The relationship between queerness and being Autistic
“Queer is a term used by those wanting to reject specific labels of romantic orientation, sexual orientation and/or gender identity. It can also be a way of rejecting the perceived norms of the LGBT community (racism, sizeism, ableism etc). Although some LGBT people view the word as a slur, it was reclaimed in the late 80s by the queer community who have embraced it.”stonewall.org.uk
I am queer, and I am also Autistic. In fact, it would be more accurate to say that I’m queer and multiply neurodivergent; I am not just Autistic, but also ADHD and Schizophrenic. Some might wrongly assume I should keep my queerness out of discussions of neurodivergence, but the two are inextricably linked.
As an Autistic person, I find myself constantly questioning the status quo. Even before the discovery of my neurodivergence, the concept of normality felt painful and alien to me. I used to believe that normality (perhaps more accurately, normativity) consisted of arbitrary rules, but I realise now they are not arbitrary at all.
Normativity is designed to oppress those who do not comfortably fit into it. For Autistic and otherwise neurodivergent people, we struggle to fit into the system because of our neurology. For queer people, we do not fit into the capitalist fairy tale of binary gender and monogamy within the confines of heterosexuality. This is neuronormativty and heteronormativity respectively.
The relationship between the two lies in my abject rejection of normativity. I have neuroqueered myself into a fluid and radical identity that stands opposed to what colonial society wants me to be. This is more than just “acting Autistic”. I embrace queerness in all aspects of my life, sexuality included.
Queerness in this respect is not solely about who you are or who you sleep with. For me, my queerness is an act of defiance, a refusal to be contained. Being queer leaves me the space to be whomever I wish, to explore avenues that society would rather cordon off from me.
If I were not Autistic, perhaps if my particular mix of neurodivergence were different, I would not have this drive to liberate myself from the cult of normality. We were sold the lie of essentialist identities, and my bodymind is painfully aware of its dishonesty. I am queer because the world does not want me to be queer.
To be contained into fixed and sanctioned identities is to entangle the Self in the chains of normativity. Queerness, then, is the angle grinder cutting through those chains. I am openly queer so that it may be safer for others to be queer. My pride is not egotistical, but a refusal to be ashamed of any part of my being.
I reject normativity in all kinds, including the identity politics of my perceived peer groups. None of this would happen if I were not Autistic.
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