Autistic Pride

issue/83

hello friend

I’m Pete Carr. I'm a photographer and this isn't a photography newsletter. This is a form of "Rubber Duck Debugging". Writing helps me process thoughts and work through problems. So I write to my computer about issues relating to mental health and being autistic. I then share it with you fine folk. There's nice photos too. 🖖


hello computer

This week's photos are from Liverpool Pride over the years. 

You can get prints of the photos in this weeks newsletter on my print store or you can tip me on Ko-Fi so I can buy film for my camera.

Autistic Pride

Last Friday, 18th June, was Autistic Pride Day. I didn't see as much about it on social media as I did for Autism Awareness Day. I believe the main reason for that was because people are trying to change Autism Awareness Day into Autism Acceptance Day. The world is aware of autism. Now can the world accept that people are autistic and be cool? Cool. Pride Day felt different. Either I was too distract by shiny (squirrel!) things out my window or it was not as big a day. 

Should it be a big day? Should we be waving flags and dancing? Should we be proud in our flaws and abilities?

Being autistic gives me a set of daily issues to overcome. Sensory issues. It's too bright outside and everything is reflecting light into my eyes. Noise makes me want to rip my own heart out. The food industry doesn't cater for someone like me. I was at an event once where they were confused when I said there was nothing I could eat. "We have veggie, meat and kosher." None of it was plain simple food. People are complex and often too much to deal with. I've managed to convert my taking things literally thought process into light hearted Airplane! style comedy. The other day I went into a cafe and they asked if I wanted a table. I replied with "No I have one at home. Thanks." It can still, and often does, lead to trouble and confusion. "But they said this." ... "Yes but they didn't mean that explicitly. They really meant this." ... "But why didn't they say that then?" It leads me to confusion and anxiety. 

I can easily be overloaded by all this confusion and sensory information. I shutdown. I can't make decisions, process information or respond. Imagine the panic and stress that comes from not being able to process information. It's something neurotypical people take for granted. For me though it's like the scene in the Matrix where Neo has his mouth sealed shut. There is panic then anxiety and anxiety and anxiety and anxiety. I'm trapped in there. I sink into it. Eventually I'll resurface but it takes time and a different environment. 

This is every day life for me. Of course I'm only discussing the negative there but the fun part of being someone who lives with anxiety and depression on a daily basis is that the negatives are often amplified. There are upsides to being autistic. I'm great at researching. Terrible at decision making sometimes due to analysis paralysis but great at the actual research. I take comfort in solid data and good information. I appreciate the simple things in life. A good espresso over a cocktail of sugar and coffee. A ham sandwich that prides itself on good quality bread, butter and meat instead of drowning in mayo, veg and the suggestion of meat. I'll happily wear the same thing, eat the same thing, and do the same thing every day. It doesn't bore me at all. I notice things that others don't which is a great advantage for a photographer. There are things about being autistic that are pretty cool. 

Am I proud? Do I take pride? Should we be proud? I... don't know.

I've photographed Pride in Liverpool for 10 years and it's been a highlight of my year. There is so much joy on the streets during Pride. It's infectious, fun, silly, warm, and loving. Imagine coming together with people like yourself and feeling accepted. There is an absolute sense of pride on the streets. I felt it. I wanted to keep feeling it and so I returned each year to photograph and be a part of it. I didn't stand on a street corner and take some photos. I got into the crowds and I was a part of it. How could I not? I felt pride for what they were doing and wanted to join in. It was a good feeling.

Even though I'm not LGBTQIA+ I was welcomed at Liverpool Pride and I felt part of a community in a way I rarely do. Around Autism Acceptance Day/Month I felt a similar community spirit. I think if I was to celebrate #AutisticPrideDay I wouldn't bake any rainbow cakes, paint the cats rainbow colours, wear rainbow sunglasses sponsored by Specsavers or do a jigsaw puzzle of a rainbow coloured jigsaw piece. I would celebrate the community. I may not be able to feel pride in myself that day for depression or anxiety reasons but I maybe able to feel pride for the community as a whole. We do good. 

I'm not making a strong case for the day or suggesting that I'll be flying a flag next year. The day simply got me thinking about the idea of pride and what such a day would mean to me. It's community. That's what I'm proud of. 


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“Be bold. Be brave. Be courageous.” Christopher Pike, Captain USS Discovery.

Thank you for taking the time to read this newsletter. I’ll be back. Feel free to subscribe or send to a friend.

petes out

I'm streaming photography in various forms on Twitch.tv/petecarr. Stream schedule is Tues/Wed/Fri at 7:30PM GMT and Monday at 2PM GMT. Photography focused but accessible. Friday is a look at art events I've photographed. You can also ask me about autism and there's cat cam too.

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