Getting diagnosed with autism is a lot like figuring out you’re queer.
I’ve been having some serious déjà vu lately as I process my diagnosis. So much of what’s happening has happened before – when I came to terms with my sexuality and eventually decided to come out.
Step 1: It starts with the discovery. Oh! There are people like me! Then come the questions: did everyone already know I was queer/autistic? Why didn’t someone tell me? My life would have been so much easier if I had known sooner! There really isn’t anyone to blame, so there’s nothing to do but feel the emotions and let them pass.
Step 2: Online quizzes! “Am I gay?” – “How to tell if you’re autistic” – “120 question sexuality quiz” – “Autism in girls test” – you take so many, hoping that somehow the internet can give you the proof you need.
Step 3: Self reflection. Have I had crushes on girls, not realizing the feelings were romantic? I’ve always felt queasy when guys flirt with me… can I picture myself marrying a woman? And… Do I struggle understanding social cues? Do I have any habits of “odd behavior”? Have I always felt different from other people? (The only difference here is that there’s a doctor helping you answer the autism questions).
Step 4: The realization/diagnosis. I am gay. I have autism. Then you have to process whatever emotions come from that. Do you immediately embrace it? Do you unconsciously avoid it because of internalized stigmas?
Step 5: Coming out/disclosure. Who do you tell? Hopefully people support you, but will people you know shift their opinion of you? What about acquaintances and strangers on social media? Are you prepared to handle the backlash you may face? Is it worth it, knowing that being open will provide much needed representation for others that you never had?
Step 6: Making this post, I guess! It’s an ongoing process, figuring all this out. But being open and real about the mess of it is what’s going to make a difference, so that’s what I’m going to do.