Episode Three: Telling people

Mar 17, 2022



So in the last episode I defined unmasking as remaining unseen, whether or not you are being yourself. And how the goal of unmasking is not to be seen by others or within dominant culture, but to create the structures in our own thinking and our own lives and relationships that enables sustained self connection.

And there is an episode all about what self connection means, and I’ll dive deeper into that then. But self connection really means that you are connected to the moment, to the experiences you are actually having, your are focused on what you are doing, and in that doing you aren’t disconnecting from yourself. You are still connected to your internal source of energy.

And as I said, I’ll do a podcast episode about that - and if you have any questions on that let me know and I’ll answer them in that episode.

But in this episode I want to pick up on this idea of what the goal of unmasking might be as: creating the structures in our own thinking and our own lives and relationships that enable sustained self connection.

And how, okay the goal is not to be seen, necessarily, but that doesn’t mean that you just stay hiding. That doesn’t mean you just stick with the status quo. That doesn’t mean you don’t try to create more room for yourself in your relationships. And it also doesn’t mean that you won’t be seen.

There are people who will and can see you. There are people who will embrace all of what you share with them and all of who you are and meet you in the middle and start being aware of what you might experience differently and what they can do so that you aren’t the one doing all the work.

The problem is that if you are hiding and self-negating, you don’t ever get to find out. You don’t get to experience that possibility.

So the shift is not to just remain unseen. But to shift your own goal to being determined by what enables self connection - and having that be the reason.

And that then opens up the very specific reasons why you might share yourself more openly and vulnerably with other people.

And that’s what this episode is about: telling people.

And by telling people, I mean coming out, disclosing, stating access needs, sharing how you identify, making it known that you actually experience things a different way to what might have been presumed.

And I want to share some thoughts for anyone who is wondering how to tell someone. How to start to share this new set of self revelations. How to ask for what you need.

When you don’t know what the response will be. 

This is an unknown outcome. 

And some of you may have had other forms of coming out. You may have come out as gay, or trans. Maybe you’ve had a previous process experience of sharing vulnerably something about being a survivor of abuse, or having another kind of disability that is physical, or any other difference which is not obvious, and which is also deviating from the fiction of normal or which involves some kind of vulnerability or risk of judgement.

And so that might be your reference point. And for others this might be the first time that you’ve ever had to negotiate disclosing a marginalised identity or experience in ways that feel risky.

Either way, it’s an unknown what the result will be - how the other person will respond, and what the reaction and consequences will be.

And I want to share some thinking to help you reflect on how you might prepare to tell someone.

And also to let you know that I am doing a three-day workshop next week, going deeper into this topic and walking you through this process as a workshop. So if you are interested in that, join the discord, and all the info is in there for how to attend. 

And it’s called the interdependence protocol. Which makes me laugh, because protocol is such a corporate word that is not really in my vocabulary, but I like it so we are going with it. And the protocol is a process that can be applied to any and all situations where you might want to disclose different or disability and how to think about how you might do it.

Because access scripts aren’t specific enough to the relationship, or to you. Off the shelf solutions don’t really work. So I’ve created a way to think through the how, that you can run over and over again each time you might want to disclose. And you can also do this in hindsight - if it didn’t go well, or even if it did, what were the ingredients that made that a good or bad experience.

And before I get into it, I want to just mention that years ago, neurodiversity wasn’t really a concept that had taken hold in the public imagination, and I was looking for resources and ways to think about this.

And one of the books that seemed to be everywhere was this book called Pretending to be normal. And this isn’t an endorsement and nor is it really a critique, except that the example it gave me just felt so far away from what I felt was possible.

The book is by Liane Holliday Wiley. And in the book the author speaks about giving themselves the freedom of just no longer pretending to be normal ,and essentially not caring what anyone thought anymore, and just being out and out fully self expressed an unabashed and loud and proud in their differences.

And while I’m all in on not caring what others think, I’m big on caring what others feel. And also on allowing for how there are impacts to being overtly self-expressed in all circumstances that aren’t equal. 

There are people who are in circumstances or social contexts where this unabashed self-display of outness and disregard for what other people think is not afforded physical or economic safety.

But also what I want to highlight is that this doesn’t necessarily equate to self connection. It doesn’t necessarily equate to an idea that Mia Mingus has written about online which is access intimacy; this feeling of having your needs met, or of having different needs be something that is just an open and embraced and normalised in your relationships, of not feeling at risk because you are dependent on someone else, or on a different set of tools or methods.

Being out and openly expressed doesn’t speak to how the becoming of self actually happens in-relationship.

Can you feel the difference?

So you can feel how there is unmasking in this old sense of I can act and say and be what I want. Versus, unmasking or disclosing as an increase in connection with another person. As a relational experience that is afforded by an increase in how much you are able to stay in self connection.

And self connection is key here where it maybe isn’t for other kinds of difference, because its the measure of how much you get to be in your own bodymind and not force it into contortions and over-adaptations - those are what create disconnects. So self connection is also a measure of whether you have your relational needs met.

If you are being yourself and it doesn’t result in an increase in your self connection and connection with others, then what is the point, really?

If its not about those things then is there another motivation that does’t actually serve you - like wanting to feeling special, needing to be different, needing to use this as a way to feel significant or special. And I can say that to you because it has in the past been that for me. A way to differentiate from the crowd, to get attention or to be seen as unique. Sometimes that is the motivation. And if there is even a little bit of that for you - then you know that okay my sense of self worth or connection is lacking and I’m trying to meet that need by being important or different in someone else’s eyes.

Okay so telling people is an intimate and vulnerable thing to do, if contains risk, because of what is at stake; which is a positive, mutually beneficial relationship with another human.

Which is an increase in interdependence - which is how we are all enabled and extended and made possible through each other and the planet. 

So I’ll speak briefly now about the Interdependence Protocol.

Interdependence is a word in recognition of how independence is really an ableist myth that temporarily abled people use to feel acceptable or normal or important. 

I’ve noticed this term: temporarily abled being used now and I love it, it really speaks to how we are all precariously enabled through the tools and relational structures around us. And to how dependence really just means: having needs that are under-resourced, or unusual or stigmatised. 

Dependence is often seen as deficiency and as an individual lack or incompleteness. Whereas independence is seen as desirable and worthy and good. When really both are just a question of whose needs are met by the collective or not. And how those needs are being judged.

Alright so Interdependence protocol; how to disclose difference, or disability in ways that lead to an increase in both self connection and connection with others. That create interdependence through affording you more self connection and more visibility, agency and energy.

Everyone benefits from interdependence.

So how I want to invite you to think about this question of telling people, is to think of a specific example. What is a specific example that you can have in your mind - a person you want to tell that would make a difference in your life and you are wondering how to go about it.

So this is what I want to offer;

The degree to which you feel safe and able to tell people, is the degree of preparedness you have in yourself to deal with other people’s potential responses, or the potential consequences.

And you won’t know what those are until after you’ve done it. So you have to work with the potentials.

And this preparedness is all in your power. Okay so if you aren’t prepared enough yet in the categories I’m about to share, then you still have work to do, and that’s okay.

Okay so here are the four categories to assess to find out okay where is the risk;

So one is material risk - this is a risk to a job or another kind of material safety. So are you prepared and in a position to take that risk. And legally there shouldn’t be any risk. But it doesn’t always pan out in ways that are easy to pin point as prejudice - it might be that you work with one other person and so a lot of your comfort at work hinges on their personal thoughts about you and how they react that go beyond legal protections for workplace disclosure.

Another one is relationship risk. And just to be clear, no amount of preparation can sidestep the fact that there is always risk and vulnerability involved in building trust. So we can’t prepare this one away. We can only reflect on the degree and what is at stake. 

The next one is self-relationship. Are you solid in your self esteem and self relationship that no matter what the other person’s response is, it’s not going to rock your sense of self worth, or self acceptance. So if your sense of self is tied to what others think of you, then you know you have work to do here.

And then finally - what is the growth required of you? How much will having this conversation put you in an unknown? How much is it asking you to step up to a new level of assertiveness or vulnerability or willingness to be seen, or maturity to deal with what happens. Where do you feel uncomfortable about doing this? What feels like Okay I am holding my own hand through this process and I know it will feel hard simply because it’s new and I don’t know what will happen or how to do it or what they might say or do.

And in the workshop, which take place over three days, just 45 minutes a day, I will get into that how; what are the variables I might want to think about in terms of where this conversation takes place, how I phrase it, what mode of communication, how heavy or lighthearted this will be.

And also the what - what to disclose. What to say. How to know what you even need in order to increase self connection. How to identify what your access needs even are, or how to phrase sharing differences? What access needs do you have when you’ve never had anyone ask you or invite you to consider this? What is the desired result - what would be the best outcome? What is their part in facilitating that result? What is the timeline you are wiling to be on while they adjust? What will you do in each possible outcome.

And I’ll just finish up by saying that this all is a lot easier now then it was 10 years ago, and so wherever you encounter a difficult or negative response, know that they are just behind on a societal timeline and they will catch up. Meanwhile you have just stood up for what you need and who you are, and given them an opportunity to grow their awareness. 

And it gets easier and easier. And you don’t have to tell anyone or everyone. It does’t have to be at the level that you see me doing it - to be honest for me it’s only because that makes sense to speak to you and to have these conversations.

There is no right or wrong way and there is only the question of whether this affords you more self connection in your relationships, while at work, or anywhere else.

Alright, so join the +Siblings discord for all the information about the workshop. If you are listening to this after the workshops have ended, you can still purchase it and access all the replays and resources. All the info is in the discord. 

And I will talk to you next week.



is for #autistic-status visionaries, creatives and change-makers, who are seeking a more empowering way to see, know and be yourself.