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LGBTQ Autists will have a place at Pride

Written by Staff

LGBTQ-Autism Utah will be part of the Utah Pride Festival for first time. The three founders of the new project are honored to announce its inclusion with the upcoming Utah Pride Festival on Saturday and Sunday, June 1-2, 2019, at Washington Square.

The decision for this first-time inclusion in the festival could have spawned from late last year’s LGBTQ-autism Training Exchange that set out to bridge the gap between the two communities: LGBT and autism spectrum disorder. The University of Utah Autism Spectrum Disorder Clinic partnered with the Utah Pride Center to host a day of training between the communities.

ASD characterizes as difficulty with social interaction and communication as well as restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior. Recent research has shown a disproportionate number of individuals are both LGBTQ and autistic. While not all LGBTQ or autistic individuals comprise this new community, it is among the largest groups within the overall LGBTQ community.

David Nelson, who has been an LGBTQ activist and lobbyist in Utah, California and Washington, D.C., for more than 37 years, was diagnosed with ASD at the University of Utah Autism Spectrum Disorder Clinic in 2015. His work involved creating and directing new LGBTQ organizations, many of which remain mainstays in the Utah and national LGBTQ communities. His work has involved local, state and federal government agencies. When he learned of the disproportionate number of LGBTQ autists, he reached out to Jimmy Lee and Dr. Kristina Feldman to share abilities and interests in creating a new community. Together, they are launching the LGBTQ-Autism Utah project at the 2019 Utah Pride Festival.

While participating in the Pride Festival, autists will have a safe, quiet space to go to as needed. They may gather throughout the festival hours at the cafe inside the Leonardo Museum, which is located across the street from the Festival grounds.

Also, Grant Hamilton, author of the ‘Heroes of Karth’ series, which weaves themes of family, LGBTQ, autism, tolerance, and racism throughout a fantasy setting, will speak during the festival.

Grant’s lecture will expand on his experiences as a new author in the fantasy genre and how his life experiences have informed his writing. Growing up in a small town in Quebec, Grant was exposed to intolerance in many forms. Essentially, anyone who was “different” in that type of rural setting had a difficult life and as a child, when that’s all they saw around them every day.

His son with autism was bullied in school and he experienced his pain and frustration, seeing him realize that he wasn’t the same as everyone else but not understanding why. This experience hurt Grant to his soul. It solidified in his mind that he had to do something, and it had to be more than just donate money.

The decision to create LGBTQ and autistic heroes in the ‘Heroes of Karth’ series was not taken lightly. Grant’s belief is that everyone needs heroes as role models and the only way he could fill that role for his son was by engaging his passion to create something that his son could read and understand that autism is a super power.

Twenty copies of Grant’s book will be given to random audience guests during his presentation while other guests will receive a PDF version of the book. Hamilton had the privilege to work for the Canadian AIDS Society for a year where he came to appreciate the tight-knit LGBTQ community and its struggles with HIV/AIDS and other issues like coming out and being accepted. It was his work with these communities which made him realize that he could not ignore the LGBTQ community and, as a result, he added a strong inclusive element to his story line dedicated to raise more awareness.

Grant Hamilton’s presentation takes place Sunday, June 2, 1:30–2:30 p.m., in the Nancy Tessman Auditorium, Salt Lake City Public Library, 210 E. 400 South.

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