“Are you gay?” I’ve heard this question from many people throughout the twenty-six years I have been alive. My high school years were especially a time when people felt the need to ask me such a personal question about something that isn’t any of their business. Bullies would ask me this question when they had no other intention than to provoke me. I would also hear it from people who genuinely had the best of intentions. It didn’t matter who asked me that question or what their intentions were. I didn’t appreciate it because I felt people were pressuring me into thinking about something I just wasn’t ready to explore.
Rumors have been spreading about singer/songwriter Shawn Mendes. His self-titled album has reached number one on US Billboard 200 charts. It also became Apple Music’s second most streamed pop album of 2018, behind Justin Timberlake’s Man Of The Woods. Therefore, I am not entirely surprised people have felt the need to gossip about his personal life. I realize that rumors are not statements of fact. I would be lying if I said I didn’t wonder about his sexuality. However, there are plenty of straight men who exhibit stereotypes that people tend to associate with gay men.
A few years ago, I wrote a post which addressed a refrain many of us gays have heard time and time again from our heterosexual friends. It was appropriately titled “you should be more discreet.” I don’t just hear that from bigots who have nothing better to do than express hatred about something they will never have the brains or the heart to understand. I also hear it from people who claim to be on board with “the gay thing,” as they call it. It used to really irritate me when I was newly out of the closet. However, I now understand that even those who claim to be accepting need to be educated from time to time.
If Shawn Mendes were to come out as gay, would the same people who keep gossiping about his personal life turn around and tell him that he should “keep in the bedroom?” I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if the answer to this question were yes. It’s one thing for a celebrity to have to experience such a thing. It is another thing for someone like me to experience it. I don’t perform concerts in sold out venues across the world. I have very little money. I don’t know what it is like to be forbidden from going out in public alone in attempts to avoid the crazy paparazzi.
I do, however, know how it feels to know that people are wondering about something I simply wasn’t ready to explore and reveal about myself. Being on the Autism Spectrum didn’t help in that regard. People will notice when you are different. Often times, they will feel the need to point it out in ways that are clearly intended to make someone feel miserable. That is why I say to anyone who has experienced speculation with regards to things like sexual orientation and gender identity. You are the only person who knows the truth. Therefore, you are the only person who should have permission to reveal it!
My double minority life as a gay man with Autism Spectrum Disorder (Asperger’s Syndrome) has more than it’s fair share of excruciating challenges. I do not demand people to feel sorry for me when I share even the most painful experiences. Not everyone is going to understand how it feels to live with my condition. Nor do I expect praise from people who are willing to read about my life. It can be easy for me to come off as such a person. However, I know I am far from the type of person who demands metals and trophies just for writing about my life. Demanding praise and adoration is only going to result in the exact opposite.
I know there is a lot of diversity in the Autism community. People like Dr. Temple Grandin refer to Autism as a continuum, that ranges from nonverbal to traits that are more characteristic of Asperger’s Syndrome. I have never been a fan of functioning labels. I have many reasons for that. This quote below is the one which stood out to me the most. It comes from the Autism wiki and is regarding the high functioning label.
It minimizes the need for support and may make it harder to ask for help.
I cannot tell you how many times I have heard people claim that I am lying about my diagnosis only because I don’t exhibit the characteristics associated with low functioning Autism. I am not running around, screaming, throwing feces and lashing out. I have the ability to communicate verbally. I know that our society doesn’t consider that to be an acceptable way to communicate my frustrations. I cannot think of anything else that leads to such ignorance than the high functioning label. It leads to the assumption that Autism is a contest. The child with the most “severe” traits receives an “A” a grade on their Autism report card. The graders are people who simply base their perception of what constitutes as “legitimate Autism” on the one person whom they happen to know.
I now know that Autism is a much more complex neurological disorder than our society likes to think it is. Another major problem many have with the high functioning label is that it can cause the individual to believe they are more superior others who have ASD. As indicated on the Autism wiki page, this mindset can cause the child to grow up to behave disrespectfully towards those whose struggles are different or more significant from their own. I am not proud to admit that I was guilty of such a thing back in my teenage years. I internalized the bullying and social stigma my peers subjected me to.
I used my experiences with bullying as an excuse to completely shut out those who also understand how it feels to be different. I like to think those who accuse me of lying about my diagnosis will change their minds after reading my admission of such a statement. However, I can only change the minds of those who are willing to listen to me. They say the steps towards becoming an active listener are pay attention, show that you are listening, provide feedback and respond appropriately. Such a statement should apply to one’s own words and thoughts just as much (if not more) than it does for those of others. I still have trouble doing those things when I experience depression and anxiety over situations which most people wouldn’t experience such feelings.
I know my high functioning label never will be absolute. It changes from day to day and situation to situation. I cannot seem to come up with any other way to explain that, other than to say that it depends on the person I am dealing with and the environment that I am in on that particular day and during that particular situation. That is one of the things neurotypical I wish neurotypical people understood. Despite such ignorance, I know that to be true. I know that I will only need to prove that fact to myself.
You may tell by the title that I haven’t been writing as much as I would like to be. I have found that sitting in front of the computer, trying to come up with something that people will want to read is only going to cause my cursor to blink and blink in front of a blank document. Thus, I ordered a journal and have begun writing inside of it each day. I have found that I am much too formal when I am sitting here in front of the computer. Things like content and formatting prevent me from making progress by actually writing something. Add that with worrying about whether people will actually want to read what I have to say.
Yes, we need to know the importance of sharing our writing with other people for the sake of getting honest feedback. I realize that is what professional writers do. However, I think we all need at least one place where nobody else but I will read the things I place inside of it. That is precisely why I bought a journal. I need at least one place where I don’t have to think about any of the formalities associated with submitting my writing to someone who is going to evaluate it. Sitting in front of my computer certainly is not going to help me achieve that.
I simply take five to ten minutes each day and write whatever comes to my mind. I do it simply to achieve the task of getting my thoughts on paper. I often do think of good ideas for content when I am laying down in bed, or, on the ground playing with my dog. There is one problem with that. I tend to forget about it a few minutes later. I fall back into that rut when I sit at my computer and try to come up with something that people will actually want to read. This is why I think this journal will help me in the long run. I can refer back to it and use my entries as ideas for content.