In our own words: what Pride Month means to me
Mark W., 29
Santa Fe, NM
I’m a freelance artist, singer/songwriter, and performer originally from Seattle, WA and now currently living in Santa Fe, NM. I serve as a director with Santa Fe Human Rights Alliance. I came out originally as bisexual during the latter part of 2013 and officially as genderfluid (pansexual) on New Year’s Eve of 2020.
I feel that coming out has helped me develop an even greater dimension of understanding into human rights-related issues/situations and has helped me better understand my own experience as a mentally divergent human being. Additionally, it has helped me recognize further that there is a very unique faction of the LGBTQIA+ community who really needs to have their stories told and heard more often than they are.
Coming out while being autistic deepens my personal understanding for why it’s important to make Pride Month more intersectional and a celebration of its wide array of diversity. It’s also helped me unearth a sense of empowerment and new creative ways to confront past struggle and what I may be faced with in the future.
Read more about Mark in this Q&A:
Why is being an advocate and sharing your story so important to you?
I’ve grown up understanding all too well what bullying, systemic discrimination and bigotry are in my own life, and how this overall experience affects me and makes me feel, be it related to ableism and/or anti-LGBTQIA+ views. That being said, and while I cannot say that I will ever be able to fully understand every single experience that one lives through, I do know that I absolutely do not want to see anybody treated as less than a worthy and valid human being for no other reason than because some people falsely perceive anybody who is “different” than them as a “threat” or something to be abhorred and feared. I will continue doing my part with and among many others to help make sure that those who aren’t being heard actually can be. Our personal authenticities/differences should be celebrated and lived to the fullest. They should be protected. They should be exactly what we love the most about ourselves. They should not be the parts of us that we become afraid of and want to change only for the sake of fitting into a particular mold designed by hatred and influenced by ignorance. I am a queer advocate on the spectrum.
What advice would you give to other autistic people in the LGBTQ+ community?
We all endure a unique array of struggles, challenges, and experiences of which are positive, negative, and sometimes leave us not knowing exactly how to feel in the moment. I think it goes without saying that we are all different, which is why it is so important to talk about our experiences, tell our stories, actively listen to one another, fully recognize how our experiences make us feel. We need to remind each other and those who are not on the spectrum that we are not invisible people.
We need to encourage others to live freely, openly and authentically as autistic people who are also LGBTQIA+. We can and should make history with a collective willingness to move forward together with love, understanding, kindness, compassion, empathy and a common desire and need to combat any shame which suggests that we should continue hiding the most beautiful parts of our beings that truly define what it means to be both a part of the LGBTQIA+ community and to be autistic. I am a queer person on the spectrum, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Throughout all of the bigotry and other challenges that each of us may be confronted with, I believe that we all deserve to be unapologetically proud, courageous, happy and do our parts to give those basic human needs and rights to others.
What does Pride Month mean to you?
In no particular order, these are the words that best signify what Pride Month means to me:
Sarah G., 35
I’m Sarah – a proudly gay autistic women.
At a very young age, I knew not only that I was different from my peers but that I also had a much stronger attractions to girls. Growing up, I was bullied relentlessly for just about anything you can imagine, but in spite of the circumstances set against me in the world, I chose to overcome the seemingly impossible. I’ve survived bullying, domestic violence, homelessness and a slew of other variables of negativity. However, my past isn’t the only part of my story. The world holds so much beauty for those who choose to see it clearly every day and that’s how I try to live.
My advice to the people of the autism and LGBTQ+ community is to be yourself. It’s much easier said than done but looking within to see yourself as your own bright light is key. To be gay and autistic, for me, means to disassemble and put back together the puzzle pieces of who we are in this world. It represents being able to exist within inclusion and proudly existing as who I’m meant to be. To me, Pride Month is all about acceptance and a celebration of individuality which creates bonds within yourself and with others.
The rainbow flag, which has become the symbol of Pride, represents all of the colors in the spectrum coming together to make one beautiful piece. I think that’s very symbolic. Every generation has its sets of trail blazers who fought for the freedoms we have today and everything that flag stands for. We are all in this together and Pride is the perfect example of that!
Jose J., 22
My experience is that, most of all, I am unapologetically proud of myself of who I am as a bisexual, autistic man.
I knew who I was when I was in fifth grade and was diagnosed with autism but didn’t quite understand who I TRULY WAS until I entered middle school. It was then I began to understand myself more, but still had internal debates all of the time. Finally, on National Coming out Day during my junior year of high school, I was inspired to come out after reading about LGBTQ+ people with autism and people of different backgrounds and ethnic groups who identify as being LGBTQ+. The more I learned about the civil rights movements in this country and the struggle people faced before me, the easier it was for me to openly be free about who I was. They paved the way for people like me to feel safe about coming out.
Celebrating Pride Month means recognizing that all of us as human beings have rights. It also means celebrating diversity and coming together as human beings. Pride is about acceptance and understanding that being different is okay. Be who you are and own it!
Being autistic and a member of the LGBTQ+ community has provided me with a sense of family – especially during Pride. Hearing about the coming out stories of others helped me to see that we are not only a community but a family that has each other’s back in good and bad times. I feel accepted in the LGBTQ+ community as a bi autistic man, but I’m human and had my fears about rejection and bullying. Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in the state of California, once said, “Hope will never be silent.” Those words hit home with me and immediately erased any doubts I had about being accepted and loved.
My advice to anyone who is autistic LGBTQ+ is don’t let anyone tell you how to live your life. Be unapologetically proud of yourself and don’t let the haters win. We are here and we are not going anywhere! You have a community that loves you and supports you every step of the way, so be who you are and follow your dreams no matter what other people say.
Karen W., 29
Pronouns: He/Him and She/Her
Being autistic and LGBTQ has its challenges. It’s sometimes difficult finding the courage to be your true self in society with no shame, but it’s who I am as a person, and I plan to continue to live authentically. I identify as Homoromantic Asexual and Non-Binary and I’m not changing myself for anyone.
Growing up was hard because I was already excluded because I was autistic. I was bullied as a child – especially when I was in public school. If my parents hadn’t taken me out of the school system, the bullying would’ve gotten worse, and I’d probably would’ve tried to attempt suicide. I was afraid to come out early on because I was scared that I would lose my family, especially my parents. When I finally came out, my parents and close family were very supportive and loving. I’m extremely grateful that I have a family that loves and accepts me for who I am and my heart breaks for those that don’t have the acceptance from their families. I would like to encourage folks to be their true selves and have faith that their family and friends will accept them for who they are.
Under no circumstances should we ever feel ashamed of ourselves because of who we are. Regardless of gender or orientation, we must all live our truest lives, and celebrating Pride Month encapsulates those thoughts for me. Pride Month to me is extremely important because not only is it a time of celebration but we still have to continue the fight for our rights every day. We still don’t have the choice to marry the person that we love without risking personal loss and penalties depending on the state in which we live. It’s time to eliminate the marriage penalty once and for all because we deserve to have the right to marry the person we love and keep our benefits.
Being an advocate for both autism and LGBTQ+ community is also so important to me because we’re all human! I will continue to fight for what’s right and for what I believe. Even though we might see the world uniquely and differently from others, we deserve to be loved and treated equally with acceptance and inclusion. We still have a long way to go as far as this goes, but if we continue to speak up and be true to ourselves, we will all enjoy equality one day.