Let me begin by admitting that I totally forgot it was that month. I say it this way, a bit jaded, because April is often a battleground on Twitter between Autism Mom Warriors and/or autism organizations and/or autism “professionals” trying to speak over adults who are autistic. Sometimes it’s even autistic adults who have formal diagnoses going after those of us who are self-discovered. (To be clear though, there are also many, many diagnosed autistic folks who are overwhelmingly supportive of those who are prevented from getting a diagnosis. And for the most part, autistic culture validates self-discovered or self-Dxed people.) But yeah, because I quit the Twitters, I just plain didn’t remember it was the month of autism awareness, acceptance, and celebration.
Which is kinda funny because at the last second, I decided to participate in Camp NaNoWriMo to write “the awkward space opera romance nobody asked for” known as Hot Wings and Sauciness. Something in my subconscious must have remembered something about April because my female protagonist is a feisty autistic and disabled 50something. (Honestly, I have no idea where I came up with that notion…cough…) Anyway, I’m having fun going back to my absurdist humour roots, but even after the first seven days of writing this character, something cool is happening to me.
I feel really empowered.
It must be something akin to unmasking when an autistic author writes an autistic protagonist. Because my self-confidence is boosted (I know, please run and hide) and my identity is affirmed. Autistic folks can be romantic leads! I also have a romantic subplot in Iris and the Crew Tear Through Space! that starts in “Episode 3: Herbie Tries to Flirt.” And that was cathartic for me to write as well. Even though I purposely have no cited diagnoses in my Iris and the Crew series, I did reflect my neurodivergence onto Herb and a couple of other characters.
But Colleen O’Donnell in Hot Wings is written differently. (Why, it’s almost like we autistics are not a monolith!) I think I’ve just slammed my foot on the gas for this lead. She’s from Earth in the not-so-distant future, so it’s not an idyllic world-building. And this gives me a chance to vent some feelings through her about disability and acceptance. But, it’s funny too. Well, it’s absolutely ridiculous at times. Humour is a great vehicle for storytelling. It’s my fave, really.
I also find with ripping off the mask comes untold freedom, whether in real life or through characters. And honestly, with so many non-autistic folks thinking they know people like me, but who really do not, if I don’t represent myself on the page, I will just shut down.
My voice deserves to be out there, not held back.
I have no idea if I will ever publish Hot Wings and Sauciness, but I am so glad I’m giving it a whirl. As with several of my short stories and especially with Iris and the Crew Tear Through Space, I am writing for myself first. To soothe my spirit through storytelling. That has to by my priority. It’s self-care and self-love. Then, if I feel ready, I will happily invite others to come along for the ride by putting it out in the world.
For now, I am just going to enjoy celebrating my autistic self, by creating art. It feels like the right thing to do.
Cait Gordon is an autistic, disabled, and queer Canadian writer of speculative fiction that celebrates diversity. She is the author of Life in the ’Cosm, The Stealth Lovers, and the forthcoming Iris and the Crew Tear Through Space (2023). Cait also founded the Spoonie Authors Network and joined Talia C. Johnson to co-edit the multi-genre disability fiction anthologies Nothing Without Us and Nothing Without Us Too.
Featured photo by FWStudio on Pexels.com