I am a U.K based, self-diagnosed woman with Autistic traits (and Attention Deficit Disorder traits but those feel less politically urgent to talk about). I might possibly sometimes say I’m a woman with Aspergers. But not in public. Not in my day job. Not where I study either, where the leaflet for people on the spectrum produced by said higher education institution informed me that I didn’t have a sense of humour. I imagined this being my first introduction to my new teachers. “Here read this leaflet about me so you don’t overwhelm me with administration- but please do ignore the bits where it says I think literally and have no sense of humour- what with that stuff being an essential component of what I’m doing here. Right, splendid, where shall we start?”.
I’m increasingly interested in activism and protest. Increasingly convinced that it’s vital that people with Autism and Aspergers are represented in a world which stereotypes them, studies them as if they’re strange specimens, writes about them as if they’re locked-in aliens, makes money out of “curing” them and beats or coerces them so they conform to society’s norms of behaviour and self-expression. I’m also convinced it’s vital that the under-diagnosed women of the spectrum are talked about, represented and, when necessary, fought alongside and for. Issues of class and race, among others are also often ignored in autism talk. But they’re important. They impact on who gets support, diagnosis and who gets to join in the conversations that rage all over the world.
I feel like I can stand silently by no longer. Lurking on blogs and Tweets, posting the occasional thing to Facebook. Especially as the UK government descends into Brexit meltdown and continues damaging social and health care and the US government is…well, Trump. Nuff said. But at the same time, I do not want to come “out” in public. I’ve kept saying “Maybe in thirty years when Autism discourse has moved on and people understand more”. As a self-diagnosed Aspie, I’m not convinced I can shift how people talk about things, not convinced I can stop aspects of my other life becoming confused and tied up in it in a way which is helpful to neither (and I don’t really want to be an exemplar of a “successful-at-life” person on the spectrum either. All sorts of pressures and gaps then build up). But it has only just occurred to me that I could speak out anonymously. And I mean, only just occurred to me after five years of thinking about this stuff, a lot.
I’m going to write about my life as a “passing” neurotypical person and highlight representations of Autistic people and social issues that impact on their lives along the way. I wish there was more I could do- but I do believe in the power of those who do not have voices speaking. In the power of saying what isn’t usually said. I’d prefer not to do this anonymously- but maybe there is something useful about not being able to be co-opted by the institutions with vested interests in the power-struggles around Autism and how it is defined.
My husband just said “You’ll be like Zorro but without the itchy mask”. A keyboard warrior indeed, but maybe there’s some good in that. I’ve certainly been inspired by the Tweets and blogs of Autism warriors. I hope to join in and express solidarity with your good work. More anon.