I’m Bethan, I’m 18, and since I was very young, I’ve been diagnosed as autistic. For those of you reading who don’t know what it is, autism is a lifelong developmental disability which affects how a person perceives and interacts with the world around them. Autism is a “spectrum condition”, and every autistic person is different and have different traits. These traits can consist of things like sensory sensitivity, issues with social interaction, dislike of unexpected change, and highly-focused interests – or “special interests”. These can be anything, be it wide and general (like anime, video games, science, etc.) or something really small and specific. These interests make us really happy, and can help in an anxiety-inducing situation.

My special interest, as you can probably tell, is Kpop. I’ve steadily gotten into it, from having best friends obsessed with it, to actually branching out and exploring it myself. From around 2014 onwards, I knew a few songs from artists such as 2NE1, EXO, Girls’ Generation, BTS (yes, I knew BTS before they were the mega-popular boy band they are today), and f(x). However, my major “dive” into it started in December 2016, when I found TWICE’s “TT”. I instantly fell in love.

And, here I am today, a fan of more artists than I could count, knowing all of the terminology, owning a few physical albums (since, as we all know, shipping to the UK is rather expensive), picking up tiny bits of Korean, and even after all this time, still having TWICE as my ultimate bias group.

But how has the ride been for me, a Kpop fan who also happens to be autistic?

It’s generally been really pleasant! I’ve always had really nice interactions with Kpop fans, recommending stuff, hyping over the same things, and it’s made me really happy. It’s really easy to communicate with other Kpop fans online since there are just so many of us all over the world, and it’s really exciting. Offline is a little harder since not many people I know like Kpop, but even that small number I do know make me really happy when we get excited over our idols.

In terms of offline, the UK Kpop community is growing massively, and we’re definitely having more of a presence at events such as MCM London Comic Con. I’ve been to MCM 3 times now (soon to be 4) and it’s always a place where I feel I can be unapologetically myself. Last year, however, was huge in terms of my Kpop love. I met a wonderful friend who I still keep in touch with, and attended Xinachu’s random dance game. There were SO MANY PEOPLE.

I’d watched videos of her previous ones and they’d had a small little group, but at this one there were more than I’d ever seen. The speakers were almost painfully loud which would be a sensory trigger, but I managed to cope with it just fine. Regardless of the sensory side, I’d never been with that many other Kpop fans before!! Even though I didn’t know many dances and generally am not very good at dancing, it was nice just to be with people like me.

Within the Kpop fanbases as a whole, I’ve also not seen disability/autism jokes in the same way I would in other places. I’ve found that a lot of the Kpop fanbases are really inclusive and generally really kind, which is really nice to see. Although I don’t know as many autistic Kpop fans, it’s so nice to see other fans be so accommodating and welcoming. I appreciate that beyond words.

Overall, I’ve had a really positive experience in Kpop communities as an autistic person. There may be toxic fans and fan wars, but I’ve definitely seemed to have been rooted in the kindest, most accepting parts of the fanbases. I’m looking forward to remaining a part of that for years to come.

And, for fellow autistic Kpop fans, you are definitely not alone.

World Autism Awareness Day was on April 2. If you have identified with any of the autistic traits mentioned and think you may be autistic, go to the National Autistic Society website for more information and support.

Bethan is an 18-year old autistic girl who is currently in her last year of Sixth Form, having studied English Language, Media Studies, and History. Alongside her studies, she is also an ambassador for autism within her school, holding a range of assemblies and talks, and writing a column in her sixth form’s newspaper about different aspects of autism. Bethan is also a huge Kpop fan, and loves TWICE. Her interests also lie in anime, video games, bullet journals, and musical theatre. 

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