I have been active in the Autistic community for some years now. I have come to realise that autism as a diagnosis has been somewhat of a failed experiment. Diagnostic models have failed to capture the intricacies of what they dub “autism spectrum disorder”. A lot of the issues with the diagnostic process itself come back to racial and socioeconomic bias in research literature; there are also significant issues with people gendering autism, creating exclusion by denial of gender and sexually diverse experiences.
The Autistic community is diverse. While autism itself is an abstract concept, the very real Autistic people that exist come from all parts of the tapestry of life. One might hope that the days of autism being a diagnosis of middle-class white males is coming to an end, but there is still significant disparity. This article highlights the significant gulf in diagnostic rates in the US alone. It is clear that BIPOC people are being ignored despite the countless voices from their communities speaking up.
I also recently wrote about queerness and being Autistic. Gender diversity and sexualities that do not fit into perceived heteronormativity account for a great deal of the Autistic community. Again, these groups may have a harder time getting a diagnosis due to ideas that position autism as something that is only observed between cis-gendered males. It is clear that if you don’t fit the historical research, diagnosticians will deny you exist.
But you do exist, like all of us. You have the same strengths and struggles, plus other struggles that I can not know as a person with the privileges I have.
When we speak of Autistic pride, I think many view it as cute little get togethers, spending time amongst our own people. That’s not entirely wrong, but Autistic pride, much like any pride, is so much more than celebrating. We are protesting. We are refusing to be ashamed, and what we need to stand against moving forward is the bigoted gatekeeping of the few who believe that multiply marginalised communities should be targeted and minimised.
Autistic pride requires us to root out the bigotry in not just wider society but also our own community. If there is even one person who can not celebrate their Autistic pride, then none of us can. Autistic people are a diverse people, and our fight will not succeed if we are not also fighting for our neurokin who exist at the intersections.
So today, and for all days to come. If someone asks you what Autistic pride is; tell them it is our fight to make sure the world has a place for all Autistic people, not just the select few who fit into the world normative standards. Let’s build a world together where intersectional communities can feel safe to express their experiences without fear of backlash or risk to wellbeing and life.
There is no Autistic liberation while any one of us is being oppressed.