February’s ALAG and Autism Hub evening webinar explored the fascinating crossover between the autism and LGTBQ+ community. Our guest speakers covered two points of view- the individual journey and pioneering change through community mobilisation.
Carola Ecola talked about co-founding the Outside Project– London’s LGBTIQ+ Community Shelter. The project focuses on homelessness challenges, and offering a place of safety for neurodiverse & autistic people part of the LGTBQ+ community. This highlighted the difficulties that many autistic LGBTQI+ people face with housing, finding somewhere affordable to live and – above all – feeling safe and secure. The work of the Outside Project is critical – accepting people with no recourse to public funds in their refuge spaces.
After that, Anna Hayward took the audience through the anxieties, circumstance and experience of being closeted and the parallels with masking in autism. Both linked with shame of suppressing identity which can lead to not knowing one’s true self. This can have a significant impact on mental health and wellbeing.
As the webinar moderator, I was pleased to see another well attended event with 45 participants. This topic generated interest and support among a diverse audience. Indeed, some of the audience discussed their own support groups within the wider group and there was an exchange of valuable resources.
The LGTBQ+ community has come a long way since I was born in 1966. Decriminalisation, greater acceptance and where diversity is celebrated – replacing the confines of narrower groupthink. But there are some unsettling legacies – notably the discredited and ditched section 28 – which reminds us that support is critical when narrow minded thinking lingers.
A great evening with much discussion.