I hear all the time, I can’t talk about my autism, my work life will suffer. Or, I’ve been advised not to talk about my autism, as people will look at me differently. I won’t get the opportunities I have now. I’ll lose friends.
Here’s the thing.
They will. Some people will talk to you differently when they know you are autistic.
To some people you will never be the same.
Your job prospects might be in danger.
And then there’s the other people who will not believe you, and that can hurt in an entirely different way.
But here’s the other thing.
If we choose not to talk about our autism, these things will never change. They will continue to be.
And then the next generation will stay silent too.
And our children and their children will continue to suffer; will continue to be expected to cram their gorgeous sparkly minds into things they were never intended to do; will continue to suffer suicidal thoughts at 9x the rate of non autistic people. (NINE FRIGGING TIMES.)
So here’s what we gotta do.
We’ve got to suck it up. We’ve got to tolerate the side eye and the sympathetic voices and the people who think we might want to pray it away. And we’ve got to tell our stories.
I don’t care about the rights of black people because I was told it was a good thing to do. I care about them because black people spoke out, back when it was really risky to do so.
I don’t care about abortion rights because I was told it was what I should do. I care because I know women who have been brave enough to share their termination stories with me.
I care about gay rights because I have friends who are gay, and I know their stories.
And so on.
These people aren’t removed or at a distance; they are in plain sight, right alongside me.
And that’s where we as autistic people have to be, too.
All of the rights and empathy I have been granted – as a woman, in my lifestyle, in my faith – I have because people before me paved the way by speaking out; by speaking out when it was costly and challenging to do so.
In this world it can feel like we have nothing to offer to make things better. Like many bad things are happening that are outside of our control. But if we know we are autistic, we have something pretty world changing to offer, simply by living without shame.
So stand alongside the children who have no say over whether they are publicly identified or not. The children who are currently experiencing the sympathy, the side eye, the misunderstanding. Who are experiencing people expecting less of them because of their diagnoses. Who are going to therapy to learn to be less themselves. Who are thought of as vaccine injuries and subjected to bleach cures. Who are talked about as less than human.
Think about all the times you heard people talk about their little loved ones as a tragedy.
They have no choice. We do.
Stand up and say, this is what it means to be me, and these are the things I need to survive and survive well.
These are the things I find hard, these are the things I find easy, and these are the ways I was harmed.
This is what autism means to me.
Talk about these things so that that teenage boy won’t commit suicide.
Talk about it so that that little girl won’t be bullied.
Talk about it so that she won’t have to take long periods of time away from school.
Talk about it so that that small child there will grow up whole enough to care for their own children – and care well.
It’s something unique and beautiful that you have to offer; something you can teach the world.
And l promise you, it will make the world a better place.
“We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” Marianne Williamson