Part 1: (Failure)
September 29th, 2015
About 3:00 pm US Central
Yes, I remember the date and time. Being on the verge of a defining moment in life does that to a person. My new interest in feminism and social justice, although still developing, rapidly neared its peak. I understood, engaged, and argued the nuances of heavy topics. Intersectionality and equality. Equity and inequity. These words were already entrenched in my vocabulary.
When I came across a post about autism on social media, I read it to learn. I read it because of my disability. I read it because I understood neurodiversity, but not autism. I read it to include other people in my activism, not to help myself.
I read it.
I shared it.
I learned from it.
I also commented on the important parts of the article. I pointed out the nuance. I asked questions. Who are we to understanding their world? Who are we to deny care and treatment to a low functioning autistic? Who are we to make that choice for them?
There are autistics that can speak for themselves, but what about those autistics; you know, the real ones?
I did not word my comment that way, not exactly. I couched they the niceties and pleasantries of a person speaking for community they are not part of, uneducated about, and do not understand. I wrote like a well-meaning person.
An autistic did not author the article, the parent of an autistic did. An autism mom. An abuser. Not understanding autism, I took everything I read at face value. The emotional appeals in the article tugged at my heart; concern trolling at its finest. I fell for it hook, line, and sinker.
I read it.
I shared it.
I learned from it.
Oh, I learned from it; just not in a way I expected.
I believed the article uncontroversial reblog fodder. To my surprise I created a whirlwind of comments by sharing this benign piece; comments directed at me. The people closest to me, the people who informed my sense of justice, were unjustly angry. Anger surrounded me.
I became defensive. I engaged instead of listened. I expected arguments so I created arguments. Because I created arguments, I heard arguments. Did my friends argue back? No. The words differed between them but my friends all spoke with the same meaning. “You are talking about us and you are hurting us.”
I openly and fervently supported eugenics and cure rhetoric based on the arguments of one woman who openly supported shock therapy as an aversive in daily ABA. My friends wanted me to stop and listen. An argument did not exist. An argument requires discourse.
I do not remember who said the thing that sparked my recognition nor do not remember when they said it. With that recognition I understood that some of these people, my people, are autistic. I did not try to figure out who. It did not matter. I recognized my arguments as wrong. I recognized that I needed to listen. Most of all I recognized what I said to my friends. “It is okay if you die.”
I disengaged from the arguments. As I did a friend approached me privately and said, “We need to talk,” in those exact words. For the next sixteen hours we spoke. It became clear to me that non-consensual ABA is a violation of bodily autonomy. From there it took only a short step to understand the broader issues.
In short, which is worse? Not curing a person who wants a cure, or curing a person who wants no cure. Do I have the right to irrevocably alter a fundamental aspect of a person if they do not want to change? Of course not.
This is a question of morality for me. Does society have the right to cure people whose preference remains unknown when there is an equal risk of curing someone who does not consent to or actively opposes treatment? The answer is no, we do not have that right.
It seemed a hard question to answer then. Time makes it an easy question to answer.
This moment of moral understanding is not my defining moment. That moment came next and changed a very important port of who I am and how I view my interactions with others. It is a change that to this day is an ingrained aspect of who I am.
This story originally appeared unedited on Candidly Autistic
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