June is Pride Month and ASO is excited to celebrate! During this year’s Pride Month many people are asking about the relationship that people with Autism share with the L.G.B.T.Q. community. Recent studies have shown that people on the Autism Spectrum are three to six times as likely to not identify with their assigned sex at birth. Additionally a lot of experts and self-advocates of Autism have begun to take notice of the reality of people with Autism having a higher likelihood of identifying as queer or outside normative views of sexual orientation. I myself am a man with Autism and I identify as poly amorous. I have identified as such for my entire life.
I wasn’t diagnosed with level one Autism until I was thirty-two years old. My teens and formative years were very touch and go. I had to negotiate all the usual challenges of romance faced by people during my teens in addition to knowing I was different but not knowing why. I remember being seventeen and loving football. After a practice I was in the change room and overheard two of my friends on the team discussing a rumour that one of my teammates may have had an unfaithful partner. The two of them were saying things like “she’d better not have made out with HIM!” and I was confused as to why that would even have been a problem so I asked them,
“Why would it matter if she made out with another guy?”
The whole team stopped in unison as if they had rehearsed a scene in a movie. Everyone starred at me like I had ten heads. I didn’t know I was on the spectrum back then, all I knew was that while I didn’t know WHAT I had done wrong it was clear that I’d done something wrong… no one clarified to me what it was. Such is the lived experience of a person on the spectrum.
It took me nearly a decade to learn about the existence of polyamory in the world. For most of my early years I simply couldn’t understand why anyone that identified as monogamous would demand monogamous exclusivity from a person they were in love with. Poly amorous people like myself believe that if someone we feel romantic love for chooses to pursue romantic love with another person that we can all share the love by communicating. We also think that multiple partners should be something one celebrates. I felt like sharing my romantic partner with another trusted person would simply make my romantic partner more loved and more cared for and what could be better than being in love than being in MORE love?
My reasoning made a lot of other people uncomfortable and many others became angry, sometimes violent, in reaction to my own views as a poly amorous man. I was attacked at nightclubs and constantly accused of being promiscuous. I lost friendships when friends would date a new jealous or insecure partner because such jealous types would actually think of me as a threat or somehow capable of “stealing their girl.” As if one owns ones romantic partner in a world of gendered equality.
In fact, for me, equality was the main reason for my assertion of polyamory. My reasoning was pretty straightforward. If a person identifies as monogamous that means they feel that they can only romantically be involved with one person at a time. Demanding such exclusivity in return from a romantic partner as proof of love is actually controlling another human being’s choices and what they do with their body.
I grew up before the Internet. I didn’t have a computer in my home until I was in my mid twenties. So people in my generation couldn’t Google things like polyamory to learn about differences in orientation, sexuality or marital status. I had to figure it out, no easy task for someone that doesn’t even know they are on the Autism Apectrum. I first heard of polyamory in a book titled “Sex at Dawn” and after reading it, I remember thinking with such clarity “Oh my gosh, I’m totally poly!” I aligned myself with the L.G.B.T.Q movement and marched in pride, with pride, celebrating my newfound awareness and identity.
Shortly after coming out things in my life began to change. My mother and her side of the family refused to attend my wedding. She is devout in her Christian faith and viewed my union with my wife as ungodly because it was not monogamous.
I was fired from my job of five years where I had been providing security. My boss was actually a close friend. I was the general manager and the head of training. I had saved his life and he had saved mine on different contracts over the years. We had trained together and competed in M.M.A. and I had attended his wedding. So I was shocked when he sent me an email apologizing for having to terminate me. His reason? People in the company expressed discomfort at the mere knowledge that I was poly amorous in my private life. During the investigation and subsequent trial under the human rights tribunal of Ontario it was established that I had never fraternized with any employee or contract holder during my employment. My conduct was model. I was awarded a victory by the human rights tribunal of Ontario on grounds of discrimination but it made little difference, the pain of being constantly ostracized and treated as a pariah finally caught up with me. I couldn’t believe my closest of friends had fired me over such prejudice. I ended up in therapy for two years for treatment of P.T.S.D.
There is always a light for those of us that seek it though. During therapy I learned of my Autism status and much of my life began to make a lot more sense, including my orientation to polyamory. I still deal with prejudice and bigotry but now I deal with it in a better and more constructive way. I have the support of my wife and community. The big word there is community, that’s why Pride Month is so important.
Pride Month is about different people coming together to try to ensure the playing field of life is more level for all of us. Pride Month is about celebrating the very things that can cost us so much and leave us so defeated at times. Pride Month is about throwing away old prejudices and letting everyone live without stigma and shame. So it is a joy and a wonder to me that this year Pride should focus a little, not just on the rainbow of gender and sexual orientation, but on the wonderful differences found in those of us on the Autism Spectrum.
It’s no secret that persons with autism live “outside the box.” In fact those of us on the spectrum celebrate it. Many of us consider our different views and ways of thinking to be some of our greatest strengths. That is certainly true of me, even after my hardships. The Autism community is unique and Pride celebrates being unique for me and many people with Autism.