Autism & the Rose of Tralee

Greetings Earthlings! 🙂

Last week in Ireland saw the return of the annual international Rose of Tralee festival, and with it one of the first openly autistic Rose contestants- the Toronto Rose Maysen Tinkler.

But first things first, what is the Rose of Tralee?

For those of you who are unfamiliar, the Rose of Tralee is a festival celebrated every year in the town of Tralee in Co. Kerry in Ireland. First held in 1959, the festival was conceived to increase tourism in Tralee and to encourage expats to return home. The festival serves as a pageant of sorts to select the Rose of Tralee- a young woman of Irish heritage who embodies the virtues of Mary the title character in the eponymous song which the festival derives it’s name from. The chosen Rose should be “lovely and fair”, chosen for her personality to serve as role model and ambassador to Ireland for the duration of her reign. The festival is billed as a celebration of the “aspirations, ambitions, intellect, social responsibility and Irish heritage” of modern young women.

Current Rose of Tralee Rachel Duffy from Westmeath

This years festival introduced us to the first autistic rose Maysen Tinkler from Toronto. Maysen, like me, was diagnosed with autism as an adult, finding the diagnosis a relief after years of feeling like an outsider. Refusing to be limited by autism, she decided to enter the competition to challenge stereotypes, providing visibility for autistic women everywhere. If you’re in Ireland (or have a really good VPN blocker) you can see her interview here round the 28 minute mark available until the 23rd of September.

Interestingly, she was not the only potential autistic candidate this year as there were two candidates, one in the Kerry selection and one in the Dublin selection who both discussed their diagnosis to raise awareness about the condition. Jennifer O’ Conner who competed in the Kerry Rose selection even recited a spoken piece she wrote called ‘Autistic Joy‘ about her experiences of autism and the festival over the years and the joy that is often overlooked:

As autism is so poorly understood in women, it’s amazing to have this representation in this international platform for young autistic girls to look up to.

Hope you enjoyed this post dear Earthlings!

Have a lovely weekend!

Aoife

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