Liberation is a powerful word and an even more powerful reality. The experience of being liberated from something could be one of the most powerful experience one can experience in life. Liberation can happen in many different ways, both in a personal and a communal way.
One can be liberated from a critical illness, liberated from imprisonment, liberated from an abusive relationship. Being set free is, I think, I primal human experience. The value, intensity, and importance of that liberation can not be underestimated.
As I type this I have images from the film Shawshank Redemption, if you have not seen this film I recommend it highly, a banker falsely accused of murdering his wife found guilty and put in prison. There are many mini moments of liberation and freedom in this film and they speak volumes about this human experience.
The moment a group of prisoners who have worked to tar the roof of a prison building share a beer together after a hard days work. Standing, sitting, talking, like free men for just a few moments.
The moment when music invades the prison in such an incredibly powerful way providing a moment of internal freedom and liberation from the circumstances the prison population inhabits.
The finale of liberation though is the grand escape made by the banker and the reuniting of him and his best friend on a beach in South America somewhere. It is a seminal moment, low-key but incredibly powerful. For me, tears flow at this moment every time, even though I have watched this film many times.
Liberation has got a lot to do with living autistically. It has a lot to do with being autistic and claiming one’s human rights.
L is for Liberation…
Personally, I have experienced a number of moments of liberation in terms of autism, the two most pivotal, the experience of diagnosis, A Seat in a funny little waiting room in an inner northern Melbourne suburb. And the moment of actually accepting that diagnosis and in effect realising that autistic is an integral part of who I am.
I have previously described how growing up was in a sense being somewhat of an alien in exile, living in a kind of haze or fog. That emerging from that with a diagnosis was like suddenly seeing clearly like never before. All of that is true, and it is also an intense feeling of liberation.
A kiss the ground like a newly released prisoner might do as they emerge through the prison gates.
Liberation from a lifelong belief that I was somehow, broken, less and wrong.
Liberation from a life of pretending to be something I am not.
Liberation from constant self-loathing for failing to be something that I am not.
Liberation from a paradigm that believed I was sick, diseased and disordered and emergence into embracing difference and diversity.
L is for Liberation…
Personal liberation for autistic people comes, I believe, with acceptance of our neurology and state of being. I also think that this is true for autistics as a community too.
As an autistic community as we throw off the shackles of being talked about, being decided for, having treatments imposed upon us we can be liberated as a community:
Liberated from the pathology paradigm and embracing of the neurodiversity paradigm.
Liberated from being a silenced and sidelined group.
Liberated from having our human rights breached as a matter of course in the name of fixing us.
Liberated from our ranks being routinely subjected to conversion therapy.
Liberated from the likes of organisations like Autism Speaks who routinely depicted us as destroyers of life.
Liberated from being looked upon with sorrow by the wider community.
Liberated from being excluded from many aspects of life like fulfilling careers.
The list could go on and on, there are so many areas where the autistic community can be liberated as a community. Presently it feels like we are in a perpetual battle-like state, countering the latest so-called miracle cure, preparing for the next wave of pseudoscience theory, swamped by barrages of the latest cause for our ‘condition’, I long for this state to end, for us to take our rightful place as just another sub-group of our community.
We too can be liberated from pathology and discrimination. It’s been done before. History tells us we can be liberated.
Look for instance at the Suffrage Movement, Feminism, Gay Rights.
Many said those things would never change and yet…
Homosexuality used to be described in the DSM, it used to be called a disorder.
They said Women would never vote.
They said women should only be in the home being good wives and mothers.
Yes, liberation can occur.
L is for liberation…