“I Am Proud To Be A Gay Autistic Man!” (Part 2)

Go back to part 1 

I discovered a comment from somebody on my last post. It described her stance on the topic known as “gay pride.” 

Proud is a weird word to use sometimes, it is enough to say, “I am not ashamed, I am not in denial, I am what I am”, and leave it at that. Live as you need to live, as you wish to live, as you would hope others would live, if they walked in your footsteps. I wish you all the best the world has, and hope the crap stuff doesn’t reach you too often. Be well. Live well.

The truth is, I don’t think I ever will understand the true meaning behind the statement “I Am Proud To Be A Gay Autistic Man!” After hearing about the whole Chic-Fil-A controversy, I have often wondered if there is really any point in being “proud” of who I am. I have come to the belief the supporters of Chic Fil A just don’t like the gay and lesbian community because the bible says so. The Conservatives “love the sinner, but hate the sin.” While the focus of this post is not really going to be about an American fast food chain that does not support marriage equality, there are still many questions that go through my mind.

Why should I be “proud” if there are still people out there who have the blatant audacity to fear monger, insult, berate, pistol whip, beat and even kill us for no other reason besides we “decided” to be gay? Why should I be proud of the fact that they use their religious beliefs to justify it? I thought this kind of bigotry was a thing of the past!

Why should I be proud that Autistic people are forced to believe their social and academic difficulties will ruin their dreams of living a happy and productive future? Being Autistic does not mean that I am a loser! 

Why should I be “proud” of the fact that the many labels thrown at us are considered “mandatory” to fit in with our own “community”? I don’t care if people call me a “bear”, “twink”, “gaystriaght”, “flamer”, or a “fairy.” My sexuality does not define who I am as a person! 

Part one of this post expressed my stance on the statement “I Am Proud To Be LGBT And Autistic!” I stated that I feel no shame of the fact that I am gay, but I am not proud to be Autistic. I brought up this statement on the Wrongplanet.net forums. One of the answers that really stood out was when someone stated they are not “proud” of who they are but they feel no shame in who they are. They stated they did not do anything to achieve their sexuality or Autistic Spectrum Diagnosis. It was one of those things that just happened when I was in my mother’s wombI stand by my strong belief that I do not need to prove that to anybody. I revealed it four months ago, and I am still trying to figure out the place I have in this world. I really hope to move out of this town someday, but I don’t really know where I want to go. 

I am sure you know that I am new to the whole “gay” thing. The thing that every single “out” LGBT person must learn is to find his or her own way to deal with the fact that not everyone in this world will truly accept the fact that we are different. I want to quote something from a wonderful article written by John Scott Holman. It describes his reaction to the people who we often refer to as homophobes. 

While we’re on the subject of homo… er… sapiens, I should mention that I’m also queer in the popular and crude sense of the word – I’m a guy and I like guys. If that makes you uncomfortable, I can assure you that I understand. I’ve spent my entire life bombarded by a daily assault of heterosexuality imagery; a constant suggestion of my social irrelevance. Yeah, you’re sexual orientation makes me uncomfortable as well.

Though prejudice and social pressure inspired years of self-deception, self-loathing, and heterosexual mimicry (a: worthless, counterfeit), I can no longer deny it – I practically pranced out of the womb striking poses to the tune of Vogue. I may not be the biggest queen to ever purchase a Judy Garland album, but there’s no mistaking basic nature – I’m a queer (homosexual), a fruit, a flamer, faggot… whichever adjective is hurled across the bar by the drunken red-neck who will soon learn the meaning of “lanky strength.” 

There is one thing that immediately came to my mind when I read just those two paragraphs. How do I respond to the question that I am sure will come from a nosy heterosexual neurotypical? 

“So Derek, do you have a girlfriend?” 

While some of you may think this kind of question is “not that bad”, there is one possible dilemma that could come up. I happen to know that in 28 states, it is perfectly legal to be fired for no other reason besides the fact that I am gay. Pennsylvania just so happens to be one of those states. That’s right, there still is a “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy in the United States! If my employer simply does not like the fact that I am a gay man, they are perfectly within their rights to fire me. The Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Policy still exists in many organizations that refuse to include gay and lesbian people in their anti discrimination policies. As a matter of fact, there are also many organizations that completely ban the discussion of controversial topics while on the job. Chic Fil A claims not to discriminate against their gay and lesbian employees, while they actively donate their profit to organizations who intend to impair the rights of LGBT citizens throughout the country. So, there is still one question that goes through my mind. While there are many big name organizations that do not actively include LGBT people (cough cough: Boy Scouts of America), there are many out there who are truly proud of their diverse workforce. The big question goes something like this. Is it still safe to reveal my sexual orientation to my coworkers?  There are many scenarios where the answer would be a definite “yes”, and there are many scenarios where the answer would be a definite “no”.

I think an answer to the above questions depends on the attitudes of your coworkers and the organizations core values and policies. There are some organizations that ban discussions about any of the worlds current “hot button” topics. If that is the case with your organization, then I would not recommend discussing your sexual orientation with your coworkers. So, that means no discussions about your sexuality, abortion, religion, or the war on terror. It doesn’t matter if your stance on the topic is Very Conservative or Very Liberal, you cannot talk about it at all! I often wonder if organizations decide to implement restrictive policies because employees have gone too far when it comes to expressing opposing views with their colleagues. After all, hostile and disrespectful behavior disrupts the work environment. It gives the organization a bad reputation, and disruption of the work environment has the potential to create violence.

The most important circumstance that determines whether or not it is safe to reveal one to “come out of the closet” at work is of course the attitude of their coworkers. The individual must first use his or her own judgment to see whether the time and place is appropriate, and they must realize that you cannot always predict how a person will react to such a revelation. The only way to overcome this fear is to begin by establishing a friendly relationship with coworkers who seem to be open-minded and respectful of other’s differences. Find some time to talk with them during lunch break or outside of work. Start with a simple opening remark. “If you don’t mind, I would like to ask you something.” Then ask about their views when it comes to the issue of gay rights. If they start quoting scripture and expressing their belief that gays are hell bound, then I obviously would not waste my time with them. People who are willing to accept me for who I am are the only ones who I will ever consider true friends!

“Coming out of the closet” has given me a huge sense of relief, but I am still experiencing a a large amount of anxiety. This anxiety is mainly about what lies ahead of me. I am trying to figure out the root causes of this anxiety. I know that I must get to the root of the matter and figure out ways to reduce those feelings of doubt and fear. So, I have come up with some important open ended questions which I do not know the answer to. No social role play has ever prepared me for some of the things I have yet to experience in life. What are these questions about? They are about the many things that are bothering me as a twenty year old man who happens to be gay and who happens to be diagnosed with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder. These things are a contributor to the anxiety that goes through my mind every single day of my life. The only way to address them is to ponder, and figure out how to overcome it. So, here are the things I came up with.

How should I respond to anti gay bigotry that is specifically directed towards me? Would others recommend me to respond in this way? 

How do I respond to LGBT people who direct their intolerance towards my Autism and vice versa? 

What kind of traits are essential for a future mate? How can these characteristics determine happiness in the future? 

How do I tell a person they are making me feel overwhelmed or frustrated? Why is it so difficult for me to explain my emotions to somebody who does not understand how Autism effects me? 

How should I respond to the media representation of both gay and Autistic people? 

I am sure you can tell that I have a lot on my mind. If I want to truly feel like I am “Proud To Be A Gay Autistic Man”, then I must do whatever is necessary to figure out the answers to those difficult questions that are impairing my confidence.

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“I Am Proud To Be A Gay Autistic Man!” (Part 1)

I have become aware of the topic known as neurodiversity. This particular belief is very controversial in the Autism community. The term “neurodiversity” is the belief that a disorder in the nervous system should be referred to as a normal human difference. Simply put, they are people who strongly oppose the search for a cure. I don’t fully understand what neurodiversity is, and therefore I don’t know what it means to me. With that in mind, my recent blog post was probably the hardest one to write. It was the blog post where I revealed that I know I am a gay man. This one is going to be just as challenging. I now want to share a post on the Wrongplanet.net forums. I asked the users on the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) forum one question that might seem simple  to those in the neurotypical community. 

Can you honestly and truly say “I am proud to be a LGBT Autistic? Why or why not?” 

At first, I thought everybody was going to say  “Duh! What kind of stupid question is that? Of course I love who I am. I was born this way!”  Once people started commenting my predictions changed quickly. Some of them expressed the belief that they feel no shame in their Autism or their sexuality. They have embraced the fact that they are different from the rest of society and they seem to have enough confidence to stand up to people who try to bible thump and convince them to “change” who they are. There are others who do not feel ashamed, but who feel that neither qualities are things to be “proud” of. Surprisingly, my opinion was different from everyone who answered the question so far.

As of now, my stance on this complicated question is half and half. I am sure you can tell that I felt a huge sense of relief when I finally revealed that I know I am a gay man. I say that mainly because I live in a mostly Conservative Pennsylvania town. I have come to the immediate conclusion that people who use a religious text as a method of “changing” my feelings and desires are not real friends. Despite what 14-year-old Caiden Cowger says, I know that I have always been attracted to the male body. I began to notice it during my junior and senior years of high school,  but I knew I was not ready to reveal it to the world. Here is a quote from my earlier post about my former therapist and why I did not trust him.  

His tone of voice was often very questionable, meaning I had trouble figuring out whether he was being genuine or being sarcastic. I was “not like everybody else” and I was not interested in most of the neurotypical activities, in particular, dating. I wanted to “be like everybody else” but I didn’t know how to. Just about every single session consisted of him trying to cause that magical epiphany. He wanted to me “put myself out there.” He would go on and on about how I should be interested girls, the sarcastically said “unless you like boys or something…”  That was one of the many comments that caused a major personality clash between the two of us. I didn’t know I was gay back then, so I just refused to respond to him. If I had known, I still would not have “come out” to him.

 It might seem shocking to some of you when I say that I am not “proud to be Autistic.” I honestly don’t truly understand why I say that, but I think it may have something to do with the fact that I am a gay man who recently came out of the closet. I am only twenty years old, and it has been a little over a year since I graduated from high school. It is a known fact that symptoms of depression and social anxiety are common characteristics in people with Autistic Spectrum Disorders, and that is true regardless of whether or not they are actually diagnosed with the two conditions. Now that I identify myself as a man who happens to be gay and who happens to be diagnosed with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder, I have to be prepared for the many bumps that I could hit on the road ahead. 

If you are a parent of an LGBT Autistic teen or young adult, I must be honest that I do not know the many answers to your questions. I say that because I am new to the whole gay thing. However, I am sure you know an Asperger’s child will always experience difficulties with socialization. This could have the potential to make me vulnerable to acts of hatred and violence. The tragic death of Matthew Shepard was a grim reminder that there are sick and hateful people out there. It happened  on October 7, 1998. Two men named Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson drove Matthew to a remote area east of Laramie, a city in Southeastern Wyoming. The two men pistol whipped him multiple times and left him out in the cold for eighteen hours. He breathed his last breath shortly after midnight on October 12, 1998. 

Matthew was tricked into believing that Aaron and Russell were gay. After meeting them at a bar, Aaron agreed to give Matthew a ride home. As soon as they brought him to the remote area outside of town, Aaron said “Guess what? We’re not gay and you just got jacked.”  That was when he started to beat Matthew. The most painful aspect of being diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome is that I have to do everything in my power to prevent my social naivety from overtaking my life. The murder of Matthew Shepard was an violent example of the bullying I experienced in high school. As my regular visitors know, bullies would try to convince me into believing they were being kind, then turn around and back-stab me. So, I ask you one question after hearing about tragedies like this. What is there to be “proud” of? I assure you that I will never feel shame in who I am, but I must come up with something that will prevent a tragedy from taking the lives of people in the most vulnerable “minority” groups out there. 

To be continued by next week… 

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