It’s interesting looking back on my life and re-framing my experiences since my diagnosis. In the early 90s, when I was at uni, I joined a radical political group called “Whose World?”. I heard about the group through a vegetarian dating magazine that I joined (I’d never had a partner and didn’t even know my sexuality at that time.) B, one of the chaps whose ad I replied to, encouraged me to join the group, linked by a fanzine-style monthly newsletter printed using minimal resources. Articles in the newsletter were mostly about veganism, environmentalism and living simply. I was instantly drawn to this philosophy and it had a huge influence on me. Twice a year the group had meet-ups in housing co-ops, I went to a few of them. I met some amazing people through Whose World, and it was a refreshing break from the stuffiness of uni. Most of the people there were the type the general public would describe as hippies, crusties, society dropouts and dole scroungers. The average age was a good 10 years older than me. I’d like to celebrate 4 people in particular, all male, who had a massive influence on me at the time, and looking back it was because they were probably all autistic. There was B himself, an incredibly shy guy whose special interest was bicycles and he rarely talked about anything else. Then there was C, even shyer, who was so self-deprecating, always doing himself down, but a real sweetie underneath. I never got to know him well unfortunately, as he didn’t talk a lot, but I did spend a few days in his student house-share once, happy memories. And M, who became my travel companion for a 2-month trip to India. We both wanted to go there so badly, we’d just finished uni and wanted Experiences with a capital E. It was an amazing trip, but as with C, he didn’t say much so I never really got to know him any better, and we soon lost touch on our return. And finally BJ, a chap in his 40s who basically hadn’t changed since the 1970s – same long hair and beard, same music, same house that was now falling down. I thought BJ was super-cool. After India and teacher training college, I was in a 3-year relationship with him, before realising I was gay. Looking back, it was a very autistic relationship; we saw each other fortnightly, always to do the same things, and hardly ever phoned each other in the times between. We we good for each other I think, and we absolutely accepted each others’ quirks.
Unfortunately, Whose World fell apart after 3 or 4 years, due to political differences and no one willing to take leadership roles. But I look back with fondness on those days, and especially I’d like to celebrate B, C, M and BJ – their gentleness, their quiet individualities, their willingness to embrace their feminine sides. I’ve lost touch with them now, but they undoubtedly made me into the person I am today. And I secretly wonder, did any of them ever get an autism diagnosis later in life like myself? Probably not, being of the generation that they are, but who knows?!