by David Gray-Hammond
I grew up without an autism diagnosis. Everyone was pretty sure I was autistic but it wasn’t confirmed until I was 26 years old.
I also grew up unaware that my sexuality even existed. My name is David and I’m Asexual.
Growing up I was bullied horribly. I was the weird kid who didn’t have the same interests as the other boys. As I entered my mid-to-late teens I tried to overcorrect for my lack of interest in sexual matters, thanks in large part to bullying at school.
I became hypersexual and it traumatised me. I didn’t realise it at the time because I didn’t even know that asexuality was a thing. It took 8 years of being single to come to terms with the fact that I was asexual. It finally clicked when my (also asexual) girlfriend taught me to love myself as much as I loved her.
And this is really the crux of the bullying issue. When children are unaware of their own identities, how can they learn to love themselves for who they are? We need to teach children about all aspects of identity be they neurological or sexual, and teach our children to love themselves fiercely.
When young people are taught to love and accept themselves as they are, when a person is at peace with themselves, it makes the bullies job much harder. Bullies look for gaps in our armour and try to exploit perceived weaknesses.
By teaching children to love themselves we make those gaps in their armour smaller and harder to exploit. I consider myself an advocate, but we need to teach all of our children to advocate for themselves. Advocacy is an important step on the journey to self acceptance.
Both autistic and LGBTQIA+ children experience bullying, but when we consider the huge intersection between those two demographics we have to be willing to acknowledge the great harm that can be done to children on the double rainbow.
If you teach your children nothing else, please teach them that who they are is good enough and worthy of love. Teach them that no matter what the bullies say, the world has a place for them just as they are. Teach them about different identities and why it’s okay to not fit in with the mainstream. Most importantly, teach them to love themselves.