Sunday, November 1, 2015

Autistics' Speaking Day: on my voice and identity

Julian Frost has written "Autistics' Speaking Day: on my voice and identity"

Normally, when Autistics’ Speaking Day occurs, I stay up until midnight, and post as soon as possible. Not today, though.
I’m going to write about identity and autism. Mostly in regards to myself, but I guess it can be extrapolated outward.
I’ve been blogging for the last five and a half years, and commenting on others’ blogs for almost six. During that time, people have tried to deny me my voice. They have told me that I am not autistic enough. That I can’t possibly understand or advocate for people who are more autistic than I am. The most egregious example of this was four years ago. MJ, a parent to three girls with autism, bluntly said:
So, no, when you advocate, you do not advocate on behalf of what my children need. What you do is minimize and marginalize them – especially when you compare their disability to something like women’s rights.
It was a blatant and mendacious attempt at laying a guilt trip on me, and it backfired. In the thread, Kassiane Sibley had called MJ out for trying to get autistic adults to shut up, and she had been absolutely correct. MJ wanted to silence me. He didn’t succeed.
I recently read a blogpost by another autistic blogger who hit the nail on the head with regards to the fallacy used by those who want high-functioning autistics to stay out of the discussion. The blogger claimed that the would be exclusionists were invoking the “no true Scotsman” fallacy. The exclusionists were trying to redefine the meaning of autism to exclude high-functioning individuals from the discussion. MJ was trying to do that to me, but that is not the only time it’s been used against me. Several other times internet commenters have said something along the lines of “you’re not disabled enough”. I only wish I’d recognised the tactic sooner.
There is a trend to use “person-first language” when speaking about disability. For example “person with retinitis pigmentosa”. I’ve seen recommendations to say “person with autism”, but that’s not my viewpoint.
As I see it, I’m not “someone with autism”, I’m autistic. It’s a part of me. It’s part of who I am.
I don’t doubt for a second that I would have had an easier life had I been born not autistic. But if I was given the option of a treatment that would turn me neurotypical, I’d refuse it.
If I wasn’t autistic, I wouldn’t be me.
The fact that so often, people have tried to deny me my voice and identity has made me more determined than ever to keep them.

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