Monday, April 28, 2014
A friend of mine.
Do not tell a Disabled person that they should not consider their Disability in thought, integrate their Disability into their identity or let it define them.
The truth: a person's relationship with their Disability is complex and complicated and very personal. It is for that person alone to direct and experience. Like any relationship, it may not be all good or all bad, but it is constant, and forcing them to ignore it is like forcing them to ignore their gender or their cultural background.
I do not pretend that my Disability is not there or that it does not affect me in concrete ways.
I do not look past my Autism or do things despite my Autism, and I don't treat my personhood as separate from and ahead of my Autism, because Autism is a part of my personhood.
I embrace all of myself, with all the unique challenges that I face, strengths that I have and idiosyncratic neurological processes that I experience as an Autistic.
I am a person. I am simultaneously an Autistic. I am an Autistic person.
Unlike and like any other person. Both alike and disalike to any other Autistic.
Just as Maya Angelou is hailed as an independent and powerful woman, I regard and welcome myself as a confident and powerful Autistic.
You could attempt to define my personhood without saying "Autism." You could describe me as intelligent, gentle, talkative and strong-willed...
...and you would still be describing me as Autistic.
You could describe me as kind, forgiving, forgetful, naive, loyal, impatient and creative.
And you would still be describing me as Autistic.
I recently had a teacher warn me not to become a "victim" of my Disability. This is my answer to that myopic but well-intentioned trope:
I am not a victim of my Disability.
My Disability is a friend of mine.