Sydney Mardi Gras Parade: 2019
Aspect participated in the 2019 Sydney Mardi Gras Parade as the Neurodiversity Rainbow. With the support from the Aspect LGBTQIA+ Advisory Committee, this initiative provided enormously positive benefits and a sense of belonging and pride for those participating.
The Mardi Gras working group, consisting of LGBTQIA+ autistic people and Aspect employees, designed the creative concepts for the Neurodiversity Rainbow entry using the infinity symbol, now recognised as a symbol for neurodiversity.
A longtime friend of Aspect, Yenn Purkis, joined us on the day and shared their feelings on the experience in their blog.
Sydney Mardi Gras Parade: 2020
In 2020, the theme of ‘What Matters’ brought the Neurodiversity Rainbow entry together again, almost doubling our numbers to over 60 marchers including autistic, LGBTQIA+ people, supporters and allies, and our CEO Jacqui Borland.
In line with this theme, our working group custom designed t-shirts bearing the disability rights slogan "Nothing about us, without us", while carrying eye-catching signs showing visual symbols of a collection of 12 topics that matter most to the Autistic LGBTQIA+ community. We built upon our infinity message by designing a large-scale rainbow infinity tunnel held proudly as part of our march.
Feedback from participants that it was fantastic to share the experience with the other people and it was a strong sense of community, meeting new people with similar life experiences and being part of something special. One participant said 'It was a life and identity-affirming experience for me. I am Autistic, I love being Autistic and I love that there were others like me (as well as allies) that are the same in that regard and thought it worthy to advertise that fact to millions in the form of a parade'.
LGBTQIA+ Advisory Committee
In 2018, Aspect formed the LGBTQIA+ Advisory Committee. The Committee operates to advise and educate Aspect on how to provide inclusive support for LGBTIQA+ autistic people and to be an inclusive organisation.
This will be achieved through:
- The Committee contributing to, providing guidance and supporting the implementation and review of the Aspect LGBTQIA+ Engagement Plan: 2020 (2020)
- Co-producing and co-designing resources, projects and materials to support the plans.
The membership of the Advisory Committee is primarily drawn from people with lived experience of autism and LGBTIQA+ identities, with selected positions available to people bringing the lived experience of carers, heterosexual autistic people and LGBTQIA+ people.
What does LGBTQIA+ mean?
Through consultations, Aspect has adopted the term LGBTQIA+ to communicate our support on expression of sexual orientation and gender identity.
For us, LGBTQIA+ stands for:
Lesbian: A lesbian woman is someone who experiences romantic and/or sexual attraction to other women.
Gay: A gay man is someone who experiences romantic, and/or sexual attraction to other men.
Bisexual+: A bisexual person is someone who experiences romantic and/or sexual attraction to people of more than one gender. The term Bisexual+ or Bi+ is used to describe the multiplicity of labels and identities that describe multi-gender attraction, such as pansexual (attraction to all genders).
Transgender and Gender Diverse: A Trans person is a person whose gender does not exclusively align with the one they were assigned at birth. Gender Diverse refers to a range of genders expressed in different ways. The language in this space is dynamic, for example, younger people are more likely to describe themselves as non-binary.
Queer and Questioning: Queer is often used as an umbrella term for diverse genders and sexualities, including those who are unsure of their preferences or gender identity.
For some people, particularly older LGBTQIA+ people, ‘queer’ is still considered an offensive slur. However, many people use it to self-identify in a positive way.
The ‘Q’ also stands for Questioning, to acknowledge that some people are still exploring or questioning their gender and/or sexual orientation and may not want to have a label applied to them yet, but still deserve to be included and to have access to information and community spaces.
Intersex: A person who is born with physical or biological sex characteristics such as chromosomes, hormones or anatomy, that are more diverse than stereotypical definitions for male or female bodies. For some people these traits are apparent prenatally or at birth, while for others they emerge later in life, often at puberty.
Ace (Asexual and Aromantic): An asexual person is someone who does not experience sexual attraction and/or interest, but may experience romantic attraction. An aromantic person is someone who does not experience romantic attraction and/or interest, but may experience sexual attraction. Ace identities occur on a spectrum.
+: The plus sign is added to acknowledge that this doesn’t necessarily include all the ways a person may describe their gender or sexual orientation.
Cisgender: A cisgendered, or cis person is someone whose gender aligns with the one they were assigned at birth.
Aspect recognises the diversity of individual identity and acknowledges the right of all people to self-determination.
Dr Wenn Lawson is a member of the LGBTQIA+ & Autism Advisory Committee and has shared his journey through his website.
Wenn also provides links to a number of valuable resources through that site.