Visibility

This week I did something very brave. My favourite lesbian magazine asked on Twitter “What will you do for #LesbianVisibilityDay?” As it happened, I had the latest copy of the mag in my bag to read on my lunch hour at work. So I posted a selfie of me reading it in the staff room, which got liked and retweeted all over. Maybe you saw it. I realised it was a potentially risky thing to do. In fact NEVER, in 4 years on Twitter, have I ever had such a reaction to one of my tweets. Luckily, amazingly considering the amount of homophobia online, I didn’t get any negative responses. Someone told me I was cute, someone sent me something really weird about Muslims and someone else sent me a gif of Bart Simpson backing into a hedge (?!?). I ignored them all and just laughed. I acquired a load of new followers, most of whom I have no desire to follow back.  I am proud that I don’t use an alias on Twitter, my full name is on there for everyone to see. I don’t want to be known as eg. fluffybunny123 or ilovecats. I want Twitter to be a platform where I share my views and put my own name to them. I’m not a big user: I read more than post. I joined before I knew I was autistic.

I think #LesbianVisibilityDay is a brilliant idea. When I came out 20 years ago, there were so few role models. I met a few lesbians, but they were so unlike me I didn’t think I could possibly be one. It took me years to fully come out and accept myself. If a selfie on Twitter can make a small difference to someone struggling with their sexuality today, then I did a good job. I was proud of myself this week.

A few years ago, there is no way I would have done something so visible around my sexuality. I’m no oil painting to look at, and I don’t claim to be representative of all lesbians. I’m just me. The question is, would I want to be so visible about autism? Would I want a picture of me out there in the public arena, for everyone to share, saying “This is what an autistic person looks like”? At the moment, no, because of the public perception that autism is a deficiency. I’ve never seen myself or other autistic people as deficient in any way, just different. I work in a professional job, and if any of my students found out I am autistic, they may not want to work with me. (I don’t mind them finding out I’m a lesbian, because if they were in any way homophobic I wouldn’t want to work with them either.) People still find it hard to believe that an autistic person can have a successful career, a long-term relationship, a house. I hope this perception will change, and I’d like to think that soon I can be strong enough to be one of those who will help bring about the change. But I’ve got a long way to go yet.

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