“I had always felt a little out of place, different somehow.”
BY RAI JAYNE POWELL
I had always felt a little out of place, different somehow.
Throughout my childhood, high school and university I had one best friend and struggled to make any other friends. I was plagued by terrible social anxiety, which was often interpreted by others as being rude or ignorant, but really I was desperately trying to figure out what to say next. As I got older my anxieties grew more severe and new ones developed, I began to experience issues with the colours and textures of foods, phobias of bugs, germs and diseases, bright lights and loud noises. I started finding it more and more difficult to concentrate in the office and my work began to suffer.
I saw a mental health professional about my anxieties and she suggested I could have Asperger’s Syndrome. It was something I had wondered in the past but I had assumed it would have been picked up in childhood; apparently that is not always the case, especially for females. I received my diagnosis in January and I cried… happy tears.
Of course, some days are still really difficult to get through and I am still learning about Autism but I am now beginning to understand who I am and why I do the things I do. It is interesting to look back over my life so far and now spot the clues that were there all along.
As a child my mum always tried to dress me in pretty dresses and cute girly clothes but the majority of the time I flat out refused, preferring to wear jeans, sweatshirts featuring Bart Simpson, and scruffy trainers. Even as a baby most people thought I was a boy, it didn’t help that I was practically bald until the age of three! I desperately tried to fit in with the girls at school but I was just always so…different. I wasn’t even sure why.
The small number of relationships I had with boys never survived past a couple of months and definitely never resulted in sex. I remained single from the age of sixteen up to twenty-seven when I finally entered into a relationship with my best friend from high school; we’ve been married two years in July. I am lucky to have found someone who knows me so well and can understand my differences, yet things can still be a little difficult when I’m having a bad day; some days I do not want to be touched at all, never mind be intimate in bed.
My gender identity is another source of confusion for me; often women on the spectrum see themselves equally as half male and half female; how I identify can change daily. It can be frustrating for me outwardly presenting as female when inside I feel entirely male, but other days I can feel super femme inside yet my outside is just not quite feminine enough to match. I often describe myself as a genderless alien; it is definitely how I feel.
My parents have been wonderful about it all, although I think they were doubtful I had autism at first. Now that I have received an official diagnosis they are starting to understand and see those clues that had always been there. That said, I haven’t directly spoken to them about my gender-fluidity, they have already accepted so much over the past few years with me coming out, marrying my best friend and now being diagnosed with autism… I think I’ll keep that to myself for now.
My mental health practitioner was also fantastic, she organised everything to help me get my diagnosis and her support has been invaluable, but due to recent cuts her funding has been axed and she has been made redundant. My anxiety levels are already creeping up knowing that she will not be there supporting me anymore.
The most important advice I could offer to other queer people on the spectrum is to be yourself, I promise you will be so much happier when you accept your difference and embrace it. Trying to fit someone else’s mould of what you think you should be just makes your life miserable and painful. And if you are yet to be diagnosed but have a suspicion you might be on the spectrum, go to your GP and discuss it. Do not be embarrassed to bring it up. I only just received my diagnosis at the age of 31.
Would I change it if I could? Not at all. This is who I am.
I am proud to be autistic and Queer.