NB. I talk about some ignorant and hateful parenting in this post. However, some parents are absolutely wonderful, invaluable parents as well as amazing examples of NT allies. Please refer to my sidebar for links to some of their blogs, marked with a (P).
So. Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of talk on autism acceptance pages, on parent pages, about tone. About how we’re so angry, about how we have to be nice to people or they won’t listen to us, how “for the good of the movement” we have to engage on the ignorant person’s level.
The thing is, up to a point, those people are right. On a purely individual level, a lot of the time, if you get defensive and upset, people won’t listen to you. They should. But they won’t, because you’re “angry.”
Anger is a scary thing for most neurotypicals, never mind us autistics. We don’t know where it will lead most of the time. We as a society are used to people modulating their emotions, speaking in calm tones, and those who don’t are “loose cannons.” They’re “unstable” or “weird” (read: nonconforming). There’s a place for sadness, or for fear that is socially acceptable – funerals, or scary movies, or late at night as a child when you think there’s monsters under your bed. But anger never seems to be okay with the majority of people.
I am here to tell you to fuck that noise.
Seriously. Fuck it to the moon and back.
The tone police are correct in that in this day and age, we have to sometimes tone down our message so it reaches people who are uncomfortable with a certain approach. However, they are completely wrong and incorrect if they tell you, as so many do, that you aren’t allowed to be angry. That’s patronizing, that’s obnoxious and just plain stupid.
Anger is about power, plain and simple. It’s about allowing yourself to feel wronged for once in your life and to use that feeling to effect change. And the tone police are terrified of anger. They’re scared that you will be angry enough that they will feel powerless. And they’ve always had the power. It’s time to take some back.
I’m not saying go into every conversation screaming at people, but way too many people allow themselves to get bogged down into tone arguments. Tone is what people argue about when they know you’re right and don’t want to admit it. Or they’re too uncomfortable with the idea they might be wrong.
Sometimes there are spectrumites who would prefer a more conciliatory approach, and that’s their right. I am never going to tell an autistic person how to talk about autism. Neurotypical allies tend to not get such derailing tactics as tone policing from other neurotypicals – can’t imagine why. But for someone like me, who is autistic, and usually not visually, I have to go in with the proverbial balls to the wall.
When I talk to people, I do my best to be honest. I don’t “look” autistic according to popular stereotype. I can usually “pass”. I’m verbal. I can type. This gets a lot of people to immediately try to invalidate my opinions because I’m “not like their children”. But I am. Because I am autistic, and there are days I’m just as nonverbal as their children, and there are days I want to scream and bite and do everything their children might do.
If I can get through those derailing tactics of potential invalidation, that’s when the tone police come in. “You’re so mean to us,” they say. “We’re trying to help.”
This is, at its most elemental, a power grab. This is trying to frame the conversation in their context, not mine. This is trying to tell me that Autism Speaks isn’t really advocating eugenics when they fund a cure for autism instead of services for those who are already here.
I have no doubt that they have good intentions, but that’s what we step on on the road to hell. I tell people that I’m a lot more interested in getting the word out than making sure their feelings aren’t hurt – that I never mean to hurt anyone, but if I do, that’s not my priority. I really don’t care about the parents whose feelings are hurt by hearing about how Kelli Stapleton tried to murder her fourteen-year old daughter. If you would never harm your child, then be secure in that knowledge. If you would, or if you sympathize with that murderer, then you have a problem. Either way I’m not going to shut up about people being murdered just because you’re offended.
I’m not going to shut up about people invalidating my existence just because you’re offended.
I’m not going to shut up about the children being psychologically damaged by “quiet hands” and “compliance” just because you’re offended.
Deal with it.
I just spent time, in what I thought was a safe space, trying to explain to an “autism parent” that Autism Speaks advocates torture. That Autism Speaks only spends 4% of its massive budget on family services, when they try to say they “help” autistic people and their families. That ABA therapy, as championed by Autism Speaks, has demonstrably caused PTSD in autistic adults. That they ignore autistic adults, that they promote anti-vaccination ideas, and this is the reply I got, in part:
… But, you know what? I’m just gonna let it go. You don’t get it. How could you? You’ve never had a child with autism. You’ve never had to try to work full-time while fully sleep-deprived because your child was up all night due to sleep disturbance issues. You’ve never known the pain of having your own kid bite, kick, and hit you. You’ve never had to change your ten year old’s diaper, or watch in horror as he’s broken free of your grasp (by biting your hand. Hard.) and run directly into the path of a speeding car. You’ve never had your close friends back away from spending time with you, because your kid routinely strips in their living room, bangs his head so hard against the walls that he dents them, or crawls into the refrigerator every time you turn your back. …
No, I don’t. And I feel sorry for that child, not you.
What do you know about being fired from a job because you’re autistic? Being told you shouldn’t exist because you’re autistic? Told you have “no empathy” because you don’t cry when they think you should? A doctor telling you they need to consult with your parents because they don’t trust your decision making skills? Being told you’re lazy, useless, and bad because you could do something yesterday and you just can’t today, so you must be lying? Being ostracized, mocked, slapped, and made to feel about two feet tall because you are autistic?
A parent’s pain for their child is absolutely and unequivocally valid. The world is a nasty place. And it’s good parenting to want to protect your child.
It is not good parenting to invalidate the people who actually have what your child has because you think you (and Autism Speaks) know best.
It’s not about you. And fuck you for making it about you (not even about your child).
You have made me angry. And I use this anger to get the word out. To spread the truth about Autism Speaks. About ABA. About murder, about ableism, and about martyr parents. So get the fuck out of my way.