A Festive Ramble

(Featured image description: Image is of a stereotypical Christmas setting. There is a brown fireplace in the middle, a Christmas tree to the left and a green armchair to the right.)

(CN: abuse, trauma, gaslighting, mention of bullying)

Hi all,

In the run up to Christmas which for me brings a lot of mixed thoughts. Hence today I am going to blog a bit about my experiences at Christmas. This will be a bit of a personal ramble in places which I’m writing for me more than you today, however I hope you’ll understand why if you choose to read on.

I am somebody who enjoys Christmas and still has the Christmas spirit even though I am an adult. I wouldn’t call it my favourite time of year but it is definitely a time of year that I get excited for. I think this is one of the ways being autistic affects me. I still have this childish sense of wonder that comes back despite me arguably being “too old” by society.

As it was, I was a firm believer of Santa Claus up till I was told by my mum outright he wasn’t real. This was in my first year of secondary school and the hope was that my peers would have one less reason to bully me. Since I was told, I made it my mission that year to convince my younger sister that Santa Claus isn’t real. It didn’t work but it led to me getting told off a lot by my mum. Even when I found out about Santa Claus no longer being real, the magic never really faded away.

I enjoyed opening the gifts I got from family. This was how I got many of my childhood games and consoles. That said, I also had a lot of things that I never wanted or used so often just took up space such as toys and various books I was not interested in reading at all. Even when I became older and started to get money from many people, I still looked forward to buying items that related to my special interests. This was usually video games.

Of course, being a child, I was relatively unaware of what was going on around me. Even after I find out Santa is fake I was still oblivious to various things including the consumerist attitudes towards this time of year by companies especially Christmas.

Then as a teen I would begin to realise as an teen the potential sad feelings many people have towards Christmas. Whenever my abuser agreed to be with my mum, my sister and I for Christmas, they often spent Christmas Day down the pub having a drink with their friends. I was enthralled with my new toys, video games and more while my mum was in the kitchen cooking a full roast dinner by herself. Of course, both my mum and my abuser should have been spending time with me and my sister but that is not what happened. There were other things too but it’s not my place to divulge those.

Then of course when my mum and abuser split, it alternated between Christmas at my Mum’s and Christmas at my abuser’s. It was a weird dynamic as I essentially had two Christmases even though the root behaviour of my abuser was still the same. It sorta worked for years except that eventually it led to my abuser not having us on Christmas and New Year’s Day most of those years citing that they had to work. This progressed through my late teens through to my university years.

And then came last Christmas. It was a stressful one due to various external factors however the root cause was my abuser. Sometime between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, I had a domestic incident with them that led to me becoming traumatised and the end our relationship. I shall spare the details but it was unlike anything I had ever experienced and was something I should never have had done to me. In other words, it was physical and was the result of my abuser not understanding how being autistic affects me.

Furthermore, I had to deal with abusive messages from another relative defending my abuser when they were not even there. These messages included very unpleasant gaslighting. I could have gone further and tried to get my abuser convicted, but I did not. The odds were stacked against me and I simply did not have the energy or confidence in the police to support me properly so I let it go. This situation isn’t uncommon with survivors of abuse which is even more common when disabilities are involved.

It is now nearly the one year anniversary. I still have a sense of magic and something else but it’s also come with something else this year that’s not so nice. That thing is trauma. Certain things trigger me and cause anxiety attacks. I have had nightmares and various thoughts that I need to talk over with someone. I don’t think this trauma will be with me every year but for the near future at least will impact on my enjoyment of Christmas. I’ve already had problems as a result.

Looking back, I will miss getting gifts from my abuser because they usually got me exactly what I wanted. However, that is it. I won’t miss their company nor anything else from their time in my life. They are not a good person and didn’t fulfil the role they were supposed to. They haven’t contacted me since then. When they tried to go through someone else, I said they can write me a letter if they wish to contact me but heard nothing since. Hence our relationship is now over as far as I’m concerned.

However – every cloud has a silver living. In other words, with every bad thing there is always something good to come out of it. Namely that I’m alive. I know myself better than I ever have done and am able to plan my life better than before. I was able to survive and get through a lot alongside dealing with what happened. I’m stronger than I was before. I’ve also grown as a person and am looking forward to helping myself recover and progress. I still have the magic of Christmas but it just takes on a different form now.

With all this said, I think that sense of self-acceptance and optimism is the only magic I need this holiday season. Oh, and my chosen family. I love them all.

Happy Holidays everyone,

Subtle

(@subtlykawaii)

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Why Asking “What’s Your Name and Pronouns?” Can Add to Anxiety

Feature image description: Image is of a rainbow flag high above the clouds. The background is a blue sky with clouds and very distant terrain.

(CN for mention of misgendering)

Hi all,

Autistic LGBTQ+ people struggle to integrate into LGBTQ+ spaces for a variety of reasons. One of these reasons is to how inaccessible dedicated clubs and spaces for LGBTQ+ people can be due to sensory overload. However as someone who is at the start trying to integrate into these spaces to help me become comfortable with myself (as I am still in the closet) I am hitting the first hurdle and I’d like to talk about that a bit today. The hurdle is the very question used to help introduce people into LGBTQ+ spaces so people know how others want to be identified and that is…

“What’s your name and pronouns?”

Now before I continue I want to make it crystal clear that I fully support trans issues as well as the normalisation of pronouns. In other words – all the motives behind this question. I myself am trans and I don’t identify with any gender on a deep level however I do wish to be treated and seen as feminine hence the need to disclose pronouns.

Disclosing pronouns makes it easy for trans people to work out who is safe to be around as many people who do not disclose pronouns aren’t allies to trans people. Furthermore, as gender is different for everyone and there are more than two there is the need for language to change and reflect this (or be normalised in the case of the singular pronoun “they”).

However, I do think in certain situations the way this question is asked can potentially make LGBTQ+ spaces inaccessible for autistic people – and by extension those that have anxiety. Hence this is something I’d like to talk about today.

Imagine this – you are an autistic person whom has just realised they are LGBTQ+ and need to seek friends in real life for support. You’re not fully out to the world and you need to get a bigger support network who will lift you up rather than put you down. You managed to get to one of these groups overcoming deep anxiety and fear of the unknown. Will you be accepted? Can you trust the people here to keep your secret safe until you’re ready to show the world?

You are too anxious to talk to others. There are so many people here talking to each other. Some people are out whereas others are in the closet. This environment is unfamiliar and you are getting exhausted due to all the sensory input. You feel like you could be welcomed and accepted here – but also very anxious at the possibility of having to deal with awkward situations with the other people there until you feel comfortable opening up. The anxiety won’t go away until you feel comfortable trusting them with your orientations.

You want to trust others here but you know it will take time and effort on your part and theirs. They may be willing to play ball so you’re going to give it a chance. But for now you only feel comfortable passively participating in the events. In other words – say what you feel comfortable saying and don’t pressure yourself.

You hear the organiser say “So before we begin we are going to go round and ask everyone’s names and pronouns.” Oh no. You’re going to have to out myself to other people before you’re ready. The reasons are perfectly understandable but is only heightening your anxiety. This goes against the mental plan you had in mind and may only make things harder for you in the long run.

People start responding to the question in order around the way you were all sitting. There’s so many different names and pronouns. You can’t go by how people present so you have to try to remember what they say even though it is difficult for you due to your anxiety. It got overwhelming. There is no way you are able to remember them all. Then the question finally got to you.

“Erm…I don’t really feel comfortable answering that,” you meekly say with visible anxiety in your voice.

It feels like a cop-out. You want to say “Hi I’m [redacted] and my pronouns are [pronoun 1/pronoun 2] but the nerves are just too much. You’re too shy and you wonder if other people feel that you aren’t interested in engaging or whether you aren’t safe because you aren’t disclosing your pronouns.

This was me at my first LGBTQ+ event. So in short – the pronouns question is giving me anxiety because it is putting me on the spot before I am ready to give the answers. This is because I am shy and am finding the unfamiliar situation overwhelming for me.

On social networking sites like Twitter disclosing pronouns is much easier. The pressure is off as users putting pronouns in their bio gets around asking the questions directly. Not to mention online spaces are often the only place somebody can be themselves before they are able to out themselves in real life.

Transferring this idea of having name/pronouns written down in real life support groups would be a good idea. Having stickers with your name and pronouns written on them would greatly help people like me better remember how to address people properly and avoid misgendering or calling people the wrong names by accident.

Similar systems are used at some left-wing conferences where pronoun stickers are given out to the guests for free as well as colour coded lanyards to indicate whether somebody is OK with strangers talking to them or not. This is one common way to improve accessibility for disabled people and would be worth transferring into communities outside of disability and left-wing environments as well. This would also help people who find it difficult to remember individual names and pronouns due to anxiety, cognitive disabilities and other reasons.

Another idea that I feel is worth suggesting could be simply just saying “you don’t have to answer if you don’t feel comfortable” in group-based situations. I had this happen when I was talking to individuals and it greatly helped my confidence. I can come out of my shell in my own time and express myself more freely when I felt comfortable. In that context I was known as someone “with no name or pronoun” which was fine by me. This is how it should be in general. In LGBTQ+ spaces this is important and also in neurodiverse spaces too. Not having that contributed to my anxiety in the group environment.

Maybe as time goes on and I integrate into these circles more and build a support network I will make some friends and this initial barrier will lower. The barriers are lower however right now it is a formidable obstacle and I need to do my best to find a way to overcome it. I am still at the start of my journey and I’d wager my view will deepen as I gain more knowledge about LGBTQ+ issues. In the meantime, I’ll likely produce labels and badges myself to take the pressure off me a bit as I can simply direct others to my labels.

LGBTQ+ circles – please think about how establishing names and pronouns could add accessibility barriers for autistic LGBTQ+ people. More autistic people are LGBTQ+ than the general population so you’re missing out on a lot of us if you don’t make your spaces accessible.

Best wishes,

Subtle

(@subtlykawaii)

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