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18-year-old Aether is autistic, has ADHD and is a trans-masculine teenager. In this heartfelt account, Aether shares how he experiences life, getting the support he needs from Mable, and his message for autistic transgender teens out there.
Q. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m Aether, I’m 18 years old, I’m autistic, I have ADHD, and I’m trans-masculine agender and my pronouns are he or it.
I like drawing and playing video games and I go to high school. In the future, I want to get into character design as a career.
Q. You were featured in Naomi Ball’s film, Who I Am. What was it like?
We started filming when I was 14, and I don’t really remember a lot of the filming process, but I do remember I had to walk out of my house a bunch of times so that we could get the shot that Naomi wanted. And they would follow us around a lot.
I designed the animated characters in the film. They were the way that I expressed myself through my art at the time. Over time, my characters have changed to be completely different ones.
The finished product is really well done, and I really like it.
There isn’t that much representation of young trans Autistic people and having that representation and awareness can lead to better help for young trans autistic people.
Q. What do you look for in a support worker?
I look for someone who understands autism, is trauma-informed, and is an ally to the queer community and will respect my gender identity. If they share a similar music taste, that’s really good too.
Q. How does your support worker on Mable work with you?
I see a support worker every Tuesday. She helps me with emails, setting appointments, and paperwork. Sometimes, she will remind me if I need to do something.
She picks me up from school so I don’t have to worry about getting home on time to do the support work sessions. We’ll get a snack on the way home and I can rant to her about stuff that happens at school, which is really nice.
She supports my gender identity too. She listens to my transition goals and affirms my pronouns and my name.
Q. Is there anything you would like to share with the community or someone who is autistic?
Be proud of YOU for being autistic because it’s really cool that you can see the world differently from allistic people. Whether you’re autistic or queer, or both, just be proud of who you are.
And please come and see our film and we can celebrate Autistic Pride Day and Pride Month together. We have sensory-friendly screenings of the film happening in ACT, NSW, QLD, SA and VIC in June.
About Who I Am
Who I Am is a 23 minute documentary following a transgender teen who is also autistic. Research shows that people who are neurodivergent are more likely to be trans or gender diverse.
After being bullied at school, 14-year-old Charlie (pronouns he/him/it) finally comes out to his mum, setting him on a path of navigating the first steps of his transition – the social transition – and ultimately settling into his identity with a new name Aether.
Meanwhile, his mum Anthea goes on her own journey to embracing her child for all that he is.
The story is told through observational moments, intimate reflections from the whole family, and Aether’s own original animated characters, The Fallens, coming to life.
Read filmmaker Naomi’s interview about the film.
You can find more details about the film screenings on the Who I Am website. If you prefer to watch at home, you can stream it on 10play.
Images courtesy Naomi Ball