“I’m Sorry”

Yesterday I had an email from a friend, someone I’ve met a couple of times, emailed a few times  and would like to get to know better. In my last email to her, I disclosed my Aspergers diagnosis, assuming she’d be OK with it; she seems a free-spirited, non-judgemental sort. It was not an easy email to write, as I am “out” to very few people. My friend’s reply was kind and written with the best of intentions, but the main message of her email was “I’m Sorry.” Not really what I wanted to hear, as it implies that Aspergers is a disease and suggests a lack of understanding, basically invalidating the whole of who I am. I am not sorry I have it, because if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be me. I wouldn’t have developed my musical gifts in the way I have, and I wouldn’t be in the job I’m in now. I am only sorry I didn’t find out earlier, as I spent 44 years muddling through with so little self-awareness.  I am sorry about some people’s reactions to me, especially in the past when I had not learnt to mask effectively. Undoubtedly, certain aspects of my life would be easier if I was neurotypical – to be able to move freely through the social world and not feel as if I’m an alien most of the time would be great. But I’m not sorry.

Hopefully, we will move towards a time when people will not need to feel sorry  for us, and just regard us as the beautiful unique variants of human beings that we are. Just think how far we have come with different sexualities.  Maybe once long ago, in the days when homosexuality was regarded as an illness, if I’d told someone I’m gay, they might have said “I’m sorry.” (In some different cultures and religions today, sadly, that is still the case.) Now if they said that, I’d think “Excuse me? I’m happy being gay, there’s nothing wrong with me, so what is there to feel sorry for?” Perhaps my life would have been easier, especially when I was growing up, if I was not gay. But if I were not, I would not now be with my wonderful partner, I probably wouldn’t have met all the lovely gay people I know, or encountered all the music and literature written by gay people that greatly enriches my life. I’m not sorry in the slightest, and I don’t want other people to be either.

I will explain this gently to my friend (who is, as it happens, also gay) and hopefully educate her a little.

Pushing myself out of my Comfort Zone

I have a reminder on my phone at 8am daily, that says PUSH YOURSELF OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE TODAY. Why? Because it’s how we grow and learn. Most days, life does take me out of my comfort zone without me having to push. Yesterday though, I did push, big time. Fist bump to me! Boom! 👊🏻
I was at a conference on music and autism for work, in a room full of 30 total strangers, and we had to go round and say why we were there and I stood up in front of the whole group and said I have a personal as well as professional interest because last year I was diagnosed with Aspergers. I’m quite a private person and do not normally do public exposures. In fact I almost always stay pretty quiet. It should in theory have been easier as it was part of the theme of the conference, but it didn’t feel comfortable. The others were all professionals working with autistic people, and I could see them trying to work out, was I one of Us or one of Them? Actually, it’s possible to be both, as I was showing them. There wasn’t really any response. I suppose I’d hoped someone would come up to me afterwards and tell me I was brave. Two people did tell me they had autistic kids. I’m proud of myself , it’s the first time I’ve come out to people other than family and close friends. The more I do it, I guess the easier it will get. The more we all come out, the more the stigma will be chipped away at, people will see we are not all like Rain Man and the more people will treat us as different not less. Go me! 👊🏻

Weddings: doing it differently

Happy New Year 2017!
Over the Christmas period my girlfriend of 16 years and I had a serious discussion about getting married. I’d never warmed to the idea before, firstly because my parents are not great role models for marriage, and secondly because of all the ridiculous conventions surrounding the institution of marriage which I strongly rebel against. So, why have I now changed my mind? Well, our world is in a state of chaos, more so than ever. First there was Brexit, then there was Trump. Our culture has become a lot more unpleasant. Homophobia, racism, Internet trolling, are on the rise. Poverty is widespread even in our so-called civilised western country, we are governed by a rich out-of-touch mostly white male elite, and many are barely getting by day-to-day. Mental health problems are on the increase, is it any wonder? J & I are no longer young. Every day there are new uncertainties. Everything feels less safe than it did even a couple of years ago. One thing I can be fairly sure of, is J will stand by me and I by her, whatever happens. She stood by me through my Aspergers diagnosis last year, in fact our relationship has become stronger as we now know my triggers and areas in which we need to work. So, after much deliberation, I am finally ready to say “I do.”
But we will not be doing it in the conventional way. Anyone who knows us, will understand that most of the conventions are alien to us. No one can tell us how to do our own wedding, and if people don’t like it, well, they probably won’t be coming! Yes, there will be a registry office ceremony. (We couldn’t marry in a church even if we wanted to. Don’t get me started on the Church’s views on same-sex marriage.) We will do the basic one, very quietly, with just our two witnesses attending – in our home town, these only happen on a Wednesday. Our outfits will be from Oxfam (jackets, waistcoats and ties for us both, not a dress in sight) and our rings will be plain bands from a fairtrade jeweller. Then we will have a party a few weeks later, for around 30 people, close family and friends, we’ll hire a venue and vegetarian catering. There will no doubt be alcohol, and some sort of cake, but these will not be the main focus of the party. We will provide our own entertainment on acoustic instruments. We will ask for donations to Stonewall instead of presents as we do not need anything. Invites will be by email and phone, no posh stationery. There will absolutely not be a hen party before the day – no tiaras, L plates or tottering heels. We will not go on a honeymoon as J doesn’t like travel. The whole jobbie should cost less than £500. I have never understood why some couples spend a year’s salary on their wedding only to spend the first few years of married life in debt.
The thought of getting married in 2017 makes me feel warm and cosy inside. Gay marriage still feels like a radical statement-when J & I first got together, not even civil partnerships were possible. I want to have her by my side and be able to say “This is my wife.” As a stable married couple we can hopefully be good role models for others.
If anyone else is thinking of getting married, I’d say 1) wait till you’re 100% sure, there’s no rush and 2) do it in your own way, it’s your ceremony and you want it to be a day you will remember for ever! 👩‍❤️‍👩🍾🎉🌈🎶