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Why I Don't Want To Be An Autistic Advocate Anymore

It's important to advocate for the rights of all people, including autistics. However, too often, the tactics we use are questionable at best. Trying to continue to advocate in the midst of hatred for others — from people claiming to fight for rights of others — is both demoralizing and frightening.

Yet it happens. Even among autistic people.

I don't want to be an autistic advocate anymore. Oh, I agree with the overall "purpose" of autistic advocacy — ensuring the dignity and human rights of autistic people. But...

Too many who claim to be autistic advocates believe that autistics should get rights because they have intelligence that the rest of the world lacks. Of course I was diagnosed mentally retarded. And, even though the label did not continue to cling to me, it is painful to hear intelligence is what gives us the right to freedom and dignity. It's equally painful to hear that non-autistic people who don't share a given group's high IQ shouldn't receive those very same rights.

Too many who claim to be autistic advocates believe that their subgroup of autistics is more able to be the voice of autism then the other subgroups. It might be Aspies, it might be people who have used facilitated communication, it might be an entirely different group — but whatever subgroup is superior has the right to speak for the others. When you don't fit neatly into any of these groups, and members of all of them are trying to differentiate their kind of autistic from every other kind, there is a sadness as you see what could be a true community become a battleground.

Too many who claim to be autistic advocates look at themselves and their own personal needs above all other autistics. Either their needs are more "severe" than others who speak out, minimizing the needs of those others, or autistics only need the particular things that would benefit the person speaking. Our eye isn't on the community, its selfish gaze is on self. And, just like many of the ideas we oppose, the zeal to serve self does so with an "the ends justify the means" mind-set. It doesn't matter who gets trampled. I'm sick of being trampled.

Too many who claim to be autistic advocates believe that only NTs — not autistics — can engage in group politics, pettiness, bullying, hero-worship, favoritism, or countless other negative acts. Yet they themselves are willing to engage in exactly such things, while engaging the double-think necessary to shout about how horrible those awful NTs are. I'm worn out from being caught in the politics, pettiness, and bullying.

Too many who claim to be autistic advocates believe that autistics recognize the true value in always separating emotion from logic. Never mind that a person truly capable of this doesn't exist, we are always logical and never emotional. So, for those of us who recognize our emotions exist and are real, and often even have value, we face the scorn of our autistic advocate peers.

Too many who claim to be autistic advocates allow for the possibility that "that kind" of autistic might truly need abusive treatments, institutions, or wrongly prescribed drugs. After all, they aren't like the autistic advocates themselves! Maybe if I didn't typically share much of my being with "that kind" of autistic, I wouldn't care. But I do.

So, you see, I can't be an autistic advocate on their terms.

Maybe when we figure out a way to represent our cause without trampling on each other, when we figure out how to do it without trying to exalt ourselves above other groups of non-autistics, when the community seeks the good of all different types of autistics — maybe then I will return to autistic advocacy. In the meantime, we have too much work to do among ourselves before we can even think about changing the world.

Maybe someday.


NOTE: I do believe that autistic advocacy — in it's true form — exists, but what I describe above is what I actually see in some of the autistic advocacy communities. Certainly very few people exhibit all the negative traits I mention, and I probably exhibit a few myself, but unfortunately all of these traits exist to some extent in our autistic advocacy communities and too often interfere with true advocacy.

Copyright © 2005 Joel Smith

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