Today is “World Autism Awareness Day.” While I think awareness is important, I ask you, as a Autistic mom to Autistic and non-Autistic kids: What value is awareness without acceptance? We have been “aware” of HIV for decades and yet people still choose to fear and stigmatize those living with it (case in point: HIV criminalization laws and recent HIV criminalization bills). We have been “aware” of the gender earnings gap – that women like me make ~ $0.64 to every $1.00 a man makes since I was a child and it hasn’t substantially improved. We have been “aware” of sexism, of racism, of anti-Muslim sentiments, of anti-Semitism, of homophobia, of transphobia, of child marriage, of child abuse, of intimate partner violence, of sexual assault. As a society we are “aware” of all of those things. What substantive changes have come as a result of this “awareness?” Not as much as there should be.
I am a Christian (and proud of it). One well known quote in my community is “Faith without works is dead.” Whether you are a Christian or not, I think you can understand the value of that statement; if you profess to be a follower of Christ but your actions and words are anything but Christlike, then your faith is of little value to anyone but maybe yourself. Today I say to you AWARENESS WITHOUT ACCEPTANCE IS DEAD. It doesn’t help me. It doesn’t help my children. It doesn’t help my community. Whatever you are “aware” of is probably not accurate anyway. How much money we cost? How much of a “burden” we are on everyone? How much we “need” to be “cured” of our “horrible” condition? How important it is to find the “cause” so we can counsel mothers-to-be about their pregnancy “options” (AKA convince them to abort unborn babies believed to be Autistic, as is currently done with other conditions diagnosed in utero)? How Autistic females supposedly don’t exist (or rarely do), hence the need to “light it up blue” because blue is a “boy” color for a “boy” diagnosis? That’s your “Autism Awareness?”
Being “aware” of autism is the reason that this story is in the news today – on World Autism Awareness Day, no less. This little boy and his mother live in Australia. They are law-abiding individuals, but since the child has been diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum, he is perceived as a likely “future burden” on taxpayers, so they will probably be deported back to the Philippines. Because of course there’s no way he could ever contribute anything to society, right? He’s Autistic, so all he does is drain resources and wreak lives. That’s what we do -destruction. We “work faster” than “pediatric AIDS, childhood cancers, and juvenile diabetes all put together” – right, Autism Speaks? We are these confusing, troublesome puzzle pieces that no one can figure out?
You can keep your awareness. I want acceptance. Acceptance or nothing. Don’t be aware of me. Accept me.
I ask you to #WalkInRed, #ToneItDownTaupe, #LightItUpGold, or anything but light it up blue. The only thing that gives me the “blues” today is the negative way my people are perceived. We are not “locked away” in our minds. We’re right here…just different. Accept us. Please.