Nonetheless, it's a necessity of human interaction and so here I am. Introducing myself. And in order to properly do that, I'm going to have to disclose something major. Something important. Something that informs my life to a great degree. Something that takes a leap of faith, as there's no going back once I do it. Call it a "coming out" if you will (and I say this with the utmost respect to the LGBTQ community, as I don't know a better way of describing it).
Okay. Here it goes.
My name is Zoey. I'm from Los Angeles. I'm almost done with my Masters in Social Work at the University of Southern California. And I'm autistic.
Well that was easier than expected.
Why did I think that was so hard? I've spent a lot of my life not telling people I am autistic. Truth be told, I've spent a lot of time hiding the fact I'm autistic from people.
And with that last sentence, I think I answered my own question.
In my almost 28 years on the planet, I've gotten the sense that people in general are not comfortable with people who are different than them. Different makes people nervous, scared, uncertain - things people generally don't like feeling. And when people don't like different, they can treat different badly. A group of boys dumped a bucket of urine, feces, and cigarette butts on a boy with Aspergers in August as a cruel prank. A mother was recently sentenced to 10 to 20 years in prison for attempting to kill her autistic daughter. And in a horrific intersection of racism and ableism, a young black autistic man is currently in solitary confinement after being racially profiled and abused by police.
With all of that in mind, is it any wonder why I've been afraid to disclose my own differences?
And yet, my life experience has informed me that I shouldn't be afraid of telling people about my autism. Los Angeles is widely diverse, making almost everyone I meet statistically more open-minded than they would be if I came from a smaller town. And when I have told people (usually after a long period where I determined if I could trust them with the information), the response is overwhelmingly positive. I get a lot of questions, but not judgment. I recognize that's a rarity, but it should also give me hope that people aren't as close-minded and prejudiced as I assume they are. That people are open to hearing you and your story out if you give them a chance.
I'm done being afraid. I'm done with fearing judgment from strangers when I tell them of my autism. I'm ready to share my story and my perspective. I'm stepping out of that dank autistic closet (again, my apologies to the LGBTQ community) and embracing the light of being open of who I am.
I'm autistic. And that's alright.