Should We, Like, Even Have Pride 2020?

Content note: This post discusses the coronavirus pandemic as well as the cancellation of Pride 2020 and other events, and, more importantly, racism and the protests currently unfolding in the US following the death of yet another Black man at the hands of a police officer. Obviously, that’s kinda heavy, so please take care of yourselves first – you can’t pour from an empty (or debilitatingly traumatised) cup.


I’ve been lucky enough to go to a number of brilliant pride events. Even when they’ve been overwhelming, and a little lacking in the accessibility department, and thoroughly rained upon, I’ve been warmed through by a sense of community and safety that I rarely find outside of kink spaces and small pockets of the internet. Like a lot of people, I was really looking forward to Pride 2020.

Except, well, it’s 2020.

There’s a pandemic going on, just in case you had somehow not heard (and I’m so fucking jealous of you if you hadn’t). That, obviously, means that physical pride events are going to be difficult to organise in a safe and responsible way. I’ve been grieving the loss of a lot of opportunities and things I was excited about and any sense of normality, so pride events being cancelled is something I’m kinda already emotionally prepared for. Besides, it’s not physical events that I’m the most invested in (again, overwhelming and inaccessible) – it’s pride month.

Pride month is usually a lot of fun. It’s the month before my birthday, and everything in the shops is dipped in rainbows and other pride flags. The memes are usually impeccable. There are fruitful discussions about the LGBT+ rights movement, and less fruitful “discussions” with trolls (I can’t help it! They’re so easy to wind up!). Most pride months, there’s a hum in the air, like every LGBT+ person is vibrating with excitement at the prospect of painting flags onto their faces and getting wasted. Generally, the vibe is a positive, uplifting one.

I don’t know how or if we could achieve that vibe this year without the coronavirus involved, though, because there’s another reason that I’m writing this blog post: the protests in the United States.

I’m not equipped to talk about what’s going on. I’m not well-informed enough, in my own opinion, but more importantly than that: I’m white. As far as I’m concerned, that means my job is to boost the voices of Black people and other people of colour, but not to come to any grand conclusions on my own and then spout them from my white-person soapbox. I want to be helpful, but in this case, I’m pretty sure the most helpful thing to do would be to listen to Black people, spread the protest bail funds and other helpful information, and tell other white people to bloody well behave themselves.

A while ago, I wrote a blog post called Chicken Wings: A Clumsy Metaphor About Race. That post paradoxically discouraged white fragility and catered to it, by reminding white people that the people who call them out for racist behaviours are trying to help them be less racist. Even at the time, I didn’t love framing it in a way that fed the white egos reading it, but I was trying to be patient and gentle with y’all because I have enough privilege to take a softly-softly approach to anti-racism discussions.

I do not, however, have enough patience for said approach. I’m sick of watching my fellow white people defending cops, criticising the actions of protesters, sharing shit without double-checking its legitimacy or helpfulness… the list goes on. I’m sick of watching white people just… not… care about other human beings. I cannot begin to imagine how much more sick of it most POC are.

So, even though we could do a virtual Pride 2020 – should we? Should we be celebrating while other people are fighting for their rights and getting teargassed in response? Should we all have rainbow-y icons and hang out in group chats and listen to absolutely banging tunes while drinking on Zoom with some mates?

The answer is, of course, that I can’t answer that. Neither can people of colour, because (surprise surprise), they aren’t a monolith. They don’t have meetings about their official stances on various issues. Instead, they’re all individuals – but some of them are community organisers and activists, and I plan to find a few of those people to listen to as June unfolds. I honestly won’t mind if Pride 2020 sort of falls on its face, gets postponed or is entirely written off, because human rights are more important to me than getting to draw flags on my face. You know, obviously.

I don’t want to include just one masterpost of helpful resources in case I miss out something vital, so I implore you (especially if you’re white) to go and do some research about how best to help both the protesters currently operating in the US and the Black Lives Matter movement more broadly. Donate to things, physically turn up and help protesters where you safely can, and remember: wash your hands, don’t touch your face, get a burner phone and never, ever trust a cop.

Pride: A Complicated Experience

Stock photo of glitter laid out in stripes to form a rainbow. Glitter is present at a lot of Pride events, in case you didn't know ;)

I haven’t been to a tonne of Pride events.

I came out to myself as bi when I was about 13, and as nonbinary when I was about 17. Unusually, I think, I didn’t feel any internalised shame about my queer identity in the traditional sense. When I realised I was bisexual, I was excited about it: excited about my newfound connection to the LGBTQ+ community, excited about the possibility of kissing girls and excited that I’d found a label that fit me, after a year or two of worrying that I was simply a lesbian who was very bad at lesbianing.

When I came out to myself as nonbinary, I felt a degree of anxiety that I wasn’t not-cis enough (I didn’t experience all the dysphoria that mainstream media promised me, and I’d only put the pieces together as a young adult), but mostly I was, again, excited to find a word that fit my experience of gender. I understood, in theory, that a lot of people needed the Pride movement to allay their feelings of internalised shame, fear and grossness about being anything other than cishet, but whether it was the autism or my mum’s accepting and loving influence, I never felt bad about being queer.

This didn’t mean that I was uninterested in Pride events, but I didn’t feel any desperate pull towards them. I could experience the joy of being part of the LGBTQ+ community online, in the comfort of my own home, and that felt like enough for me. The first time I went to Pride, it was for an unconventional reason: I was deeply, deeply depressed, and it was a reason to leave the house.

My hometown’s Pride event was, and still is, mercifully grassroots in nature, held in a spacious park and never too crowded. But this didn’t stop me from feeling overwhelmed, especially when I found that there was nowhere for me to sit down and rest my disabled little legs, and nothing was signposted, leading to me getting turned around and confused at least twice an hour. I loved spotting other people’s flags, starting conversations with people about their dogs or their outfits, and talking to the people who ran stalls relevant to my interests, but I left the event exhausted and overstimulated and had to spend at least a couple of days in bed or otherwise in my pajamas, recharging my limited energy.

Bigger Pride events, as you can imagine, intimidate me. I went to one in my university city and found it so challenging that I slipped away on more than one occasion to the outskirts of the event, taking deep breaths and chewing on free sweets obtained from various stalls and booths. I know lots of other people find Pride inaccessible, and this year, I stuck to my hometown’s event – but still needed to be babysat by my girlfriends and metamour, reminded to eat, and encouraged to leave earlier than most people might because I was ready to lie down on the grass and give up.

This is why I feel conflicted about Pride. I already felt like it might not be for me, since I didn’t experience the internalised shame that so many LGBTQ+ people talked about, and after having found so many Pride events to be lacking in the accessibility department, I felt that even more strongly. Couple that with a police presence which makes my autistic nerves run higher than the volume on the main stage’s speakers and the ongoing online discussions about who “belongs” at Pride, I’ve often wondered what Pride does have to offer me.

The thing is, Pride as a concept is great. I enjoy rainbow paraphernalia and I even enjoy watching corporations desperately try to cater to me (only to drop the facade on the 1st of July) and then watching other LGBTQ+ people mock them for it. Pride month is fun, it reminds me of the importance of community and visibility, and it gives me an excuse to respond melodramatically to every minor inconvenience (“It’s raining? During this, Pride Month?”). But I’m starting to acknowledge that I pressure myself into attending events that I don’t really need to be at. I already know my community exists, I have created safe spaces of my own to be queer in, and I don’t feel gross or ashamed or anything other than pleased about my queer identity.

I know Pride does a lot for a lot of people. I love seeing people at Pride events blossoming with confidence they might not feel anywhere else, and I appreciate that there exists a space where everyone can just… be their authentic selves, without fear of repercussion. But with gatekeeping, corporate involvement, inaccessibility and the rest of it, it’s a movement and a series of events that I feel somewhat disconnected from.

I will continue to defend my LGBTQ+ siblings’ right to attend Pride events, obviously. I want to speak up in defense of asexual and aromantic people’s place at Pride and about the ways that a police presence can make POC and neurodivergent people feel deeply uncomfortable, but I might not need to push myself into events to achieve that. I suppose it’s a result of internalised ableism, something I do experience a lot of, that I feel like I need to do what my abled friends are doing whether I actually want to or not. And I suppose it’s important for me as an activist to confront my internalised ableism, and that might mean staying home from crowded, noisy, police-infested Pride events when I need to.

I’m still going to buy shit with rainbows on it, though. I’m always going to buy shit with rainbows on.

Why I Don’t Review Sex Toys (Yet)

Image is of a white hand (Morgan's) holding a box with a picture of the blue Fun Factory Stronic self-thrusting dildo on it.

Content note: this post refers briefly to my experience of being sexually groomed and the subsequent dissociation and trauma I experience. If that’s a bit heavy for you, join me next week for some thoughts on eye contact during sex, and take care of yourself in the meantime ♥


You might have noticed that I tackle a fairly broad range of sex- and kink-related topics on this li’l blog of mine, including detailed discussions of the things I’m into and the reasons I’m into them. You might also have noticed that I am a big user of sex toys, since they feature in a lot of my Smut Saturdays pieces and in some of my other essays too. Surely, then, the next logical step would be to write in-depth pieces on my enjoyment (or dislike) of specific sex toys, right?

Well, much like any other question that starts with, “Why do you…” or, “Why don’t you…”, the answer to this one is twofold: it’s the trauma, and the good ol’ autism.

Let’s get the trauma bit out of the way first. I don’t wank much. My first experiences of enjoyable masturbation were in a grooming context, wherein I was being instructed by someone a lot older than me on technique and fantasies. Six years on, I still find my own arousal unsettling when it isn’t “justified” by a partner’s presence and arousal of matching intensity, and trying to get off without anybody’s permission feels dangerous and unfamiliar. Even with awesome porn, if I’m touching myself while I’m alone, I feel unbearably self-conscious and will often dissociate. As you can imagine, this does not make for very good dildo data.

I could, of course, circumvent this by only testing toys in the presence of a partner – which would also yield more data in terms of how a toy can be used by two or more people. However, I’m depressed and anxious, and both of my partners are busy people, so I don’t want to put pressure on the sexual encounters we do manage to have by making them into research projects; nor do I want to put pressure on my partners themselves by bestowing upon them a responsibility to get sexy with me for the sake of my blog when we’d rather be watching Masterchef or snuggling in silence after a busy, hard day.

The only viable solution to this problem, in my eyes, is continued therapy, gentle experimentation, and lots and lots of time to keep recovering. If I ever do manage to produce a review of a toy, y’all should know it’ll be the product of a huge amount of psychological labour, support on my partners’ parts and way more time testing than the average reviewer probably spends.

With that out of the way, here’s my next point: the autism. Being autistic doesn’t automatically preclude a person from reviewing sex toys by any means, and it might even be an advantage to some, since autism can involve, among other things, heightened sensory experiences and a meticulousness that your neurotypical friends will envy during Deadline Week at uni. Unfortunately, my autism also involves a lack of cognitive empathy.

“But Morgan!” you cry, probably gripping your laptop or tablet screen in dismay. “You’re super empathetic! What are you talking about?!”

You’d be right, my dear fictional and overreacting reader. I have buckets of affective empathy, which is the one that makes you cry at videos of raccoons dissolving their own candy floss or bitterly despise your friends’ trash exes – in slightly more technical terms, affective empathy is the type of empathy that causes you to experience the same emotions that people around you are experiencing, and it’s the type I have way too much of.

Cognitive empathy, though, is the kind of empathy that helps you to understand how other people are feeling in the first instance – and I fucking suck at it. Once someone has very clearly signalled their emotions to me, I’m balls-deep in those emotions with them, but they have to be very, very clear signals. As a default, I assume that everybody is fundamentally like me, so I’m surprised to learn that people are straight, or that they like pasta, because I’m a pasta-hating double queer. In terms of sex toy stuff, I’m surprised to learn that some people like very direct clitoral stimulation or that they might dislike intense A-spot stim – and I tend to forget that information even once I’ve learned it. I worry that my lack of cognitive empathy would make my reviews effectively useless to anyone whose preferences didn’t align exactly with my own.

I also worry that my heightened sensory experiences would skew my reviews in a distinctly unhelpful way. Not only do I enjoy things more intensely than some neurotypical folk might, I also find some things unbearable that barely register for allistic folk. I am intensely bothered by certain textures, so I might slate a toy or a lube for a texture that 99% of the population would enjoy (or be neutral on). I’m also sensitive to noise, so my perception of the noise levels produced by a particular vibe might be wildly inaccurate and totally useless to somebody living in a block of flats with very thin walls.

I know that a lot of these problems could be mitigated by understanding and making clear to my readership that my reactions to stimuli aren’t representative and that I’m just describing my own experiences, but I’d hate to lead someone astray with my autistic fussiness and turn them away from a toy that they otherwise might have loved. I suppose, in a sense, this isn’t so much a problem with my autism as it is a problem with my own confidence in my writing; hopefully, over time, I’ll develop enough nuance to accurately and honestly review toys in a way that’s helpful for autistic and allistic folks alike.

Oh, and one final point: I’m broke as shit. Sex toys can be expensive, especially if you limit yourself to only reviewing body-safe ones, and I’m living off my student loan and the Amazon gift cards my uni sometimes gives me for participating in surveys. If any manufacturers or brands want to help mitigate that factor, since it’s the easiest one to contend with, you can reach me at kinkyautistic@gmail.com – which is also one of the many places you can reach me if you’re a reader and you want to share your thoughts on the art of reviewing toys.