Port Hawkesbury resident appearing on CBC docuseries ‘You Can’t Ask That’

Spoken word poet and autism advocacy speaker Taylor Linloff performed a piece she wrote about sexual assault, as supporters gathered to raise awareness of the issue on Denim Day 2019 at the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre.

PORT HAWKESBURY: A resident of the town will be featured in the upcoming episode of a new television series.

On January 31, Taylor Linloff will be part of an episode of the CBC docuseries You Can’t Ask That which asks questions of Canadians with various disabilities.

In her case, Linloff was diagnosed as autistic in 2018, three months before she turned 24, but she started thinking she was on the spectrum four years before that.

“The direct quote from the person who diagnosed me was ‘you knew probably when you were three or four years old that there was probably something different about you,’” Linloff recalled. “I figured probably around 2014 when the people I came across were on the spectrum and saw traces of myself in them.”

A few months after her diagnosis, Linloff joined an Autism Canada group on Facebook where she accessed a link to a casting call for a new CBC series looking for Canadians 18 years and older with various disabilities, including autism.

“It’s for autistic adults to come together and have conversations since it can be really isolating for us on the spectrum to begin with, let alone the lack of autistic representation for adults,” Linloff explained of the closed group. “I ended up reaching out to the casting call e-mail and they contacted me back and I did about two rounds of FaceTime calls as an audition, just asking about who I was as a person.”

After a couple of months, Linloff found out she was selected to sit on a panel, then in November, 2018 she travelled to Montreal to record interviews.

“People from across the country sent in questions that were supposed to be controversial, slightly blunt; things that you don’t want to say to a person’s face, that they wanted to know,” Linloff recounted. “We would actually pick up cards, and read them off to the camera so that way it would record our live expression and reactions to these various questions and then we would give our personal, lived-in questions.”

One of the more memorable queries for Linloff was “aren’t you just odd?”

“Apparently, a lot of people think that people on the spectrum are just odd,” Linloff said. “I’m odd but that has nothing to do with my autism. I’m proud to be weird. Weird is a personality trait. I’m very much a huge nerd and I’ve come to own it and accept it. I’m very proud of who I am.”

Linloff said the show’s producers were “super inclusive” and did their homework to create an inviting atmosphere.

“When I look back and think about the experience, I had a lot of fun,” Linloff recalled. “There’s laughter, there’s really heartfelt moments, there’s all of it. People are going to see me cry on national television and I’m not ashamed of that because it was a very open and honest series and everyone involved, regardless of what disability the person had, we put so much humour and so much love about our experiences in life.”

Local writer Taylor Linloff gave a powerful reading of her poem “For Ladies Tired of Waiting” on Denim Day 2019.

In addition to her newfound fame, Linloff continues to be passionate about her advocacy work for those on the autism spectrum. She pointed out that in the federal riding of Cape Breton-Canso alone, there are roughly 1,200 people with autism and affected families, based on national rates.

“A lot of people believe that there’s an autism epidemic because of how high the rates are now, but it’s because marginalized people like myself who are rural, women, people of colour, are finally starting to get the diagnosis they need to thrive,” Linloff said, noting that autism used to be seen as a boy’s club.

Pointing out that her local volunteerism pre-dates her diagnosis, Linloff participated in Denim Day at the Strait Area Women’s Place and she was the the keynote speaker for the Port Hawkesbury Walk for Autism last June. Linloff will also be hosting an upcoming session with Autism Nova Scotia in Port Hawkesbury about adult autism and the need for more resources and support.

Linloff’s advocacy work extends beyond the region to other parts of the province and the country, such as helping with publications from Autism Nova Scotia, including an autism magazine, and performing poetry at Montreal’s Pride Parade.

“I’ve been all over the place,” Linloff laughed.

Far from resting on her laurels as a result of the increased exposure from television, Linloff has plans to apply to Dalhousie University to study towards a Bachelor of Commerce degree with a major in accounting.

The episode of You Can’t Ask That featuring Linloff can be seen on January 31 at 9:30 p.m. on CBC.