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