Around 2005, I went to a political conference in another city. I went to a number of them in those years, and I suspect most of this one will have been much like the others. I’ll have argued and cracked jokes and drank beer and eaten Chinese. I’ll have returned, lent and borrowed books. I’ll have met new people and learned a lot. But I don’t remember that really.
What I do remember is waiting the next morning for the people driving back to pick me up. They’d planned to leave at 8:30. There was no sign. I texted. There in five minutes, they said. They weren’t. Nor were they for maybe the next hour and a half.
I was absolutely beside myself, both with panic and with disorientation. I didn’t have the money for a bus fare home, and not only was I scared of hitchhiking, I didn’t know how to get to an appropriate main road. I wasn’t even sure which way was south.
That they were being vague and disorganised and that didn’t matter to them did not even cross my mind. Nor did it occur to me that the middle-aged professional in whose house I was staying would almost certainly have both the ability and willingness to lend the relatively small amount of money it would take a scared, broke, 20-ish activist to get home should it come to that. Even if it had, there’d have been no way I could have asked her.
You know how this ends, right? They turned up and didn’t see there was a problem. I pretended there wasn’t. I got home.
I’ve been involved in one form of political activism or another for the past decade, and sporadically in the years before that, and over that time I’ve felt simultaneously completely at home and completely at odds with not just activist spaces and communities, but also some of the ideas and values that are often taken for granted.
My autism diagnosis gave me the ability to contextualise and make sense of many of these experiences, and they’re what I’m hoping to express in this blog series. I’ll be talking mostly about queer, feminist and general socialist activism, because that’s what I’ve been most involved in, but a lot of it is widely applicable. I’m very new to autism activism, so I’m unlikely to talk about that much. I’ll be writing about what makes these spaces accessible and inaccessible to me, as an autistic person, but also what makes them important, and exploring values that may seem at first glance to be contrary to how we think and interact.
So thanks for reading, and I’m only writing from my own experience, so do feel free to comment with your own ideas and thoughts. The posts will be linked here as they are posted.
Part 1 Introduction
Part 2 Accessibility and ‘Accessibility’
Part 3 Immediate Ideas
Part 4 Getting to the heart of it
Part 5 On the positive side…
Part 6 Looking forward