Let's talk about masking (the social kind, not the pandemic kind) and code-switching, and how they're connected for members of marginalized communities. 1/
First, let’s define terms.

For autistics and other ND people, “masking” means “imitating being NT.” It exists in other marginalized communities, too - “being in the closet” for queer folk pretending to be straight; “passing” for light-skinned POC pretending to be white; etc. 2/
Oh, and "NT" means "neurotypical" and "ND" means "neurodiverse." Character limits are a Thing. 3/
What about people who aren’t able to mask at all, or who only mask in certain situations (work, church) and not others (social life)? For them, code-switching is the expected behavior. 4/
Code-switching is when you change how you speak or act to fit in with the larger group you’re with. Learning how to “talk white” or “act straight” while you’re at work are common examples, and I’m sure you can think of others. 5/
All of these practices require hiding the true self and putting up a false front, or mask, that imitates the people who are “normal.” All of them are damaging to the person who has to mask or code-switch to get by and fit in. 6/
I’ll give a few examples from my own experience, and I invite others to contribute theirs if they feel safe doing so. 7/
A common experience for many queer folks of my generation (Gen X), for example, was to be heterosexually married with children, and a churchgoer, while sneaking off to be their real self at a gay bar every now and then. 8/
(Ask older Gen X queers if they were pressured into hetero marriages. You might be surprised.) 9/
Unmasking today, as an autistic, is similar to what coming out of the closet was for Gen X and even Millennial queers a generation ago. When I came out in the 1990s, I lost friends. I became persona non grata at my church. I lost family members because I was queer. 10/
For many autistics, unmasking is similar, because when we do that, we lose friends, jobs, and connections. People don’t like who we are when we unmask. Many people struggle to unmask, for various reasons. (For those joining us now, we’re not talking about pandemic masking.) 11/
Unmasking, as an autistic, has also lost me friends and at least one family member who refuses to believe I’m autistic (to them, I’m just rude, stubborn & inflexible). It made things shaky at my job, and forced me to get an official dx so I could get accommodations I need. 12/
For people who have to mask and code-switch to get by (and there are many of us), several problems can crop up. Not really knowing who you are is a big one, because you’re so focused on presenting the mask as you that you never get to learn who you actually are. 13/
Having superficial friendships and connections with people who don’t know the “real you” is another problem. When people don’t know the real you, the friendship is always on shaky ground. If you come out or unmask, you often find out they preferred masked/ closeted you. 14/
Having to hide who you really are, because who you really are might get you fired or rejected, is yet another issue. People have prejudices. Often, those prejudices are aimed at people who are different. 15/
Unmasking or coming out is a great way to put a target on your back for the people who don’t like difference. 16/
Low self-esteem and impostor syndrome are also common for folks who have to mask and code-switch. If you don’t know who you are, it’s hard to have good self-esteem. If you don’t know who you are, it’s easy to perceive yourself as an impostor. 17/
I am not posting this to pressure anyone to unmask or come out - that’s not the point. 18/
What I’m hoping this thread will do is point out the problems masking, closeting, and code-switching cause for the people who have to do it, raise awareness, and make it a little safer to stop doing those things. 19/
I also want people to know that if and when you do decide to unmask or come out, there are communities waiting to help you with the fallout. You’re not alone. 20/
And just like during Pride month when we say you don’t have to come out, you also don’t have to unmask. But if you want to, there are safe(r) spaces to do it. 21/
If you're an adult wondering if you're autistic, or ADHD, or some other kind of neurodivergent - if you've been following #AskADHD or #ActuallyAutistic threads and saying "Uh, that sounds like me" - know that you aren't alone. And yes, it's scary to unmask. That's valid. 22/
You can do this in your own time, and in your own way. And there are communities that will be here to help you, when and if you do. What you're feeling about it is, sadly, normal - but it can be managed. It won't be this way forever. 23/23
And for those who are thinking "church?" I was raised Catholic. I converted to Judaism in my 40s. Moving on...

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More from @teachergriff

Jul 13
I was raised by culture snobs.

Let me explain what that means for me now, an early-50s adult autistic queer dude. 1/
My parents - especially my mother - had no truck with anything that was popular culture. Although they were technically hippies before they got married, once they got married they went full-Boomer sellout right quick. 2/
I grew up in a house where the only permitted music was classical music composed before the 1920s. If it was composed any later than that, it was not allowed in the house (with the exception of John Williams soundtracks and a very few folk musicians). 3/
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