Today, The Global Spotlight got the opportunity to talk with Timothy Boykin, also known by his TikTok followers as the Black Autistic King. He uses his TikTok to address issues such as proper autism and disability representation as well as BIPOC rights. This in addition to his positive online presence has gained him a loyal following. Timothy is also a published author, a singer, and an actor.
You’re only in your early twenties and you’ve accomplished so much. You have a loyal TikTok following, are prominently known in the online autism community, have a book published, and have been sponsored by Lifetime and autistic dating and friend making app Hiki. When you started your journey as an autism advocate, where did you think you would be compared to where you’re at now?
I knew I was going to be big, but I never really envisioned how big I would be. I used TikTok as fun when I first started, but now, since my content has meaning, I am surprised at how far I've come.
What made you want to start your social media journey?
I made my first three videos in 2018 and I did it for fun. In 2019, after one of my semesters in college, I saw a video on social media and so I made a video reacting to it in a funny way. And that was the first video that made me viral.
So, I started to make fun content and what I realized was that there wasn't a lot of autism content. I then decided to make some of my own.
While on this journey what sort of obstacles have you run into and how have you learned to overcome those obstacles?
Well, I've had a lot of obstacles. For one it's TikTok suppressing black voices, especially those who are neurodivergent. So, what I did was take a break. I would also occasionally call it out too.
Another one was bullies. Sometimes I might make a response video to them, but most of the time I would just leave it alone and block them.
A big one I deal with is racism. There were some content creators who I thought were good in my life, but then I realized that they were only doing what they did for their own wants rather than for the community. What I do to try and avoid that is to try and spot the red flags early on in others. I then set up boundaries for myself.
I feel like one of the most notable things about you throughout your videos and
your online presence is the positivity and sincerity you present in them. What are
your motivators to staying positive even in times of struggle?
One of them is my faith in God and the other one is my mom.
I also look up to people like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. While he was peaceful he also didn't let others treat him as a pushover.
As well as advocating for autism you are also a big advocate for the BIPOC
community as well as BIPOC with autism. Oftentimes, when the topic of autism is
brought up, people tend to focus more on autism in Caucasian individuals when
it’s just as important to focus on in BIPOC. Where do you think this stigma comes
from and in what ways do you suggest supporting the inclusion of BIPOC in
conversations about neurodivergency?
The stigma came from racism in the diagnosing area and stereotypes. It's harder for someone who is a person of color to be diagnosed because teachers, or any other authority, would write them off as a "bad kid" or a "problem". In media, autism is portrayed as white men. Yes, sometimes they will switch it up, but the picture remains the same.
What we can do about this is demand more from our doctors and people in the medical field. Demanding they stop with the stigmas and help all people who are neurodivergent.
Don't just write them off or try to change them in order to fit society's standards. Also, there needs to be autistic BIPOC members in front of and behind the camera. We need more media representation.
If your younger self met you today, what do you think they’d say? Vice versa,
what’s something you’d like to say to your younger self?
My younger self would feel more happy and secure if they were to meet me right
now. When I was a kid, I had less faith in myself because of how society viewed me and how they liked to put people like me down.
What I would say to my younger self is t0 keep being yourself and don't be afraid of change because you will change too.
Recently, you collaborated with fellow autistic actor Kim Rhodes who many
millennials and gen z kids remember as Carey Martin from Disney Channel’s
Suite Life of Zack and Cody and Suite Life on Deck. Could you tell me about that
experience and some of the things you guys discussed?
It was amazing to meet Kim Rhodes! She is such a sweetheart! She first met me when I did a cover of the Suite Life of Zack and Cody theme song dedicated to her discovering that she's autistic. I was happy to get to talk to her through DMs, but I was really happy to see that she wanted to talk to me through TikTok live!
We talked about autism in media and how it is being portrayed. We also talked
about fun stuff and even talked about diagnosis and self-diagnosing.
Something I have been seeing all over TikTok recently is the removal and banning of many autistic creator accounts because of the mention of autism. Your way of combating the removal of many advocates from the platform is the use of the word audi as a form of saying autism as well as the hashtag #myaudiisparked. Tell me about your process in creating the alternative term and hashtag. Additionally, why do you think TikTok is trying to silence creators trying to educate the online community on autism and disability representation and rights?
I created the hashtag when I was mad about a content creator on TikTok named @soundoftheforest getting banned for mentioning autism for the second time. I then began trying to create a clever hashtag. I noticed that autism almost sounds like the word audi. Then, I started to think about the car brand Audi. And I started to have more car related ideas. That's how I created the hashtags #myaudiisparked and #audispeedway (code for Autism Spectrum). The reason why I used those hashtags is because we're saying that autistic people on this app are not going anywhere! We are parked!
I believe the reason why TikTok is banning different autistic creators is because they are trying to stick to that 100% pure image. They don't want anyone who doesn't fit the white and neurotypical standard to speak out. And I just want to say that just because some people are not "normal" doesn't mean they don't have a purpose. We all have a purpose.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR CONTINUED SUPPORT. WE LOOK FORWARD TO BRINGING YOU THE VOICE OF MORE INSPIRING ARTISTS AND CHANGEMAKERS IN 2022.