Radical Advocacy: Being an advocate in a hate filled world

Recently I have found myself considering the direction that my advocacy is taking. I have found myself reading extensively on “autism theory” and, on the other hand, writings by actually Autistic authors.

At first I felt broken by what I had realised. Our world is built on a paradigm that by design oppresses anyone outside of it’s cultural standards of normal. What can we do about such a hate filled world? How can a minority group take on a system that is set up to silence them?

The answer is the opposite of hate. Which some might call love, but I find that utterly reductive and terribly clichéd. So if love is what drives us to stand up for another, then advocacy is the tool that we use to do so.

Where the hateful and oppressive masses sit in silent glee as all that is not “normal” is destroyed and hidden away, a self-advocating culture amplifies the voices of those who may otherwise go unheard.

Some people think that the job of an advocate is to give the oppressed a voice, but this is not true. An advocates job is to listen, and communicate what they hear in a way that can no longer be ignored.

Advocacy isn’t always about representing another person. Often as advocates we have to sit with ourselves and listen to our own inner voice. What helps us? How did we unlearn that? An advocate must be able to reflect on their own experience, and how that impacts the people they are standing up for.

The most radical thing an advocate can do, however, is to unlearn the systemic lies that society has drilled into us since birth. As Autistic advocates, the greatest lie we have been raised with is that society has a standard that we must adhere to.

There is no standard, there is no normal. This is a mistruth used to keep us static. Our society desperately wants our silence, so it fools us into thinking that we diverge from “normal”, when the truth is that what we truly diverge from is the dogma of a world that craves our indifference.

From a young age we are taught that our difference makes us broken, a shameful secret to be remedied or hidden from sight. An advocate must stand tall in the knowledge that our diversity is what makes us beautiful.

That, is what can combat a hate filled world. Not love, but advocacy that guides the world into seeing the beauty in our differences, instead of trying to eradicate them.

Published by David Gray-Hammond

David Gray-Hammond is an autistic mental health and addiction advocate living in the South East of England. He is in recovery from addiction and psychosis, as well as other complex mental health conditions. He was diagnosed as autistic seven months after achieving sobriety, and is resolved to share his experiences with the world in the hopes of being the person that he needed when he was younger.

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