"I don't fit in the cookie-cutter mold," says Corey Coloma. "I am a unique individual. I am not the conventional person."
Fifteen years ago, an almost-21-year-old Coloma came out as gay to his mother and close friends. The following year he came out to the rest of his family. Some accepted him; others disowned him. Years later, he'd have other, major news to share with loved ones, and reactions were also mixed. Like sexuality, neurodiverse identity is complex, and as Coloma would learn, often oversimplified or just plain misunderstood.
In 2014, Coloma was diagnosed autistic, initially by a nurse practitioner then subsequently by three psychologists. While some thought it made sense, Coloma reveals, others were "telling me I couldn't be autistic [because of] a variety of stereotyped misconceptions about the autistic community." Often, autistic individuals are characterized as introverted, lacking a sense of humor, or focused on a singular "special interest." Even now, Coloma says, "most people ask me what my special interest is. They also see if I can pick up on humor."
Coloma's current job as Director of Operations for Twainbow, a "100 percent autistic-led organization" is all about fostering a community for LGBTQ autistic individuals—and dispelling the many misconceptions they encounter. A portmanteau of "two" and "rainbow," Twainbow advocates for those living under a "double rainbow," or the LGBTQ spectrum.
Through shared resources, an online group and a new "autism pride flag," Twainbow seeks to change the conversation around LGBTQ individuals on the autism spectrum. "We have been contacted from around the globe by people [who] were told it was not possible to be LGBTQI+ and also autistic," says Coloma. "Twainbow creates a place for our community to gather and share experiences. It ensures that people know they are not alone."