“Why are you so quiet?” Autistic voices and the fight to be heard
Society is built upon a surprising number of rules that, when fully considered, seem rather arbitrary. In actual fact, societies rules are not arbitrary at all. They are deliberately designed to keep minority groups quiet while amplifying the voice of the oppressors.
I think most Autistic people have come across this particular micro-aggression. Sat in a social situation, listening, waiting for our chance to join in…
“Why are you so quiet?”
It’s a loaded question, because the truth is that society has conditioned us to be quiet. Don’t interrupt, don’t shout, don’t swear, don’t do anything that might upset the status quo. A status quo that upholds the victimisation of Autistic people while allowing those who want us eradicated to hog the microphone, so to speak.
It’s hard enough to know when my turn is in a conversation, let alone when the entire room is breaking the very rule that has caused my bewilderment in these situations. Neuronormativity dictates that everyone’s voice and opinion is equal, while silencing those who are harmed by this worldview.
Why is all of this relevant? Because I want you to understand why the titular question is micro-aggression.
Back to the social situation, I am lost and scared in a neurotypical environment, people speaking over each other and interrupting. Meanwhile my pavlovian ass is adhering to the rules that have been instilled in me since I could first speak.
What does this mean for Autistics trying to be a part of the conversation within the Autistic Rights movement?
It’s not just a room full of people speaking over each other and drowning us out of the conversation, it’s a world of people who think they know better. The irony being that when they don’t give us the chance to speak out against their rampant pathologisation of our identities, they use our silence to uphold their outdated and harmful beliefs about us.
The silence they instil in us by never giving us the chance to talk, is the very thing they use to justify calling us an epidemic. We social outcasts can’t possibly contribute to the economy through silence, can we?
So, sod the rules.
I will speak up and over the navel-gazing masses who believe me to be broken. I will stand in defiance of their arbitrary social rules, and I will live a life that feels right for me and my neurokin.
We are not broken, we are not ill.
We are quiet because you don’t give us the opportunity to step up to the proverbial mic.
So yeah, I hope that answers the question.
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I relate a lot to this. I’ve had this question throughout my life and so often am I rarely given the opportunity to speak. Glad to see other Autistic people deal with this but you’re right, we are rarely allowed to have a voice when non-autistic people have and still dominate the narrative.
Thank you David for another wonderful post. I don’t know what happens to me when I enter a group setting. My usual persona seems to evaporate and I become frozen in fear, confusion and anxiety. Mute in the conversation and group, I leave feeling disappointed in my “lack of ability to ‘join in’ the discussion.”
Your post reminds me that I am not alone in these thoughts and feelings, and I’m very grateful for all you do.
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