Transcript for Angela Weddle

Kelly Bron Johnson (00:00):
Welcome to episode 10 of the intersections on the spectrum podcast. The intersections on the spectrum podcast. It's the brainchild of Doug Blecher and Kelly Bron Johnson created to discuss intersectional issues within the autistic community and give visibility to commonly marginalized, repressed,
underrepresented, or erased identities and issues. We aim to introduce you to the people and stories you didn't know about, but needed to hear and hope that by seeing yourself represented in the community, allows you to feel seen.

Doug Blecher (00:34):
It's hard to believe it's been 10 episodes already. It goes quick. This will be the 10th grade episode, and joining us today is talented artist, Angela Weddle. Hey Angela. Thanks so much for joining us today.

Angela Weddle (00:51):
Thank you. I'm happy to be here.

Doug Blecher (00:53):
Wanted to start out by learning, about your identities. What would you say the, are your identities, are that describe you?

Angela Weddle (01:03):
Well, I always joke that I, I, uh, I'm a member of so many minorities so that I could have my own UN membership. I mean, I'm black, I'm biracial, I'm queer, I'm autistic, I'm physically disabled, cerebral palsy and , uh, various, chronic pain fibromyalgia I have right Hemisphere, brain damage. Um, and so, and even queer as a whole thing, I mean at various times come out as trans on some that I don't, even
though I didn't go through with that, but I, you know, I kind of, my gender is kind of whatever my sexuality and so I kind of feel like I hit, uh, you know, kind of hit all the bases.

Kelly Bron Johnson (01:45):
So how do you feel that all these different intersections affect your life?

Angela Weddle (01:56):
You know, I don't know if I think, I mean, in terms of intersection, so I'm on a day to day sense. I mean, obviously they're there, they exist. And when, I guess one of them comes up, you know, you kinda think about it. So someone's, if you're getting flack, you know, whether it's being disabled, being black, whatever, but I mean, most of the time it's kind of really hard to separate them. They're kind of all rolled
into one. And I guess if I had to say the biggest way, it impacts my life is poverty. Poverty, medical care education, you know, there's I mean, growing up, you know, they made a big deal about my intelligence and I, and I wasn't diagnosed at time, even with cerebral palsy, that can be rare, but didn't get diagnosed till I wasn't an adult until I was diagnosed with other things. And then when I turned 18 and
went to college and just kind of, you know, hit this wall with all these expectations and then learning, oh, wait, there's totally no place for you here.

Angela Weddle (02:59):
You know, sorta like, you're brilliant. We can't teach you because you have the wrong kind of mind, you know, and there's no accommodations for right hemisphere, brain damage for right hemisphere and mass baseline lg disabilities. I mean, as kind of like, I guess where dyslexia was at one time, and it's still not great for people who are dyslexic, but definitely sort of like all my parents were in the wrong areas as far as, uh, it's like, okay, you, you, you know, you get to this point, there's not really the accommodations and more time on tests. And then I sort of realized, you know, because I was sort of my, went off the college like, oh, this is about learning, no, this is not about learning. This was about
economic gatekeeping. Um, you know, I mean, it should be about learning and I was there to learn, but I realized, oh, this is economic gatekeeping.

Angela Weddle (03:51):
And I'm kept out of this now. And so, I mean, in that sense, and it's not just universities its the whole thing, intergenerational trauma, my mother's neurodiverse, my mothers black. I grew up in black culture. I didn't really know my father and all of the dynamics, not just in my family personally, but so many black families, you know, the things that people do to, I guess, transcend their situation are not always good. They're at the expense of other people, you know, in their families. My mom and I bore a lot of the brunt of that, you know? And then if you don't, we don't have as much social capital to start, you know, as, as some people do. And then when you have disabilities with it and, it's kind of this whole
effect of, I, you know, sometimes I think, well, why didn't I cut class?

Angela Weddle (04:42):
I did all the right things only to be in a position.I feel like I could have been if I would've blown everything off. And so even poverty is kind of not even the right word. It's just very, uh, it's the whole systemic thing. It's not just, oh, you're police or fear of being arrested or all those things. It's this feeling of never being able to have autonomy fully.

Kelly Bron Johnson (05:02):
It's super, you know, it's vulnerable and it's also, it's scary cause you don't, um, complete lack of control over your life and being able to predict everything, something that kind of stuck out to me, I recently
applied for an American university and my only references that I, you know, I previously applied and went to a Canadian university and in the application for the American university, they were asking me about my parents' education. And I was like, why, why does that have to do with anything?

Kelly Bron Johnson (05:34):
Right. And you know, like, exactly, like, I don't know, like how was this? And I, I'm 40 years old now, like at the end of this month. So yeah. I know what you mean. And I was like, and my dad is dead. So what difference does it make? Like, you know, and, and he's the one who went to university good for him. But
my mom didn't, my mom never even finished high school, but what does that have to do with me?

Angela Weddle (05:59):
It shouldn't have anything. And that's also, you know, something, I don't think my dad, I don't know what he did or didn't do, but my mom did, you know, some college, some community college, but she didn't get, you know, finish at like, uh, a four year degree. Not that it matters, but that's part of the social capital. I mean, even when you think about job references being autistic, you know, I have friends
now, but even now the actual people I can count in person, you know, cause, but for a long time, when I was younger, I didn't have references. I had no references. And you know, everyone's like, you can't be a trustworthy person when some people don't have references. It's not because I'm not trustworthy. And
those social things, um, of, uh, just, I saw a man on the street, the police harassing. Don't you have any family? No, he didn't. He was old. He didn't have not, everyone has those things. We just assume everyone has. And then that's not even willing to the things that definitely not everyone has.

Doug Blecher (06:57):
Angela. I always like people that think differently because if not this, I think the world would be a really boring place. I read that you didn't get your autism diagnosis until you were adults. Unfortunately like many people, but growing up, everyone knew you were different when you were four years old, instead
of being content just to watch Sesame street, you were also watching Charlie Rose. What was, what was it about Charlie that drew your attention to him and his, uh, interviews?

Angela Weddle (07:32):
And I did watch Sesame street, but, um, and I can tell, still tell you what the show was about. It was about international relations. Um, and I guess so it's weird at that I wasn't even supposed to be watching them. I was epileptic growing up, um, I, he, at the time he was coming on around midnight on the PBS station, which normally I wouldn't be up at the time, but the medicine they had given me, I
guess it was having some negative side effects. So I was just not sleeping. I was awake and he came on and I must've seen him at my grandmother's at some point, maybe at some other time. And so, you know, I asked my mom to keep it, to keep it on, but beyond, beyond just that, I guess for one, I liked the all black background, you know, most talk shows.

Angela Weddle (08:20):
If you watched it, there was all this kind of noise, the audience, clapping this, you know, this, this whole, a lot of stimulation and it was just hit him and, you know, the subject and kind of that background and that intro music. And I guess maybe there was something soothing about that. I liked the sound of his voice. Um, always kind of been, you know, gravitating to maybe voices of people that were interesting.
Maybe not typically, I don't know, whatever the typical, sexy, whatever voices, but you know, interesting voices and the subject. I was always, I mean, you know, you would think, well, what does four year old know about international relations, but I was already telling everyone not to vote for Reagan at Christmas dinner. Uh, so I mean, I was just always, uh, interested in the world. It didn't matter if I didn't understand everything, you know, but, and so, uh, I didn't believe in this concept of, I wanted to.

Angela Weddle (09:21):
And the funny thing is I really wanted to be an adult as a child. I thought I would have control over my life. Somebody should have said that was a lie. And, and, um, I was not very into, uh, things that were for children for the most part, for my age, especially intellectually. So it was just another, I almost thought I could have the super awareness this mind over matter thing. I really believed in that and
getting as much to me, adult knowledge, and nobody told me it was like, it wasn't my mother or any adult, but somehow in my mind, I thought I would have control if I could kind of get all this knowledge about world.

Kelly Bron Johnson (09:59):
Yeah. That makes sense. I mean, I think a lot of us are people watchers like to try and make sense of things and try to understand why people do things.

Kelly Bron Johnson (10:07):
I think that's why a lot of like a lot of the autistic people, I know the women that I know, especially really love crime shows and understanding serial killers, because I think you're trying to figure out what makes somebody do that and how can you predict if anybody on the street is one of these, you know?

Angela Weddle (10:25):
Yes. And I actually have met a mass murderer, which was a very bizarre thing to do as a, as a child. Um, yeah. So, um, my mom was a, an officer and the top person who was a woman who would later go on to be arrested for this mass killing. He should've never been hired him. And I could tell him to man even was very brief, she had and do mean, but it was very the brief encounter, but you could, I could see
them. That was some, it wasn't nice, it was not, you know, and so, and I don't remember really being afraid because I know my mom would, therewas no way nothing was my mom and let anything touch me.

Angela Weddle (11:06):
But it was more that, that knowledge of people like this exist and that was before the crimes that happened.

Kelly Bron Johnson (11:13):
So I think, I think that's a one way that we kind of maybe could keep herself safe to some extent too, by being able to recognize.

Angela Weddle (11:21):
Right. But that wasn't even what I was afraid of. I mean, I grew up being bullied constantly for not fitting in being too white, being not black enough, being whatever. And I kind of always in the margins and having to physically find a lot. And for me it wasn't, I think for me, my draw to things like crime shows, wasn't so much, how do I keep myself safe? I think there's a capacity in anyone to kind of go over these edges and, you know, people like to think you can't. And so I just found it interesting because once you've had to, it doesn't matter if it's self-defense once you're in any kind of situation where you're kind of involved in any violence, kind of figuring out your own roles and capacities, then I found the complexity of the idea of guilt them in the sense to be, I think, trying to figure out that, and also trying to predict maybe not so much what crime shows as involved, but even as a child predict who was going to be safe, who was going to believe who was going to be violent, who was just going to call names, which for me was like, whatever.

Angela Weddle (12:24):
And then, and who was, and then even into adult, um, behaviors or sort of things. So I was just watching everything and making this mental Rolodex of, of behavior, you know? And it was less, so much those extreme things like, oh, somebody might kill me or that kind of thing, but more of the day to day traumas. Yeah. It was trying to predict fully.

Kelly Bron Johnson (12:48):
Totally, totally, totally relate to that. And it's an interesting skill to have like, cause like you said, I was bullied too, and it was it's about teasing out. Okay. Who can I ignore? Who do I need to kind of deescalate with? You know, who do I need to, if you're just going to call me names. Okay, cool. No problem. I'll just keep walking, whatever. Yeah, I totally, and I think that has served me really well, especially when I travel, like I've traveled by myself around the world and you know, I've been in
situations where I've been grabbed and things like that.

Kelly Bron Johnson (13:16):
And it's kind of that that's a really handy skill to have, but as bad as it seems.

Angela Weddle (13:22):
Oh no, no. I think as people talk, you know, like to say, we don't have social skills and I was telling a friend recently, I think I had better boundaries as a child and in ways then as an adult and I was like, as a child, especially before diagnosis, you're kind of very blunt. And I was like, you know, can you have the, can I have those chips? No. You know, or whatever. And you get, it's not, even for me, it wasn't even
about fitting in. I didn't care about it being hated or whatever. I think you just get tired. You get worn down and now when you're an adult and this is also where the gatekeeper comes in. If I tick somebody off as a kid, even if I have to fight, I don't care if somebody hits me so much, like that's my, I still often didn't feel my life was in danger.

Angela Weddle (14:05):
Maybe in the same way as an adult, because now anything you say or do can economically it's worse than being hit in a way. You know, and, and so it's sort of like, you know, if you defend yourself or schools in something, whatever, you know, your parents are there to kind of help. Now it's an adult I'm on my own. And then also seeing my mother kind of worked through the years and various professions
and for what we're stuck in, you know, and, and she's hurting the worse off than she was, you know, at those times and being neurodiverse. And it is just, you know, maybe when I was like 18, 20 in my twenties, I was sort of like, oh yeah. You know, sort of system kind of, but then you get older and it's not that simple. It's not like you have to live with people.

Angela Weddle (14:55):
And, and so for me, it, it sort of became the thing of, okay, now I can't, you know, I have PTSD from a lot of things, those early experiences, other things, but it's hard to, sometimes I'm too reactive. Sometimes I'm not reactive enough. And I was a kid. I think those boundaries were very clear. And then over time you start thinking, am I to judgemental? What am I to? You know, people say that you get in
relationships and now that I'm getting closer to 40th. I mean, maybe I was kind of right. You know, and those things, and it's a very hard thing to balance out because there's not a template for how to, I guess, how to live really. I thought there was a template maybe. And I kept looking for people who are well adjusted or people, but more, I met people. I don't care if they had a PhD. I don't care if they were
professors. I don't care if they looked like they had it together, everyone, you spend enough time with them and you can see. And so then it's like, oh, nobody knows what they're doing.

Angela Weddle (15:54):
That wasn't really good. It's like, how do I figure this out? It didn't make me feel better. It just made me feel like everyone's pretending. And so then I started realizing some people were just higher masking than others.

Kelly Bron Johnson (16:06):
That same view where I say, everybody shits and stinks. So like, don't even start, don't even try to be with me because I'm just like, no.

Angela Weddle (16:12):
it is an interesting skill. Yeah. Because like you said, even with that, you know, even if I was maybe ignoring my intuition, you know, or maybe I'm not reading the social cues, like right. One-on-one but I had that intuition regardless of what I recognized your tone of voice or something. And so I think, like you said, when I listen to that intuition, that's really powerful. And, and when I have, it's been really protected, like you said, whether it's traveling or, or whatever.

Kelly Bron Johnson (16:43):
I want to touch on something else you said, is that okay? Like, do you mind because, oh, it's okay.

Angela Weddle (16:47):
I'm sorry. I'm a tangential person. It's hard, but.

Kelly Bron Johnson (16:52):
I kind of want to go with the flow of where we're, what we're talking about because you touched on so many amazing points that are just like, so resonant with my life. So I just wanted to check it. That's okay.

Angela Weddle (17:02):
No, that's cool with me.

Kelly Bron Johnson (17:04):
Okay. Yeah, because something, you know, I want to talk a bit about your experience being biracial because I am as well. My father immigrated to Canada from Barbados and my mom is French Canadian.
So I've always felt that I had to straddle these two worlds of both English, French, black, white, blah, blah, blah. Um, and, uh, you know, and that kind of, that, uh, concept of not being black enough or not being, or being too white or whatever, you know, like yes, that kind of lateral violence that we get.

Kelly Bron Johnson (17:35):
So we're not just getting discrimination from, from white people we're getting, and that discrimination. I also got some erasure too, where they'd be like, well, I didn't think you were black, like i forgot you were black and like just kind of want to talk about that and, and share those kinds of experiences because I'm not sure that everybody really knows that that's like, unless they're like us pretty much.

Angela Weddle (17:56):
No, I, and, and you know, more than so even, um, Creole is very, you know, I think you have that Caribbean appoints, you have, you know, kind of that similar. And in some ways, new Orleans is a really interesting place because you know, this whole history of, of racial mixing, but it was a very, um, at the same time and actually just interesting, even with black lives matter, some of the things going on now
and sometimes do rhetoric is very, um, not just various, you know, so it's not anti-racist, but, you know, um, but there was this understanding between black people, white people in some ways that may not satisfy some of the people now, but for instance, my mom was 77 and I think it's a very hard thing to understand them what you've lived it, you know, why people make certain decisions and why that, you know, and it's not just because all my mom's generation didn't have a cell phone or a smartphone.

Angela Weddle (18:48):
I don't think maybe as much of the, what people are really like the trump cancel culture, but what people call that would have happened in the same way then, because everyone was connected, but it was just a very different thing. But at the same time growing up, I think what hurt me the most, it was almost like I didn't care about racism from white people. I was like, whatever you expected it. I think it
was far more hurtful to get it from, from my own. Um, and, and to have basically, I felt like everything I did was perceived as white. I mean, even with the cerebral palsy, which a question, I guess, how does it intersect with autism ? For instance, I didn't learn and don't that autistic people don't always pick up on the accepts of their dominant culture. So whatever culture you grew up in, you don't always pick up on those waves of speaking.

Angela Weddle (19:39):
So people always say that I didn't sound like new Orleans or I didn't sound black and there's like nine different dialects in new Orleans. So it's very rich city linguistically anyhow. So it wasn't merely just speaking white is picking up on, but even my movements, we didn't know I had CP. So, you know, in cultures that were very movement based, they had space. I couldn't, and I think CP wasn't, it was the
same as CP . I was stamped or a white girl when I can't physically move my body. I can't clap on beat it's neurological. I can't move in those ways. It's not a rejection of, you know, the music or the movement it's and, but nobody knew I didn't, you know, children didn't. So I think it was very difficult because the ways I process information it's like, and I also was, I use words, literally, if I said you people, I met you as people, not, you know, and it was very hard to understand the mission and I didn't understand why, but I have to be bound

Angela Weddle (20:43):
Why any individual not just me have to be bound by any constructs up society. We should all be free to be. And now that's when I read these discussions online. Now that gets you labeled with Karen, that gets you labeled, you know, deliberately clueless, naive, or, you know, like you can't really believe that, or you're stupid or you're racist. And I guess the saddest thing, I, you know, I read this, I can't remember his name, but there was a figure I read about, there was something I read online about a, an autistic man who was a slave. And I wish I could remember his name. I think he had intellectual delay and the article talked about how he had almost transcended that circumstance because he didn't understand what was
going on. And I think he was blind and could play piano or some kind of

Angela Weddle (21:27):
And, and so in a way he had more freedom than everyone else because he was, you know, kind of being for his talent. And even though, you know, I, I, I can understand what's going on. So I don't have an intellectual delay in that sense I think I really not just really didn't understand race. I understood race in the sense of, you know, my mother obviously talked to me. I mean, I remember when I had a tantrum or
in Mobile when I was four and this white guy knocked on the door and she had the hotel and she had to make them go away and she shut the door and she said, girl, don't, you know, this is a lynching town. And I'm like, what's the lynching? And so she explained to me, and then I started crying because I felt like, oh, I can't even be a child.

Angela Weddle (22:09):
I'm going to get my family killed. And you know, I'm four. And I knew how white looking I was, you know, I could have any one's white baby. So white looking, and there's my, you know, black grandmother and black mother, and I don't want to get her killed just because I wanted to go shopping, you know? And so, so I understood race in that sense, but I thought, but in other ways, I didn't understand, I think the full cultural implications of, and I think the saddest thing for me is realizing you
can't transcend race, not just because of white, racist and white people, but because of how it's affected black and indigenous people of color. So internalized that we're all hurting and acting in way, sometimes beneficial, sometimes hurtful because of this embedded trauma to each other. So it's like, if you try to do something is the, it's like, oh, this seen as racist.

Angela Weddle (23:03):
Even if it's not, if you try to transcend, you know, it's like, you talk about race and someone's getting upset. You're talking about it too much. If you don't talk about it and someone's getting upset because you're not talking about it enough. And, and if you actually just aren't aware, you're blamed for that too. So it's the hardest thing for me is I felt like, um, there was not only no place, but you could, no one could ever assume good intent or whatever. Whenever I did, I have to, I feel like I have to be very direct almost like I have to announce. And I was, I never tried the pass anyhow, but I feel like I have to be very like, Hey, I'm black. Like I need a billboard. Like, I'm actually kind of worried when my mother dies. Like I'm going to have to wear a t-shirt for everywhere, but just so I won't.

Angela Weddle (23:45):
Yeah. Something it's, you know, it's sort of like, I'm, I feel like I have to constantly make it known where I stand and I can just kind of never move to like the way I could, maybe if I had a single identity where people just knew, you know, all kind of, and then that's been in every space where there's even, even when I came up, I was lesbian, which I wish it wouldn't have come out so early. I wish I would've given myself time to not commit to an identity so early, but even with that and kind of realizing, oh, maybe my identities are more fluid. But even with that, every single identity, I felt like I had to kind of go all in on, but my identity never fits in a box neatly. So it's never, oh, that's female, that's a female, lots of, uh, you know, she's a lesbian, she's black or, you know, whatever it's, and I'm always kind of navigating the only good thing about that. As people are people, humans, you get to see the good and the bad of everything. And I think it's really, it can be hard to explain nuances to people who don't want to hear those nuances when we are very, when I, our identities become everything to us, you know? But on the
other hand, it's made me very realistic about expectations from anybody,

Doug Blecher (25:01):
You know, Angela, I wanted to make note that, um, I read the article you were talking about. I believe it was a few years ago in the New York times about the blind autistic, uh, pianist who, who was a slave. So people can kind of look that up online.

Angela Weddle (25:17):
I, I thank you for, um, mentioning where it was because there were a couple of different things mentioned on, but I couldn't remember where.

Doug Blecher (25:24):
yeah. Before, before going. Um, I, you know, I know you're a talented artists for people that want to learn about your art and where to purchase it. Can you tell them a little bit about that?

Angela Weddle (25:34):
Yeah. So, I mean, there's for most of my digital art and things, my pixels site. So https://angela- They can also follow me on Instagram at aweddle83, you know, message me now.
So definitely, uh, those, those are the two main places right now. And if they want anything, that's a physical piece or just message me on Instagram.

Doug Blecher (26:03):
Well, Angela really appreciate your time today. I have a feeling me and Kelly could have talked to you for another hour

Kelly Bron Johnson (26:12):
As long as, as long as people are cool to go with the flow. Yeah. Um, I really want, you know, it's, it's your story that needs to be shared.

Angela Weddle (26:22):
So yeah, no, I feel like the other, if I could just say one more thing, maybe, um, you know, though, I don't regret any of it. I mean, I, I, you know, I've never wanted to be white or to be not, you know, I mean, I could do with chronic pain, but I've never wanted to not be autistic or whatever. I think it's, it's all a way of looking at the world and it think it's forced me to, uh, it's forced me to, you know, really you have to sort of let go of any anger at you. You have to make a choice. And I think it's really forced me to reckon with things maybe, you know, that that could be swept under the rug otherwise.

Angela Weddle (27:01):
And it's really a gift. I think it informs everything, you know, everything I do. So even things like, even though there are plenty of times, I'm afraid, oh, what am I going to do? You know, if something happens to my mother, what am I going to do without social capital? What am I going to do without financial?I think it puts you in spaces too. I think there's questions about how to stick people with, you know, how could they be successful as an artist or I think at any field, almost every autistic and neurodiverse person I know has to take a non-traditional path. And so I think for me having maybe all these identities that intersect, I don't think you can take a traditional path in your life like we are. I think it's, and maybe that's a good thing. You know, I think growing up, I, going back to the Charlie rose question, I wanted it to be linear.

Angela Weddle (27:46):
Right. I thought mind over matter, I thought I could do this, this, this, and do the right things. And then all that got blown up with chronic pain and other things. But I think it's a more honest path. You learn, you don't have control, but you also learn how to deal with it.

Kelly Bron Johnson (28:00):
I liked it a lot. I think. Yeah. It makes us like, almost like shape-shifters that we,

Angela Weddle (28:04):
yeah, so I feel very much, um, and it can be difficult to that's its own thing. Like, Ooh, who are you? You know, sort of, especially for somebody like me, I I've always been, I don't know you, but I've always been super obsessed with honesty. And it took me a long time to, especially as it growing up, learning difference, honesty and the truth and what people meant by filters. And you know, like if you changed
her, I couldn't understand.

Angela Weddle (28:29):
What do you mean? You changed your mind growing up. That was a lie. You said you were going to do something you didn't know, you know? So it took a long time to navigate that and now I've become so nuanced about things. It's almost sometimes can autistic people be this nuanced. Yes we can. You know, it's sort of like, you know, kind of separating the medical literature from when you have the lived experiences that are full of these identities, intersect it's passed to be nuanced.

Kelly Bron Johnson (28:56):
what a beautiful note to leave it on. I think that's amazing.

Angela Weddle (28:59):
Thank you. I've enjoyed talking to both of you.