Go to todaysautisticmoment.com for the transcripts.
Dr. Nick Walker is the author of the book Neuroqueer Heresies: Notes on the Neurodiversity Paradigm, Autistic Empowerment, and Postnormal Possibilities. Dr. Walker coined the word Neuroqueer and applied the queer theory to the discussions about Neurodivergents. According to Dr. Walker, Neuroqueer is a verb that urges us to make the decision that Autistics and other Neurodivergents will accept ourselves for who we are and not try to fit ourselves into what society has constructed as a "normal brain" s. a "different brain." Dr. Walker will bring her perspective to the conversations about Neurodiversity, sexual orientation and gender identity that will challenge us to rethink how we understand and act.
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Neuroqueering: Time for Action
October 1st, 2023
Welcome everyone to Today’s Autistic Moment: A Podcast for Autistic Adults by an Autistic Adult. My name is Philip King-Lowe. I am the owner, producer, and host; and I am an Autistic Adult. Thank you so much for listening.
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Thank you for joining me for this episode Neuroqueering: Time for Action. Dr. Nick Walker is my guest for this show.
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If you are listening to this episode and you are completely satisfied with your understanding and definition of what Neuronormative is, what heteronormativity is and what cis heteronormativity is; chances are you will not be by the end of this episode. Society and a number of diverse communities have been socially constructed to understanding what the various neurotypes are. A neurotypical brain is considered to be a normal brain. An Autistic brain is not normal. An ADHD brain is not a normal brain. One who is straight is socially constructed as a normal sexual orientation. To be gay, bisexual, pansexual, asexual, intersexual are thought to be abnormal. To be a cis gender woman or a cis gender man is to be a “normal gender”. To be a woman assigned at birth who discovers that they are a man, or to be a man assigned at birth who discovers that they are a woman, or a person who discovers that they do not fit any gender stereotypes who discovers that they are nonbinary is not gender normal. The Neuroqueer theory and the Queer theory that have been developed by our guest today, Dr. Nick Walker suggests that we do have some choices as to whether we will make ourselves live exactly how society has constructed what neuronormativity, heteronormativity and cis heteronormativity are, or we can choose to go against all of that to be who we really are.
Over the last few months, I have become more convinced that Neurodivergent people are gender nonconforming. Our unique way of how we interact with the world also conflicts with how we do or do not conform to what our gender norms are. The more we mask being Autistic or ADHD to appear as Neuronormative, the more we are trying to conform to what being straight or cisgender means. When we accept who we are and take the masks off and not try to conform anymore, we also no longer try to conform to how society defines what is heteronormative or cis heteronormative. Are these things a matter of choice? Are these a matter of how we are born and/or created? Are these things a matter of a pathological understanding of diverse sexual orientations, gender identities/expressions and neurotypes? Or are they challenging to our social understanding of LGBTQIA+ and straight people and Neurodivergents?
Dr. Nick Walker is the author of the book: Neuroqueer Heresies: Notes on the Neurodiversity Paradigm, Autistic Empowerment, and Postnormal Possibilities. Dr. Walker’s book is engaging, challenging and highly controversial. As the conversations about diagnosis vs. identification, we are born Neurodivergent, straight, LGBTQIA+ continue in the international debate for equality and equity become more intense, Dr. Walker adds an important layer of how we might think of what they mean.
If you are finding that you are challenged by this view of these conversations, so am I. In the first part of segment 4 of today’s episode, I am going to share with you some of my thoughts on what Dr. Walker will talk about in just a few minutes.
Stay tuned after this first commercial break to listen to Dr. Nick Walker talk about Neuroqueer and Queer theories.
Commercial Break I
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Thank you for listening to Today’s Autistic Moment.
So, Dr. Nick Walker, thank you so very much for joining me on Today's Autistic Moment. David Gray-Hammond mentioned your name last spring, and I felt it was a good thing to look you up and get you on the show. So welcome today. Thank you for being here.
Dr. Nick Walker
Thank you. Thank you for having me here.
You're welcome. You're welcome. Well, the first thing I'm going to ask you to do, as part of my first question, what important information do Autistic Adults and our caregivers need to know about? I'm going to ask you to begin by defining, in your words, what Neuroqueer means. Go ahead.
Dr. Nick Walker
Okay. It's a long answer. Well, essentially, what I've coined the term Neuroqueer back in 2008. And as part of what's developed into what I call a Neuroqueer theory. And Neuroqueer theory, is an extension of queer theory into the realm of neurodiversity. So, in, in, in queer theory, in a lot of areas of queer theory, we look at this idea of heteronormativity or cis heteronormativity, the way that people are socially trained and pressured to conform to certain binary gender norms and performances of masculinity and femininity, this idea that gender roles are socially learned, and socially enforced. And so, in that context, what queer means, queer is first and foremost a verb, that to queer, cis heteronormativity, to queer heteronormative binary gender roles means essentially to mess with and subvert these roles, these enforced systems of normativity to, to deviate from refuse to comply with heteronormativity cis normativity. The socially imposed performance of This is how you do masculinity, and this is how you do femininity. So, queering in that sense, you know, queer becomes not a fixed identity, it's not about its kind of a rejection of the idea of oh, people are straight or gay, because they're born that way. And more the idea that ways of ways of doing gender and sexuality are socially learned performances. And social learning performances are things that we can choose to liberate ourselves from, by living differently and embodying ourselves differently. And so Neuroqueer theory extends that into the realm of neurodiversity, by seeing neuro-normativity works the same way as heteronormativity and cis normativity. And neuronormativity, in fact, is very entwined with heteronormativity. And so, it's this further sense of Oh neuronormativity like heteronormativity like, normative binary gender performance neuro normativity can be queered the socially imposed and socially enforced systems of what it means to be a so called normal, you know, to think normally to act normally, this is something that we can actively queer and subvert and choose to liberate ourselves from. So that's, that's Neuroqueer theory and sort of this combination of, I'd say two principles, that the term Neuroqueer points towards two principles, one that we can queer neuro normativity in the same way that we queer, you know that people can queer heteronormativity and binary gender roles. And two, essentially, because neuronormativity and cis heteronormativity are so entwined with one another, to queer one, ultimately is to queer, the other, you queer, your gender performance enough, and you've deviated from normative ways of thinking, and you queer, your performance of neuronormativity enough, and you're no longer performing a traditional gender role either in the way that society expected to be to be performed. So yeah, that's neuro queer theory. It's complex, and it has interesting implications for how we think about Neurodiversity. That I'm sure we'll get into later on in the conversation.
Sure. Well, David Gray-Hammond, is such an articulate person, because this is one of those things that David said back in April. "Neuroqueer theory at its basis, it at of it asks you to question just how much of what we hold to be true is a social construct." Because David, had, you know, talked a lot about queering language. He talked a lot about that in many ways, Autistics and other Neurodivergents, we are queering language around neurotypes. Go ahead and talk about that.
Dr. Nick Walker
Okay, well, yes, we certainly are, we're queering language. And in fact, I'll queer some language right now by seeing that Neuroqueer theory rejects the concept of neuro-types. So, the standard, again, looking at that Neuroqueer theory as an extension of queer theory, you know, before queer theory came along the conception, people's conception was essentialist, sort of that the concept of sexual orientation and gender and such was like, with gender, it was like, Okay, you were born now, or you're born female and with sexual orientation. It was about okay, well, you're either born straight or you're born gay. In the early gay rights movement, people were saying, you know, we're gay because we're born that way. But as queer theory developed, it started looking at how this was all socially constructed, that a person, you know, might be male or female in a purely biological sense, if you're going by like shape of genitalia or something, but maleness and femaleness are, you know, masculinity and femininity, are social constructs, and, and be queered. And we can alter them and alter our performance of them and decide not to conform, say, with the particular you know, gender role that we were assigned at birth or not to conform to any socially established gender role. And similarly with sexuality, that it's sure, and it's possible that people are born with specific sexual proclivities and orientations. We haven't found a gene for that or a biomarker for that. So that's all speculation. We know that it's that to a large extent, how people do sexuality is socially learned and socially constructed, and people can make choices and change. You know, am I going to perform this sort of, you know, am I going to perform this particular socially sanctioned brand of heterosexuality? As you know, a traditional masculine man or feminine women, the way that society tells us to play those roles are, am I going to do something else am I going to diverge from those and do something more creative, follow my inclinations? And become something else in order to queer that heteronormativity and the gender norms. And so similarly, with neuro-normativity, the traditional model that has been adopted in a traditional sort of, you know, the traditional what I call the pathology paradigm, the traditional sort of medicalize model that pathologize autism, but also within the Neurodiversity movement. The way that Neurodiversity has been conceptualized is with this, this idea of neuro-types. This idea that there are, you know, people are born with certain types of brains, you know, people are born neurotypical, or they're Autistic, or, you know, some of these other things that we call like, ADHD, or dyslexic, or something. There's not a whole lot of scientific evidence for this, I got to say, there is, there is, you know, certainly we can see that people are certain people are born with particular sets of tendencies, that we can categorize, we can, you know, we can choose to categorize as Autistic and, you know, draw a line around certain groups of people and say that these people are Autistic. But the, the attempts to find like, what are the distinguishing qualities of a so-called Autistic brain, or the attempts to find, you know, an Autism gene or something that's just not happening, they haven't found that it's not for lack of training, you know, millions upon millions of dollars of research into that stuff. And there's still not clear Autistic biomarkers established that say, oh, yeah, these people, people are just born Autistic. And similarly, there's certainly no such thing as a neurotypical brain that just reinforces the pathology paradigm. It just uses neurotypical as a synonym for normal and we know there's no such thing as a normal person. So, there's these things once again, are socially constructed. Neurotypicality is just a social construct, neurotypicality, you'll being neurotypical is just like being straight, it just means someone is kind of forming to socially constructed standards of normative behavior. There's nothing biological or innate about it. And so, so yeah, the lens of neuro queer theory is very different from you know, in in. I mean, I set out with Neuroqueer theory to queer, the queer neuro normative concepts and such, but also to queer the Neurodiversity movement. And its tendency towards essentialism, its tendency to, to get into the people are born this way or that way idea, because I don't think that the concept of neuro-types is either scientifically valid or useful. I think it does more harm than good and creates the sense of alienation and separateness and it's just another way of putting people into little boxes, and limiting people's sense of what their potentials are. So, if you start, if you start from this essentialist assumption that people are born neurotypical or they're born neurodivergent in particular ways, you're missing so much of what of human potential. Nobody is, you know, like nobody is born straight. You know, people are you know, some people have tendencies that might be innate, we don't know for sure, but some people have tendencies in particular directions, you know, in terms of our sexuality and gender, and some people can live comfortably within their society's standards of heteronormative performance. But nobody's born straight, straight just means that a person is conforming, with heteronormative performance rules imposed by society. And you know, as the queer theorists frequently say, you know, I mean nobody's stuck being straight anybody can choose to queer their performance of gender and sexuality. And then they're not straight anymore because they're they've stepped outside of that performance of being straight. And so, Neuroqueer theory says the same thing about neuro-typicality. There's no such thing as a neurotypical brain. There's no such thing as a neurotypical mind. Neuro-typicality is a socially learned and socially enforced performance. And in fact, anyone can liberate themselves from it. And so that kind of disintegrates the whole idea of neurotypes and invites, just as queer theory invites a sexual fluidity and a gender fluidity and ongoing self-creation. Neuroqueer theory extends that into neuro fluidity.
One thing that I have been observing over the last few months is that Autistics and Neurodivergents seems to suggest gender nonconformity for everyone. You know, I know of a man who is who is straight, but and is Autistic, but he also has some, he's also one of those who, for example, has a lot of sensitivities that the quote unquote, sorry for using a "typical male" is not, does not do. You know, and there may be some Autistic women who don't necessarily portray everything that is feminine. And then, you know, we've been seeing a lot more of Autistics discovering that they are, they don't fit into any gender. You know, anything of what society expects a gender to be. So, they, they know that they are nonbinary. You know, and these things are, what I'm trying to say is that I just can't help but recognize that, in many of the Autistics I've interviewed, and I interact with, we are not so gender conforming. Hmm. And so, it's an interesting thing. In that regard, what do you think?
Dr. Nick Walker
Oh, I very much agree. Absolutely. Yes, I think that's that again, that goes all the way back to the roots. So, the basic, the basic starting premises of Neuroqueer theory, which is that heteronormativity cis heteronormativity that whole normative performance of binary gender roles, cis heteronormativity is inextricably entwined with neuronormativity. And so, if you're queering, one, you are queering the other you know, what, beyond a certain point, it's like, there's when we think about what do binary gender roles look like? You know, the sort of socially sanctioned socially enforced binary gender roles including heterosexuality, and how to do masculinity and femininity according to the dominant culture. Well, these are neurotypical performances, you know, how to perform masculinity in a socially sanctioned way is the performance of not just masculinity but neurotypical masculinity. And similarly, when neuro-typicality is imposed on Autistic people, it's always gendered you know, behaviorists who are trying to force children, Autistic children, to conform to neurotypical standards of behavior, it's very much gendered neurotypical standards of behavior. So as always entwined. So, when a person who is openly Autistic, you know, they're queering, neuronormativity by virtue by being openly Autistic, you know, clearly diverging from neuro-typicality, which is what we mean we say neurodivergent, we mean diverging from neurotypical performance. And in the process of doing that, they inevitably also diverged in some way from cis heteronormative gender role performance. So, it's very much very much intertwined.
After this next commercial break, Dr. Walker and I will continue with our engaging conversation.
Commercial Break II
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Um, my last question that we're going to be exploring is, what steps do should Autistic Adults on our supporters take to advocate for Neuroqueering? I'm going to say and I'm sorry, I had a blank. Um one of the things that David Gray Hammond said, back in April that I like you to maybe comment on is that one of the things that Autistic the Autistic community has actually been doing is queering the word disability because in many ways, it's the Autistic community that's been queering that word to imply, you know, disability is a social construct, and it's also a form of oppression. And so that's just something that David Gray-Hammond spoke of, I want to wonder if you want to comment about that.
Dr. Nick Walker
Well, that doesn't come from the Autistic community originally, I think what David is referring to is the social model of disability. And the social model of disability was developed by disability rights activists, really, before there was an Autistic activist community or a Neurodiversity movement. But the neurodiversity movement is very much based on the social model of disability and very much inspired by the disability rights activism that was, you know, based on it, so it's a lot of the neurodiversity movement is very much entwined with the rest of the disability rights movement, and very based in very based on the social model of disability. Yeah. And so yeah, I certainly encourage, you know, I encourage anyone who's interested in that. There's so much good writing available on the social model of disability and in my book, Neuroqueer Heresies, I have a chapter on Neurodivergence in disability that really goes into depth and sort of gives a basic outline of what the social model of disability is, and how it applies. In relation to neurodivergence. I'll say that the disability related work that we do. The Autistic community does, in advocating for itself, and then the Neurodiversity movement does on the disability related, all the disability related work that's done based on the social model of disability is, is very important. You know, it's an essential part of, you know, creating a better world for Autistic people, for other neurominorities and for humanity in general, because I mean, everybody starts to encounter disablement as they age if they live long enough. And so, it's really in the interest of all humanity to start looking, you know, looking at the social model of disability, and looking at, well, how do we continue to enable, you know, how do we, how do we build a world is very much based around inclusion of people regardless of what their abilities are? So, this is something that's very important. I'll also say, though, in terms of where I'm going with Neuroqueer theory, I'm very interested in looking outside of the lens of disability. There are forms of Neurodivergence that aren't really directly related to disability. And there are if we're talking about if we're talking about queering, you know, Neuroqueering, if we're talking about queering, neuronormativity and liberation from the strictures that normativity places on human potential. We are talking about, certainly about addressing the disablement of many Neurodivergent people, but we're also talking about human creative potentials that maybe don't they're directly connect to the topic of disability. So, I'm, I'm interested in that as well, I don't want to see, one a part of what I'm doing with Neuroqueer theory is trying to expand people's scope. Because as a very important, you know, extremely important as anti-ableist work is. I don't want to see the Neurodiversity movement become just about that, or I want to say, stop being just about that. I think that there's enormous human creative potential in the diversity of our minds, and their ability to queer our consciousness and alter and develop our own minds and creative ways. And some of that involves looking beyond the lens of disability and toward, you know, toward lenses, like creativity. And so yeah, I'm, I'm, I, I don't want to limit, I don't want to see the conversation limited to being just about disability. I don't want to see the conversation about Autism, even much less neurodiversity in general, be limited to just being about disability. Because, I mean, there is an important question around disability, which is how do we create the necessary accommodations and produce, you know, undo systems of oppression and exclusion and make possible the increased inclusion and societal participation of Autistic people? This is a crucial, essential question. And something that Autistic activists have been working on for a long time, and there's still a lot of work to be done. But having, as we increase inclusion, as we, as we as the movement succeeds, as we increasingly find accommodations, as we allow, for instance, you know, nonspeaking Autistic people to participate in academic environments using, you know, text to speech technology, and such or other assistive communication technologies, as we create environments where the sensory environment or the pacing of things is more flexible to allow greater neurominority participation. As we do all of this. We increasingly have the question, well, what? What do we do that? What do we do? If we're building there's enormous creative potential in neurodiversity, in having a diversity of ways of thinking about things available. And if we're only thinking about how to do the, the inclusion into existing society, we're missing a big chunk of that potential, which is what are what are the unique creative potentials of various neurodivergent minds, to expand this to expand our systems to change society to rewrite culture? And so that's what I'm interested in because there's so many people doing the disability related work and its important work again, but I'm very interested in the creative potentials, looking beyond just alleviating ableism, and looking into what can we all do with our minds creatively? What can we do? How can we all creatively alter our own individual consciousness and as how can that contribute to a vast queering of culture and undoing of the cultural limitations of normativity?
Before we conclude this interview, and conversation, which is really excellent. I have been following and expressing concern on my show, about this recent ongoing waves of bills limiting gender-affirming care, and also the impact of that on Autistic people in general, especially, because what they're essentially saying is that trans individuals and Autistic people are not capable or competent at making our own health choices. And, obviously, I'm really concerned about that, because I don't like the message it sends to either. And both groups of people. So, I'm wondering if you'd like to comment on that before we close?
Dr. Nick Walker
Yeah. I think Remi Yergau in their book Authoring Autism addresses this really well talks about how you know, the, the imposition of normative gender, you know, that and the whole, that suppression of that suppression of any divergence from assigned at birth, gender roles, how that is used to, you know, also impose neuronormativity and, you know, oppressed neurominorities. And then it goes the other way to how the oppression of neurominorities becomes a backdoor into pathologizing queerness. And so, this very much something to watch out for it is a major concern. You know, if you can deny gender-affirming care, to people for being Autistic, it's a short step from there to denying gender-affirming care to everybody. Because if somebody wants affirming care, you can always say it must mean they're Autistic, and therefore they're not qualified to make their decisions about that. So, it's, you know, this is this is part of a broader cultural backlash against the rising tide of old norms are breaking down. We live in post we live increasingly in post normal times where the old norms are crumbling, and the rise of you know, the rise of queer cultures and greater queerness and disintegration of old gender norms and the rise of Autistic culture and other neurominority cultures and the you know, all of the all the disintegration, really of all of the normative cultures, you know, threats to heteronormativity and cis normativity and neuronormativity and white supremacism, and all threats to all of these old systems of imposed oppressive normativity. There's a backlash going on against that. So, we're seeing a rise in fascism and a rising basic basically, authoritarians doing everything they can to maintain control and cling to the old norms. And that's going to be going on for a while. That's going to be messy. And changes like this. Shifting of paradigms, and Liberation's and disintegration of norms and people's attempts to cling to and more and more brutally enforced the old norms as they get more desperate. These things unfold over the course of generations. I don't think we're gonna see an end to it anytime soon. And I think a lot of people are gonna get hurt in the process. I think what's gonna we are gonna see, a lot of Autistic people denied. You know, Autistic trans people denied gender-affirming care. And, of course, we'll all do our best to fight it. But it's going to it's going to take some doing, it's going to and it's part of a much broader part of a much broader ongoing culture war.
Yeah, and especially since one of the people who is politically involved in this made a determination that, you know, before they receive gender- affirming care, they should first be, quote evaluated for Autism because gender dysphoria is common among people with ASD is the comment that was made. So, you know, so again, that's signaling a terrible culture that believes that those of us who are who are bucking the system as we say, that you know that they, they have to continue to dominating us and determining where we go with this basically,
Dr. Nick Walker
Right, what's going to happen is that people are going to increasingly find ways to work outside of the existing systems to bypass this stuff. And, I mean, that's just people are creative. People will find ways, if they're determined, you know, before there was gender-affirming care available, there were still people who were, you know, still people who are being trans in whatever way they could, and doing that, that he ever whatever way they could. And, you know, I mean, I'm a, I'm trans fem, and clearly have not, have not begun a real outward physical transition process. And I am exploring well, how exactly how am I going to do that off the books where it being trans is not in my healthcare records? I had a similar journey around being Autistic, where I managed to find the right channels to get, you know, to explore that, and keep it off the books at the same time and outside of my medical records. And I think that that's people should look at that I think people should think about that more. Early on when they're looking at am I Autistic? I recommend against diagnosis these days, I think, I think you don't need anyone to you don't need some non-autistic authority to tell you if you're Autistic or not. And I think that the dangers to one civil rights of having an Autism diagnosis in official medical records are not worth it. So, I recommend doing as much as possible off the books generally speaking, whether we're talking about gender or neurodivergence, or whatever. I would say start bypassing the established systems now. Before it becomes clear that there a trap.
Yeah, there is some movement to detach from the medical diagnosis instead of calling it Autistic diagnosis to an Autistic identification, because some of the words are the words that people are using these days. Yeah. Well, Dr. Nick Walker, I want to thank you so much for this great interview and, and for challenging some of our modern concepts of things. And, wow, you certainly give a lot to think about and a lot of stuff to chew on, as we say.
Dr. Nick Walker
That is what I do
Yeah, that's right. And I really appreciate it. So, thank you for being here today.
Dr. Nick Walker
Thank you so much for having me here.
You're welcome. You're welcome.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
After this final commercial break, I am going to respond to what Dr. Nick Walker has said with some comments of my own. Immediately following that, Today’s Autistic Community Bulletin Board.
Commercial Break III
Due to a scheduling conflict, Pete Wharmby is not able to join us on October 15th as was planned.
Instead, Kelly Lenza is going to be my guest to talk about Addressing Fat Phobia for Autistic Adults. Kelly Lenza is an Autistic who advocates against fat phobia. Autistics in larger bodies face hurdles with eating disorders, food options with our sensory issues with food textures and gestation, health care, clothing, and societies’ expectations. Kelly will talk about their own hurdles and why Autistics in larger bodies have the issues they do, and what they can do to advocate for themselves.
On November 5th, Ashlyn Baker will be my guest to talk about Overlapping Triggers and Soothers in Autistic Relationships. Each Autistic individual has their own sensory profile. When different Autistics are in the same space, their sensory triggers and soothers will overlap. This scenario is very common for Autistic parents with Autistic children, or Autistic spouses or roommates, or coworkers. How do Autistics negotiate our triggers and soothers? What are some strategies we might need? Ashlyn Baker is a mental health professional and owner of the podcast, I Married Your Therapist. Ashlyn’s expertise is talking about Autistic relationships. Join us for this great show.
On November 19th, my guest Sarah Dwan will join me for the episode Neuro-Affirming Therapy Options for Autistics.
On December 3rd, Mitchell Schaps from MNeurodivergent will be my guest to talk about Planning Neuro-Affirming Holiday Social Events.
Finishing up Season 3 of Today’s Autistic Moment on December 17th, Tas Kronby will join me for the episode Autistic Professionals Supporting the Autistic Community.
Check out the Future Shows page on todaysautisticmoment.com for all shows coming up through December.
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Thank you for listening to Today’s Autistic Moment.
I have some comments to add to what Dr. Walker has been saying. I want to begin by thanking Dr. Walker for what she said. I agree with her that we have choices to make to conform or not to conform to the social constructs of being Neurodivergent, straight, LGBTQ, queer and be of accepted or unaccepted gender norms. All of these are important parts of the discussions about the work towards equal rights and inclusion for everyone that includes dismantling ableism.
I am concerned by references that no one is born gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender or straight, but can make choices as to what we will be. My concern is because those who are working in opposition to LGBTQ+ equality and Autism acceptance suggest that we have chosen to live in unnatural ways of sexual orientation, gender identity/expression and/or neurological differences and that is why we are “disordered.” This is how they encourage the use of destructive conversion therapies to get LGBTQ people, and Autistics to be fixed or cured to conform what society has constructed us to be. In my own journey of self-acceptance as a gay man, I was active with an ex-gay group about 15 years ago to try to deny who I am to be someone I am not meant to be. I was active in that group for 17 months. At the end of that time, I made the decision that I would accept myself as I am. I also accepted that I am loved as I am, and I have every reason to celebrate how I love others the way I was created to love them. If I try to love others in ways that I was not created to love them, I am living in denial of who I really am. Whatever the scientific evidence there is or is not: I believe that being Neurodivergent is not only how we see the world; it is also a unique way of loving ourselves and the world around us.
I feel that the conversations about whether we are created and/or born as Neuronormative vs. Neurodivergent, that our sexual orientations are straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, that our gender is cis gender or transgender or whether we chose to conform to the social constructs of what they mean; are a matter of both/and, and not either/or. I believe that we are created and born as we are, and that we have choices as to what we will do with who we are and whom we will become.
My comments are made from a combination of faith and spirituality, science, social science, social inclusion, and my 54 years of personal experience and reflection on them. My journey of faith has taken me through every sect of Christianity. Including fundamentalism, the Wesleyan Methodists, Catholicism, and finally to being an Episcopalian and a Benedictine monastic. I am a very deeply prayerful and contemplative thinker. My mentioning these are not an attempt to proselytize anyone to accept and/or believe what I do, but to explain how I organize my thoughts and words. Back when I was attending a Christian Liberal Arts college, I took a really wild class called Epoch Making Events in Science (also called EMES). The course included a combination of the sciences of physics, chemistry, biology, philosophy, and Christian theology. When the professor spoke of the controversies of creationism vs. evolution, he surmised that human beings are created and then we evolve. They are not mutually exclusive of each other.
I believe that we are all created out of love, to love and to be loved, and our dignity whomever we happen to be, is to be respected. Our sexual orientation, gender, gender identity/expression and neurology are innate in who we are and who we are born to be. In Psalm 139:12 the Psalmist wrote: “For you yourself created my inmost parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will thank you because I am marvelously made; Your works are wonderful, and I know it well.” Yet, no one of us is born into a world in which we will not suffer because of how those who came before us have socially constructed society. As we make our way through life, we will discover many things about ourselves that have always been there, that we just didn’t know earlier in our lives. Once we discover our identity, we do have choices to make as to how we will live into our identity. The more Autistics mask, LGBTQ+ people closet us to try to conform to what the dominant society has constructed as normative; the less we will live into who we are authentically. The more we live into who we really are, without seeking ways to be fixed, the happier we will be. We will continue to struggle and suffer because of the social constructs that impact us negatively.
A good analogy of what social constructs can do, is to use the Ring of Power in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. As the Fellowship of the Ring makes their way through the Mines of Moria, Frodo said that he wished that the ring had never come to him. Frodo wished that none of it had happened. Gandalf replied by saying, “So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”
We can decide to live with the world’s prejudices that are based on ignorance, that breeds fear and violence; or we can commit ourselves to learning and applying what we learn to change ignorance into informed knowledge, fear into a determination to make the world a better place for everyone, so that each generation can continue with what we began.
Many years ago, I was talking with a Priest because I was struggling intensely with my sexual orientation and my faith. The Priest gave me some words from the Wisdom of Solomon, Chapter 11: 24-26 that I want to share with you. And I am quoting these words from the New Revised Standard Version.
“For you love all things that exist, and detest none of the things you have made, for you would not have made anything if you had hated it. How would anything have endured if you had not willed it? Or how would anything not called forth by you have been preserved? You spare all things, for they are yours, O Lord, you who love the living.”
I know what I have said here is deeply controversial and many of you do not agree with me. I know firsthand how religion has been misused as a means to dehumanize and traumatize LGBTQ, Neurodivergent people, and many other minorities. If mentioning religion and faith has made you angry, I understand and I don’t blame you. I also know firsthand that when religion and faith are proclaimed as a means of healing and reconciliation, people of faith can accomplish a lot of good that sadly goes unnoticed and acknowledged.
Lastly, no one has the right to make you feel that you have no right to exist. You have every reason to advocate for yourself to be happy, accepted, affirmed, and celebrated.
Thank you for listening to my commentary. One of my Autistic strengths is that I am wordy to a fault. That is why this particular show is longer than normal. So, thank you for staying around to hear what I have said.
Today’s Autistic Community Bulletin Board
All of these events with their links can be found at todaysautisticmoment.com/bulletinboard
Join The Autism Society of Minnesota for their Adult Coffee Club. The next Coffee Clubs will be on Tuesday nights from 5pm to 7pm at Dogwood Coffee in St. Paul on October 10th, October 24th, and November 21st. Coffee Club meetings will be at the Milkweed Café in Minneapolis on October 16th, and November 13th from 5pm to 7pm. Please RSVP at ausm.org.
Understanding Autism virtual classes will be offered by The Autism Society of Minnesota. These classes are perfect for Autistic individuals, caregivers, those who want to understand the basics of Autism and support Autistic people. Classes will be on October 23rd, 6-8pm and December 18th, 10am-12pm. Classes are free of charge, but you must register to attend.
Register today to attend the Autistic Community Summit on October 14th beginning at 9am to 4pm at the Lionsgate Academy in Shoreview, Minnesota. There will be a full hybrid of in person and virtual options, integrated social opportunities, half hour and full hour breakout sessions, and discussion groups. The cost to attend is $35.00 per person and scholarships are available. Click on the link to register on the bulletin board page for todaysautisticmoment.com or go to ausm.org.
Go to ausm.org to download the 2023-2024 Education Catalog with the details of all the educational and social opportunities offered by The Autism Society of Minnesota.
MNeurodivergent is a social club rooted in a vision of bringing Neurodivergent Minnesotans together to build meaningful connections. Its core principle is to foster an environment where all are treated with dignity and respect regardless of ability or preference. Go to the bulletin board at todaysautisticmoment.com and click on the Meet Up link to become a member and attend their events.
Matthew the #ActuallyAutistic Coach has room in his Finding Your Autistic Self Group Coaching Groups. In the groups, participants learn about unmasking strategies, coping tools, burnout & post-burnout support and much more. Go to autisticcoach.com and click on Autism Groups for more information. While visiting Matthew’s website, be sure to check out the Free Autistic Discussion Circles for Autistics of various age groups, careers, students, and ethnic groups.
Today’s Autistic Moment is sponsored in part by Looking Forward Life Coaching. Looking Forward turns stumbling blocks into stepping stones towards success. Go to lookingforwardlc.org for more information.
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Thank you for listening to Today’s Autistic Moment: A Podcast for Autistic Adults by An Autistic Adult.
May you have an Autistically Amazing day.