Month: June 2017

Autistic Pride Day 2017

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Today is considered to be Autistic Pride Day. Yes, I should be happy because it’s one day out of the year where I’m supposed to be proud of who I am. And yet, I’m not exactly at that point because this year has been a roller coaster. If you were looking for a sugarcoated post for Autistic Pride Day, have some lemons instead.

If you recall, I was told that I wasn’t autistic to begin with. That was difficult to process and I am still trying to deal with it, though the intensity has died down considerably. My emotions for that are now tied with the impending moment of coming out to my folks, which is a bunch of “I don’t know what to expect”. After all, how can I be queer and autistic at the same time? (The results of this will be discussed in a later post)

There are days where I wake up and think “BOY AM I GAY TODAY! LIKE, THE GAYEST GAY EVER! I AM SO FABULOUS!” Then there are those where it’s “Why do I even bother?” It’s not all rainbows on flags and infinity ribbons every single day. Do I have any love for who I am? I can’t tell; I really can’t. I have felt that way for as long as I can remember. I just didn’t think too highly about myself because I let others come before me. I’ve internalized that when living with my family and figured if I wanted things done, I should do it myself. Sure, people have told me I’m brave or I’m being courageous but I’ve brushed those compliments aside because, in my head, it comes across as hollow. I just do things because of logic and common sense, not really for the figurative medals of valor or warm feels. Since I had to pass as someone normal in my formative years, it’s taking a while to undo all of that.

I do carry my stim tools with me. I do flap my hands to music, each a different pattern depending on the beat. I attend my monthly support group meetings, no matter what the attendance is. I keep in contact with my autistic friends that I’ve met over the years. I still want to help future generations of autistic kids as they grow up in a world that is becoming increasingly hostile to all minorities. I do my best to show people a new way of discourse when talking to disabled people about how some representation is flawed or toxic (looking at you The Good Doctor). There are opportunities for me on the horizon but it all seems so far away.

It’s 2017 and there’s still a long way to go for pride. Sure, you have the newly canonized Blue Ranger from the mediocre Power Rangers reboot and the puppet form of Julia on Sesame Street. Personally, I headcanon Gregg from the video game Night in the Woods (pictured above) because that means he’s a queer autistic. On the flipside, “autistic” is still being used as an insult in the ugliest parts of the internet and as insinuation for being unfit to lead. Fidget spinners are all the rage but the majority fail to grasp who they’re supposed to help. It’s still difficult to get and remain employed because of numerous hurdles.

Most importantly, the post-Rain Man generation has grown up and are trying to claim their place at the table of humanity. But since we’re constantly told that we aren’t really autistic for any number of garbage reasons, we get criticized for even having a modicum of pride of who we are because “it’s such a burden and should not be taken lightly”. To those who have heard this sentiment time and time again, ignore them. Celebrate you for who you are on this day. Rupaul’s quote, even with the baggage he brings with him, still rings true. “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell can you love somebody else?”

The Q Word

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I’m going to take a moment, since it’s Pride Month, to talk about a small part of my journey of being a queer man. My journey does have its twists and turns but I’m not going to explain all of it in one post; that’d be too long. Instead, I’m going to discuss the first experience of hearing the word “queer” and how it was treated.

I moved to a different school in seventh grade because my first school only went up to sixth grade. It was in the next county over and was the only Catholic school in the area that went up to eighth grade. I didn’t have a choice in the matter but I went anyways. I was still trying to get my bearings on this transition as I sat in a science class.

My class and teacher got on a tangent about some subject that I can’t recall. At one point, the “edgy” kid in our class (a Polish kid who we assumed was anorexic and did some shady stuff but was taller than any of us) said the word “queer” and everybody laughed. The teacher, after wiping away a few tears, commended him on the comment but reminded him that he could really only get away with saying that once. I muttered that word to myself a few times, using that conversation as echolalia and then the teacher told me I can’t say the word. That moment conditioned me to wince every time I heard it because it was “bad”.

(Unrelated note: the following year, the same teacher used “Brokeback” as a euphemism for “gay” in class as Brokeback Mountain made a splash in Hollywood during that time and also said that the ACLU stood for “Anti-Christ League of Underminers”)

Nobody really told me what that word meant in terms of sexuality. The definitions I looked up just meant “strange” or “different”. But that I couldn’t use that word at all? That seemed odd.

A few years later, I finally got around to watching The Nightmare Before Christmas in a high school class. One of the lyrics in the song “What’s This” uses the word and at the time, I would just whisper the word when I would sing along as I thought back to that moment. If there was a book we had to read for class that used “queer” in the original sense of being different, I tried to glide past it.

Late in college, right when I started to come to terms with the fact I wasn’t straight, I picked up the original Broadway recording of Avenue Q. I popped it into my player and then the song “If You Were Gay” came on. I’m laughing all the way and then the second verse kicks off with “If you were queer/I’d still be here…” Again, I mutter the words but it was foolish since I was the only one in the car. It took a while but I conditioned myself to let that word flow from my mouth without pain because, after all, I was queer.

Nowadays, I use that word as a second label because, while I still call myself a bisexual, I find that my orientation is more fluid and I can’t quite find a label that best fits. I’d like to experiment with my expression but can’t do that while I’m still under my parent’s roof. I hope that by the time my town’s Pride event rolls around next month, I can attend my first Pride how I want with my boyfriend by my side. It would be amazing but for the moment, I just have to bide my time and bite my tongue.