thoughts from a recently-diagnosed autistic queer feminist

Posts tagged ‘words’

Autistic?

Technically my diagnosis is Autism Spectrum Disorder (Asperger’s Syndrome) (as well as related anxiety and dyspraxia. When it was confirmed, the Asperger’s Syndrome part took some processing, but I was reasonably comfortable with it. Describing myself as autistic, though, was another matter.

It wasn’t that I believed the negative stereotypes, at least not rationally. I’d been reading blogs such as Ballastexistenz, Journeys with Autism and, more recently, Autistic Hoya, all of which prominently use the words autism/autistic, all written by intelligent, articulate women who if I someday manage to write like, I’d be bloody proud.

And it wasn’t even that I believed that mattered. I hate the idea that people need to prove themselves in some way for me to say “I’m one of you, this is our fight”. I’m not into leaving behind people who don’t meet some arbitary standard, of making intelligence/prettiness/friendliness or whatever some prerequisite for the rights others take for granted. But maybe… maybe I’d internalised some of that.

This is, of course, coming at a time when it is looking likely that in the near future those diagnosed today as AS will (if diagnosed at all – a separate but worrying issue) be diagnosed with ASD. Personally, whilst being mindful that whilst sytems are set up the way they are some people are reliant on it, I couldn’t give a fuck about the DSM. Saying I’m not Aspie because they’re taking it out of the DSM makes about as much sense as saying everyone became straight when they took homosexuality out of the DSM. Nevertheless, it does to some extent inform how we speak, how we selfdescribe, how our communities are defined.

Anyway, something’s changed. I’ve started describing myself as Autistic. Not all the time – if the conversation’s about AS specifically, I’ll describe myself as aspie. If I’m identifying myself purely for that purpose, I’m more likely to talk about AS. But if I’m talking about autism generally, “as an autistic person” has started rolling off my tongue quite naturally.

I’m not sure what happened. It just changed. I guess I got more comfortable with myself.

Framing

Today I read a notice of a vigil in memory of an autistic man killed by a family member. The words from it which caught my eye werem’t the ones you’d expect:

“and other victims of domestic violence”.

And it occured to me how rarely I’d see that term used to describe cases like these. I’m aware there is cricism of the terminology itself and I’m insufficiently familiar with the arguments to enter into that discussion, but I do think we need to treat acts of violence against disabled people by family members as falling in the same general category as other violence within the home and family grouping.

There’s a pattern at the moment, and it isn’t good. Someone will defend the abuser on the grounds of there being insufficient services available to them and how they just got desperate. Others will agree. Anyone who wants to advocate for the person on the recieving end can’t even mention the service provision because (understandably) they fear it will play into the idea that it was in some ways justified.

But it’s obvious that in a world where people can’t access needed resources, tragedies happen. And that something needs to be done about it. And that doesn’t negate from the fact that these acts are inexcusable, that there is a clear aggressor, or that our support should be for the person on the recieving end.

I’ve heard many people talk eloquently and knowledgably about the circumstances in which domestic violence is more likely to occur. About the stressors which aggravate it. About how actual change in our society – not just violence at the bottom of the cliff type measures – is the way forward. And they do so without making excuses, without victim blaming. Without ever suggesting that things are okay.

So much of the groundwork has already been done, but some people have been left out of the discussion. We need to change that.