My apologies for not writing much recently. I’ve been recovering from April, as I’m sure many of my readers have been too. I underestimated how difficult my first Autistic April would be and have been resting this week.
Of course I was Autistic all the other Aprils of my life, but this past month was the first one where I knew I was Autistic and had actually connected with my community in any sort of meaningful way.
I noticed a few things during my first “official” Autistic April.
The biggest thing I noticed was how tiring it is to be a minority advocating for one’s own group.
I’ve been involved in social justice issues to one degree or another for over a decade. I have advocated for numerous other minority groups over the years.
Nothing has worn me out the way that advocating last month for my own community did.
All the other issues, with the exception of gentle parenting and birth choice, were not even remotely personal to me. I could easily separate myself from those issues at least somewhat. I wasn’t a member of those minority groups so I could advocate without having to deal with my own identity being attacked or questioned.
It’s a whole different deal when it’s my own self that’s being demonized and questioned and researched so they can “cure” who I am. Or at least so that others like me won’t be born in the future.
It’s a whole different experience when, simply by being a member of a group, my words are less likely to be listened to by the majority of people.
It is beyond wearying.
CW: Some ableism, no specific terms, just general allistic pushback to the idea of “acceptance.”
Another thing I noticed was that many of my “friends” on social media had no problem ripping apart Autistic words until they found out that I was Autistic.
It’s really interesting, looking back, but at the time it was horrible. I posted Autistic words and they were argued with and misconstrued and picked apart until I personally said, “Hey, um, I’m Autistic too and these might as well have been my own words.”
At which point the arguing suddenly stopped. People told me that, well, if they’d just known I was Autistic sooner, they wouldn’t have picked those words apart the way they’d done! They told me how big of a difference it would’ve made to them and their reaction to the article I’d posted if they’d only known that I was Autistic from the beginning.
Honestly, I find that very difficult to believe. Oh, I absolutely believe that they would not have shown me those specific reactions if they’d known I was Autistic, but I also believe that the reactions they showed me were their honest reactions to those words.
I mean, they reacted to my disclosure exactly how I’ve seen folks online react when they’ve been racist and suddenly realize that there’s a Black person in the conversation saying, “Um, hi, you’re being racist to me.”
“Oh, well, if I’d known you weren’t white/Autistic/etc, I never would’ve said those things.”
Right. Okay. I’m quite sure you wouldn’t have, but then I wouldn’t have known that you’re an ableist who thinks it’s totally acceptable to rip apart Autistic words when there isn’t an Autistic person in the conversation, as far as you know.
I truly did think that I could just elevate Autistic words this past April. It was not my intention to “trap” anyone into responding poorly by my lack of initial disclosure, but I’m kind of glad it worked out that way. Now I know who those people are and what they really think of “people like me.”
Acceptance is “such a hard thing,” they said. It’s “so difficult” to accept people “like that.” I mean, “acceptance means ignoring dangerous behaviors and letting Autistic people trample all over other people’s rights.”
Even though the words I shared specifically stated that was not at all what the author had meant by the term, the picking apart continued until I “shut down the conversation” by requesting politely that people discuss what the article actually said, not what it didn’t say.
People didn’t stop arguing with me about other things until I disclosed and they finally retreated somewhat.
But now I know what those people really think.
And that set the tone for the rest of April. It was not an encouraging start.
To be fair, I got a lot of really positive responses from friends. Most of the positive responses were not posted publicly, some were in person, a few were actually comments on my posts.
Those positive reactions kept me going. Those made it worthwhile.
Another nice thing was being able to clear out a few people who had already responded to me poorly in the past. I have difficulty with unfriending on social media and usually it takes several troubling things before I’ll unfriend or unfollow. I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, assume the best and all that.
So, now I know who in my life listens and who doesn’t, I know who’s most blatantly ableist, and I will not forget their reactions.
I’m happy and relieved that several parents of Autistic children did listen and we had constructive discussions where we tried to better understand where the other one was coming from, perspective wise. I think that they’ll be able to better help their children now that they understand a bit more of the Autistic perspective – not just from me, but also from all the articles I shared throughout the month.
There are also some folks who suspect they might be Autistic themselves who expressed gratitude for the resources I posted. I hope their journeys towards greater self-understanding are smooth and supported ❤ They know I’m here for them, at the very least.
And I’m so utterly fucking exhausted still.