My first PRIDE was my “coming out” PRIDE. I came out of the “Mormon Closet” as a gay man AND as an LGBTQ activist. This year I come out as a leader who shows those who want to lead, but do not think they can that they can, and that they will! Everyone is able to lead and make a difference in the world if they set their minds to it! This year I come out in a different way, I come out as a man who fully accepts himself and who he is, despite his differences from the majority of society that are very much NOT because he is gay…
Up until two months ago, due to high school bullying and social rejection,I hated something about me as much as I hate getting fat. This “Thing” (as I called it) has been with me my entire life, and it will be with me until I die. When I realized that I helped in creating the LDS LGBT movement, and have accomplished what I have accomplished because of this “Thing,” I realized that this “Thing” is what has created EVERYTHING that I love and appreciate about my life and that my “Thing” has put me where I am today. Up until two months ago I rejected this “Thing,” but now I love it and I embrace it. I OWN it like a PRIDE Beauty Queen owns her EIGHT inch pumps.
What I now call “Me” comes with its advantages. I can concentrate on a task more than a “normal” person can, I see the full set of consequences that a single action can cause better then a person who does not have this “Thing,” I am naturally honest, I am a critical thinker who’s thinking patters are very clear-cut and extremely rational, I have improved spatial perception abilities (meaning I am a 3D thinker), I am naturally resistance to group-think/orthodoxies and am not swayed by peer pressure, I naturally and easily create vivid and realistic artwork, and I easily learn how to play a musical instrument. These advantages help me in being a strong and productive leader. But I am also disadvantaged, and have to work through these every day and have to pay more attention to how I am perceived than the average activist does.
Some of these disadvantages are awkward and I had to train myself to not do them when I am in public. I have a VERY hard time looking people in the eyes, I am sometimes overbearingly and UNKNOWINGLY prideful in my accomplishments, I have to set a timer when working on projects or I will literally not eat, drink or use the bathroom, I have to write down all of my commitments, I am VERY picky about how my environment looks AND how it interacts with me, I have a hard time being at large parties/gatherings, I sometimes forget that others do not think like I do and I forget to explain why I do some of the things I do (such as why I chose to do a project the way I did or why I chose an abnormal or out of place approach to solve a problem or to complete a task), I cannot learn math in the same way as “normal” people, I don’t like being touched, I sometimes am not as sympathetic as I need to be, I… this list keeps going…
My “Thing,” my “Me,” my advantages and disadvantages go by another identity: I am a High Functioning (or Mildly) Autistic Gay Man.
My autism is me, it is my leadership type, it is my decision making platform, it is my organizational strategy, it is the glue that binds me to the label of a successful human being. My autism is me, and I am my autism. We are one, and as one we lead! My autism is the best gift that I will ever receive. If it was not for me being a high functioning autistic man I would not be in the position I am in today. Everything I have is because of my autism. I am more than autism, autism is more than just a disorder it is a tool for unique and talented leaders!
For those of you who are afraid to get involved in the LGBT movement because you are autistic or because you have a “disability” that people have told you prevents you from being “normal,” I have some advice:
Use your GIFT to your advantage, allow your gift to take you above and beyond what others think you are capable of, change the world, change your perspective about yourself, use your gift to your advantage. Remember that you see the world differently than others do and that your perspective could be what is needed for progress to happen.
In honor of PRIDE and everything that it represents I come out not as a gay man, but as a man who is a successful high functioning autistic individual who is also an activist for LGBTQ equality, civil rights, human rights and fairness.
For all the autistic people reading this: This year at PRIDE lets let the 3D trend take over, let’s freely think the way we think and show the world how awesome we are!
Walk with Autism, Lead in PRIDE! You are MORE than Autism, you are YOU and you are a leader!