By Mark Haskell
I am here today to present to you my story of being a gay man who is neurodivergent.
My journey of neurodivergence has been a continuous one. However, the official journey began when I was a high school student.
I had always known that something was different about me, but I did not have the understanding of what I am until I had received my diagnosis.
What I can define as neurodivergence is a variation in the human brain in regard to sociability, learning, attention, and mood.
My specific ability is called Aspergers. It is a part of the Autism spectrum that presents difficulties to social and cognitive development.
When my parents had sat me down and told me about my diagnosis during the summer of my junior year of high school, I wasn’t entirely surprised. I was confused, withdrawn, a bit angry, yes, but not surprised.
I always knew there was something different about me but learning about a mental condition is a very different thing than learning about your own mental condition.
In the past, I perceived my inability to completely understand someone’s humor and their sarcasm. This was first noted in early middle school, where I was judged to be harsh and sarcastic, but I was not able to perceive it correctly.
And now knowing the name for what limited my understanding of all this stuff, I feared people would see me in a more negative light and avoid me for my limitations.
But what I learned from it all is not to give up. And that I can get there with more effort and help.
I have always had the desire to help others, knowing more about myself augmented it.
I had the wonderful opportunity of volunteering for various organizations in my hometown and abroad and from that, I found it very satisfying to help others as it makes me feel proud of what I can accomplish, and it makes me feel successful.
What I ultimately learned is that the diagnosis did not seal me off from people around me – it opened my heart to them more. And it taught me the happiness that comes from pouring hard work into myself and others.
The journey into learning about myself continues with becoming aware that I am not a heterosexual male. This quest was a recent one. It began in 2019 when I had an inner gut feeling that I am bisexual.
I had done a lot of thinking at the time and I had concluded that I like both women and men. I came out to my parents and sister and they, gratefully, were very accepting of me. I had come out to more of my family members and they were also very accepting of me.
My journey is continuing to evolve so much that I have come out as gay as well. It has been an
emotional journey thus far as I am still coming to terms with my materializing identity.
Various quotes from the article, “Coming Out Autistic” by Brandy Schillace, I concur with are that living as both gay and neurodivergent includes, “means confronting what I had always feared: if you cannot ape normativity, you may be denied your autonomy.”
Another quote that I have taken to heart is that “Autistic people are not broken. Autism is disabling because we live in a world built for and by neurotypical people. Acknowledging my autism is not an admission of weakness; it’s a statement about myself as a self.”
This journey comes down to self-acceptance and self-accommodation. The journey to becoming the perfect version of myself has not ended – I can still live as the authentic version of myself: neurodivergent, gay, extraordinary. No matter how you identify, you have a right to be – just as you are.