Last week, I found myself pulled into a conversation on twitter that I desperately wish I hadn’t been. In it, a guy used autism as his excuse to hold sexist views, claiming women had attacked him for being autistic and slandered him. When I countered that I had never run into such and noted my own open feminist views, I was immediately attacked and called hateful. Rather than indulging him, I blocked and walked on.
I was reminded of it a bit later when I found myself in a discussion about the idea that there are people within the community prone to these behaviors. It made me realize I couldn’t just treat this as an isolated thing I’d encountered. Upon reflection, I realized I’d seen this a lot in the community. I might’ve brushed it off, but it’s hard to ignore that there is a dark contingent.
So let me be blunt: If you are doing using being autistic as a justification for prejudiced or any other kind of unpleasant behavior, you are causing a rather epic level of harm to our community and might even be a bigger problem than ableism.
Why? Because you are giving every opponent we have ammunition. When the image of the sexist twitter user comes up, you’re giving someone a reason to call them autistic. You’re confirming that yes, we are that way. You’re suggesting that being autistic inherently means being terrible.
And we have to struggle enough with this. I liked Colin Fischer but once more I had to endure a tale of a hard to be around autistic. The media loves to say we’re awful. How many diagnosed/undiagnosed characters who are unbearable can we list? Bless Abed Nadir for being the exception. Otherwise, the outside world believes this of us. So if they already think that, you’re making this worse.
To some degree, I think this is internalized. I catch myself using the disorder as a shield for times that I screw up. Some of these, it’s accurate. Some it’s not. At no time is it okay though. We have to break the internalized notion that the disorder inherently makes us broken in this manner. We can grow.
And we have to if the community is to be strong. I cannot fathom how anybody within the community can be prejudiced. After all, ours is an umbrella which includes all races, all genders, all ages. If one is to represent the autistic community, ideally they stand for the entirety.
Furthermore, if one knows what it is to be judged for a trait we have zero control over, it is all the more vital that we not do the same for others. Otherwise we are hypocrites defined. It having happened to us is the opposite of a license.
Not that I think this will matter. I’m trying to use a logical argument while prejudice is illogical. It won’t change anybody’s minds. But I can stand up and speak out. We are strongest together.