‘Too fat, too female’: Hannah Gadsby recalls ‘painful’ sledges


hannah gadsby douglas netflix nanette special ten steps to nanette book autism spectrum disorder diagnosis
Image: courtesy of Netflix

Hannah Gadsby has discussed her late-in-life autism diagnosis, and recalled the “painful” dismissals she received after sharing it with the world.

The Tasmanian-born stand-up comedian became a global star with her subversive 2018 Netflix special Nanette.

Now Gadsby is opening up about her life in her first book Ten Steps to Nanette, out next week.

In an extract from the book published by The Guardian, Hannah Gadsby explains that she was diagnosed in 2017, when she was in her thirties.

However it took her “a long time to get brave enough” to share it because her experience “did not match the popular understanding of autism.”

“But I was right to be cautious, because when I finally did start telling the world of my diagnosis, the dismissals came thick and fast,” she wrote.

“I was told I was too fat to be autistic, I was told I was too social to be autistic, I was told I was too empathic to be autistic, I was told I was too female to be autistic.

“I was told I wasn’t autistic enough to be autistic.

“Nobody who refused me my diagnosis ever considered how painful it might have been for me, and it got really boring really fast.”

‘Always felt a sense that I was a little out of whack’

Hannah Gadsby said that she had often felt like “an alien who has been abandoned on Earth and left to muddle my way through life, without a reason, a mission, or any memory of home.”

“Ever since I can remember, my thoughts have been plagued by a sense that I was a little out of whack, as if belonging was beyond me,” she said.

Gadsby explains while she isn’t nonverbal – a subset of autism where people struggle to speak – she has selective mutism. This means she often loses the ability to speak when she gets overwhelmed.

“I have never managed to develop a reliable system to file and separate my thoughts into individual think pieces,” she said.

“So I am utterly incapable of having one thought without at least another hundred coming along for the ride.”

Gadsby went on, “When I told Mum I was autistic, she said, ‘Yeah, that makes sense. I always knew there was a lot going on inside you, but I just couldn’t get in. You were like a tin of baked beans and my tin opener wouldn’t work on you.’

“It’s a tidy metaphor, especially if you know that Mum does not like baked beans.”

‘I didn’t have this key piece of my human puzzle’

But Hannah Gadsby said by the time she was in her mid-30s, she was “no longer living my life.”

“I was merely coping with it, and barely,” she said.

However after receiving her diagnosis, Gadsby said her anxiety, depression and meltdowns finally made sense.

She said she “wishes more than anything” she had known about her autism spectrum disorder when she was a child.

“So I could’ve learned how to look after my own distress, instead of assuming my pain was normal and deserved,” she said.

“There is no one to blame. But I still grieve for the quality of life I lost because I didn’t have this key piece to my human puzzle.

“But until someone unlocks the riddle of time travel, little me will have to flail and fail their way through the world for 30-odd years.”

Hannah Gadsby touring stand-up show Body of Work

As well as her long-awaited book, Hannah Gadsby is also touring the world with her latest show Body of Work.

Gadsby says unlike Nanette and Douglas, Body of Work is unashamedly “a feelgood show.”

Earlier this month, the comedian opened up about how she met her wife Jenney Shamash, and their surprise wedding at their regional Victorian home last year.

Hannah Gadsby’s Ten Steps To Nanette is out on March 29.

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