By Barrett White
Photo by Desmond Gorchinsky
Millions of people worldwide identify as being both LGBT and autistic—two communities that have faced more than their fair share of discrimination.
Diagnosed with Asperger syndrome in 2013, Louis Molnár, who is also openly gay, took it upon himself to assist those around the world who fall within that “double rainbow.” And thus Twainbow was born, the name being a portmanteau of “twain” (meaning “two”) and “rainbow.”
“Those who are both LGBT and autistic live under two rainbows—the rainbow flag and the autism spectrum,” says Molnár, founder and chair of Twainbow. “Twainbow is an organization dedicated to advocacy for people who live under both rainbows through awareness and education.”
Twainbow was founded right here in Houston in 2015, with official operations beginning in Oregon in 2016 under the guidance of the organization’s director, Corey Coloma. Though it is now based in Toronto, Molnár continues his commitment to Twainbow, along with board members from around the world who assist in the support of an estimated five million people who fall under LGBT+ and autism spectrums globally.
“Being the consummate researcher, I learned that the perception of autism was one of disability and inability,” Molnár says. “That certainly didn’t describe me, so I set out to do what I could to help with that perception: I came out as an autistic in an iReport on CNN, and more recently founded Twainbow to bring awareness to this segment of the LGBT+ community.”
To Molnár, the similarities between the two communities are striking. “There is still the perception that autistics are somehow broken, and the discrimination reminds me of how homosexuals were once thought to be broken or perverted. Think about it: gays, lesbians, and all others in the LGBT+ spectrum are still considered to be mentally ill, even though [that clinical definition] was reversed in 1973. Being autistic and gay is a double challenge—a tale of two closets, as it were. Each one is an entire coming-out process of personal struggle, self-discovery, priority-seeking, and ultimately acceptance. These two revelations can happen decades apart, and both are life-altering events.”
Living openly as an autistic gay man has brought Molnár to face interesting challenges that he feels he would not have been confronted with otherwise. For example, when his peers question his ability to work effectively, he replies by pointing out his previous accomplishments. This typically results in his peers realizing the absurdity of their question.
Fortunately for Molnár and others within the community, organizations like Twainbow and ASTEP (Asperger Syndrome Training and Employment Partnership) are making strides toward ending stigmas. (ASTEP does not specifically acknowledge the LGBT+ community as Twainbow does.)
For Molnár and Coloma, Twainbow’s future agenda is ambitious, but worth the work. Currently, Twainbow is working to develop a group of international liaisons and board members to advocate for the autistic LGBT+ community. Though they are a niche organization, they see the potential for millions of people worldwide to become a part of their efforts to foster empowerment and acceptance.
Twainbow receives comments and thank-you’s daily via social media from people all over the world, from celebrities to elected officials and, of course, regular Joes—something that lets Molnár know they’re on the right track. “Early on, we found many within the autism community didn’t embrace those who were LGBT+, and vice-versa,” he says. “There is still much work to be done, but they’re slowly coming around, and we’re getting past the ‘Wait. This is a thing?’ level of awareness. Education helps with acceptance.”
In time for Pride 2016, Twainbow released an official LGBT+ Pride flag that represents the LGBT+ population living with autism. The flag features a pale infinity sign atop the primary colors of red, green, and blue. Molnár explains the meaning: “One of the two main autism symbols, the infinity sign shows strength, potential, and pride. The primary colors are capable of composing all other colors of the rainbow, so it represents the overlap of autism onto every other Pride gradient, since those on the autism spectrum are found in every country, sex, race, religion, and sexual orientation.”
Barrett White is a frequent contributor to OutSmart magazine.