To be openly autistic or not to be openly autistic, that is the question, and there is no easy answer. I decided to be opening autistic as masking regularly was slowly destroying me, and I craved to live more authentically. However, the fact that I have a choice to mask or not is a privilege that not every autistic person is afforded. Nonetheless being openly autistic still has its challenges as it makes me more vulnerable to ableism and stigma that exists around autism. However, there are benefits too, and I will talk about the good, bad and ugly aspects of being openly autistic.
I love having the ability to connect with other autistic people whenever I like. As I’ve experienced periods of social isolation, knowing I can pick up my phone and instantly interact with other people that get me feels like a real luxury. I value the conversations, jokes and insight the community shares online together (so thank you).
As I mentioned before, I was constantly putting on an act to appease others (including my closest friends and family), and I could only be my authentic self behind close doors. Being an actress 24/7 was exhausting and led to an extreme burnt out. Letting go of the facade, I used a survival skill felt like a breath of fresh air. I wouldn’t say I’ve fully unmasked yet, but at least I don’t have to mask around the people closest to me, which is still a massive improvement from previously.
If you tell people You’re autistic, people will automatically make assumptions about you (which are probably based on some misinformed stereotypes) and make judgments about you as a person before they get to know you as an individual. This can lead to things such as social exclusion (although this can happen anyway when they realise you’re not neurotypical) or unfair bias while looking for a Job.
A consequence of being openly autistic online is receiving negative messages from people who claim to “hate autism” or people who only want to define autism negatively. Now I accept that some people disagree with me, but some people will go out of their way to attack others for not sharing the same view. This is undoubtedly one of the most challenging parts about being openly autistic, and it can sometimes be distressing. It’s vital that if you decide to be openly autistic online, that you have a good support network to support you through negative online comments or other coping strategies that may work for you.
If you need support for online bullying or harassment, you can contact Samaritans on 116 123 or email email@example.com . For more information click here for the Samaritans website.
Also, as a consequence of reporting the hate I’ve received, My local autism services decided to call me to’ mind my tweets’. I know I wouldn’t have been treated this way if I was perceived as neurotypical, so why do people think this is okay when it’s an autistic person?
Although I’ve only been publicly autistic for a little over a year, I sometimes fear I haven’t experienced anything close to some of the ugliest situations that comes with being openly autistic, only time will tell.
So should I be open about my autism?
If you’re debating this question, I’m afraid I can’t give you a direct yes or no answer, as I don’t know your individual life circumstances or preferences. What I can help you with is telling you my experiences of being openly autistic vs keeping your autism to yourself (I did this for a while after I had my discovery). Hopefully, that information will help you make the right decision for yourself. Also if you feel like talking it through with a fellow autistic, feel free to send a message I will (try) and get back to you.
I just hope that one day soon, we can all be openly autistic without having to worry about our safety, stigma or job prospects.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below about being openly autistic!
If you enjoy my writing or would like to support my online advocacy work, I would be forever grateful if you could buy me a coffee (or tea in my case).