27 January 2012

Being Out

I've been wondering for a while now whether being out about being Autistic would hurt or help me more in the long run, particularly in terms of finding and keeping a job after graduation. It's no secret to the disappointingly huge number of Autistic adults who have lost jobs or been unable to get jobs because they were out or visibly disabled that Autistic people routinely face discrimination in employment.

It's also impossible for me now to go "in the closet" as a rather invisibly disabled Autistic. I can avoid mentioning being Autistic in an interview, but any cursory search of my name will now yield a very large number of search results that reveal that I'm Autistic. Most of those articles or blog posts are part of what some sociologists call "public discourse." There is no practical way I could hide or remove that information from the public.

I've been wondering lately whether this might hurt my prospects for future employment, particularly given the potential career paths that I've been considering for a very long time, which may or may not be conducive to Autistic and Autistic-like people (cousins), and which may tend toward more conservative attitudes concerning divergence from norms.

But I came to two important realizations.

1.) Being out means that I have more opportunities to effect positive systems change and to advocate for people like me. I'm not willing to sacrifice those opportunities for the sake of self-advancement. If I can do something to benefit another person, I feel morally obligated to do so. Since I've been public about being Autistic beyond my small circle of friends, I've had innumerable opportunities to network and add my voice to a growing number of causes and campaigns, both for individual people and in broad policy change -- and none of this would have happened or can continue to happen if I were not out.

2.) It really doesn't matter. If someone does not want to hire me because I'm not so great at small talk during the job interview, need to be in an office without harsh fluorescent lights, can't be around people wearing scented products, need explicit and detailed and written instructions to do quality work, and require additional time to recover from sensory overload throughout the workday, then I don't want to be working for that person. If someone is unwilling to make minor, cost-effective accommodations so that I can be a better employee, it's not worth my time to pursue employment with that person.

I am Autistic, and I am not ashamed of that nor am I afraid to say it.


  1. If I were an employer who looked you up online, what I found would make me want to hire you immediately.

  2. That's a paradox of the Internet age -- our words as individuals have more power, but they also make us more vulnerable.

    On balance, I'd say that the self-confidence gained from advocacy and the real-life changes accomplished by it far outweigh the occasional encounter with a bigot.

  3. I continually struggle with whether I want to come out Autistic or not. I am "out" to several close friends and I think my advisor knows (if he doesn't, after 3 years, then he doesn't need to). But then there are people who take me for the label and not for the person. And that is scary and frustrating, and I don't want that to hurt me in my career (of course, I'm an academic... Autistic traits are valued, as long as I can pretend to be NT in front of some people, some of the time, which I usually can).


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