This is the 18th interview in my series Interviewing Late-Identified Autistics. I provided Joseph, a late-identified autistic, with a list of interview questions. He then responded in essay format below.
I self-diagnosed as being autistic around age 73. Mainly by reading articles on the internet, especially Medium.com and then taking some of the tests available online. I did not get the point of trying to get an official diagnosis from some professional. I don’t believe I would be in line for any special accommodation or assistance, and I imagine there are negative impacts such as with health insurance and how professionals perceive you, and finally there’s the cost.
I was relieved when discovering I was autistic (my partner is too, he has long suspected it in himself.) Many things made sense - my love for rocking, my obsession with topics of little interest to others, my repetitive playing of certain music, my social awkwardness, etc. At work in WI, where everybody was Green Bay Packer and Wisconsin Badgers crazy, I deliberately forced myself to watch football so as to have some topic of conversation with the guys - a nice side benefit is that I discovered I actually enjoy watching football and watch it now more than ever. None of these fit into my self-understanding of depression, PTSD, Jungian concepts of introversion, etc. All these things overlap but knowing I am autistic - on on the spectrum, I don’t really know the PC terminology, makes sense of all of it and how it fits together. Being autistic doesn’t upset me at all.
I’m a gay, white, male, very unathletic. Due to some birth defects I have had multiple plastic surgeries starting literally from the day I was born through young adulthood. Don’t know if this has anything to do with anything but it was a significant part of growing up. I did use my defects as an excuse to get out of gym, which I dreaded, and met some of my best HS friends among the others who were excused for various reasons. So we might not all have been autistic but we were all weirdos. Always known I was gay but did not “come out” until well after college. There was a gay culture that younger gays will never quite understand or know much about except in books but that’s for another questionnaire.
I have only used the word “autistic” to describe myself to very few people, only to those who would accept it. Most would say “but everybody does that” or “surely you’re exaggerating”or “you’re just shy” or “stop making everything about yourself” or “you’re being a hypochondriac.”I’m more likely to use code words such as “I’m neuro-divergent” or “somewhere on the scale”or “over sensitive to certain sounds”, etc.
I rarely tell anyone my partner is autistic because I don’t know if he has told anyone. I also never tell some other person, “I think you may be autistic” I would again use the code words or bring up my own symptoms which may be similar to theirs and describe how I handle it. Most people my age are not diagnosed and I doubt the great majority ever think of themselves in these terms so to come out and just say “you’re having an autistic meltdown” could be friendship ending.
I’m different from most people in that I prefer to be alone, hate parties where I don’t know anyone such as New Year’s Eve or Halloween for example. I hate being introduced to people just because a mutual friend wants to introduce us. My sister and father may have been on the spectrum but never diagnosed. I have a few cousins who may also qualify. It has not impacted my friendships, many of my friends are probably on the spectrum although few if any of them seem aware of that. I think it did impact my romantic relationships but I can’t really explain why I think that, except talking to strangers is very difficult for me and I have, on more than one occasion, flirted inappropriately or said wildly inappropriate things to a potential romantic partner.
I mentioned learning about particular topics such as football helped me to mask. Scripting conversations has helped. Keeping lists help. My dog helps. I am very much a person who enjoys the company of cats, dogs and other animals to that of humans. No hidden agendas there. Just love or indifference and its easier to tell which is which. Lulu is not an trained therapy dog but is very much a therapy dog for me both for physical ailments, inbred laziness and my mental health.
Since my self-diagnosis I give myself freedom to rock all I want, listen to whatever music I want although I keep it low or wear headphones out of respect for my partner, I no longer feel guilt about wanting to be alone. Greta Garbo is my hero in that! I am more willing to speak up if certain noises are bothering me. I’m also kinder to my partner when he has meltdowns or does other “autistic” things.
Have not done any activism other than speaking up about it more in my personal life.
Thank you for reading. It’s my goal to reach 100 interviews. If you are a late-identified autistic, I would love for you to participate in this series. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested.