Not your tragedy, not your epidemic, not your inspiration: reflecting on Autistic existence

Being Autistic is not inherently good or bad, it just is.

That’s not to say that I am not proud of who I am, and I am most certainly not denying the obstacles I have had to over come. While being Autistic is an inseparable part of my identity and existence, it is also an aggressively neutral thing.

I am good at some things, usually obscure and complex things, and awful at others, usually the things that society takes for granted.

Like any human being, my existence is predicated on breathing the same air that every other human breathes. I love, laugh, hate, and cry. I cheer for my friends, and at times can be really quite unkind about people I do not like.

I am human, not some childlike picture of innocence and naivety.

This, then, is what makes me so angry when society at large uses me to sell their own narratives.

When the “autism parents” want sympathy, I am a tragedy. When the antivaxxers want to cherry pick data, I am an epidemic. When the world sees me do an aggressively average thing, I am an inspiration.

I am all these things because (to quote the wonderful Dr. Chloe Farahar) “There is no autism, there are only Autistic people”.

I am an abstract concept, and at times I am the personification of existential ennui, is it any surprise when I exist in a society that uses me to sell a story? Society at large certainly doesn’t care about my story, or the story of my neurokin.

Autistic people do not exist for your benefit. We do not exist to serve a purpose outside of our “understanding”. We exist like any other human. We intersect with many other demographics of humans. Our lives are complex and nuanced. It doesn’t matter whether we are Nobel laureates, are unable to engage with traditional employment. Whether we care for ourselves, or need lifelong care.

The inner worlds of all Autistics are rich, complex, and beautiful.

I am Autistic, and I refuse to tell your story for you, when you won’t even listen to the story that myself and my community have been shouting from the mountaintop.

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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