Life as an autistic, asexual, agender student

Burgundy Johnson

Burgundy Johnson

Burgundy Johnson

As a queer, autistic, asexual and nonbinary person, my pronouns are they/them/theirs and vi/vir/virs, and I have mixed feelings about my safety on campus at UW Oshkosh.

On one hand, people seem to leave me alone. I’ve been informed that I give off this “don’t mess with this person” vibe, which is definitely for the best because I am a black belt, but I also know I’m a pacifist who runs from bees.

On the other hand, I don’t appreciate the way the University Police shrugs off my friend and my concerns over a dark, unlit area of campus that said friend has definitely been stalked at before. The nearest blue lights are far, far away in either direction.

I have a friend who’s had rocks thrown at them while walking along the sidewalk. Another was targeted by a student who believed LGBTQ people should be killed.

Friends of mine have been blatantly discriminated against by teachers, students and employees for being queer, presenting as queer or just wearing a bunch of queer-positive buttons.

I absolutely despise it all, but I also know that this campus is steadily getting better; I hope that environment continues to improve for my friends who are magnets for the hate and harassment.

I have yet to have a professor who, when I actually bothered to tell them my pronouns, did not at least make an honest effort to use them, but I definitely don’t tell every professor.

I rarely tell my pit lecturers my pronouns. I don’t remember the last time I told a lab proctor or a math teacher for that matter, and I’m fairly certain two of my history professors were never told.

I tell my majors’ professors in English, biology and environmental studies with few exceptions because it never came up so it didn’t cross my mind.

Because I know some of those reading may be curious, my identity has a lot of labels, and none of them are easy to explain.

I’m nonbinary, or agender, which for me means that I don’t feel like I’m male or female, but rather something else entirely. I’m asexual so I don’t experience sexual attraction, but that doesn’t stop me from feeling love in deep emotional bonds or romantic attraction.

I have a gender, probably, but I feel incredibly neutral, not strongly toward anything in particular.

Like extra dimensions in physics, gender exists in theory because the math evidences its existence but we don’t know for sure if it’s there, and we can’t directly perceive it regardless.

I’ve grown quite attached to the word “nonbinary” because it’s sufficiently vague and accurate at the same time.

I’m also on the aromantic spectrum.

“But Burgundy, you just said that you still experience romantic attraction!” I heard at least one person say, to which I clarify that I specifically consider myself demiandropolyromantic, which is a mouthful of a conglomeration of prefixes that I’ll break down.

“Demi” refers to how I only experience romantic attraction after developing a strong emotional bond, which isn’t me being prudish; it’s how my orientation works and there ain’t nothing to be done about that.

“Poly” refers to my attraction to multiple genders, but not necessarily all. I choose to use “poly” instead of “bi” or “pan” because while, yes, I’m attracted to all genders, all physiology types, and all presentations, but I’m not attracted to all combinations. I personally feel that describing myself as “pan” or “bi” would be false advertising.

“Andro” I use as a modifier to “poly” to specify that I have a strong preference for masculine-spectrum identifying types and fellow nonbinary folks.

In addition to all of those identities, I’m also polyamorous, which for me stems from experiencing deep emotional bonds for many friends and having a hard time deciphering the difference between a deep emotional love and a romantic love.

Regardless of my own blurry gray line between platonic and romantic feelings, I tell my loved ones that I simply have too much love to give and no single person can possibly contain it all, and that’s okay. But most of the time, I just tell people I’m queer. It’s a lot easier.

I don’t hide it. I think I look too openly androgynous and gay to fool anyone into thinking I’m cisgender and straight. I’m also a terrible liar.

I want to live openly as myself existing as an obnoxious, loud, nonbinary person just living their best life, even if the world around me is tense and filled with way too many people who want to hurt my friends and me.

I’ve found a home on campus, and though it could still use a lot of improvement, I’m going to continue living my best life being me.