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Champions of Pride 2023: Comedian and Author Fern Brady

Champions of Pride 2023: Comedian and Author Fern Brady

<p>Champions of Pride 2023: Comedian and Author Fern Brady</p>
Photo by Rapheal Neal

Photo by Rapheal Neal

In her new book, the bisexual comic offers an honest and humorous look at her life, from dealing with undiagnosed autism to becoming a rising star in stand-up.

Champions of Pride 2023: It’s our annual celebration of some of the fierce, fearless change-makers and creatives who continue to make the world a better place for LGBTQ+ people — and this year, we’re focusing on the beautiful diversity of our community.

Fern Brady always knew she was a little different. She found herself sexually interested in both men and women while growing up in a working-class Scottish-Catholic family, and says she always struggled socially but never quite understood why.

Over the last few years, Brady has begun making a name for herself in the U.K. comedy scene, known for being brash, honest, and talking about things most would consider taboo. At 34, she was officially diagnosed with autism, and since then, everything has clicked.

“I hate socializing in large groups,” she says. “There’s way too much going on to be able to follow a conversation and I almost always say the wrong thing.”

In her new memoir, Strong Female Character, Brady details the years between her diagnosis, as well as the unique battle of sexism and ableism that often prevents autistic women from receiving a diagnosis until they reach adulthood.

She explains that it was during her youth that books saved her, and cites queer author Jeanette Winterson as a favorite due to her exploration of gender and sexuality. “Even though I present feminine, especially now with work, I think something about being autistic meant I always felt more androgynous.”

“Literature meant I could conceive of a world beyond my little town,” she adds, “and I knew my way was the healthier way to be.”

Though she admits staying closeted for a while after some negative family responses to her bisexuality, Brady says finding her home in stand-up also helped her become more comfortable with her identity. And while the topic of her sexuality has also produced some of Brady’s more blatant onstage content, she doesn’t necessarily adhere to the term “sex positive.” She says, “I think I’m just normal about sex and other people are weird.”

Of her autism diagnosis, Brady says most people assume women are better at masking it, which prevents their diagnosis — but for many, that can only last so long. “I give pretty funny examples in the book of the multiple times I was masking terribly over the years and was clueless in social situations. I think the lack of diagnosis in women is mostly down to medical misogyny, as well as many doctors being utterly incompetent about spotting autism in general.”

Even though she struggles in social situations, taking the stage and the spotlight makes sharing her message “a million times easier.”

“Stand up is a kind of conversation where the audience can only respond in one of two or three ways,” she says. “If they aren’t responding the way you like, you can go back to your script and refine it and create a seemingly spontaneous response to that.”

As to those who reach out to Brady and tell her they suspect autism but don’t have the time, money, capacity, or means to pursue a diagnosis, she emphasizes the importance of finding other autistic people online.

“I got more help and advice from other autistic people post-diagnosis than from anywhere else,” she says. “I fully believe all the biggest changes are going to come not from raising awareness with neurotypical people or hoping doctors will get a clue, but from the autistic community and autistic people learning to advocate for ourselves.”

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