19 June 2012

The Other Side of Disclosure

It is natural and normal to be Autistic. I am not ashamed of who I am. But before jumping to a quick and easy wish of "Happy Autistic Pride Day," I want to take a moment to recognize all of the Autistics still struggling with internalized ableism and self-hatred, all the Autistics who still fear the negative and damaging consequences if they were to "come out," and all the Autistics who aren't yet proud to be themselves.
For you, I offer my quiet encouragement, my loud voice, my loud hands, my energy and fire, my will and drive, my steady persistence, my growing and learning patience. For you, I bare my secret sorrows, my debilitating fears, my creeping anxieties, these things I know you share.

I have been where you are now. Sometimes, I return to visit for haunting hours or days.

Thousands of us have walked the path where you now find yourself. We have suffered the same cutting words that wound you, the same biting humiliation that stings your pride, the gnawing sense of worthlessness that reminds you ever so often of its presence.

We have languished on the other side of disclosure, stealing brief glimpses of those on the other side, and now that we've crossed over, we've come to age among new and different challenges to our very humanity and right to existence.

Ableism doesn't go away on the other side of disclosure. It simply changes form.

Now, we are the ones who force smiles through tears at baby voices and patronizing do-gooders and well-meaning strangers who've never heard of postcolonialism and patriarchy and disability rights. Now, we are the ones who sit silently through torrents of abuse from fundraising campaigns and special education teachers and neighbors with children. Now, we are the ones who shut ourselves from the things that used to bring us comfort for fear of encounters with strangers that will hew scars anew into fresh gashes.

We are no longer invisible, but we might as well be.

They talk about us without us at conferences that come a dime a dozen, with worry lines and grave intonations as they discuss tragedy and devastation and mystery and health crisis. They glorify those of us who've learned over long and hard years how to cope with anxiety and sensory overload and ableism as somehow recovered or overcome or triumphed. They call us high and low functioning, and ignore our individuality in favor of neat checkboxes on photocopied forms. We are too able to be disabled or too disabled to matter.

They want us to stop existing, but what kind of existence do we have in a world that does not welcome us?

We who have crossed over to the other side of disclosure have not ceased to exist. We have merely changed in the eyes of those around us.

There is no paradise or haven, no Elysium or Utopia waiting for you on this side. Keep no illusions, no delusions. There exist only the barren promises of equal rights that we who've already crossed over know to be abandoned and unfulfilled.

But this will not last forever. They will not always keep the status quo as it exists now. Those who want us to come into our own, those who want us to take the helm of our own battles against inequity, those who understand that our struggle for civil rights is not unlike their own -- they are growing in number.

We need you, your voice, your ideas, to breathe fuller and deeper life into our community and our movement. We cannot demand change alone because it is easy to ignore an individual. It is difficult to ignore a community united by common interest, even if diverse in innumerable other ways. The fabric of our society is ripe to be dyed again, re-woven, knitted into better and stronger patterns.

You may not be proud of yourself yet, may not yet possess the will to emerge from behind the veil and cross over to the other side of disclosure, but given time, as much as you need, you will. Autistic Pride Day is not so much about those of us who've already crossed over as it is about those who have yet to do so. We who celebrate proudly serve as the reminder that, little by little, we are taking down bricks, and bricks will become whole walls torn asunder by the growing chorus of our voices taking charge of our own movement -- we are the reminder that you who are still waiting are awaited.

Pride is evidence that we exist after all.


  1. I love, love, love this! I am a neurotypical single mom with a 12-year-old son on the spectrum and a 10-year-old neurotypical daughter. I am working on book that compares people to gemstones. An important issue in the gems and jewelry industry is disclosure of gem treatments. I'm using the simile to then create tips to facilitate relationships. I am so earmarking your post for reference. Thank you!

  2. “Those who want us to come into our own, those who want us to take the helm of our own battles against inequity, those who understand that our struggle for civil rights is not unlike their own -- they are growing in number.”

    “Those” are us - autistic people.

    You’ve been granted a valuable lesson and now you see more and are ready for more.

    Nothing will come to us without a fight! Nothing comes to anybody without a fight. A community is known to be ignored and exploited unless it fights for itself. You should accept a friendly hand, but do not expect it to fight your battle.

    How do you fight, when you are just a few against many? How do you fight when the entire society is complicit?

    We have to stand our ground, each one of us, through it all, and we have to pick our battles. And when you see a weakness, a breach in their armor, we must rise and strike, one by one – each one of us must rise to the task. Do not expect it to happen without you.

    Here is another battle for you – “The Autism Advisory Task Force”. It is not just Colorado - they are deciding the fate of Autistic people – of the entire generation. And they want it done by laws of our country, and these laws are on our side. That is the breach in the armor of our complicit society, and that is the battle that we must bring to them, on behalf of all of us all over the world. Rise to it!

    Vorya Yarow,
    At your service


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