ideation.
You see it is not just our faith communities that tell us we are broken and wrong it is a rampant attitude in the general public.
For me I guess it was double dosed. Both the faith community and the wider community portrayed an ideology that I am wrong, an abomination, a fetish, mentally ill and in need of repair.
The reality of my childhood for many is too shocking to comprehend. But somehow I survived it. I don’t know really know how or why but I did. A colleague recently described me as something of a unicorn, a thing that isn’t meant to exist.
I don’t really understand in some respects how I got here but I know as I emerged from the ideology of conversion therapy that I am the best version of me I can be, that being able to see myself not as broken but as a whole, unique, intended human person I am able to thrive.
I won’t go into the horror of my childhood except to say that I was taught imperatively and violently that I was broken, I was wrong, I needed be fixed, I could not be my true self.
By the time I was three years of age I had been violently brought into submission that my true self was unacceptable and would not be tolerated. The consequence was for the large portion of my life I loved a lie, a repressed life, a shadow of existence an existence where self belief was impossible trust in others confidence in me could not believed.
In short a life that was far less than it should have been.
This is the outcome of conversion therapy. Damaged vulnerable struggling people with no belief in themselves or trust in society and communities within which they move.
This is the outcome of conversion therapy. Innocent people that take their lives because of the damage inflicted upon them.
I consider myself lucky in a way. I found some people that helped to rescue me. I found strength to grasp to who I was and to somehow discover that no I am not broken but who I know myself to be internally and have repressed and hidden for so many years is not broken it is not in need of curing, but, it is in need of being allowed to come out, allowed to flourish, and in great need of being celebrated.
Please celebrate your LGBTIQA+ family and friends and colleagues.
Oh and as you understand this, understand too that conversion therapy ideology is rampant against Neurodivergent people as well. The same ideology that says as an queer person I am broken is the same ideology that says as an autistic person I am broken. Not only that but in any countries conversion/compliance therapy is the only funded and supported therapy for autistic people.
But this piece is not the place for a discussion of ABA therapy, that’s for another time.
For today, go see Boy Erased, talk to people, rise up against this evil ideology. Support survivors. Stand with the survivors of conversion therapy. Hug them, hold them and remind them that they were fearfully and wonderfully made.
I always, yes always knew I was different always knew there was something about me that wasn’t the same, that I didn’t quite fit what it was to be typical, what it was to be seen as one of the crowd, to fit in with how things were meant to be.
For a large and long part of my life that meant feeling like I didn’t fit because there was something wrong with me, that I was scared, wrong and had no hope of ever being what I was supposed to be, what the world told me I should be that I was in unworthy of any and all of that.
In year 7 in high school I discovered a song that kind of became an anthem for me. I sung it out loud I sang it in my mind, it was for many years an anthem that in some strange way gave me some solidarity with all the unworthiness and weaknesses and brokenness I felt. I was overjoyed when it was then covered and I saw it become something of an anthem for a new generation.
Have a listen:
What about me it isn’t fair. I’ve had enough and I want my share. These words were such a part of my everyday being my waking moments my inner thoughts myself belief they were kind of everything.
As an anthem though it lacked something pivotal, something strong something powerful something that simply said This is Me and me is okay, me is good and wonderful me is not broken.
Now I have found a new anthem. It’s such an anthem and it says so strongly:
This is Me!
This is Autistic me!
This is Trans Me!
This is Queer Me!
This is anxiety/depression me!
This is rejected by family Me!
This is Me! An Me is Okay, no not okay but glorious!
Now have another listen:
Watch and listen at the glorious diversity.
I think this is an anthem that so many from minorities, oppressed and supposedly somehow wrong we can turn the tables and claim! This is me! This is how I am supposed to be! I am glorious!
In a sense a giant middle finger A big fuck you to the world This is Me! And I am fantastic!
I’ve had this song playing on repeat almost constantly for days and at every playing I am a mixture of tears of joy and tears of pain. A sense of power and resistance! Every word is full of power, full of history and full of a powerful proclamation of resistance and self-worth.
Let’s have a look at a few of those lines!
The first verse sets the seen beautifully
I am not a stranger to the dark
Hide away, they say
’Cause we don’t want your broken parts
I’ve learned to be ashamed of all my scars
Run away, they say
No one’ll love you as you are
How many of us from minorities relate so strongly to these words? They are a message for me that I heard every day. I learned to know shame I learned to hide away because what I was was shameful. I learned to hide my true identity to hide it so deep it took 40 odd years to find it again 40 odd years to believe it to own it to accept it to come out and live it. For so many years I lived a life of pretending, attempting to be what I wasn’t and to continually fail and to descend back into shame. You’re not a girl, you’re broken, you’re weird, you’re useless, you are unworthy. Again, and again I learned to be “ashamed of my scars” to believe “no one’ll love you as you are”
But as I said this is an anthem. An anthem of resistance and celebration of me! Like I said This is Me! and so it shifts line after line of glorious resistance:
But I won’t let them break me down to dust
A statement of accepting it no more! A statement of no more of that thank! And it goes on
When the sharpest words winna cut me down
I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
And when I stand those words don’t stop they continue. Both in words out loud and remembered words of the past. Not only am I going to stand but I am going to turn and stand I am going to turn and face and I am going to declare again This is Me!
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I’m meant to be, this is me
Look out ’cause here I come
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum
I’m not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me
Yes, I am brave, not because simply living my life is somehow inspirational to so-called normal people. No, I am brave because, well because living my life as me, as who I actually am is an act of defiance! But…
Yes, I am bruised because when I stand I take hits, because my history has bruised me. There’s no escaping that there are bruises and that’s painful and yet in spite, in absolute defiance of that I know I am finally being the person I am meant to be!
“Look out cause here I come” Yes look out because here I come I am not ashamed of who I am anymore I am marching proudly to the beat I drum. Not just a different drum but to my beat I drum!
After all the years of shame, isolation, unworthiness, no longer am I scared to be seen I make no apologies This Is Me!
Something happens when you behave like this, when you declare yourself as good enough, as wondrous, as glorious and that is that much of the world wants to put you back in that box all over again and so
Another round of bullets hits my skin
Well, fire away ’cause today, I won’t let the shame sink in
We are bursting through the barricades and
Reaching for the sun (we are warriors)
Yeah, that’s what we’ve become (yeah, that’s what we’ve become)
That round of bullets come and you can take cover or you can fight back. I fight back because This is Me! I have to become a warrior, a warrior to just be me, because I am not going back to shame, I am going to keep bursting the barriers because This is Me and I am “Reaching for the Sun”
Yeah that’s what I have become a warrior to be me a warrior to claim my place in this world a warrior against enforced shame a warrior against a society that wants to other what is different, a warrior against a system that says different is wrong, broken, a mental illness a perversion a whatever. This is Me!
So many years wasted in shame. So many!
I want this anthem or one just as meaningful to my tribes, my trans tribes, my autistic tribe, my queer tribe, my depressed and anxious tribe, my rejected by family tribe, yes, all my tribes, all my peeps please find your anthem and declare alongside me This is Me!
This is so important, so important because you know what — 40 odd years of living in shame and unworthiness is far too long, fuck, any amount of time for any human person is far too long. Human diversity is wonderful and to be celebrated and enjoyed because we should all be able to say This is Me!
It’s an anthem for life, an anthem I can take within me and own, sing it out loud, sing it in my head, in my dreams in my longings in my hopes because it strengthens me again to say fuck the world This is ME!
This is Me — yes autistic me
This is Me — yes transgender me
This is Me — yes queer me
This is Me — yes mentally ill me
This is Me — yes isolated from family me
This is Me — yes, every little bit of me.
This is Me! And I am, you are, we all are fucking Glorious!
I’m autistic and I’m proud of that fact. I’m proud of it because I am me, I have found myself I have found my tribe I have found belonging and freedom to be the person I am and to grow into the best version of that person that is possible.
I’m autistic and I’m different not less. That means I uphold that as an autistic person I am different I am neurodivergent from the so called normal. I am not typical. This makes some things in life a little difficult, and conversely it provides me with strengths and skills that I may not have otherwise.
But, I’ll tell you what it doesn’t give me. It doesn’t give me license to go and do whatever the fuck I like. It doesn’t provide me an excuse, reason or justification for hurting other people, breaking laws and generally being an asshole.
Just because I’m autistic doesn’t mean I can’t tell the difference between right or wrong, in fact it likely gives me a heightened sense of that fact. I simply am unable to recall a time in my life when I was not able to tell what was right or wrong. In fact I have a very sharpened sense of justice and fairness and I believe this to be quite a common autistic trait — we like rules as the stereotype goes.
So here’s the big question why is it that so many want to use autism as a reason or excuse for bad behaviour by autistic men. I don’t have a diffinitive answer but I do have an inkling of an idea. That as parents, carers and professionals we have failed autistic boys by excusing behaviour that is simply not acceptable and associating it with a false notion of not having the capacity to understand.
I’ve seen it all too often in autistic men in online spaces. This is difficult to say and is possibly not too popular but all too often I see autistic men in online spaces display predatory harrassing behaviour towards women online and when called out on this behaviour blame social communication aspect of their autism to excuse it.
This has to stop. Autistic men it has to stop. You know right from wrong and behaviour that stems from male privilege and toxic masculinity is not acceptable behaviour either online or in actual face to face interactions.
It is certainly true that often we autistic people miss or misinterprit social communication and cues. This is a fact of autism this is the nature of being autistic. But, what we don’t lack is the capacity to understand a direct communication telling us that something is not acceptable.
It’s not unheard of for an autistic person to miss nuanced social cues that a person they are interacting with is not interested, bored, wants to get the hell out of the interaction they are in. This is one of the challenges that pretty much all of us autistic people face on a regular basis.
There is though a very clear difference between that and a person continuing on with their behaviour when they have clearly been asked to desist. Allistic people it seems will generally try a sublte hint that they want out of an interaction, often we autistics miss this, however allisitc people don’t generally just stop their when that doesn’t work, they will tell us, pretty bluntly at times too, that enough is enough.
For far too long within our own autistic community and in the broader autism communities there has been too much allowance of social difficulties as excuses for unacceptable behaviours. It’s just the autism we say, he doesn’t understand we say, it’s time to call bullshit on that line. It really is.
Harrassment is harrassment and Abuse is abuse. Neither of these things is social communication difficulty they are what they are and it’s time to stop.
Autistic men, and it usually is men, this has to stop. It is time to take responsibility for unaccaptable behaviour towards other humans and make the change.
Parents of autistic people the responsibility is on you too to ensure that never is autism an allowable excuse for behaviour that is unacceptable towards another human person.
Yes absolutely many of us will always struggle with social cues and communication. That’s kind of a given for an autistic person. It’s also a given that we might just have to work a little harder in order to have successful social interactions. It may not be fair but it is what it is.
Let’s be clear the problem with violence in our society is nothing to do with autism, it is mostly to do with toxic masculinity and the long standing male belief that they are entitled to womens bodies.
Let’s also be clear that not only is autism no excuse for violence, for murder, for rape, but also it is no excuse for predatory and unsavoury behaviour towards other humans ever.
It’s pretty clear that to change the situation and make real change in the devastating reality of violence against women that it is going to take men to change things.
I think, as I get to the end of this that this is my call to autistic men. Autistic men stand tall and strong and be the shining example to all the other men that harassing, unwanted, predatory and violent behavior towards other human persons is simply unacceptable.
I am Autistic and Proud and across the pages of history Autistic people have led our societies with things like science and technology innovations and so forth. Come on autistic tribe let’s lead in this and let’s create the snowball of change and let’s make a stand and proclaim it autism is never an excuse for behaviour that harms another, whether physically or psychologically or in any way whatsoever.
Autistic Pride let’s be the change this world needs.
It’s June 18th which means it is Autistic Pride day, a day almost right in the middle of LGBTIQA+ pride week. Well it’s almost the end of Autistic Pride day but no matter the day is not done yet.
I’ve written about this day before, most recently here where I talk about pride being an act of resistance. This post is not really in that vein but it also kind of is. Because let’s face it this is about coming out and there’s no question that coming out is in itself an act of resistance.
Finding my autistic tribe was very much a moment of understanding, of release, a moment of intense joy and release of the feeling that no one would ever understand and accept me. It was and is an amazing thing.
When you’ve lived your life either being told you’re broken and wrong and believing that to me true at a visceral level which seems to be continually proven by the fact you see incapable of managing connectedness with other people, finding that to be false is a euphoric moment indeed. All those broken dreams all those failed attempts all that belief you would never fit in and would remain an outcast forever suddenly begin to melt away, shrivel up and die.
Essentially it is hope returning.
Hope for friendship
Hope for understanding
Hope for kin
Hope for family
Hope for tribe.
Suddenly hope is not just a word but a real thing to be grasp and believe in.
But for me, and I suspect many it was even more than that. My tribe helped me to explore my self more than I ever had and to come out and live my truth as a queer woman.
That might seem like an odd statement but it’s true nonetheless. You see for me I grew up in a very conservative Christian home with relatives all of the same persuasion. I was never allowed to be who I was, even though much of that had been constructed internally it could never be external. It could never be out. It simply would never be tolerated and family connection, as toxic as it was was largely the only connection I had. Risking that may well have been enough to bring it all to an end.
But finding my tribe, finding the Autistic community totally changed all that. Suddenly here I was finding connectedness and friendship and understanding with so many people, of so many identities, backgrounds and experiences and a discovery of how wonderful this was, how none of the so called rules of what you could and couldn’t be really mattered after all.
I was connecting with LGBTI people, other neurodivergent people, people of variant abilities and diversity and we got each other, we understood. In short we connected and I think, most importantly I was safe.
Finally I had the space the safeness to let myself out, continue to discover beyond the point where I had always wrongly believed I had to stop. Suddenly I could be me no matter what that me ended up being.
Within my tribe I could question my assigned gender, I could talk about it, think out loud about it and even try on something different on the path to discovering what fit. It turns out what fit is a bit queer, a lesbian trans woman.
It was the safety and acceptance of my autistic tribe that allowed me then to come out outside of the safety of that tribe. Without my autistic tribe I am convinced I would still be a very angry unhappy person trying to play a gender role that was not my own.
Today is Autistic Pride day, smack in the middle of Pride Month. Today I am proud to be autistic and proud to be trans. I am proud of my autistic tribe most especially for making me able to trust enough, to feel safe enough, to be me.
On this Autistic Pride day I am a proud out loud visible autistic trans lesbian woman and I am incredibly proud of my amazingly empowering wonderful life giving Autistic Tribe.
Be Proud. Be Visible. Be You and Celebrate Neurodiversity and give “Normal” the big middle finger!