Pssst. I got to tell you a secret. I am autistic.
Well, okay, it’s not a secret anymore. I remember when it was a secret. A year ago, I was co-leading a small group for Longhorn Awakening 62. At this time, I wasn’t very proud of my autism. Really, I didn’t know how else to tell someone I was autistic, rather than taking them aside and saying it. Since I knew that the retreat can get rather personal, I had to tell my partner who I was. I texted her that I wanted to tell her something after one of the meetings before the retreat. I drew attention to myself. I didn’t want her to think this was some big secret. But doing that make it feel like I wasn’t naturally being myself. It made me anxious.
We had our meetings in the University Catholic Center, but each staff of the retreat met in different rooms. Once the meeting I was over, I took her into a room. I told her that I had Asperger’s Syndrome. It’s what makes me who I am, the way I am. She smiled at me, and it told me that it was fine.
To be honest, I regret drawing attention to myself. I remember telling my therapist later on, that I prefer to tell people I was autistic naturally. I decided after that to casually mention it if relevant. I might still inadvertently draw attention to myself, but I don’t want to put myself through the anxiety.
My partner didn’t care. She accept me as my wacky zany self. She was honest with me on who she was, and let me be myself without any further explanation. I was allowed to dancing randomly through the retreat, to give quirky insight to the retreatants in our small group.
I didn’t tell the rest of my small group I was autistic on the retreat. First, I couldn’t find the right timing. Second, it was more about the retreatants’ experiences with God rather than mine. Finally, I was loved and accepted as being different without explanation. I didn’t need to draw attention in order to accept myself.
Today, June 18, is Autistic Pride Day, as well as my 22nd birthday. Pride itself is a fickle word. The month of June is Pride Month, for all LGBTQ+ to embrace who they are and part of their identity as regards to their gender and sexuality. Autistic Pride stems from this movement, but I’m straight, and an ally. This makes pride as a positive thing, as it is confidently being proud of who you are, and what you do. Pride is also considered a sin, As a sin, it means arrogance in regards to a person’s successes and confidence without considering God. As Autistic Pride, it means to be proud of one’s abilities and neurodiversity and not change or be “cured.”
I take Autistic Pride Day in a different light. A rainbow-colored one. I take it as being proud of the way God has made me: intelligent, funny, humble, kind, friendly, …and, yes, autistic. I was born this way, as today is my birthday. I find my identity in Christ and how He loved and died for me first. I might be considered weaker because I’m autistic, but really I am strong because He is strong. I like to compare that to how Saint Paul addresses the Corinthians in his first letter.
Rather God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast before God. It is due to him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, as well as righteousness, sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Whoever boasts, should boast in the Lord.”- 1 Corinthians 1:27-31
I am boasting of how God made me and loves me. Jesus loves me, and I live in Him as He lives in me through the Holy Spirit. That’s not a secret. Happy Autistic Pride Day!