Leanne Libas, a third-year liberal studies major at Cal State Fullerton, says her ethnicity is one of the most isolating factors since her autism diagnosis in the fifth grade.
Speaking during the WoMen’s and Adult Reentry Center International Women’s Day event, themed “Create and Educate: Art for Empowerment,” Libas said she had observed a lacking representation of non-white autistic individuals.
“For a long time, I felt that my story was invalidated because I don’t play or look a certain way. That’s disheartening. I hate the fact that sometimes I feel like I’m trying to prove myself to other people when really, all I’m trying to do is live a life where I can be myself,” Libas said.
She was one of the many women who shared their stories Thursday in the Humanities Quad.
The annual event, designed to showcase the capabilities of women, invited women of all ages, majors and races to the stage to tell stories of personal sacrifice.
Mikaela Francis, a member of the BOLD Women’s Leadership Network focused on developing courageous leadership among college women, said she appreciated the new direction women’s movements were progressing in.
“I think moving forward, it needs to include women of marginalized identities … transgender women, women from all walks of the Earth,” Francis said. “I think at Cal State Fullerton, we embrace that progress and we embrace that ideal.”
An interactive art display asked visitors, “How do you honor the women in your life?”
There was a board available for students to add their answers, which included, “Uplift and encourage them” and “Treating them like queens.”
“I feel like a lot of the time, women in this society feel like they have to be one specific thing. (I honor them by) encouraging them to celebrate their own strength, their own difference and their own beauty,” said Jacqueline Estremera, a second-year child and adolescent development major.
Libas hopes her experience with autism can have an impact and encourage more marginalized groups to speak out and be bold to share their stories.
“Do not disregard these identities. Everyone has a voice,” Libas said.