I was going to try and be really highfalutin’ with this post. I was going to ask my roommate the English major about Lacanian theory and semiotics, and explain that. Then I’d make some allusion to the fact that we all perceive words differently, and it can sometimes mess up discourse on a fundamental level. Then I would tie it back to the fact that the word ‘disability’ is routinely interpreted as something hugely dire by the non-disabled, and explain that ‘disability’ is in fact a social construct. Then, to close, I’d make some quasi-profound point about how we could all do a bit better at understanding that we all have different perceptions.
But today is the Disability Day of Mourning, and I’m not going to do that.
I’m going to tell you that since the 2014 Disability Day of Mourning, at least 20 more autistic and neurodivergent people have been murdered, most if not all by their parents and caregivers. The people who should love and protect them the most. And in every single case, sympathy has overwhelmingly been with the murderous parent.
I’m going to tell you that in the past two weeks or so, Autism $peaks has created a Twitter hashtag about their tenth anniversary, inviting people to share how “AS has touched their lives.” Well, autistic people did. Repeatedly. Overwhelmingly. The only discussion I have seen about this wonderful event has been on Buzzfeed – MTV had an article up, but took it down because they reneged on a promise to Amy Sequenzia, a badass autistic activist, and because “Autism Speaks had not replied to a request for comment, and we want this to be balanced.” Balanced – like asking Tony Perkins to comment on a Pride parade! We are the ones silenced and abused by people who support Autism Speaks, and you want to hear their side of the story?
I’m going to tell you that the “dress controversy” turned into another Buzzfeed article, this time about how autistic people “see the world differently” (which I found patronizing to begin with). The comments turned into an argument about person-first language and tone policing, to the point where countless threats, insults and ableist statements about “just get over it” were made. I’m going to tell you that this is abled privilege, to be able to characterize identity language as ‘semantics,’ because it’s not semantics. It’s not even about what language you choose; it’s about academics, journalists and professionals not even bothering to inquire with autistic people or our advocacy organizations about what language we prefer. It’s about not dehumanizing a group of people by ignoring the fact they have opinions! Can you not grasp that to some of us, ‘person with autism’ sounds like ‘person with leprosy’**?
I’m going to tell you that the major – in most cases, the only – therapy approved for treating the ‘symptoms of autism’ (whatever those may be) is called Applied Behavioral Analysis (TW: emotional trauma in that link), and it follows the exact same principles as ex-gay therapy. Ole Ivar Lovaas created both – in what was referred to as the Feminine Boy Project, “masculine” behaviors were rewarded; in ABA, “non-autistic” behaviors are rewarded. Ex-gay therapy has been deemed to be fraud; yet, because we are disabled, ABA is totally fine. Indeed, ABA is so entrenched that in some states, other therapies are given the name of ABA so they can be covered. True ABA is dog training, obsessed with compliance and setting us up for abuse because we are literally conditioned out of saying no! You want us to be “indistinguishable from our peers”; how about wanting us to be safe?
I’m going to tell you that last November, a woman threw her six year old autistic son off a motherfucking bridge in Oregon, and then called the police. It turned out she had done research on the insanity defense (TW: violence) before committing the murder – because that’s what it was, murder. The comments on the articles discussing the murder were full of sympathy for the mother, and how hard autism is to live with. But in January, a father threw his neurotypical daughter off a bridge (TW: death, violence) and not one single comment on any article I could find showed anything but rage and sorrow for the death of a five year old girl.
I’m going to tell you that the Judge Rotenberg Center is still open, and it is still torturing autistic and otherwise disabled people. And yes, it is torture. Two different UN Special Rapporteurs on Torture have said so.
I’m going to tell you that the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) has had the cause to put together an anti-filicide kit. Because we are killed so often.
I’m going to tell you about Robert Robinson. About Christina Sankey, Dyasha Smith, Vincent Phan and London McCabe. About the others who died of abuse or neglect. Because we owe it to ourselves to keep their stories out there.
I am telling you that we are not going anywhere. I am telling you that we mourn our dead. And we remember.
** I know it’s called Hansen’s disease, but not everyone knows that.