Autism & Trauma: My Experiences

by Anwen Ricketts

“I wept because I was re-experiencing the enthusiasm of my childhood; I was once again a child, and nothing in the world could cause me harm.”

Paulo Coelho, The Pilgrimage

My childhood was, I’m told, a happy one, but I do not remember the happy times, and maybe that speaks for itself. I remember feeling “odd”. Hiding under tables, and being shouted at for it, which made me crawl even further under the table, wriggling as if to worm myself into the carpet where I could live undisturbed by people who I didn’t understand, but understood enough to know I wasn’t well liked.

I had friends. But friendships can be turbulent, and for an undiagnosed autistic, they can be down right painful. I was obsessed with play-pretend, and liked to be the one to throw water in the garden on a hot summer day, but the second someone threw water back I would be screaming and in pain, emotionally and physically. Later on, the physical pain had a name. Sensory sensitivities. One uncomfortable thing would send me into a meltdown; something that I didn’t know how to cope with.

My parents knew something was painful to me. I was incredibly quiet, always taking things out on myself. But I had learnt from school, that if you externalise this pain, this discomfort, you get shouted at and given a detention. It was incredibly hard. Finally, at age 14, after one prior ‘inconclusive’ assessment, I was diagnosed with Autism in a Psychiatric Hospital.

I was horrified to find that so many of the young teenagers that I met in hospital were autistic, late-diagnosed, and completely overwhelmed at everything that life had to offer. We had been given poor support, poor education, and as a result became unhealthy autistics.

There was a point in my life where I thought ‘hey, this is just how it is for autistics! Anxiety and depression are part of the bundle! I have to cope with being constantly overwhelmed, being misdiagnosed and misunderstood!’

I honestly had never considered it possible to be a healthy autistic. I had never even thought about what it might look like.

But at age 19, I am so glad to be able to say I am finally becoming the healthy autistic I couldn’t have imagined. I am working through my trauma with a therapist who understands how my brain works, and am tweaking my medications to best suit my symptoms. I am not as anxious (something I never thought would happen, having been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder a few years ago), and am, more importantly, still here!

A few final words: Your life path can change. It hurts, but it doesn’t make you less likely to succeed. 

If past-trauma is controlling your life, looming over you daily, please reach out. Know it is okay to find life traumatic. Your trauma is valid, and there is hope!

For more information on what a healthy autistic could look like:

Strawberry Girl

by Anwen Ricketts

Betty rapped at my window early afternoon, all curls and flyaways, and said with some excitement that the strawberry picking fields were open. I was in the middle of homework, but she hopped inside as I unlocked the window–my room is on the bottom floor, around the back of the house, looking over the garden–and she had freshly shaven legs and was wearing these little pale purple Mary Janes, with a chunky button. Betty is our neighbour’s daughter, same age as me. Ma keeps saying we should bunk together for college, but I… Well. She has no idea what she is talking about. Me and girls get along, yeah. Maybe a little too well. She wouldn’t like that. I was only wearin’ my loose summer dungarees and a shirt, but we looked the part together. I just… needed to ask. Needed to know. My stomach cramped as she started closing the textbooks on my desk, carefully keeping all my page markings uncreased.

“C’mon, Shirley, it’s a beautiful day. You can’t stay cooped up all afternoon, come to the field with me! Ma and Pa are making devilled eggs, we can have some when we get back. And strawberries! Please say you’ll come!”

I thought of Betty sucking strawberry juice off a perfectly manicured thumb, and I found myself nodding and putting on my brogues. I was shrugging on a jacket when Betty tssked and said, “Come on now, it’s hot as hell. You can’t hide forever.”

And then she swung her legs over the windowsill and she stood, blonde hair shining gold in the sun, eyes squinted and lashes full. I don’t know how long I stood there, looking, with her looking back, but eventually I slid out of my window and we were both out there.

God, it was hot. Sweat was prickling on my back as we pushed the gate at the end of the garden closed and turned left along a country lane. The field was only a few minutes away, but for some reason I hadn’t been since I was a kid, when Ma liked to show me off as a beautiful dark-haired beauty and not some dyke-loner. The word in my head almost made me flinch, but then Betty pointed to a bird soaring through the sky, and we made gentle conversation about how great it must be to fly wherever you wanted. And just like that, I felt better. 

Old Tomm owned the field, and he let people in for five dollars each, and then you could pick as many boxes of strawberries as you wanted and it was one dollar per box. It was then I realised I had no money, it was all in a jar in my drawer, and began to turn to Betty and apologise and tell her Ill be right back, but she pulled out enough money for both of us and took a wicker basket off the stack. “Let’s go, little Sherbert.”

I had rolled my eyes and tried not to scream, “You know my name ain’t Sherbert.”

But if Betty heard me, she didn’t say a thing, and we strolled out into the field and into the rows of strawberries. “Your Ma being alright to you, Sher?” Betty’s eyes were inquisitive, but was there something darker there? I really couldn’t tell. 

“Ma is Ma.” I had said, feeling a hand of anxiety scrunch up my guts. “You know how it is.” I added, like I had any clue whatsoever. “I mean—” I backtracked when Betty’s mouth straightened, but then she just picked a strawberry and threw it at me. It bounced off the sleeve of my shirt, and left a perfect little red kiss of juice. “Oops,” Betty said, and then smiled. 

“Sorry.” I said. Apologising was something I was particularly good at. 

“You don’t need to apologise for nothing. Not to me.” Betty’s voice hardened, but it was still soft. I don’t know how to explain it. Like Betty could get real, real angry, just not… not with me? I had seen her throw a cup of juice in her mama’s face, heard her shouting in the yard. Stomping her feet and making her curls frizz up ‘round her red cheeks. 

“Sorry.” I said again, realising I had been weirdly quiet for a few minutes, and then I started laughing and so did she. We kept picking, and the back of my neck throbbed with the beginning of a burn, but I felt fine. Good, even. Around the half an hour mark a light breeze ruffled through the field, and we both let out a sigh of relief and sat down. It felt weirdly…intimate, being hidden by the rows of strawberry plants, just me and her, and our basket of strawberries. I picked at a loose thread and tried not to look at Betty’s legs, stretched out and creamy, and the way her skirt didn’t really cover anything up when she sat down. I was sure I was red as a beet, and maybe Betty realised because she had this wicked light in her eyes, and started to eat a strawberry. It was horrendous, that feeling. Like I would do anything to be that strawberry. To even go close to her mouth. I felt this clamp on my heart, like my chest was being squeezed. I balled my fists and looked at the patch of sky I could see, trying not to cry. Trying not to make a sound.

Ma liked me to be quiet, liked me to study hard and go to Sunday school with Pollyana and Jessica. Liked me to brush my hair and stay home. Liked me to cover up, like my weirdness could spread. My little sister, Patricia, was seventeen, a year younger than me, and she was the complete opposite of everything I was. Where I was messy, she was organized. Where I was weird, she was normal. Ma doted on her constantly, and it wasn’t even painful, because I had learnt to cope. I constantly worked to do better, to be better. But there are just some messes you can’t iron out of yourself. And believe me, I tried.

“Hey, it’s okay,” I looked down from the sky, and for a few seconds I was blinded. Then Betty came into view, and she had scooted closer. Was holding my hand, ever so gently, on the ground next to me. I used to hold hands with everyone. I have always been very affectionate, kissing my friend’s foreheads, holding their hands, brushing their flyaways until I got pushed and called weird and gay and don’t you ever come near me again.

I almost pulled my hand away. Almost. But it felt so pure.

Nothing about this is dirty.

And the realisation shocked me. Shocked me enough to whisper, as if I were alone, as if I were looking into my mirror practicing a never-going-to-happen coming out, “I’m gay, Betty.”

I never expected the mirror to say, “I know, Sherbet.”

 I never expected the mirror to say, “Can I kiss you?”

And I never expected to say, yes.

Anwen Ricketts is a bi autistic aspiring-author with a passion for improving mental health treatment in the UK. She loves dogs, camping and making her voice heard.

Her mission is to show the world what a healthy, happy autistic can look like, because it is possible.

Time to Get Creative

We know neurodivergent people can be amazingly creative, and across the LGBTQIA+ world it’s almost a cliché! So it’s safe to say there has to be a LOT of creative talent all across the Double Rainbow. For Iggy’s Initiative we’re asking you to show us.

What’s Happening?

We’re giving you a chance to show off. From now until the end of March we’d love you to send us artwork or poems you’ve created that celebrates being ND and LGBTQIA+ any way you want!

Where, When?

We’re going to put together an online exhibition to feature as many of the works submitted as we can. This will run through the month of April, and will be curated by AIM for the Rainbow‘s very own artist, Alex Forshaw.

How Do I Join In?

You can send us digital images and photos, you can send in as many or as few as you like. Please remember to include the name of the work (if it has one) and your name (or nickname) as you’d like it to appear. You can also send us a short description of the piece, what it means to you, what prompted you to create it–as much or as little as you like.

All we ask is that it’s your own work, and that it doesn’t copy or include other people’s stuff without their permission.

If you’re interested, please get in touch with us using the form below, or through our Facebook page or Rainbow Room group, and we’ll let you know how to send us your art.

A World Full of Bullies: Being Autistic and LGBTQIA+

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.

Gender Creativity and the Spectrum

by Katie Munday


Gender expression and identity has often been considered as binary -either masculine or feminine – but most of us fall somewhere along, or outside of, the spectrum of gender characteristics. Divergent gender identities appear to be more prevalent in Autistic individuals than neurotypical people. Unfortunately, most of the academic work on this intersection is less than complimentary, posing neuro- and gender divergence as ‘abnormal’. However there is growing work in print and online by Autistic trans and / or non-binary activists which champions these identities as an important part of human diversity.

Autistic people often have a very strong self-understanding and self-knowledge, despite living in a world which does not cater to our divergent behaviours, emotions, and perceptions. These differences in social understanding and cognition may permit us Autists to understand gender in all its multiplicities, allowing us to dress and interact with others in ways which fit our own individual needs and interests. Furthermore, working outside of societal expectations allows Autistic people to experience and express our gender identities in a wholly individualistic manner. 

Sharing these unique and insightful experiences within and without LGBTQ+ and Autistic communities can help us all become more critically conscious, allowing us to challenge ableism and cis-genderism, creating a world which is more richly diverse and accepting. 

Further reading (by autistic trans / gender divergent writers): 

  • Uncomfortable Labels: My Life as a Gay Autistic Trans Woman by Laura Kate Dale
  • Trans and Autistic: Stories from Life at the Intersection by Noah Adams and Bridget Liang
  • Spectrums: Autistic Transgender People in Their Own Words edited by Maxfield Sparrow

Note: There is a growing amount of information available online and in print about prevalence rates, support, and personal experiences. Some of these works may use ableist and transphobic language and understandings and often do not have content warnings, please always practice self-care whilst reading.


We all have stories to tell, advice to give, experiences to share. Communities are built on sharing, and we’d love it if members of our community here at AIM for the Rainbow wanted to contribute towards Iggy’s Initiative.

We’re asking for submissions that have some connection with the Double Rainbow–with neurodivergent and LGBTQIA+ lives and experiences. You might write about the experience of coming out, about your hopes for the future or your fears today. You might want to offer help and advice to others on similar paths through life, or perhaps share an account of something fun you’ve done.

Submissions can be creative fiction or factual. They might take the form of a list, or an essay or a poem. They might be long or short. You can also submit photographs and visual art. All we ask is that it is your own work, and you own any images you send in.

We’re sorry that we can’t offer payment for submissions, and we can’t promise to publish everything we receive. Anything you submit remains your work and you will be credited as the author/creator. We may edit submissions for clarity or length, but we will ask you to approve the draft before it appears online.

You can contact our editorial team using the form below to propose your ideas, or to submit a piece of writing directly. Please use our Contact page for general enquiries.

With Love, Humanity

by Kodie Dalmayne-Morris – “Green Streak

Bi, she/her

Heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, asexual—regardless of how you identify, fundamentally you are human.

As am I. 

As are your children, family, friends and colleagues. 

A lot of the time you have no idea what a person’s sexual orientation is. Sexuality isn’t rigid anymore. Previously (the way you and I grew up) you were straight unless you were gay. Slowly the presumption of another’s sexuality is not so clear cut – as it should be. 

Love has different levels to it, the love you feel for your favourite possession will differ to the love you feel for your friends, and the love you feel for your family. 

Sexuality is a glorious, confusing, invigorating and freeing spectrum which everyone should automatically feel free to explore.

Please remember that everyone is entitled to their privacy. Some may be happy and willing to share their sexuality. Others aren’t for a multitude of reasons. 

If you don’t know, consider the fact that you do not need to know.

What is LGBTQIA+?

‘LGBT’ is a commonly used acronym that stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. You may also hear people say:

  • LGBT+ ((lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and more)
  • LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning)
  • LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning and more)
  • LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex and asexual)
  • LGBTQIA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex, asexual and more)
  • LGBTQIAP (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex, asexual and pansexual)
  • LGBTQIAP+ ((lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex, asexual, pansexual and more)
  • Queer
  • MOGAI (marginalized orientations, gender alignments and intersex)

As you can see, different people have different names for the same thing. This is because it covers a huge array of different people, identities, and experiences.

And while some people (including many charities and news outlets) may use ‘LGBT’ for brevity, many others will use ‘LGBTQIA+’ in order to include as many people as possible. AIM for the Rainbow will be using LGBTQIA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex, asexual, and more). This is because it is concise, recognizable and includes (celebrates) a wide variety of different people that exist in the community (although still not all).

Here is a quick overview of some of the common identities you might have heard about. 


A lesbian is a woman, either cis or trans who is sexually and romantically attracted to other women (both cis and trans). Some women prefer to call themselves ‘gay’, so it’s important to try and use the language that a person is comfortable with.

Here are some people you may have heard of who identify as lesbians:

  • Hannah Gadsby
  • Lena Waithe
  • Jessica Kellgren-Fozard


Although ‘gay’ is often used to refer to all people who have exclusive same-gender attraction, we will be focusing on gay men. A gay man is a man, either cis or trans, who is sexually and romantically attracted to other men (both cis and trans).

Here are some people you may have heard of who identify as gay men:

  • Lil Nas X
  • Colton Haynes
  • Billy Porter


A bisexual person is a person (both cis and trans) who is attracted to more than one gender. Many bisexual people use the term ‘bi’ to describe themselves. Although ‘bi’ originally meant ‘two’, ‘bisexuality’ was agreed by the community a few decades ago to describe attraction to two or more genders.

Here are some people you may have heard of who identify as bisexual:

  • Roxane Gay
  • Sara Ramirez
  • Alan Cumming


If a person is transgender, it means that their gender does not match the gender they were assigned at birth. Many transgender people describe themselves as ‘trans’ – the most common terms you are likely to hear are ‘trans woman’ (a woman who was assigned male at birth) and ‘trans man’ (a man who was assigned female at birth).

Note: if your gender is the same as the sex you were assigned at birth (e.g. when I was born the doctors decided I was a girl, and I still identify as a girl today), then you are ‘cisgender’ or ‘cis’.)

Here are some people you may have heard of who identify as trans:

  • Laverne Cox
  • Mj Rodriguez
  • Lewis Hancox 


‘Queer’ as an identity is different from the other identities on this page. This is because while some people identify only as queer, many different people (including gay people, bi people, trans people and asexual people) may identify as queer alongside their other identities.

‘Queer’ originally meant ‘odd’ or ‘strange’, but was reclaimed by the community many decades ago as an identity. There is a continuing debate around the word ‘queer’. Some people feel empowered by it. Some people feel insulted by it. But don’t let this affect your own identity. If you identify with ‘queer’, then do not be afraid to use that term. 

Here are some people you may have heard of who identify as queer:

  • Janelle Monáe
  • Jameela Jamil
  • Elliot Page


If a person is intersex, it means they were born with biology that is not considered solely ‘male’ or ‘female’. This may mean that they have variations in their chromosomes, their hormones, or their physical characteristics (often genitals). Not all intersex people like to be included within the LGBTQIA+ umbrella, and it is important to respect people’s individual wishes. However, as there are many intersex people who do identify with the community, it is included in the acronym. 

Here are some people you may have heard of who identify as intersex:

  • Hanne Gaby Odiele
  • Hida Viloria


An asexual person is a person (cis or trans) who experiences little to no sexual attraction. Many asexual people refer to themselves as ‘ace’. Asexuality means a lack of sexual attraction, rather than a lack of sexual contact or a lack of sexual desire. Many ace people do have, and enjoy, sex. Many ace people don’t have sex. This doesn’t make them any more or less asexual.

Note: Some people have argued that the term ‘a-spec’ was originally used by the autistic community (to refer to ‘autistic spectrum’), and that asexual people therefore shouldn’t use it. However, many autistic people argue that they do not use, nor have they heard people use, the term ‘a-spec’, and it is generally agreed that asexual and aromantic people may use ‘a-spec’ to describe their identity.

Here are some people you may have heard of who identify as asexual:

  • Yasmin Benoit
  • Evan Edinger
  • Emilie Autumn


A pansexual person is a person (either cis or trans) who is attracted to people regardless of gender. Some people who identify with this definition may still call themselves ‘bisexual’, but others feel that ‘pansexual’ is a term that fits better for them. It’s important to use the terms that individual people are comfortable with.

The general agreement on the difference between bisexuality and pansexuality is:

Bisexuality is attraction to more than one gender (which could mean all genders, or could mean some but not all genders) or attraction where someone’s gender is a factor.

Pansexuality is attraction regardless of gender or attraction where someone’s gender isn’t a fundamental factor.

Whether you feel more comfortable identifying as pansexual or bisexual, or using them both, you have the right to be proud of your identity.

Here are some people you may have heard of who identify as pansexual:

  • Joe Lycett
  • Cara Delevingne
  • Jazz Jennings 


A non-binary person is a person who does not identify exclusively as a man or a woman. You may also hear the term ‘enby’. Many non-binary people see themselves as falling under the trans identity, as their gender identity does not match the gender they were assigned at birth. However, not all non-binary people agree with this, so it’s important to respect personal preference.

Non-binary can be used as an umbrella term for a variety of different gender identities, that may include:

  • Bigender: identifying as two genders
  • Trigender: identifying as three genders
  • Pangender: identifying as many or all genders
  • Agender: identifying as having no gender
  • Genderfluid: moving between gender identities
  • Third gendered: not identifying as a named gender
  • Genderqueer: not identifying with conventional gender distinctions

Here are some people you may have heard of who identify as non-binary:

  • Owl and Fox Fisher
  • Sam Smith
  • Asia Kate Dillon

And more…

As you can see, the LGBTQIA+ umbrella is very wide indeed, and there are many identities that we haven’t had space to include. 

The LGBTQIA+ world It includes many different people, of all sexualities and gender identities. As more people explore their gender and sexuality, more labels are coined and celebrated to refer to people’s experiences. Having a label that directly and accurately describes your experience of gender and sexuality can be extremely important.

Here are some books, websites, and YouTube videos you can use to find out even more about different labels and what they mean to different people. 


The A–Z of Gender and Sexuality: From Ace to Ze by Morgan Lev Edward Holleb

LGBTQ: The Survival Guide for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Teens by Kelly Huegel Madrone



Human Rights Campaign:

Amnesty USA:

YouTube Videos

The ABC’s of LGBT+ Series by Ash Hardell:

Iggy’s House Rules

Respecting Pronouns and Identities

At AIM for the Rainbow, we support every autistic person of every LGBTQIA+ identity.

We support you whether you are professionally diagnosed or self-diagnosed. 

We support you whatever pronouns you use and whatever labels you use to describe your sexuality or gender identity. 

We support you if you are a family, friend, or carer looking to better support your autistic LGBTQIA+ loved ones. 

All we expect in return is that you respect the labels, identities and pronouns of every other person around you.

Some people might not feel comfortable with just one label, and so might put a couple of labels together in order to find an identity that fits them better. 

As people grow and get to know themselves better, the way that they identify (and the pronouns and labels they use) may start to change. This is very normal. If a person tells you their identity has changed, it’s incredibly important to believe them and respect their identity. 

It doesn’t matter how many different identities or pronouns they have used in the past; respect how they identify now.

Always remember labels are deeply personal. We use them in order to express ourselves and find something that fits who we are, not to be ruled by them and their strict definitions. Different people may use different labels in different ways, depending on what fits them best. 

If you don’t understand someone’s identity, and they are happy to chat with you about it, then that’s brilliant (as long as you’re kind). However, whether you understand it or not, and whether they are happy to chat with you about it or not, you still have to respect their identity: use the words that they ask you to use.  

On Pronouns

Respecting people’s pronouns is incredibly important to make sure everybody here is safe and supported. So here is a little bit of information on pronouns to help you get started. 

A pronoun is the word that people use when they are talking about you, but don’t use your name. For example:

‘Erin’s at the door, she has brought her mum with her’.

‘Have you seen his new film?’

‘Someone left their hat in my house last night.’

Pronouns are traditionally understood to be masculine (he, him, his), feminine (she, her, hers) and plural, when talking about more than one person (they, them, theirs). So-called ‘plural’ pronouns are also traditionally used when the gender of the person you’re talking about is unknown (for example, as we don’t know who left the hat at my house, we use ‘their’ instead of ‘his’ or ‘her’).

Just because this is how they are traditionally used does not mean that everybody uses them this way. Anybody is allowed to use the pronouns they prefer, whatever their gender.  

Although many women (cis and trans) use ‘she/her’ pronouns, and many men (cis and trans) prefer ‘he/him’ pronouns, and many non-binary people prefer ‘they/them’ pronouns, others feel more comfortable with pronouns that you wouldn’t necessarily automatically expect. This is why it’s important to:

  • Ask people what their pronouns are before talking about or two them.
  • Let people know what your pronouns are.

The moderators and writers at AIM for the Rainbow will have their own pronouns advertised on their work. 

Some pronouns you might hear

Traditional gendered pronouns

  • He/him/his/himself – traditionally ‘male’ pronouns
  • She/her/hers/herself – traditionally ‘female’ pronouns

Traditional gender neutral pronouns

  • They/them/their/themselves – traditionally plural (referring to more than one person) and gender neutral pronouns
  • It/it/its/itself – traditional gender neutral pronoun commonly used for objects, animals and infants. While it is often seen as insulting to use these for another person, some trans and non-binary people like to use ‘it’ pronouns.


Neopronouns are gender neutral pronouns that are different from traditional pronouns (such as he, she, they and it).

  • Xe/xir/xirs/xirself – gender neutral neopronouns, first recorded use was in the 1990s
  • Xe/xyr or xem/xyrs/xyrself or xemself – gender neutral neopronouns, first used as an option on an autism mailing list in the 1990s
  • Ze/hir/hirs/hirself – gender neutral neopronouns, first recorded use was in the late 1990s and early 2000s. They have been used in several fantasy and science fiction stories 
  • Zie/zir or zim/zirs/zirself – gender neutral neopronouns, first recorded use was in the late 1990s and early 2000s. They have been used in several fantasy and science fiction stories
  • E/em/eir/eirs/emself – gender neutral neopronoun, first recorded use in the 1990s.

Nounself pronouns

Nounself pronouns are when people adapt a noun of their choosing into a pronoun to create a wide variety of very personal and descriptive pronouns. For example:

  • Fae/faer/faers/faerself – fairy-themed gender-neutral nounself pronoun. First recorded use was online in the 2010s.

What to do if you get it wrong

If you accidentally get someone’s pronouns wrong, here’s the best thing to do: 

  1. Say ‘I’m sorry’ (simply and quickly)
  2. Repeat what you said with the correct pronoun
  3. Move on with the conversation

You can find more information on pronouns here: Gendered Intelligence – Language and Pronouns

Intersectional Diversity

The ‘Double Rainbow’ of Autism and LGBTQIA+

by Charlie Hart

For Bi-Visibility Day in 2020, Charlie Hart answered some questions from her colleagues about her lived experiences on the ‘double rainbow’, as an openly autistic and bisexual adult. 

Can you explain what the term ‘double rainbow’ means?

Studies show that autistic people are far more likely identify as a sexuality minority and/or a gender minority, compared with the general population.

Both the autistic community and the LGBTQIA+ community often use rainbow imagery, for example in the gay pride flag and the autism acceptance rainbow infinity symbol.

I came across the term ‘double rainbow’ on the website of the US charity Twainbow who advocate for and support people who are both on the autistic spectrum and the LGBTQIA+ spectrum. I stumbled across Twainbow from an Internet search, as I had been wondering if any help may have been available for Iggy had he looked for it.  Here in the UK, we now have AIM for the Rainbow and Rainbow Mind and now also Iggy’s Initiative.

What is the difference between Autism and Asperger’s syndrome? Do they both sit under the umbrella of neurodiversity? 

Human brains are collectively neurodiverse. No two brains are exactly alike, and neurodiversity is a framework for celebrating and accepting all the different types of brains, all the different ways of processing and thinking (yes, even neurotypical brains). Diversity, including neurodiversity, is advantageous to humans as a species.

An autistic person may be considered neurodivergent, which means our brains are wired a little differently from the typical brain. 

Asperger’s Syndrome is a rather outdated diagnosis given to autistic people who do not have learning disabilities or language development delays. More recently, the diagnostic terms are usually Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or Autistic Spectrum Condition (ASC). My own diagnostic report says I have Asperger’s Syndrome, but personally I just call it autism, simply because I do not think I am any more important than autistic people who are non-verbal or who do have learning disabilities. 

Not all autistic people are gifted or have a ‘super power’. One of my talents is my highly detailed visual and auditory long-term memory, which is both a blessing and a curse. It is tremendously helpful to me in my role as HR systems analyst, and wonderful for remembering dearly departed relatives and reflecting on happy memories, but also I have seen and heard traumatic things that I would rather not recall so vividly and thus I’m more vulnerable to Complex PTSD. 

In your opinion, do you think autistic and other neurodivergent people are less concerned with societal norms and so are more likely to identify as LGBTQ+? 

I have never been one to conform to societal norms to fit in. For example, I deliberately chose to have my first child before getting married. I also wore a pink and purple layered chiffon dress at my first wedding. When I married my second husband, I wore a dress my cousin’s partner had made for me, a knee-length 50s-style dress in shades of silver. 

I do think neurodivergent people more often value individuality in preference to fitting in, and we can also be very honest and open.

Personally, I do not believe that non-conformity affects our sexuality or gender identity, because I think we are born this way. However, we may be more likely to be more open about our sexuality and gender identity, compared with the general population, so perhaps more of us ‘come out’ as for example bisexual or gender fluid rather than keeping it to ourselves. 

Do you think it is important to state or be open about who you are e.g. neurodiverse and / or non-binary and does this help others to better understand you and your needs?

This is very much a personal choice, and depends on your personal boundaries, comfort, and safety. People are more likely to be open about who they are if we all work together to build a culture where everybody is comfortable to be our authentic selves without fear of discrimination and prejudice.

Is it OK to ask someone to explain what a specific term means if you have never heard it before?

In my view, it is good to ask for definitions of a term you do not fully understand, rather than making assumptions.

It is not okay, however, to ask inappropriate probing personal questions. For example, it is not okay to ask somebody who is trans about what gender affirmation treatments they may or may not have had, or about the contents of their underpants. Asking for preferred pronouns is okay though.

Curiosity is good, but above all we must all respect every individual’s privacy and dignity.

Is it true that autistic people are not taken seriously about their decision to identify as LGBTQIA+? Is this something you have experienced?

Not personally, but I feel if anybody does not take my sexuality seriously this is more likely to be because they dismiss bisexuality as a phase I went through before I settled down. Actually, it has been constant since my teens.

I understand that some trans and gender fluid autistic people are concerned that being open about their autism may lead to people thinking that being transgender is just an autistic thing, which may not be helpful to their cause for acceptance.

There is also the “eternal child” bias, where some people assume autistic people are not capable of knowing our own minds, due to our condition. That is a misconception, and a stigma which needs to be challenged.

It may also hark back to old attitudes from times when sexuality, gender dysphoria and autism were all considered to be mental health issues that could be “cured”. We are not quite at the end of the journey to acceptance.

Sexual orientation and gender expression may fluctuate over the course of person’s lifetime. Can neurological conditions also change and fluctuate?

I have not noticed any real fluctuations to my sexuality since I first became aware that I was sexually attracted to women as well as men, in my mid-teens. I did not suddenly become straight when I married a man. 

I have been talking more often and more openly about my sexuality recently, because since losing Iggy I have become more acutely aware of the importance of positive visible LGBTQIA+ role models. 

I have also more recently come to understand that I am attracted to individuals, regardless of their gender, and that this makes me ‘pansexual’.  

In terms of neurological conditions fluctuating, I do not believe it is possible to become more autistic or less autistic. You are either autistic or not, and autism is a lifelong neurodevelopmental condition. I do not believe in ‘regression’, but I do believe some traits can become more profound. I am not sure about other neurological conditions, as this may vary, and there are acquired neurological conditions as well as those we are born with.

I do have more sensory sensitivities and autistic meltdowns of greater severity when I am going through a period of ‘autistic burn-out’. This is a state that resembles clinical depression and happens when I am overwhelmed for extended periods of time.

Over the years the impact of some autistic features may change. Sometimes this may relate to hormonal changes, for example sensory issues can be exacerbated by puberty, pregnancy, menopause. 

What are some of the challenges that autistic and LGBTQ+ people face?

Coupled with the social differences of autism, such as coming across badly at times and having difficulties interpreting neurotypical cues and nuances, at times I have encountered difficulties forming both social friendships and working relationships with other women. Sometimes I have encountered bi-phobia, and my intentions have been misunderstood. 

There are many challenges with being an autistic in the social and sensory minefield that is the workplace, but with a combination of formal reasonable adjustments and minor changes an autistic worker can thrive and add tremendous value. I do get overwhelmed when I am in lengthy or frequent meetings, due to the expectation to exhibit professional behaviours and demeanour for extended periods which does require heavy masking. 

Autistic people can be tremendously loyal when we have the right support, and I have been working for my employer for sixteen years.

What can allies do to support people who are neurodivergent and identify as LGBTQ+?

Well that is a big question, which I could talk about at length. But in brief, we each have a role in working together to build a culture of acceptance, where it is not only okay, but encouraged even, to be open about any difficulties and support needs, an environment where each and every person belongs and can drop the mask to thrive as our authentic selves.