“Briannon is a proudly queer, autistic woman with three autistic children”
Sometimes I feel my ‘intro to Bri’ should swap the word ‘proudly’ with ‘fearful’, because most days my Autistic pride feels more like fear.
That’s because identifying as autistic in my 30s is my second coming out.My first coming out was when I fell in love with my wife at 21. I joyfully told every important person in my life, “I’m in love with a woman, I’m gay!”
I wanted them to know that things were finally making sense for me, that I had an identity that was important to me, that I was happy, and loved.
I had no understanding that I would instantly shed my heterosexual privilege, leaving behind friends and a community of support. I was devastated by the response from some people who destroyed my naïve belief that those who loved me would also accept me unconditionally.
And so, my pride feels more like fear because,
I know what it means to lose the privilege of a dominant social group.
I know how it feels to lose friends and face conditional acceptance from others.
I know how hard it is to show only the palatable parts of my life to others and leave the rest hidden and unspoken, because I crave that acceptance like an addiction I can’t give up.
Because of this knowing, and fear, coming out as autistic has been slow, tentative and careful. Occasionally I have been bolshy. Then retreated.
I hate this fear and its origins in my first coming out story.
But my first coming out did teach me something important. In the words of the late Laura Hershey, “You get proud by practicing”
I practiced as a young lesbian at work, and at university. I practiced at Mardi Gras and marriage equality rallies. I practiced as mother and wife. I got proud.
And now I am finding that each time I lift the veil of a lifetime of passing as neurotypical, each time I am more authentic with others, it gets easier. The fears diminish a little more. I get a little more confident and a little more proud.As an autistic mother with autistic children, I offer them love and acceptance without conditions, and lots of opportunities to practice being proud.I am glad my children are here witnessing my second coming out, experiencing their mother’s slow letting go of passing privilege, and the shedding and rebuilding of community and identity.I am happy that we can figure out this pride thing together. Pride in our own identities but also in our family unit.
“We are a rainbow family with two mums, and three awesome children. We are all autistic. We are proud.”
If you haven’t read ‘You Get Proud by Practicing’ by the late Laura Hershey, please do <3 Bri