Lived experiences

Autism Acceptance and Appreciation

April 3, 2023

Piripi Mackie
Piripi Mackie
Misty is looking into the camera in one of their stage costumes. The attire is black and white and covers their shoulders. They have thick white makeup on their face with bright red eye shadow and lipstick. Their curly hair is pulled back with it rolled around cans above their head in a black headscarf

My name is Piripi Mackie, aka Misty Frequency, and my pronouns are ia/they/them.

I am a Takatāpui + neurodivergent + genderless visual, performance and drag artist. I whakapapa to Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngā Rauru, Kai Tahu and Scotland. The kaupapa behind my mahi is to bring you political, conceptual and avant-garde content, ultimately with the aim to advocate, celebrate, demonstrate, captivate and stimulate.

My journey towards self-discovery regarding how my brain works went into full throttle when I was 26, during the first lockdown in 2020. I was staying with my mum and brother for the first time since high school, and I noticed through my mature eyes the particular idiosyncrasies that we all shared. That ultimately led me to research autism and ADHD. Both of which I have since discovered to have.

“Through these observations and analysis, my eyes were opened, and dots connected to how my brain works, and suddenly so much of my life made sense.”

As a child, I was (still am, tbh) sensitive. Not only emotionally but to specific sensory issues. I was bullied at school for not only being visibly queer but also autistic (even though, at the time, I didn't have the language to know what autism was). I struggled with communication and making friends, lacked social skills and reading social cues, and often got in trouble and made fun of for not thinking before speaking.

From those years, I spent most of my time masking my autism traits. I became socially awkward and struggled even more with communication, especially speaking up about the bullying (going to a boy's school, you can imagine the toxic masculinity I experienced).

Although the lessons I've learnt from these situations have helped me grow, they've also caused trauma.

As an adult, these are things that I don't want to negatively affect my life; I want to find a healthy balance between the child I was before the bullying began and the lessons I have learnt from the bullying. To be more comfortable unmasking in safe spaces.

“There are many different autistic experiences, and there are many different ways that autism and neurodiversity manifest. It's a spectrum, and one size does not fit all. Infinite diversity and potential. Rare and precious.”

With greater public awareness of autism, it can help not only individuals with autism but also help make lives easier for families and caregivers. Understanding also helps those who are undiagnosed and/or those unaware of something they are living with, much like my own journey.

I yearn for a time when Awareness month no longer needs to exist, where the quality of life has improved, where help and support are readily available and accessible to all, and where we have a seat at the table.

“Autism Awareness Month is very important; however, raising awareness about autism is insufficient to substantially improve our lives. The mahi does not stop there. There needs to be understanding, respect and empathy.”

I don't want what happened to me as a child and teen to happen to anyone else. I want growth to stem from acceptance and appreciation, not trauma and ignorance. For me, life would've been smoother if I had known I was neurodivergent earlier in life. I don't want anyone to feel like that after being educated and/or diagnosed later in life.

Autism is not something to be solved or healed from; we are not broken. It's not about conforming and perpetually masking; it's about reaching our full potential without fear but in the systems we live in now, it is not always possible. Without a base of awareness to build upon, this world that is not made for us to thrive will continue to exist.