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"I’m Autistic and queer, and I want to engage with the queer community more, but I have a hard time because so many of the events aren’t accessible to me. I’m very sensitive to noise and large crowds…which means I can’t go to most of the queer events in my area. How can I make the events more accessible? How can I get people in the community to understand my needs are valid?"

- Question submitted by Anonymous and answered by Erika Lynn as a part of Everyone is Gay: Second Opinions.

Erika Lynn Says:

Quick note about Autism: A large part of being Autistic is that we have both heightened and lowered senses compared to non-Autistics (aka Allistics). Common manifestations of this are light and sound sensitivity, though there are many other variations, such as temperature, pain, and balance sensitivities. Each Autistic has different sensitivities.

This is something I myself have been struggling with a lot. The issue isn’t that there aren’t easy accommodations that can be made, because there are many. For example, earplugs and shaded glasses can be made available at larger events, like Pride or community gatherings, and there can be separate “neutral” spaces where there is low sound and light. They can have available “stop light” badges—a badge allowing you to select green, meaning you’re fine with strangers approaching and talking with you, yellow, you only want to be approached by people you know, and red, you would prefer to approach people, not them approach you.

The issue is that people often don’t understand that our needs are valid, because they are different and unusual. How then do we get our fellow community members to listen to us?

I would start by emailing any organizations in your area that are responsible for queer event planning. Let them know that you are an Autistic queer, and that you have some suggestions for how to make the events more Autistic friendly. Brace yourself for many uninformed and even condescending questions. In my experience, it’s good to get an Allistic (aka non-Autistic) to read any responses back to make sure they’re devoid of accidental offense, and that your explanations make sense to someone who is not Autistic.

If they seem receptive, that’s great! If not, then what I would recommend doing is reaching out to others in the community to get a broader support base. 1 in 68 folks is Autistic, so chances are you’ll either run into someone else who is queer and Autistic, or is queer with Autistic friends or family, who would also be interested in working with you to bring about changes.

Be patient. Organizational change happens slowly. They might also ask you to do the bulk of the work, like finding vendors, estimating costs, and designing stuff like the stop light badges. Know that this might take a good bit of energy on your parts, but that it is an investment not just for yourself, but your whole queer and Autistic community.

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Click through to read more about Erika Lynn and our other Second Opinions panelists!

Everyone Is Gay has started a new project to help parents who have LGBTQ kids: Check out The Parents Project!

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“I use a wheelchair and need help with every day activities like eating and drinking. I just met someone I want to ask out on a date, but I’m not sure how to ask or how our date would work?”

- Question submitted by Anonymous and answered by Eva as a part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions

Eva Says:

This is a great question and not one talked about nearly enough.

The first thing you need to remember is dating is always awkward at first, no matter if you’re disabled or able-bodied.

As for asking someone out, be casual and just say “Hey, do you want to grab coffee or lunch?” When they say yes (and they will say yes) you can casually explain how the date logistics will work. If you have just met someone, you probably will not want them to help you eat and drink. You want them to focus on learning how awesome you are! And you should focus on getting to know them too and not on teaching them how to assist you. However, bringing an aide can be awkward at first. So in my opinion (and experience), explaining why you want a helper to accompany you to the first date  is a good idea. You can even explain how on future dates, once you two are comfortable with each other, that an aide won’t be necessary.

Also, I think you should have a conversation with your aide about how long you need them to stay (for example, just for the meal)  and when to “take a walk” (I just point to the colon sign on my letter board and my aide casually excuses themself). I think having an aide close in age helps you to not feel chaperoned. But if you discuss it with all parties, it shouldn’t matter how old your aide is. If your cutie has questions about how the date will work, that’s not a bad sign. In fact, it’s a great sign because that means they’re thinking about your needs.

On subsequent dates, if your cutie wants to learn how to help you eat and drink, your aide can show them rather than you trying to explain. Dating and needing help with certain things is a little more tricky but if you have good communication, it can be totally cool.

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Click through to read more about Eva and our other Second Opinions panelists!

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Episode 29

April 14, 2011: Straight from a hotel in Miami to your doorstep, Webcast #29 aka DivaCast. BOOM. 1. I have Asperger's. My girlfriend knows, but how do I tell my girlfriends friends? 2. I'm dating a girl who has had DWI's and is on probation. Is this a redflag?

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“I'm deaf and communicate in sign language. I can lip read but cant speak. I've dated a girl for 2 months and we chat through me lip reading and, a text to speech app and gestures. I've offered to teach her sign language many times, but she always has an excuse or says i should learn to speak. I wrote her a letter and she said that i was just being pathetic. I really like her but i cant have a normal conversation! Should i leave her?”

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Dannielle Says:

I mean, you absolutely should not stay with someone you can’t hold a conversation with. Can you really imagine yourself metaphorically walking down the aisle with someone you can’t even have a simple convo about 30 ROCK with??

It’s like, I can name a million (thats too many it would take too long) girls who would have already started to learn sign language from the internet. I mean, has she not see Seasons 4-6 (aka the ‘forgettable years’) of the L Word? BETTE WAS ALL OVER THAT SHIT. I know for a FACTTTTTTT I would be, too. Sit her down and have a serious heart to heart. She needs to know that you don’t see your relaysh going very far without a little compromise.

YOU GUYS… Relationships are all about open&honest communication, this includes everything from “can you pass me that vitamin water” to “you hurt my feelings when you said my calves were fat” to “there’s a booger in your nose” to “i used to date someone who treated me like shit and sometimes i get weird, i’m sorry”

It is impossible to have a healthy relationship if you don’t communicate. ImpossibOHOHOHle impossibOHOHOHle impossibOHOHOHle impossible. (via shontelle)

Kristin Says:

Wait wait wait wait WAIT.  You wrote her a letter and she said you were ‘just being pathetic’?! Fuck that bitch. No, seriously. FUCK. THAT. BITCH.

The fact that she told you to ‘learn how to speak,’ and has not taken any sort of proactive role in ensuring that you will be able to communicate is, in my book, near-to-unforgiveable.  I say ‘near-to-unforgiveable’ because I just want to make sure that you have had an open and honest dialogue with her where you have expressed how important it is to you that she begin to learn sign language.  It sounds like you have already done that, and it sounds like she is too wrapped up in her own bullshit to hear what you are saying.

Your inability to hear shouldn’t stop anyone, including Bette Porter*, from boning you all over while signing to you that you have the hottest body this side of {insert landmark near you}.

Her inability to listen, however, is a fucking deal breaker.

*I just had to make the L word reference, even though Dannielle already did…so, please forgive me.

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