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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.”

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.

Neuroqueering education through rhizomatic community networks

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When considering the pervasiveness of neuronormativity, nowhere is it more visible and prevalent than in the education system. Educational institutions place a great deal of pressure on students to engage with behaviour policies, uniform policies, curriculums; more so, they define not only how one should learn, but how one should embody that learning and the ways we think about that learning.

Schools are, for the most part, completely ill-equipped for students who can’t conform to the restrictive ideals placed upon them by a school and institution that functions as a machine, creating apostles of our neoliberalist economy. Far too many children are traumatised and subsequently excluded from their human right to education because of the normatively violent approaches of the education system.

So how might we subvert and redesign education?

I have spoken recently of rhizomes. Vast networks of points that are connected while remaining independent of each other in terms of their survival. Such rhizomatic communities take a post-structural approach to the creation of community and the sharing of knowledge by ditching hierarchical notions of milestones and targets and instead allow us to take an interest-led approach.

Allowing communities to form around mutual interest creates different points within the rhizome. Through exploration and knowledge exchange, intrinsic connections form through the understanding that all knowledge is inherently connected. This is the basis of how one might queer the education system.

By allowing people to engage with interests and learn through that which they are intrinsically motivated to explore, the natural connections between points in the rhizome can be used to expand learning into other areas while maintaining and interest-led approach. Such a world would have no need for institutional education as knowledge creation and sharing would be a community endeavour.

Everyone would be the educator and the learner.

Some may worry about the standard of education that a person can achieve outside of the traditional institutional structure; truthfully, how much of the knowledge you hold now was attained within the walls of a school? Most learning is community based. School systems offer a very limited basis of knowledge that often seems pointless thanks to a lack of context.

Education should not be reliant on normative standards of teaching. We should be empowering each other to share the knowledge that we gain over a lifetime. Such a world would take us away from the self-reliance of our current society while allowing us to retain our individuality. Through a rhizomatic network of learning, we create a multiplicity in our individual existence that can not be achieved within the confines of the institution.

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Reclaiming Neurofuturism: Decolonising the Autistic community

Community is somewhat of an abstract concept. It is an adjective for a group that has a shared identity. It comes with rules and politics that dictate how one must carry themselves. There is a dichotomy of insider and outsider within communities, often dictated by agreement of the communities politics. Those who don’t conform are ejected.

The Autistic community is not immune to this. Deleuze and Guattari, I imagine, would see the Autistic community as a machine. One enters the community, working their way through it until they achieve the title of advocate. There is a power imbalance between those that advocate and those who choose to remain quiet in the public domain. As advocates, we largely write the rules of our community.

I have previously written about the Autistic Rhizome in the context of neuro-anarchy. I envision this as an interlinked network with no point of origin. Each point of interest on this map of communities is linked with the others but independent in the sense that they do not require each other to exist. I explored this in an article for Stimpunks Foundation.

The Autistic Rhizome is decentralised. It has no goal other than mutual knowledge exchange and support. Rather than creating colonised communities engaging in separatism, they are nomads. Within the Rhizome, we explore the topography of neurodiversity while respecting each culture that we encounter. In my opinion, the evolution of an Autistic Rhizome is the first proper step towards a neurocosmopolitan society.

We can create communities through realising the connections in our individual nature.

This allows us to begin dismantling the structures we have built (out of necessity) using the masters tools. We can create a new community away from the colonial influence of our normative society. In this sense, these growing networks are queering the meaning of community through the rejection of hierarchy and the balance of power.

Like any new endeavour, it has the potential for mistakes to be made. One must accept that exploration comes with a few wrong turns, but as long as mistakes can be corrected in good faith, we can create a new kind of community.

This is the thesis of neurofuturism. To create a new culture and community.

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Reclaiming Neurofuturism: Neuroqueering knowledge and its production

In a previous article, I discussed the idea of verisimilitude. I discussed how we might never find an objective truth that explains neurodivergent experience. In fact, we might never find one for human experience on the whole. What we can do is seek a falsehood that is close enough to truth to seem true, it has verisimilitude.

One of the flaws in this is the arborescent approach to knowledge creation that this takes. We are constantly building on previous knowledge. Our foundations are rooted in the past. However, if we accept the verisimilitous nature of all knowledge pertaining to neurodivergent experience, then we must accept that there is a good chance that prior knowledge is a falsehood that seems true.

This presents an issue. If the foundations we branch out from are unstable, the metaphysical structure of our knowledge is one doomed for collapse. I believe we need to move beyond the roots and instead create new knowledge, not by abandoning the past, but by utilising it in a way that no single part depends upon another.

One might pontificate that knowledge exists to evolve, but what if we approach knowledge as being independent of its purpose. Rather than measuring knowledge by its reiteration and resilience in the fave of scrutiny, we can view it as interconnected while retaining its independence.

Can we create new knowledge through linking networks of knowledge that are seemingly unrelated? How might one approach the creation of knowledge in a way that does not depend on antiquated thought?

Knowledge is a by-product of thought, which itself is a by-product of the bodymind. If we desire to queer knowledge, we must first queer the bodymind. This requires us to abandon the politics of our own existence and instead explore our own reality.

Through exploration of the Self, we are able to tweak and alter the bodymind. This, in turn, will alter our thoughts and, thus, knowledge production. By abandoning the arborescence of our own thoughts, we can abandon the roots of antiquated knowledge.

To liberate humanity, we must liberate thought and knowledge. We must escape the branching nature of our current system of knowledge and instead explore the coherence of our entire knowledge base rather than focusing on small details. When we can embrace the connectivity of everything, we can wield knowledge as the tool it should always have been.

Normative society has standardised thought to control the direction of knowledge. To be free of normativity, we must first free our thoughts and knowledge.

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Neuroqueer: Neuro-anarchy and the Chaotic Self

This article was co-authored by David Gray-Hammond and Katie Munday

Throughout this blog series, we have been discussing Neuroqueer Theory and the ways that it can be applied to people’s lives. We have considered gender identity, depathologising psychiatric conditions, and how one might embody their psychological wellbeing, to name but a few. In wider work, David has discussed neurofuturism and moving away from normative thinking. In this article, we would like to introduce the concepts of neuro-anarchy and the Chaotic Self to the discussion of Neuroqueer Theory, and consider how the two synergise with each other.

What is Neuro-anarchy?

Neuro-anarchy is the removal of oneself, either consciously or unconsciously, from the neuronormative standards that exist within one’s own neuroculture. Using the Autistic community as an example, our culture has its own set of rules and normative values, as does any cultural group; neuro-anarchy is a radical decentering of normativity. If we consider that our sense of Self is built upon the values and opinions or our prevailing culture, neuro-anarchy invites us to step outside of those values and carve our own space within which to form an identity. Munday (2022) discusses neuro-anarchy in the context of Autistic shielding.

What is the Chaotic Self?

In A Treatise on Chaos Gray-Hammond (2023) discusses the idea of our sense of Self being a fluid and moving entity, constantly changing and reshaping as we receive new information and interact with the environment. He discusses how to queer one’s neurology, we must first consider that changes we make are unable to be reversed. In this sense, the Self tends towards being a chaotic system that is in a constant state of change. You can’t unqueer a queer mind.

What is the relevance of these to each other?

Neuro-anarchy is an act of protest, it is how one neuroqueers in spaces that should belong to us but instead remain external in our relationship to who we are. Neuro-anarchy arises from a level of cognitive dissonance that presents when a person finds themselves an outsider in a group that they should fit into.

In response to this cognitive dissonance, we create our own individual values and concept of the Self that allow us to reconcile the dysphoria of rejection, and bring peace to a bodymind that recognises the fractures and contradictions in it’s own cultures and communities.

Neuro-anarchy invites us to step back from the minutia of community advocacy and consider how one’s community and culture fits into the world’s wider picture. This is where the Chaotic Self comes in. The concept of the Chaotic Self tells us that wider power dynamics and systems within our world inform the discourse around our identities, which in turn become a part of the Self.

A neuro-anarchistic approach to one’s identity teaches us to decentralise all systems of power and instead look to how the individual can build a community from the shared subjective experiences that constitute our culture.

As the individual Self grows and changes, so too must our community.

By stepping away from the power structures that exist in our society, we are able to pick and chose the concepts that form the Self. This in turn allows us to effectively neuroqueer through the subversion of all expectation, and not just those that our community desires us to subvert. Neuro-anarchy allows us to move fluidly throughout cultural identities, and internalise the concepts from within them that we feel are most relevant to us.

By understanding the nature of neuro-anarchy and the Chaotic Self, we are able to see ourselves not as a collection of identities but instead a single Self that belongs (to some extent) to multiple cultural groups. We are able to subvert identity politics while holding an awareness of where we do or do not have privilege.

If neuroqueering is a liberatory act, then neuro-anarchy is the tool we use for that act. The Chaotic Self, then, is the overarching way of understanding one’s sense of Self throughout the process of neuroqueering. It allows us to embrace the fact that once queered, the bodymind cannot return to it’s previous state. By embracing this we transcend normative values and enter a world of infinite possibility (Gray-Hammond, 2022).


Gray-Hammond, D (2022) The infinite and I: Embracing my Neuroqueer Self. Emergent Divergence.

Gray-Hammond, D (2023) A Treatise on Chaos: Embracing the Chaotic Self and the art of neuroqueering. Independently Published.

Munday, K. (2022) Counterculture: Autistic shielding and neuro-anarchy. Autistic and Living the Dream.

Reclaiming Neurofuturism: Ontological perspectives of neurodiversity

For time immemorial the nature of human consciousness has been discussed and debated. I have spoken at length about neuronormativity and neuroqueer theory, positioning the Self as a moving target that grows and changes dependent on it’s cultural and environmental context, socially constructed by those we interact with. I refer to this as the Chaotic Self, a Self that is constantly changing and of no fixed value. The issue with this is that it contradicts one of the fundamental ways that those outside of neurodiversity paradigm based communities understand minds that differ from normative values.

The pathology paradigm posits an essentialist worldview, that you are born either normal, or abnormal, and that if you were not born abnormal, then it is due to the development of a pathological occurrence. According to this view their are no routes to atypicality outside of the circumstances of ones birth or illness.

This has itself given birth to medical models of neurodiversity which are themselves of a realist nature. Medical models view truth as objective and fixed, awaiting our discovery. There is no space for subjective experience and opinion in the medical world. Despite this, there is currently no meaningful, objective relationship between our physical brain and our experience of the world. The medical model deals in objective facts such as the DSM 5 diagnostic criteria for autism and ADHD, these diagnostic criteria are far more open to interpretation than we are led to believe.

They issue with diagnostic and medical models is that they suggest neurodivergence is a fixed and immutable fact. One is either neurotypical or neurodivergent, with no recourse for movement across the metaphorical boundaries. The truth, as ever, is far more complicated. The foundation of neuroqueer theory, for example, is that one can queer your neurology, with neurotypicality being a performance rather than a natural kind.

According to neuroqueer theory, it is possible for a person who performs neurotypicality to alter their mind in a way that they become neurodivergent. Under medical models this is disregarded as inducing pathology of the mind. The realism of medical models suggests that if one does not fit into contained and objective criteria then one is not neurodivergent.

From a relativistic perspective this is patently absurd. Every human mind is different. Relativism underpins the neurodiversity paradigm in the same way that realism does the pathology paradigm. neurodiversity models recognise that no two human brains are the same, and while some groups may have shared culture and experiences, we have our own subjective truths that are influenced by the cultural context of our existence and our interaction with others.

Therefore, neurodivergence is not unique to that which can be measured by diagnostic criteria, but instead a disengagement from normative values and performance. To become neurodivergent is to be liberated from the cult of normality. We escape the status quo by escaping the normatively constructed Self.

This raises the question of how one builds community and culture from the idiosyncrasies of individual humans. I would argue that in neurodivergent communities we form connection based on phenomenological introspection. Through our exploration of individual experiences we find the places where our lives cross and recross. We find the shared paths we have taken while acknowledging the paths we walk separately.

This is why understanding intersectionality is so very important, it allows us to recognise that we have just as many individual experiences as we do shared ones. It allows us to address the subjective nature of how we experience and embody the Self.

In my opinion, to embrace the neurodiversity movement is to let go of the notion of objective truth. To embrace the diversity of human cognition and embodiment is to liberate oneself from the standardised measurement of consciousness. It is to recognise that where shared experience creates identity-based communities such as that of the Autistic community, our subjectivity and solipsistic nature is what creates the diversity of the human population.

Thus, neuroqueering is an essential practice to the survival of the human species. A diverse species is a healthy species, and where we have too much homogeneity it is necessary to queer ourselves and create heterogeneity.

Post-normal childhoods: Neuroqueering education and play

Neuroqueer theory is often discussed in the context of neurodivergent adults. While a helpful tool in the liberation of Neurodivergent people, constraining it to just this section of society limits its potential. Neuroqueer theory, at its root, is a theory that intends to liberate all people rather than just the select few. It does this by teaching us the malleable nature of identity, culture, and the Self.

I personally I have discussed my idea of the Chaotic Self; a Self that is ever shifting and changing. The Self emerges and re-emerges from itself as a factor of our experiences and relationships with the environment and those within it. As we acquire new ways of rationalising and contextualising those experiences, we also learn new ways to subvert our own meanings and understandings, allowing us to fundamentally queer our very existence.

So, how does this apply to childhood education and play?

Current “traditional” education and play is built upon normative standards. Those who provided the knowledge it is built on were unaware of their privilege and acted to uphold systemic oppression, regardless of whether they intended to or not. What we have had in both historical and contemporary contexts is normatively violent and creates a power imbalance between the student and the teacher.

Every aspect of our growth and development is regulated and controlled through the milestones we are supposed to achieve, the times we are expected to achieve them, and the curriculum that a given authority feels is necessary to learn.

The issue with this approach is that it expects all children to adhere to these standards. If one can not achieve under normative standards, we are deemed to be disordered and troubled. We find ourselves undergoing behavioural intervention and medicated treatments in order to achieve what is important to others rather than ourselves.

So, how do we move beyond this cult of normality? Can one be an apostate of normality and still achieve great things? I propose that the starting place is simultaneously a thing of beautiful simplicity, with the potential for profound complexity. We encourage children to experiment with language.

Language defines every aspect of our understanding of the Self. Words we acquire from others move forward to become the words we apply to ourselves. The first thing we must do is gift children language. All language. Access to language is essential to our relationship with ourselves. We then must consider how a child might be empowered to explore and experiment with that language.

Children should not be taught to use descriptive language based on someone else’s view of them. We should allow them to identify themselves in whatever way they please. This can be done as a form of play, and as such, it is a vital part of our development.

Once a child is comfortable with playing through language, we can begin to work with them to consider how they can subvert and reimagine the meaning of language. Once a child is free of objective definition and allowed access to the fluid nature of subjective meaning, they have an infinite number of ways to engage with their Self. It sounds deceptively simple, but the effect of truly unlocking language to a child could be immeasurably life changing.

It teaches us the importance of what we say to children.

This is but one way of applying neurofuturism to childhood, or perhaps more accurately, post-normalism. If we are ever to live in a neurocosmopolitan world, we must explore the ways in which we raise children, and consider them helpfulness of standardising and regulating their development.

In the meantime, let children play with their language and identity. You might be impressed by the way they explore themselves, and it might even teach you a thing or two as well.

Reclaiming Neurofuturism: An introduction

In some of my recent articles, I have referred to something called neurofuturism. While neurofuturism itself is not a new word (although weirdly, I didn’t know this when I first used it), I do believe that reconceptualising it may allow for a new discourse in the Neurodivergent community. Namely, a discourse around what the future of the neurodiversity movement and paradigm might look like.

With this in mind, let’s start by considering the original use of neurofuturism and take a look at it through a critical lens.

A lot of the discussion around neurofuturism thus far has looked at augmenting human cognition with technology up to, and including, artificial intelligence. This sounds exciting on the surface; fusing the human mind with technology as a way of unlocking our potential. It sounds exciting, but there are two main issues at the forefront of my mind

  • Technology is not universally accessible.
  • Technology can often be created with one purpose while incidentally fulfilling another.

Consider this, technology allowed us to split the atom. Fission reactors meant that we could create huge quantities of carbon neutral energy. It also meant that we were able to create nuclear weapons, fundamentally changing the nature of human conflict. As I mentioned, technology is not universally accessible. It often requires privilege to gain a seat at the table when it comes to research and design. Because of this, it is likely that people creating technology to go on your head either may not consider negative impacts on marginalised communities, or worse, may use it to actively oppress them.

Remember when Elon Musk claimed that neural interfaces could ‘solve’ autism and schizophrenia? We never asked for that, but it’s reasonable to worry that such a technology could be forced upon is if it were to exist.

So, why am I even talking about neurofuturism?

Neurofuturism has a place in human discourse, but it isn’t with the tech world. I firmly believe we should reclaim neurofuturism and reconceptualise it into something accessible and beneficial to all. What better place for such a concept to exist than within the neurodiversity paradigm?

Broadly speaking, neurofuturism as I conceptualise it has existed for some time. Neuroqueer theory could be considered somewhat of a flagship of neurofuturism. The idea that we can queer our identity and embodiment in line with our neurology is liberational, and that is what neurofuturism should be, a school of thought that emancipates us from the chains of the past.

In my mind, neurofuturism is a word to describe ideas that ask us to not blindly accept the knowledge of the past. It is a school of thought that asks us to take a degree of criticality to everything that has been taken for granted, including the ideas that the neurodiversity movement takes for granted.

Consider the ever-present threat of identity politics. We see it everywhere, and the neurodivergent community is not free of this threat. Much of the politics surrounding how people identify and what the embodiment of that identity should look like is based on some form of normative thinking. It’s necessary to consider the uncomfortable truth that even the neurodivergent community has its own normative ideas.

Wherever there is community, there is a status quo.

Thus, neurofuturism can be reclaimed as a way of advancing the community through criticality. This critical thought can be used to surgically cut through the chains of “normality”, shedding the excess so that we can walk unburdened into the future of our community.

This comes with a lot of uncomfortable thinking. It raises questions about objective truth and the social construction of everything from language to our own sense of Self.

Neurofuturism is not a ‘natural kind’. It does not exist without people observing its growth and trajectory. Moreover, it cannot exist without accepting certain truths, chiefly;

  • Human thought and experience should not be pathologised. It recognises that our psychological world is not a matter for medical intervention.
  • Where people experience psychological distress, we must look to their environment and the experiences it has afforded them.
  • That if human experience is not a medical matter, then such branches of medicine such as psychiatry must use social change as a means of support, with medicine being a tool rather than a requirement.

These points to me seem as the necessary first ideas to acknowledge in a neurofuturist approach to neurodiversity.

There is much more to be said on the nature of neurofuturism, and I hope that as this blog series progresses, we can explore what the future can look like together. I hope we can use the reclamation of this concept as a way of accommodating all Neurodivergent people, and not just the select few with the privilege of being platformed in the right places.

Defining and emancipating weirdness: A reflection for Weird Pride

With Weird Pride Day coming up on the 4th of March, I have been considering the way I embody my identity, and how I can use my Self-expression to reclaim neurofuturism from the tech industry and use it to drive us into a post-normal society. It seems to me that post-normal thinking is growing throughout the communities I find myself in. Little by little, we’re getting weirder.

So, how does one embody weirdness? Weirdness is, much like all other adjectives, a social construct. Different cultures and societies have different standards for what classes as weird. Weirdness, then, has been restricted in its own way by normative thinking and what we see as objective weirdness has become somewhat of a caricature. Stereotypical machinations of a prefabricated construct.

True weirdness doesn’t come from the expected. It is not a quantifiable and boundaried concept. Weirdness is abstract, and to embrace, weirdness is to subvert expectation. Weird Pride is not just a refusal to be ashamed of your difference, it is using your weirdness in ever more surprising and innovative ways in order to escape from the soul crushing normativty of the status quo.

Weird Pride is emancipatory. It liberates us from being defined by the observations of others. It is freedom from being a caricature of yourself.

If I can ask one thing of you for March 4th, it is this; be the unexpected. Innovate, generate, emancipate. Don’t be weird by someone else’s standard. Be weird by your standard.

Bigots keep trying to tell us the meaning of words, I have bad news for them

I have repeatedly seen bigots use the “correct” meaning of words in order to try and invalidate and oppress minority groups. An immediate example is the use of singular “they/them” pronouns. Ignoring the fact that the singular use of these pronouns outdates the use of the word “you“, there is further discussion that needs to be had.

The bigots are going to hate this.

Language, at an essential level, is the use of non-verbal symbols and organised sounds. We have, ad a society, decided that particular shapes, sounds, body movements, facial expressions, and actions mean things. The meaning of these things has arisen from our collective agreement. To put it another way, language is a social construct.

Because language is socially constructed, even if words have prior meanings, we can collectively choose a new meaning for those words. This has happened many times throughout history, and in some cases, we have invented entirely new linguistic conventions where prior ones have not been able to convey what we need them to.

The fun thing about language is that you can repurpose it with very few negative consequences. Don’t like a change? Don’t use it. These changes can have huge positive impacts when made in the right spirit.

Language is the biggest social endeavour in history. It is a work of art, and each of us is the artist. By experimenting with language and altering it, we can create new images that we never thought possible. Language is the social construct that controls all other constructs because without it, we can not convey information. This is why we need to honour the words that describe a person’s identity. They are using language as a tool to dismantle normativity. Each time a person uses the words that feel right to then, and not the words they’ve been told to use, the weaker the chains of normative oppression become.

The people who are so attached to their understanding of words that they can not fathom new uses are not the future of the human race. In order to meet the future, we must first cut loose the chains of the past. Normative thinking has so conditioned the bigots that they react with fear at the suggestion of making even the smallest of changes. Mankind can not survive with such aversion to change, and we need to recognise that growth, like many changes, is not always a matter of personal comfort.

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