‘Pride comes before a fall and a haughty spirit before destruction.’ I don’t often quote the Bible in my posts but this one is relevant as it was the message I was given about pride when I was a kid. I was brought up very religious and a lot of the messaging seemed – to me at least – to be that being confident around who you are was a failing. Not wanting to risk divine retribution but I would have to disagree with that approach. For autistic people and LGBTQIA+ people and anyone else who faces discrimination, hate and stigma due to their membership of one or other intersectional group, pride can actually be a life saver.
If you belong to an oppressed group a sense of pride in who you are is actually a positive and highly political act. The Pride of oppressed people challenges bigotry and oppression and is usually a very good thing.
Sometimes people ask me why I am proud of things I cannot help – my neurodivergences, my non-binary and Queer identity. The pride of oppressed people is not the same as the pride we have when we accomplish something impressive. Pride in the context of intersectionality and oppression is more about challenging the negative messaging and embracing yourself just as you are. It is also about expressing that pride to the world so everyone knows you are proud to be you and that you support others with a similar experience to you.
Autistic pride is premised on the notion that autistic people are valuable, worthy and an important part of human society as they are as autistic people. This does not mean they will not experience difficulties with some areas of life or that they don’t need support but it does mean recognising and fostering their strengths, talents and interests and supporting them to like and value themselves.
Despite there being a lot more awareness and understanding of autism in recent years, we are still discriminated against. This is demonstrated in a number of settings from the still appallingly high rates of bullying of autistic kids in schools to the very low employment participation rates and low educational attainment statistics.
Autistic pride is a great way to counter this. If a person is genuinely proud of who they are and sees their autism in a positive light, as part of their character and personality, it helps them to navigate the world better. This is relevant for all autistic people – those who use verbal speech and those that don’t, those with all cognitive abilities and accomplishments and those with any additional ‘labels’ as well as autism. It is a quality that parents can play a huge part in fostering and supporting.
Pride feeds into a bunch of very useful attributes like self-esteem, self-confidence, resilience and independence. Even better, it allows us to value ourselves in the face of a world that often does not respect or value us and to educate others and advocate for other autistic people too. Someone who is filled with a sense of pride and self-respect is more likely to navigate life well, be fulfilled in life and achieve their potential. Without that sense of pride and given all the barriers stacked against us, it can be very hard to be who we want and need to be. Pride is great at helping to level the playing field for autistic people. It is one of those qualities which is pretty much always a good thing. The example that a person who is proud of who they are sets for others is fantastic and it also demonstrates a model of viewing autism through the lens of pride. This will almost certainty impact on neurotypical people and change their understanding of autism for the better.
Pride for LGBTQIA+ people is now the focus of many well established events in different countries. LGBTQIA+ people face significant discrimination and hatred and have done so for a very long time. Pride is a highly effective counter to this. When I came out as non-binary in 2018 I was so full of joy, liberation and pride that I wanted to dance down the street. Socialists talk about a ‘festival of the oppressed’ and that describes how I felt as a newly out and proud non-binary person. I marched in the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras in 2019 – less than 12 months after I came out – and the sense of pride was palpable. I don’t think I have ever been happier than that evening with hundreds of thousands of people cheering us on and demonstrating their support. Pride is a really important part of who I am as a non-binary and Queer person.
Pride can be an amazing thing. Me showing my pride supports others to show their pride. Everyone has the right to acceptance and respect and to live a life free from bigotry, hatred and oppression. I share my pride with you because I hope it will change your life as it has changed mine for the better.