Skip links

The Power of Sharing Lived Experiences

Yenn Purkis is a leading advocate in the autism, non-binary and trans space. They shared some magic with Jo Falvey.

Share This Post

With over 17 published books, two TEDx talks, a fortnightly radio show and weekly postings on their blog, Yenn Purkis is a leading voice in the autism space in Australia who’s known for sharing their lived experience.  

The magic of Yenn shines through in everything they do. On one of many visits to a psych ward they ran into a 21-year-old man who had autism who could not believe that Yenn had a job and had written a book. He could not believe that someone with autism could do any of those things. This helped propel Yenn to write even more books. We sat in Yenn’s brightly-coloured apartment as they told me this story. I couldn’t help but think how different the starkly bare walls of a psych ward would be in comparison with the walls of this apartment, so full of beautiful artworks they’d created.

Yenn has struggled with mental health for most of their life. They were diagnosed with schizophrenia in their early twenties, just around the time of the autism diagnosis. Both diagnoses took a long time to accept, especially schizophrenia, admits Yenn. But their bravery, boldness, insightfulness and inspiration means that they are willing to authentically and honestly share their learnings, realisations and humanity with the world to make positive social impacts.

Yenn has identified as queer since their twenties but it was only in the last decade they were able to also come out as non-binary trans and as asexual. “It was utterly liberating. I felt like my life made sense,” said Yenn. “I understood who I was and I used the pronouns ‘they/them’ because for me I’m not male and I’m not female. I am a sort of different option.” 

This gave them a lot of freedom to do what they do best: share their lived insights. They have since written three books about being non-binary and trans. Yenn teamed up with Sam Rose to create The Awesome Autistic Guide for Trans Teens and with Dr. Wenn Lawson wrote The Autistic Trans Guide to Life. They also wrote one of their own. 

Yenn educates the entire health industry and beyond by using their lived experience as a non-binary and autistic mental health advocate to not-so-gently encourage decision-makers to get vital perspective on other social identities.  

I was lucky enough to meet Yenn when I was organising a queer writer’s event for SpringOUT late last year. They stood out amongst the other panellists for their incredibly infectious positive attitude and ideas. The whole audience nodded along and laughed with Yenn and their particular insights. 

An example of this in action is how they see procrastination in relation to their creative practice: “I’m not a fan of procrastination because it stops you from doing things and then it’s really stressful and you think ‘Why do I have to do this thing?’ and it gets blown up, out of proportion. Instead, I just do exactly as needed.”

Yenn recently wrote a piece on social media about how you can’t tell someone’s gender by looking at them. They received all kinds of negative feedback but it was also balanced with tons of heart-felt thanks. They felt it important to share these truths. They like to challenge the myths and assumptions of autism, gender and mental health. They choose to see everything with an infectiously positive attitude regardless of, or perhaps because of, their circumstances.

To learn more about Yenn Purkis and their work, check out