I feel like I don’t even need to give context for this entry, so widely known is screenwriter Terry Rossio’s Twitter post. For the unaware he started by referring to “vaccine damaged” children and ended by comparing being called anti-vax to being called the N-word.* Yeah, it was a mistake. You knew I had to write on it.
So allow me to speak, in absentia as he will never read this, to Mr. Rossio. You referred to vaccine damaged children. You meant autistic children. I know you did. No other condition is linked to vaccines and though you don’t want to hear this, neither is autism. You referred to autistic people, a large population, as damaged in public. We can read it.
The thing is, you’re right, guy who cowrote Little Monsters. We are damaged. I know I sure am! Just not by vaccines.
I’m damaged because we live in a society that allows people like you to insult people like me without a second thought. You didn’t think for a second that autistic people would read your words. In your mind, we’re non-functioning drones. And how often has your view been refuted after all? Not often in your business. That hurts.
I’m damaged because society constantly allows others to speak for us. I’m not talking about my now deleted and staggeringly wrong post on Steve Silbermann who has proven himself in the last few years to be the greatest NT ally we’ve ever had. I’m talking about the doctors and “advocacy groups” who assume we don’t know what we’re talking about. Imagine the blow to your self esteem to be told you’re not qualified to discuss your own life.
I’m damaged because the traits that define my condition are universally treated as negatives. I know more likely than not I’ve bombed job interviews for positions I might’ve gotten based on my work because of my struggle with eye contact. My obsessive interests are derided and mocked. My utter need for routine to function is called out. Yeah, that’s damaging.
I’m damaged for going through a school system that didn’t respect my needs. It was extremely difficult to navigate a world set up at almost precise opposition to my mental state. It wasn’t until high school I got any help but by that point the psychological toll had been extracted.
I’m damaged because no matter hat I achieve in life, the second I give my status as an autistic man, I know or many people their estimation of what I’m capable of drops. It doesn’t matter that I graduated high school and college with honors. It doesn’t matter that I’ve been at one high skill job for 10 years. It doesn’t matter that I’ve been married for five years. It doesn’t matter that I’ve been a father for 2.5 years. All that I’ve done can be wiped out with a word. That leaves scars.
I’m damaged because I even have to say any of this. It should be obvious vaccines don’t cause autism and even if they did in a tiny percentage, not dying is far better. I shouldn’t need to have thousands upon thousands of words up here. I’m autistic, not hopelessly broken. That I’ve had to live my life refuting that idea? That’s the most damaging thing of all.
It doesn’t really matter what I have to say at day’s end. People like this loathsome creep will never listen to us. And yeah, this was a guy so unaware that he used THAT word in public. He doesn’t matter. But there are others, many others who are supposedly well meaning and who would never be consciously bigoted. But they think nothing of throwing us away. And nothing we will say will change that.
I’m not damaged because I’m autistic. I’m damaged because being autistic means something bad in this society.
*YOU CAN NEVER USE THIS IF YOU ARE WHITE! EVER! Like I’m not wasting any more time on this. WE DO NOT GET TO USE THAT WORD!