The privilege of being neuroqueer
I have, for some time now, discussed neuroqueer theory (as conceptualised by Nick Walker and her colleagues), adding my own takes to the emerging liberatory thoughts of a blossoming post-normal era. I consider myself neuroqueer. Not only because of the relationship between my queerness and my neurodivergence, but also because of the relationship between my Self and normative society.
In my book A Treatise on Chaos, I discuss what I have conceptualised as “the Chaotic Self”. Rooted in the idea that all things tend towards chaos, ever changing, unable to unexperience the events that form our sense of Self. I consider how I have neuroqueered my way to this understanding of myself. What I don’t discuss in that book (although I do discuss in The New Normal) is that I was only able to gain this understanding of who I am through privilege.
Privilege doesn’t necessarily refer to the presence of a benefit. More specifically, it is the lack of obstacles and barriers. I suspect this is why so many people struggle to see their own privilege. Much like the Dunning-Kruger effect, you don’t know what you don’t know. You don’t realise the advantage of a clear path through life if you have never had to take stock of obstacles.
I have queered my neurology in a number of ways. One of those ways was the use of mind-altering drugs. I have no doubt that my privilege is what allowed me to do this with no legal repercussions. I also did not have to deal with abusive family and had a safe home away from those who would exploit my journey of Self discovery. I had fewer obstacles to my journey of understanding and growth than those with less privilege.
Neuroqueering requires an element of authenticity in one’s embodiment of Self. It’s necessary to manifest your truth through action, but what if doing so could place you in danger? For BIPOC or other marginalised groups, authenticity can be life-threatening. Authentic embodiment of a marginalised identity is often criminalised or pathologised. Both can land you in prisons or institutions, in some places, it can be met with violence.
Those of us proudly flying the neuroqueer banner need to realise something important. Neuroqueerness is not an individual endeavour. It requires societal evolution. To be neuroqueer requires us to use our authentic embodiment of Self to drive a change that makes a post-normal society safe for all of us. Neuroqueerness that is only accesible to the few is not true neuroqueerness. To be neuroqueer is to fight for the liberation of all humans.
As we move toward a world where normative violence is unacceptable, we need to be prepared for the pushback. Those who benefit from normativity and oppression will not support the redistribution of power. For those with less privilege, this fight could be deadly. As we liberate ourselves, we must make sure to liberate those for whom the barriers to freedom are greater.
I am neuroqueer, and I will fight for your eight to be neuroqueer too.
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