The first thing that most people realize upon getting to know me well is that I never shut up about anything that I am passionate about (in writing, anyway. I don’t speak much verbally beyond performing my Socially Acceptable Neurotypical Conversation routine, AKA, my social mask.)
On the one hand, I would love to be one of those demure, aloof, mysterious people who is capable of keeping my private life private… but on the other hand, I really wouldn’t.
I have never understood why being a closed book is seen as virtuous and why sharing vulnerable parts of yourself is seen as a character flaw. I have never been able to wrap my head around why someone would want to stick to shallow tide pools when there is a whole ocean to explore, or why there should be such shame around discussing what one finds in the depths.
I think a lot of my fellow autistic people are like this, and that is part of why we are such social misfits in nonautistic society; we prefer exploring and discussing reality as it is to engaging in performative politeness and pleasantries. We are known, even infamous, for this type of bluntness.
I am wired to discuss things which make others uncomfortable, not because I take any pleasure in making others uncomfortable (I actually hate it) but because I see no point in skirting meaningful exchanges in service of perpetuating an illusory status quo. I see no point to existence if we are not discussing real issues that matter or learning from one another or the world around us.
Others have criticized me, in the form of “innocent devil’s advocate” type questions, for my openness in discussing my autistic experiences, saying such things as, “isn’t it enough to know who you are? Why do you have to talk about it all the time?”
In other words, “your refusal to adhere to social standards for politeness and privacy is making me uncomfortable. Can you please stop and just discuss lighter topics that are of no real consequence to anyone?”
There have been plenty of times I have turned such criticisms inward and questioned my own motives; am I just here for attention? Is it selfish to talk about my experiences and viewpoints at such length? Should I just mind my own business? These internalized criticisms kept me from creating this blog for over two years following my autism diagnosis.
What ultimately helped me to overcome these internalized criticisms and enabled me to create this blog, besides my own predisposition to talk about the realities I witness and experience (AKA, my inability to “shut up”), was remembering that when I was at the end of my rope, when I was burnt out and looking for answers, it was an autistic YouTube content creator who handed me the keys to free myself from the prison I had been locked in my entire life – the prison of ignorance about myself prior to my autism diagnosis.
If I am able to help even one individual to understand themselves, or be understood by others, in the correct context, to learn about ways they could be better accommodated, or to experience greater empathy, then all of the effort and time and energy I put into this blog is worth it.
I don’t earn a penny from this blog. As corny as I know this sounds, my payment is knowing that I’m having a positive impact on others. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that this is also a way for me to process my own post-diagnosis journey, and I won’t deny it is also cathartic for me.
But if anything, I risk receiving more negative attention than positive by smashing existing social norms on propriety and personal privacy in a blog where I regularly sacrifice these in the pursuit of authenticity.
It is also scary to publicly stand up and proudly proclaim my identity is inextricably linked with something which a large percentage of the world currently views as a “plague” or “epidemic.” There are plenty of people who are not ready to hear about neurodiversity or the value of autistic people and who may one day find me and harass me should this blog ever gain enough visibility.
Indeed, for years, the fear of trolls kept me from creating this blog – until I remembered the trailblazing autistic content creators out there whose messages were the ones that led me, eventually, to my own autistic diagnosis and to the discovery of my tribe, messages advocating for members of our neurotype in the face of rampant misinformation, and the fact that I owe so much of my current understanding of myself and improved mental health to their selfless contributions.
I advocate for the autistic community because I want to do my part in obliterating stigmas. I advocate for the autistic community because I recognize my responsibility in providing information to counter the fear-based propaganda about autistic neurology which causes real-world harm for autistic children and adults.
I do this so that autistic children do not continue to suffer needlessly in cruel “therapies” or in homes where their inherent neurology is demonized, or to be denied diagnosis until later in life, like I was, going through life hating themselves for being the ugliest duckling around when in reality, they’ve always been a swan.
I advocate for the autistic community because autistic rights are human rights. We are human, after all. Biodiversity makes ecological systems more rich and resilient and humanity is no different. Humanity is made more rich and resilient by its endless biological and cultural permutations that are evident in the stunning mosaic of human life, and because it is far past time that we see our differences as strengths to be leveraged rather than as unknowns to be feared and eradicated.
I advocate for embracing autistic and neurodivergent neurology as a natural human variance because that’s the reality of what is. I advocate for the autistic community because the concept of “normalcy” the nonautistic-majority society currently holds up as the paragon for perfection is an illusion, and a biased one, at that. I advocate for the autistic community because autistic people are just as “normal” within our own neurotype and within the human race as nonautistic people are, and we deserve to be accepted as we are, not forced to conform to arbitrary and self-interested social and behavioral standards set by the neurotypical majority.
There are many reasons I advocate for the autistic community. I can’t, and won’t, just shut up about being autistic because for 34 of my 36 years on this Earth, I wasn’t able to understand myself in the proper context, without the knowledge of my true neurological predisposition, and this led to unimaginable suffering. After going nearly my entire life thinking I was an “ugly duckling,” myself, it is not only nice to be able to celebrate being a swan and finding my fellow swan community, I want any other swans out there who happen across my blog to finally understand that they are not, nor were they ever, ugly – only misunderstood.
We find community by standing up and having the courage to say, “here I am!” That is what this blog is – a giant neon sign proclaiming “I am here! I am autistic! This is a safe haven for all autistic and neurodivergent people. Here, you are valued, here, you are seen. Here is one little piece of your community. Welcome.”
I advocate for the autistic community because autistic people exist, and we deserve representation, we deserve respect, we deserve acceptance, we deserve to be heard and seen, even and especially when our visibility makes others uncomfortable.
If nonautistic people want to question anyone’s motives on speaking about autism, maybe it’s time to start questioning the motives of organizations making millions of dollars off of misrepresenting autistic neurology and profiting from abusive “therapies” aimed at making autistic people act less autistic, and not the autistic adults who are providing free emotional and educational labor in blogs and vlogs online.
I do what I do because I know what it is like to live in a world where I struggle with unseen barriers. I know what it is like to have every single one of my struggles framed as moral failings. I know that there is a lot of work to be done before we don’t need to talk about being autistic anymore, before autistic neurology is finally normalized and accepted and embraced and celebrated in the same way that neurotypical neurology is.
There is a lot of work to be done before there are no longer organizations working towards eugenics-based ways to eradicate autistic people from the human gene pool, before insurance companies and ABA companies are no longer making staggering sums of money torturing autistic children for 40+ hours a week in repackaged gay conversion therapy, stealing their childhoods and giving them PTSD as adults, before autistic people are represented in the media not as plot devices or inspiration porn but as human beings, before autistic people can be recognized separate from the traits of trauma we inevitably accrue in the course of living in such an unaccepting environment, and before this world is a truly equitable place and where accommodations for autistic people are commonplace.
So until then, I will indeed not shut up about it.