Coming Out Autistic

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:

***

Hello everybody!

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

 

Cross Stitch

One of my special interests is cross stitching. If you’re wondering what makes something a special interest as opposed to a regular interest, it’s the intensity with which many autistic people engage with their interests. Another word I’ve used to describe my special interests is obsession. We want to know everything about our special interests. We want to talk to people about it, although frequently end up annoying them. For me at least, my special interests tend to become incorporated into my identity. I’m “that girl who’s obsessed with Freddie Mercury.” I’m “whale girl.” (Those were mostly just in high school.) At least with cross stitching, people seem to be interested in what I do.

As with any other special interest, I want to collect anything that has to do with it, and will meticulously organize that collection. In cross stitch terms, that means owning a billion cross stitch magazines, making sure my DMC thread inventory is complete (I need to re-up on a few right now), and having a Google Drive that stores all my favorite past, present and future projects that no human could ever complete in a lifetime. But I like to dream.

I’m usually working on several projects at once. I have a few abandoned projects that I started a few years ago and will get around to finishing eventually. I have many partly-finished projects that still need to be pillowfied or framed or whatever.

My active projects tend to include: a big, major project that will take several months to a year and is intended to be a special gift for a special someone, a medium-sized project for my own pleasure that I will use to decorate my own space, and a small one that takes from a few hours to a couple weeks that I give as gifts. I kinda switch it up every few days to stay interested.

The big project I’m working on is a Celtic Angel for my grandma. Every once in a while I show her my progress. I started it in early December 2017, and first revealed its progress to her on Christmas. I don’t know how long I expecting to take to finish it, but it was intended as a belated Christmas gift. Maybe by her birthday in November.

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My personal project is this soon-to-be pillow with a fox pattern.

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I’m working on something else for my Uncle Pat’s birthday, but I’ll post a photo after it’s been gifted.

As I mentioned earlier, people tend to be interested in this special interest. And as I mentioned in another post, I don’t really speak about things I’m passionate about until someone else expresses interest. I’ve learned from past experiences that it can be annoying. However, when people see me working on a cross stitch project, they often want to know more. “How long have you been working on that?” “You must have a lot of patience.” “When did you start cross stitching?” “How much time do you spend on it?”

As for my responses: “Oh, I started it on [x date].” “I guess so. It just relaxes me.” “I did some as a kid, but then I picked it up again a few years ago.” “I like working on it during Netflix binges or just whenever it seems appropriate.” I often add, “I’m making it as a gift for X.” “I’m also working on a couple other things.”

If I was an adolescent with poor impulse control as I indeed once was, I’d go overboard by showing them the million other projects I want to do, and listing every project I’ve done in the past four years (and there have been many).

So that’s an introduction to what is currently my primary special interest. If anyone reading this is interested in knowing more, feel free to contact me. Also, allow me to share my Cross Stitch Google Drive, which is pictures of the projects that I have available, frequently updated. On your requests, I could upload PDFs containing patterns that you might want to do yourself.