After a recent post I was taken to task by a reader about the idea of autistic pride. The legitimate question asked was how can one be proud of something they merely inherited. Something they were simply born with. I guess it’s a bit like being proud of your looks, how can you be proud of your looks when you have no choice or control of them. It is not like you have excelled i your career, it is not as if you have produced excellent results on the sporting field. You are just autistic, you were just born that way, you were just wired that way, what’s to be proud of.
Well actually there is lots that an autistic can be proud of. Things like overcoming the negativity of the cure culture, standing tall in proclaiming your difference and that being perfectly ok. Emerging after years of not understanding why you never fit in, why you always felt broken. I think those are things that one can certainly take pride in. I know that pride in emerging out of a sense of wrongness, brokenness and disease and disorder and into a sense and understanding of acceptance of my neurology and embracing of diversity and difference.
It’s important to note that this Âûtistic pride does not in any way seek to minimise the difficulties that autistics at times have negotiating their way in the non-autistic world, of dealing with comorbid condition. It is also imperative that the message of autistic pride is not a message of arrogance but acceptance. Not for a minute do I seek to elevate myself above neurotypical and allistic people because of my autistic pride. Just as their is a spectrum of infinite difference in the autistic community and no autistic is inherently better than another, so too is their infinite difference in the human community and no human is inherently better than another.
Autistic pride is purely about the celebration and acceptance of difference and diversity, an embrace of the reality of the myriad of different people that inhabit this world.
In order to present to balance my thoughts on this and to give it some fair treatment I have asked for contributions on the issue from the autistic community. The remainder of this post is those voices:
Private Person – Autistic:
Similar to Gay Pride, Autistic Pride/ Proud to be Autistic, places the individual within her/his own relationship to self as a person who no longer accepts the shame/embarrassment projected upon them by ignorant cruelty in the mainstream population. By sloughing off this shame/embarrassment through deliberate celebration of our intrinsic identity we as autistics claim , not only our self esteem, but our right to acknowledgement and acceptance and hopefully accommodation within fabric of society.
Erin Roundy – Autistic Adult
I have come to realize who are my heroes. So many of us have gone much of our lives confused about why we have differences and once we found out we are autistic, began a journey of revelation and a online opportunity to connect with people worldwide who really get us. This is huge & life changing when sometimes we have faced denial and discouragement from people close in our lives, or some of us feel we have no one. For some of us it may have been the best moment to realize we have answers and people to finally relate to, yet we soon realized that this is not going to be an easy road. Much of our lives we may have gone believing we were less than for being different, and society perpetuating that. We start to see that this has to become more than our own revelation. Disclosure often requires exhausting explanation and education to people who have been engrained with societies labels, rhetoric, and even well intentioned observers determine what we deal with and assume what we need. It really takes great efforts to to dispel misinformation and inform people they have been misunderstanding us. I have started into advocacy, not because I imagined it is what I wanted to always do, but because I find it is necessary and needed and I have a passion to stand up with my fellow autistics and say this is not right and we must do something to affect change! This is not easy for people who face challenges such as shutdowns, meltdowns, sensory overload, social anxieties, etc. Advocates are willing to put themselves “in the line of fire” (possible triggers), because we know it is for a greater purpose. It isn’t easy, we face people who would belittle us or want to tell us how it should be, and even some who insist to hold onto tragic beliefs about our lives. Other times we continue to put the information our there knowing it might reach no one, but hopefully at least one. This is certainly a human rights movement, and I greatly admire my fellow advocates for everything they do.
What I see every day as I immerse myself in our autistic community are people who are willing to face these challenges anyway, given appropriate down time of course, but these are also people getting in touch with what they need to take care of their well-being and for the most part we just empathise and understand each others limitations. I see self advocates who have turned their obsessions to dedicated time to help make the world a better place for each other and ourselves. I see people who fight for a noble cause and aren’t willing to back down to anymore oppression. I also see a community of so many heroes for each other. We might be friends or strangers, but we are there for each other. We have such a big connected community of people reaching out to each other, giving kindness, compassion, and support. I honestly believe that we all save lives by being here for each other. Not only that but we build each other up in ways we might never had before. Someday I hope to meet some in person, but just even having a world of strangers to turn to online when we might not have any other friends to talk to is amazing. I am so grateful to have finally found my tribe, and be among my heroes!
Will Trusewich – Autistic Adult
Everything is inherited either by nature or nurture. But it ain’t what you got, it’s what you do with it. I’m proud of my mixed Sicilian (for its passion, cooking and Soprano ‘don’t mess with me’ mystique), Polish (musical joy, cooking, and deep thinking). and Hungarian (mystical gypsy experienes, cooking and warmly social nature) anscestry. Yes, how we enjoy and balance food is one of my joys. Nationalistically, I’m a Yank who loves personal freedoms and direct to-your-face communication and Kiwi who loves natural beauty and the remote outsiderness from living on one edge of the planet and Tongan for its humour and collective care. I’m bloody proud of being an aspie for the brain I’ve landed with, a brain which always sees myriad possibility where many see only how they are told to see, which can sense the beauty of pattern in everything from the social to the natural to the mechanical and to be able to employ art in everything I do or create. I’m proud to have suffered exclusion over and over again only to come out each time stronger and more at peace with myself. To know oneself is the gift we have been given. The sleeper never awakens without feeling pain. To end that suffering is all of our live’s goal, whatever neurotype we are. I’m proud to have listened, felt, learned and flown. Not many realise that we are each the Universe perceiving itself. I have no end or beginning. What more can you ask for?
Pamela Margaret Murphy-Mason – Adult Autistic
Pride is the opposite of shame. As autistics, diagnosed or not, we are made to feel ashamed of ourselves. Pride is about refusing to live under the cloud of other people’s bigotry. Pride is about being bravely, blatantly who you are. That’s something non-autistics get to do anyway – all that eye contact and small-talk which they do as if everyone ought to accept them as they are. When you are pushed down by others, you need pride to lift yourself up again. That’s why we have pride. That’s why you have LGBT Pride. When the world is an equal place, when no one tries to bully, shame, hurt anyone else, then we will have achieved what Pride sets out to do.
Katherine Anneal Autistic Adult and Advocate
I am proud of being Autistic but that pride doesn’t extend to the idea that I am better than allistic (non Autistic/Neurotypical) people or that my neurology is somehow superior. I am also proud to be gay and participate in gay pride but similarly gay is not better than straight. Pride in what makes us who we are is important for self concept, resilience and self esteem. That is why Autistic Pride is part of the ND movement – if we can stand up and be proud and counted then young people have something to look forward to and get the message that there is no shame in being Autistic. Pride is an antidote for shame.
Frank Ludwig – Autistic Adult
While I promote autism appreciation myself, I have problems using the term ‘autistic pride’ because pride is something I somehow associate with achievement. I am proud of being an extraordinary childcare worker and poet, both of which are a result of being autistic, but I wouldn’t say I’m proud of the condition itself – just like I wouldn’t say I’m proud of my nationality, race, gender or hair colour all of which I was born with without any input from myself.
Olivia Hatch – Autistic Adult
It’s no surprise that people with disabilities are looked down upon, I’m sure every one in this group has heard a backhanded comment, an unintentional ableist statement, or something just plain rude and ignorant. Autistic people are no exception. This is why autistic pride is important to me, and to many other people on the spectrum. So many people, including those who are very close to me, have said or done things that say “you are less”. Whether it is disclosing personal info to others without consent, lying, straight up denying your neurotype, speaking negatively about accommodations and those who use/need them, and refusing to learn about your disability, these things have a great impact and speaks vastly on how neuotypicals see you. Autistic Pride, to me, is trying to overcome the image others have made of you, and accepting and loving yourself even when it’s the norm for you to hate yourself and everything you are and it’s the norm for everyone else to hate you. It is so common to see parents, teachers, students, children, etc to say how much they all hate autism, that there is a war on autism. But that just means there’s a war on autistic people. People want to change us, they want us to fit in and, more specifically, not be autistic. That is why Autistic Pride matters to me. It screams, “I’m here and I love myself despite what I’m told”. It’s not always that easy for me though, but finding the autistic community really started a new journey of self love and self acceptance, and it has made a huge difference in my life.
Satire Henry – Autistic Adult
Welp for starters I love that my ASD has made me a weird and whacky person and my social retardness comes in handy. Haha. Safe to say I like to embrace what I have and well be me instead of being in my bubble. I love having ASD and the awesome thing about it is that it makes me smarter then most people. As for talent side of the fence well my dads side is full of talent and they are all “normal” soo hey. There’s a lot more but I’m too lazy to say what else. Haha.
Rebeca Duffy – Parent of Autistic Son
My 8 year old son would say he’s good at telling the truth! An awesome attribute to have
Nikki Yeoman – Parent of Autistic Son
My 11 year said if i take his Autism away then he’s no longer him. He is very proud to be autistic. He’s been told he’s only clever because he’s autistic but he’ll reply, if my Autism makes me clever then I’m ok with that”
Sue Abramowski – Adult Autistic
IF I wasn’t autistic I wouldn’t be me.
I think Sue’s poignant words are the fitting end point for this post.