"When I was six years old, people who were much bigger than me with loud echoing voices held my hands down in textures that hurt worse than my broken wrist while I cried and begged and pleaded and screamed."— Julia Bascom
Quiet hands. It means to be still and proper. It means to stop flapping or squeezing or flicking or rubbing. It means, in translation, "Stop looking so damn Autistic already!"
It is a quick, easy way to silence Autistic people. Especially Autistic people who don't talk, for whom behavior is unquestionably communication.
Having quiet hands means giving in to systemic ableism and letting external standards of "normality" and "acceptability" dictate one's behavior at all times. Having quiet hands means hiding being Autistic and suppressing natural ways of speaking and moving. Having quiet hands means shutting up and putting up and giving up.
I don't want to have quiet hands. Ever.
And that's why I'm writing about the Loud Hands Project. Loud Hands are the opposite of quiet hands. Loud hands means to be Autistic and proud. Loud hands means to move and speak and act as comes naturally. Loud hands means to eschew externally defined ideas of "normality" and "acceptability." Loud hands means to be comfortable in being Autistic.
It means moving beyond "There's something wrong with you."
The Loud Hands project, spearheaded by Julia Bascom of the "Quiet Hands" piece and sponsored by the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, is a transmedia project that seeks to give a broader platform to the diversity of voices, both literal and metaphorical, of Autistic people throughout the community. The initial $10,000 necessary to fund the publication of an anthology of essays by Autistic people was reached in an amazing nineteen days (just under three weeks), but there's plenty more to come.
Julia has described the next three benchmarks for future funds:
Benchmark 1: $15,000 “About us, without us”“About us, without us” is a video about the Autistic community and our place in the conversation around eugenics and the prevention of autism. If we make the $15,000 benchmark, we’ll be able to pay for Julia to go on the road and collect interviews and footage, and cover production, editing, and initial distribution costs.Benchmark 2: $20,000 “Welcome to the Autistic community”- With these funds, we can rush website development and have the Loud Hands project website complete, fully accessible, and ready to launch on April 2, 2012—Autism Acceptance Day.- Use the website to commence the development of materials tailored to all ages and abilities explaining autism and welcoming the autistic person to the community.- Initially, this will take the form of a letter drive, blog carnival, and pamphlet-design competition, with ongoing further refinement and eventual publication of materials.Benchmark 3: $25,000: Connecting to Community TogetherTo begin, we will produce a DVD incorporating video and written content from across the history of the Autistic community, establishing our historical context. Then, to explore the state of the movement today, we will use the funds raised to establish a Conference Scholarship fund for Autistic self-advocates to use to attend Autistic and disability rights related conferences and events connecting to the larger theme of disability culture. Scholarship recipients will participate in a second video documenting Autistic community and culture.
This is why the Loud Hands Project is important. So that the next generation of Autistic people will have a precedent for having loud hands and embracing themselves as complete human beings with value and dignity as Autistic people. So that there will be no more "There's something wrong with you." So that little by little, we can strike down the bricks that have institutionalized ableism across our society, in our schools, in our policies, in our everyday interactions.
Coming only days in the wake of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, it is imperative to remember that the fight for civil rights is not over. Autistic people are routinely disenfranchised, discriminated against, and subjected to "quiet hands." Our voices are constantly de-legitimized with all manner of straw-man and no-true-Scotsman fallacies not merely online but at conferences and in IEP meetings and in policymaking. Our rights are routinely ignored.
Loud hands are necessary. In the wake of enormous volumes of disinformation and misinformation about autism and who we are as Autistic people, in the deluge of vitriol and cacophony displacing any notions of community, we need to have loud hands to assert both the discrete individuality of Autistic people and the group cohesiveness that comes with Autistic culture.
And this is why I am supporting the Loud Hands project -- to empower Autistic people to be leaders now and to provide a role model for the next generation of Autistic people. They could be your children. Let's work toward a world in which your children will face less discrimination and stigma. Let's work toward a world in which your children can have pride in being who they are, and can find stellar examples of activism, advocacy, philanthropy, and self-fulfillment in today's generation of Autistic adults and youth.
That's what money to the Loud Hands project will do. It will make these projects possible, and expand the platforms that currently exist for Autistic people to express themselves and seize the mantle in our own advocacy. The Loud Hands project will be accepting donations for the next two months -- through 15 March 2012, and can be made here, which is also where you can watch the project's introductory video! (And yes, I made a donation -- better to put that money toward this phenomenal project than toward food not from the campus dining hall.)
Another way you can contribute? The upcoming anthology is looking for Autistic people to contribute essays. (Guidelines here.) And yes, I will be earnestly writing a submission. (It might even be good.)