Pride Month Q&A with Jennifer Alumbaugh


What’s your name?

 

Jennifer Alumbaugh - she/they


What’s your identity? 

 

I am a queer, fat, gender expansive, Autistic-ADHD, dynamically disabled, ex-evangelical, femme who exists in a white body.


What was the process of discovering your neurodivergence like for you?

 

The process of coming into my Autistic-ADHD identity was a long one not unlike coming into my queer & gender expansiveness.

 

I spent 15 years working as a licensed therapist and complex trauma specialist.  The more I learned about complex developmental trauma and cPTSD, the more I saw connections to neurodivergence–this was years ago around 2016 when there was not yet all the rich information, narratives, and resources we have now to understand the vast array of neurodivergences.

 

During the early years of the pandemic as I moved my practice to 100% virtual telehealth and many of my clients were transitioning to remote work from home, I see now how there was some parallel process happening.  As they were curious in session about exploring their neurodivergences, experiences they named sounded familiar to my own which prompted me to do my own research.  

 

My process of coming fully into my Autistic-ADHD identity has also included an ongoing process of deconstructing internalized ableism which has in turn made it exponentially easier for me to embody self compassion, patience, curiosity, and loving kindness toward myself and others.

 

 

How does intersectionality impact your experience?

 

Intersectionality as coined and defined by Dr. Kimberlé Crenshaw is “a lens through which you can see where power comes and collides, where it interlocks and intersects.”  When we use this tool to examine identity we see the expansiveness of all the intersecting dimensions of human experience.

 

As a person experiencing the world in a white body, there are certain advantages and privileges afforded me just because of my skin.  As a result, I am in continual work of somatic abolitionism and deconstructing internalized white supremacy dynamics.

 

I can experience discrimination as a queer person, as an Autistic-ADHD person, as a disabled person, and those experiences are valid.  Intersectionality reminds me that despite these experiences, my other identities do not excuse me from the work of abolitionism and while I still face discrimination, I will never experience the violence that Black, Indigenous and People of the Global Majority are subject to because of the color of their skin.

 

There is no discussing ableism without discussing racism without discussing misogynoir without discussing transphobia; they are all derived from the same source of white supremacy.


Any advice for people wanting to show up as an ally? 

 

I like the term “accomplice” more than the term “ally.”  To me, accomplices are willing to get uncomfortable, make sacrifices, and experience loss as a result of their relationship with those who are targeted.  It raises the stakes.

 

As for advice, Do your own inner work. 

I was an LGBTQIA2S “ally” for many years before realizing I’m actually queer myself.  The process of coming into my queerness and gender expansiveness included me going through an intentional process of exploring my gender and sexuality.  

 

It’s all connected for me…deconstructing from religious indoctrination, confronting my whiteness and inherent supremacy, unlearning internalized ableism…the more I do this work, the more expansive everything becomes.  White supremacy teaches there is only One Right Way to be or do anything.  Once I began exploring outside of that very narrow line, infinite possibilities opened up.


What is it like being you? 

 

Oh, um.  What a challenging question!  Hahaha.

 

For most of my life I felt like an alien that had randomly gotten lost on planet Earth.  I didn’t understand why despite allllllllllll the work I put into trying to act like others around me, I still felt othered and wrong.

 

Being me feels like being the syncopated beat, feels like seeing the view from the summit while still being on the trail, feels like seeing entire constellations and all the threads connecting them, feels like being a tesseract drawn on a piece of paper.

 

Coming into my Autistic-ADHD identity has given me a context in which I finally feel I belong.



 

What’s your spark (what brings you joy)?

 

Witnessing others connect with their truest selves; giving someone the tools to give sound to their story and volume to their voice; making jokes and laughing with my dog; dancing; making art; creating spaces where people feel like they belong.



 

What’s difficult for you? 

 

As a queer, Autistic-ADHD business owner, it’s important for me to be out and open about my identity in order to connect with others and give context to some of my lived experiences.

 

Living in a state that is actively erasing queer and gender expansive rights and protections is terrifying and overwhelming.  I retired from being a therapist because I could no longer safely provide gender affirming care without threat of being reported, could no longer provide accurate reproductive healthcare information to clients without the threat of being sued, both of which could subject me to losing my license.  As a result, I had to pivot my work to coaching and consulting.  I love the work I do now, and also grieve what has been taken from me due to bigotry and toxic religion.

 

I won’t compromise my values and I won’t be less of myself–I spent decades doing that to serve others.  I am out in all the ways and proud of who I have worked hard to become.  And also, this reality presents unique challenges to running a business and working toward a vision of cultural transformation for queer neurokin.

 

Also dishes.  They are my arch nemesis.



 

What has been helpful for you? 

 

Connecting with NeuroKin has been vital.  A year ago I met Jackie Schuld, ATR-BC, LPC an art therapist and fellow late-identified Autistic.  She was my first autistic bestie who is also a business owner and her friendship has been absolute gold.  We started our talk show, Autistics Unscripted as a way to validate our own experiences coming into our identities as well as connect with others who may also have shared experiences.  

 

Connecting with Julie Landry, PsyD, ABPP and Dani Rodwell, LCSW, founders of NeuroSpark who are transforming the process of diagnostic assessment for Autistic and ADHD adults.

 

Being referred to the website, www.Embrace-Autism.com and taking alllllll the self-assessments available!

Building community with other late-identified neurodivergent adults and business owners giving ourselves permission to do business differently.

 

Enjoying the overlap in community/identity among queer neurokin.

 

Embracing my strengths and limitations and accommodating myself or asking for accommodations from others when needed.



 

What does Pride mean to you? 

 

The first Pride was a riot.  Pride is a collective defiance, an unwillingness to shrink, to be erased.  Pride is kinship.  Pride is a glimpse of and a hope for what could be.  Pride is a rejection of every identity that was imposed on us without our consent.  Pride is resistance.  Pride is liberation.  Pride is political and personal and public and private.  Pride is yours.  Pride is mine.  Pride was fought for by our transcestors; we are its caretakers and legacy.



 

What message do you want to share?

 

Whether it’s Pride, or embracing identity, or accommodating yourself, do what supports your wellbeing and thriving.  Write your own story of who you are.  Give yourself permission to want and work for easefulness.  Embrace the expansiveness of your being and becoming.  Trust yourself.




 

Jennifer Alumbaugh, MS (she/they) is the NeuroInclusive Business and Executive Coach & Consultant and founder of Expansive Expressions.  They are a retired licensed complex trauma therapist of 15 years and are a queer, fat, gender expansive, late-identified Autistic-ADHDer with dynamic disabilities.  The mission of Expansive Expressions is to equip neurodivergent founders, executives, leaders, and professionals in building sustainable, accessible, and profitable businesses and careers.  Outside of this work, Jennifer enjoys cracking jokes with her dog Akesa and engaging in creative play as a printmaker.  Connect with them on LinkedIn or www.ExpansiveExpressions.com