When we seek to describe our Autistic and otherwise neurodivergent selves, we tend towards discrete categories and observable definitions of what we mean. However, to be Autistic is more than a diagnostic category; while Autism is a defining part of my experience, I also enact neurodivergence. My embodiment gives definition to what people mean when they use words like Autistic, ADHD, AuDHD, or Schizophrenic.
Like any of the diagnostic categories that have been assimilated into my identity, I perform them much in the way a neurotypical performs neurotypicality. Unlike the diagnostic criteria that bestowed these identities on myself, my performance is not containable. Every word that passes my lips, every action that my body makes; my existence gives meaning to the word neurodivergent. We often hear:
“When you’ve met one Autistic person, you’ve met one Autistic person.”Unknown Author
I, however, would go one step further. Through our embodied relationship to the Self, we become autism. In the same way, I have become ADHD, and I have become Schizophrenia.
Queering the diagnosis
Autism does not exist as a separate entity, it exists as the embodied performance of ourselves. We choose the meaning that our identity has. We don’t have to be the Autistic that everyone else expects; through our performance of Self, We can redefine what people mean when they use words like Autism, Autistic, or neurodivergent.
We are both the writers and the actors in the performance of our neurodivergence. It is our job to deconstruct the politicised Autistic identity and replace it with the embodied and fluid definition that one might only find within the Chaotic Self. To word it another way; if we perform autism, that performance will change and evolve with each interaction with our environment.
This lays a significant responsibility upon us as both individuals and a connected community. If we are redefining the meaning of autism and neurodivergence, it is on us to ensure that its definition is neither exclusionary or repulsive. The meaning of autism is written on our bodies, and we choose the words that write it into being.
We must strive toward a future free of the dichotomous standard of “meets diagnostic criteria” and “does not meet criteria”. Only when we break free of our politicisation and medicalisation can we truly explore the endless possibilities of doing autism.