There’s a lovely essay up by Euan Burns (above) about his experience coming out of the closet as gay, and then later coming to terms with his place on the Autism spectrum. It’s probably a testament to how far LGBT equality has come that his homosexuality was no big deal — it was disability that presented the real challenge.
As a kid, he writes, he had the usual challenges that kids with Asperger’s often face: social awkwardness, difficulty understanding subtext, attention to unusual details. And one of the most unusual details that he was fixating on, he realized as a teen, was boys. Other guys his age were into women, and he felt even more of an outsider. “The other boys in school gained an overriding interest in girls, while I felt increasingly curious about boys,” he writes. “I remained largely apart.”
College was difficult, and he had to leave for a while. It was then that he came across the symptoms of Autism, and realized that they described him. But he rejected the diagnosis; instead of identifying as gay and disabled, he identified just as gay.
Knowing that autism was the cause of that failure didn’t make me hate myself less—it just made me hate autism. I met once with the disability service at university, after I was allowed back in, and it refused any offers of accommodations. After that, I decided I would never mention my autism, never even think about it. It was merely a problem to be overcome. Even relatively accurate depictions of autism emphasized the otherness and tragedy of its “sufferers.” No-one wants to think of themselves that way. Besides, perhaps I wasn’t autistic after all? Maybe it was just a delusion, an excuse? I resolved to forget about it, move forward, and repair my life.
Things started to change for Euan when he met other Autistic people. Here and there, be began to see that the traits that he saw as liabilities were actually normal behaviors — for him. “Autistic people are everywhere. We may not be putting on parades, yet, but we’re not hiding,” he writes.
Check out his full essay for a fascinating peek into his story.