We now move onto part two of the Autistic Pride Online coverage. Thank you for bearing with us. Condensing eleven hours into a readable format is no picnic!
Mark Blake:Co-Founder and President of the Autistic League was next. The Autism League is a collaboration between writers, filmmakers, photographers, social media talent and activists with the objective of improving the lives of those on the autistic spectrum. Blake spoke about importance about mental health support. He remarked the conversation about mental health and autism has not quite taken root in Uzbekistan. He explained he was frequently bullied in school when he moved to the UK. “If you are autistic and unlucky enough to have a public meltdown, you are locked up and forcibly sectioned.”
Mark continued that this caused him to develop a cynical outlook of life until a friend intervened and helped him. This led to his work in advocacy due to his desire to “pay that love forward” to others. His interest in mental health developed because of his work in advocacy to due to emotional strain of the work. He also remarked that isolation can leave autistic vulnerable to groups like the so-called Autistic Dark Web. Mark then gave the floor to other Autistic League members.
Jessie discussed coming to terms with a diagnosis at 45. She discussed growing up in a dysfunctional family and how this influenced her parenting style. Jessie initially received an ADHD diagnosis but felt this didn’t explain the way she processed emotion and relationships. She later discovered these difficulties were caused by Masking and recalled the sense of relief she felt upon her diagnosis.
Neil then joined in. He shared the story of Johnny, who received his diagnosis in 2019. Before this Johnny, who was of Asian descent, experience violence from the police and was detained in a mental health unit for six months. This caused long term traumatic effects in the young man.
Finally, co-founder Jorik Wol spoke, reading an extract from ‘Autistic Citizens,’ an upcoming book by the Autistic League. He recalls his diagnosis in 1996 “I was not going to be one of THOSE children.” Jorik proceeded to describe the internalised abuse he experience due to extensive masking. He felt this process was necessary to avoid being put in a home. “On the one hand I was told I was different, but on the other I was told I had failed. I didn’t want to be a failure. I wanted to be good enough.” Due to his abusive father’s suicide, Jorik tried hard to repress his own feelings of depression and suicidal ideation. He eventually checked himself in due to exhaustion from masking during his time in University.
Despite overmedication and an assault by another patient, Jorik credits this moment as being a big turning point due to meeting Harry. The two fell in love and were together for three years, maintaining a friendship to this day. Jorik explained Harry was openly autistic and “loved me because I was autistic, not despite it.” After the two broke up Jorik was sectioned, leading to a baffled psychiatrist telling him he never should have been medicated for autism. Jorik ended by listing the areas of his life he feels fortunate about, such as having finances to extend his stay in university and privilege in not being unnecessarily arrested due to meltdowns. “But I shouldn’t have had to be lucky. I should have had equal rights. That’s where the Autistic League comes in.”
Autistic Pride Reading then showcased a number of Autistic creative voices.
Dave aka AutyAt40 answered a number of questions from members of the community. He spoke about his knowledge of autism before autism, based largely on fictional portrayals. His diagnosis helped clarify difficulties with communications. Dave is hard of hearing and assumed his issues were due to this disability rather than autism. He drew an interesting comparison between autism and hearing difficulties. Dave often assumed people without hearing difficulties could hear everything and similarly thought neurotypicals could notice everything. He then described his frustration in accessing services due to his age and a clerical error relating in the borough he lived in.
The true perspective came from Dave meeting other adult autistic people. “The concept of a spectrum took on a whole different meaning for me. It was no longer a linear scale, but a multidimensional world.” He set up his Facebook page due to frustrations over lack of support for Autistic adults. He admitted that he was unsure about the success of the page. He spoke of music and its deep significance to him, especially Pink Floyd and Led Zepellin. Dave regularly plays in public, leading to the nickname Rock Star Dave. He then spoke about the difficulties of disclosing at work. He eventually found the right HR manager who sent him on a course with the National Autistic Society for workplace relations. Dialogue was subsequently improved with his manager. He ended the talk by expressing the need to be forgiving with yourself for mistakes and keep trying.
Matt Wells, webcomic creator was next. He explained he was from a generation before autism was regularly diagnosed, often being given the label of learning difficulties. Wells cited American comics such as Marvel and Garfield as influences as well as comedians such as Monty Python and Rik Mayall for his sense of humour in writing. He felt this made him stand out somewhat from his peers “you were into football are you wanted to be a spaceman. I was an eight year old who wanted to be Stan Lee!” He recalled drawing as far back as he could remember, often getting in trouble with teachers due to drawing in his exercise books. He reiterated the Aberdeen Pride’s dictum of creating for yourself rather than an imaginary audience.
Tamsin Parker, animator and artist, discussed her own creative process. She previously created ‘Force of Habit’ for the National Autistic Society, which explored her passion for film, especially The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. She was especially influenced by the comic relief character of Tuco, identifying with his flamboyant personality. After a well-publicized incident where Parker was ejected from a screening of this film for laughing too loudly, she made several media appearances on the subject. She then used funds from these appearances to fund her participation in the Three Peaks challenge with NAS. Before showing a selection of her animations she said “Be yourself! You can make a difference.”
Mx Billie Jo Gibson a proudly “autistic transmasculine scouser” of Liverpool Autistic Pride spoke on the intersections between LGBTQ+ and autistic communities. They helpfully opened the presentation with an explanation of Liverpool slang before launching into the presentation. They explained their diagnosis included the term ‘high functioning,’ a label which they wished to distance themselves from due to the ableist implications of the term. In LGBTQ+ terms they explained their status as a transmasc androgyne, using Genderbread as an explainer for this. They noted getting a gender identity clinic referral can be frightening for autistic trans people, encouraging trans people to write their feelings in a letter for their GP referral.
Billie explained coming out can be more difficult as an autistic person. Luckily a friend from their Aspergers social group (who subsequently came out as a trans women) introduced Billie to an LGBT group. They recalled their religious father was less than understanding, necessitating Billie’s move to council accommodation. Billie then gave the floor to Alexandria Adamson, trans advocate, musician and actress. She previously worked in musical theatre and cabaret until eventually moving to music. She attributes this move to ableist attitudes in parts of the music industry. Unfortunately, their segment had to end early due to time constraints to make way for Autistic Paddies. Their hour will be featured in our next installment!