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Autistic Pride Day: Do We Celebrate It Right?

Today, 18 June 2005, is "Autistic Pride Day". Its stated purpose is to celebrate the autistic part of human diversity, not all that different from an ethnic holiday that celebrates their part in the diversity of the human race.

To be honest, as I try to celebrate it, I sometimes end up very sad. I've been very disappointed in the autistic community as a whole lately and am sometimes not happy to be a member of it. It's not that I think autism is bad, but the reality of autistics not always being good people seems to have hit home for me lately. Too many people in the community seem to want the community only for a group of people who share the same autistic traits, which is rather depressing. ("High functioning", "Asperger's", people without PTSD, people who talk, people who don't talk, people with high IQs, people who don't have some autistic behaviors, etc.) Inclusion does not seem to be a core value of the autistic community, and this is sad.

When many people talk of autistic pride, it often makes me cry because the best we can seem to come up with as a group are a list things that only some autistics can be proud of (because others lack those traits) and/or things that put down other people ("We aren't stupid NTs" and such). I'd like to see us come up with stuff like, "We are human, and like all humans, have value." We don't need to prove we have autistic superpowers to be of worth. Nor do we have to attribute moral goodness to autistics to be of worth (especially since, like with NTs, there are moral and immoral autistics).

Certainly, we can think of things we are glad we've done, things we've accomplished. Autistic advocates have done a lot lately. We can celebrate anyone who has managed to get free of an institution, and we can rejoice that there are many autistic kids who have the summer off from school - and the bullying and abuse that often plagues them while they are there. Heck, we can be grateful and celebrate any autistic who has managed to survive in this world for another year. We can recognize ourselves as people who are entitled to the same human rights non-disabled people enjoy today.

That said, we need to be careful in how we go about this...

I am happy to be autistic, and I wouldn't choose to be NT. But that doesn't make being NT bad, nor does it mean that I'm only happy because I have some sort of characteristic such as intelligence, communication ability, behavioral control, etc, that would render me totally unhappy if I didn't have it. I would like to think I'd be happy if I was born NT too, and not just because "NTs don't know any better" or any such nonsense. I'd like to think I'd be happy if I was born with Down's Syndrome, or if I had any number of other disabilities, too. Unfortunately some of what passes for "autistic pride" does not allow me to hold this view, which is why that type of "autistic pride" depresses me. People are not worth more or less then others based on skin color, gender, age, intelligence, disability, or neurological configuration.

I know the "official" purpose of Autistic Pride Day is to recognize autism as part of human diversity, which is a good thing. However, often the way that gets done isn't pleasant to watch, as it ends up hurting other people.

Please, as you celebrate your autism, consider people who don't share the traits you are celebrating. We don't need to hurt others to recognize our own value in the world. If you can do that, then have a Happy Autistic Pride day!!!

Copyright © 2005 Joel Smith


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