(So, yesterday the 11th was National Coming Out Day, and I thought I’d write a post, but I didn’t get to it…so, today it is…I would also like to preface everything by saying that my ability to be an out autistic and asexual is based on quite a bit of privilege and luck. Coming out isn’t the safest choice for everyone and in fact can be dangerous as all hell on both fronts, and thus this isn’t me saying that everyone should come out nor implying that I’m braver for being able to do so…there you go, enjoy the show)
“Open up your eyes, take a look at me
Get the picture fixed in your memory
I’m driven by the rythm like the beat of a heart
And I won’t stop until I start
To stand out
Some people settle for the typical thing
Livin’ all their lives waitin’ in the wings
It ain’t a question of ‘if’, just a matter of time
Before I move to the front of the line
And once you’re watchin’ ev’ry move that I make
Ya gotta believe that I got what it takes
To stand out
Above the crowd
Even if I gotta shout out loud
‘Til mine is the only face you see
Gonna stand out ’til you notice me”
So, to be quite honest, this post is as much explaining to myself why I do this, why I write and am out as both autistic and asexual (I don’t experience sexual attraction-information here) lithromantic (definition of this variant here), as to everyone else. Recently my piece on Autism Speaks, You See a Puzzle Piece, was shared by The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism (one of the biggest autism pages, mentioned in Neurotribes which I reviewed here, they shared the review as well). While most of the responses were positive, some were…invalidating, which is really hard with the extreme emotions that come with being autistic (see Emotionless? If only… for my response to the “autistics don’t feel anything” stereotype…there are times I wish it was the case). The Guide did do its best to shield me by taking those comments down, but it did dent me for a bit.
Part of it, a rather large part, is the simple fact that I can. I went to a school for autistics called Anova, and it helped me out extremely with my difficulties (in Why I choose the term Autistic (instead of Aspie) I talk more about me pre-Anova and post-Anova), and its size also created a climate that was ace (asexual)-friendly. From what I’ve heard from the community, many aces go through high school with their friends talking about girls/guys in ways that they can’t relate, and find themselves feeling broken or somesuch. Thanks to the issues with the diagnostic criteria, Anova was mostly boys and most of us (including myself) were nerds. There wasn’t that type of conversation, so I didn’t suffer through the similar alienation that many others do. I have never been made to feel ashamed about my identity and the area around me has consistently provided enough support to be comfortable as who I am. Anova also grounded me in my autistic identity in a way that has enabled me to use it to be a writer and activist.
But that’s obviously not the whole thing, as I had fellow graduates, none of them taking the same path.
I guess that my goal is to stand out because as both an autistic and an ace, quite often “mine is the only face you see.” Aces and autistics are hardly common, and there is a lot of stigma attached to both differences, asexuality often being erased or dismissed (or asked if we’re plants because asexual reproduction puns are of course things that we haven’t heard before [we have]) and autism associated with everything mentioned in We Are Not. Being such a visible ace autistic is in itself a defiant statement, rebelling against stigma and erasure by daring to be proud of my existence and opening myself to the world. People are going to know who I am, what I am, simply because I’ve found myself to be a bit hard to ignore. I have made it such an obvious part of my identity and encourage people to ask me questions so people can see me, not just the narrative that they’re told.
I also stand out because I tried fitting in when I was younger and it…really didn’t work. I don’t settle for the (neuro)typical thing because the times I shut my identity down were downright miserable and embracing the totality of what I am has been the only reason I’m alive.
But I think that the most important reason that I’m out on the stage instead of spending my life waiting in the wings is to show others that it is possible, that they don’t need to be ashamed of who they are. The display is for those who are still in the closet, letting them know that they aren’t alone and that they don’t need to feel shame for their identity. Education is nice, but if I manage to make one person, just one, realize that who they are isn’t a problem like everyone in the world might seem to be telling them, then that makes a difference worth all the hurt that may happen. I make my pride in my neurology/sexuality obvious because I want others to know that they can be proud too, even if they can’t come out themselves.
This life isn’t for everyone, but I will say that standing out and being noticed has been something that has helped me a lot. If it doesn’t make you unsafe and you have the spoons to do so, I’d recommend this owning of your identity and thus using your voice to shout out loud be a beacon of possible acceptance for your kin. Gods know that any new voices in the fight for acceptance are always needed.
If you can, shout out loud to our allies and enemies and let them see you. It’s not always painless but the potential to actually change things makes it all worth it.