Friday June 18 is Autistic Pride Day so I thought I would write a blog post all about autistic pride.
Sometimes people say ‘why would you be proud? You can’t help being autistic. It just is.’ I think for members of marginalised groups, like Autistics, pride is a political act and a way of asserting our worth and value. Pride is a counter to discrimination and stigma. To be outwardly out loud and proud is a way of challenging the negatives which are so prevalent.
I am proud. Pride is about validation and respect. Autistic people live in a world which:
- Devalues us
- Subjects us to ‘therapies’ which cause trauma
- Gives messaging that we are incompetent, broken and that our views and experiences don’t matter
- Denies most of us the right to work
- Misdiagnoses us with mental health and other conditions that we don’t have
- Murders us
- Drives many of us to suicide and self-harm
- Tells us our communication is wrong
- Denies many of us the right to access augmented and assistive communication meaning people cannot be understood
- Misrepresents us in media
- Denies some of us access to gender affirming medical procedures
- Tells us we can’t know key parts of who we are, such as our gender
- Laughs at us
- Uses ‘that’s so autistic’ as an insult or criticism
- Bullies us. A lot
- Expects us to mask but when we do mask invalidates our experience as autistics as ‘you don’t look autistic’
- Lots of other horrific and traumatising things
Autistic pride is a counter to all these things and as such it is very much needed.
What does autistic pride look like?
Autistic pride is about promoting our needs and wants. It is about being able to be our authentic selves. It is about being outwardly proud to be who we are and to be confident to say ‘I am autistic’. Pride is about knowing we are OK just the way we are. Autistic pride is about people respecting and validating us. It is about changing the world to be more inclusive. It is about listening to autistic people. It is about recognising that autism can be viewed as a different and equally valid culture. It is about knowing that autistic people speak a different language to neurotypical people, and we are speaking fluent autistic and not speaking poor neurotypical. Autistic pride is about learning from autistics. It is about including us on boards and committees as equal participants to the other members. It is about supporting us to engage with our passions. It is about not thinking autism is a tragedy but instead is a different kind of amazing.
It is lots of other things and it means something different for each person.
The world has been changing lately in terms of autistic pride. For example representation in the media is being viewed differently. Even a few years ago nobody would have said anything if an autistic character in a movie was played by a neurotypical person but now that is (rightfully) seen as not OK. Even people not in the autistic community have some knowledge around autism that surprises me. When I started my work in advocacy in 2005 most of the parents I spoke with viewed their child’s autism as a tragedy or a curse. Thankfully this is not the case anywhere near as much and most parents I speak to now are more coming from a strengths and neurodiversity perspective.
I remember a while back talking to the local autism organisation and asking if they wanted to do anything for April and they informed me that they were doing something for Autistic Pride Day instead. I was delighted – and a little surprised! It illustrated that things are changing in a good way. However, these kind of attitudes can change back so it is important not to be complacent. There is still a long way to go ad I am constantly talking and educating others around autistic experience, rights and pride.
I definitely have my pride on for June and every other month too. I went from not accepting I was autistic in my twenties to being very reluctant to talk about my autism to being extremely proud and visible. I am now probably one of the most visible people in the advocacy space anywhere in the world and I absolutely love it! I wish a sense of pride and positive self identity to all my fellow Autistics – and anyone who faces disadvantage for belonging to a ‘diversity’-type group. Yep, get your pride on because it is good.