There Are People Like You Out There – Ten Autistic Humanoids

Cefaratti, Laura “Sunny” Sun. (2013, June 15). Presuming Competence (cc) [Video file]. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EFqw7gv9XYk

Sunny Cefaratti speaks in this video of being a blind and autistic self-advocate; presuming competence is an important concept to her and she sees her role as being twofold: helping others to learn how to communicate and to teach advocacy skills. This video includes Sunny using terms that may be triggering for some disabled folks.

 

Advocating Change Together. (2011, March 11). Cure Your Attitude! (captioned) (cc) [Video File]. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CLFJps1eJpM

This video is a project that came out of St. Paul, Minnesota and is performed by autistic and cognitively disabled self-advocates who wrote the lyrics based on their own experiences of discrimination, ableism and coercive sterilization–as well as their creative means of resistance to these forms of oppression. Their work is especially unique and critical because of the presence of first person narratives placed at different points within the performance. The lyrics are very honest and talk about tough expriences and may be triggering to those who have gone through similar experiences. They may also shock those who are not aware that these ableist oppressions continue to happen. Their self-advocacy group has a website: www.selfadvocacy.org.

 

Gardiner, Finn. Disability Intersectionality Summit. (2017, March 10). Finn Gardiner – Intersecting Selfhood Trans: Identity, Autism and Mental Health Disability (cc) [Video file]. Retrieved from:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CoEkitOpcxE

Finn Gardiner’s talk at the Disability Intersectionality Summit focuses on gender identity and race. After he transitioned, Finn became more aware of his identity not just as a man, but as a racialized Black man and this deeply informed his intersecting senses of himself in the world. As a Black autistic man, Finn remembers how gender and disability were pathologized from a young age: “There are so many of us who grow up with disability who are sort of indoctrinated into this cult of compliance. If you don’t comply, you’re in big trouble”. Finn points out how the process of gender socialization is different for autistic people, since we may not recognize gendered roles, and ourselves, in the same socially gendered ways as non-autistic people ‘normally’ do. Since autism is pathologized, autistic trans people are also faced with having their transness pathologized as a ‘symptom’ of autism and this can make it much more difficult for autistic people to recognize, claim or transition into their gender identities. Dysphoria and the pathologization of autism caused Finn to experience worsened symptoms of depression and anxiety. This video is a useful and insightful introduction into the intersections of autism, mental health issues, Blackness, trauma, queerness and gender identity (that’s a lot of intersections!)

 

Brown, Lydia. (2017, March 10). Lydia Brown – Disability Justice Intersection with Racial Justice, and Queer/Trans Liberation (cc) [Video File]. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4qoc1S_pEXo

Lydia Brown begins with an accessible introduction to how they are open to shaping a space that is actually accessible and open to variantly abled bodies, including an invitation for the audience to ground themselves in their bodily experiences. Their explanation comes directly from their experience and explains the intersections of ableism, queer/trans liberation and racial justice in a way that is engaging and passionate. They break down–in the clearest way possible–exactly how “all forms of oppression are dependent on and necessary for every other form of oppression” in only the way that someone whose “existence blurs the lines” of privilege and oppression, can. This presentation is an excellent introduction that (finally) goes beyond the surface of intersectionality as a buzzword. Lydia Brown has a website that is also highly recommended and consistently updated: you can find more of their work at www.autistichoya.com

 

Eartharcher, Laina. (2017) Depathologizing Asperger’s/Autism: The Strength vs. ‘Lacking’ Edition. Retrieved from: https://thesilentwaveblog.wordpress.com/

This article focuses in on the predominant view that autism is a ‘lack’ or a ‘deficit’ from the perspective of an autistic person who has (as Temple Grandin phrased it) “local bias” (Grandin & Panek, 2014, p. 122) in other words, the ability to see things in very great detail, which is framed by autism researchers in pejorative ways. This article reframes ability in a way that is less constructed along a binary axis of ‘deficits’ and ‘strengths’.

 

Asasumasu, Kassiane. (2017, March 8) Radical Neurodivergence Speaking: Autism Meet Up Groups ARE NOT for “finding a girlfriend”. [Website]. Retrieved from: http://timetolisten.blogspot.ca/2017/03/autism-meet-up-groups-are-not-for.html

This article is a very honest and frank call-out from an autistic cis-woman’s perspective of the sexist gender dynamics that are very often in play when autistic people meet up together. Many people might find the language offensive before or instead of finding offense in the behaviour described by the author. The article’s honesty and frankness are needed: sexist behaviour by autistic cis-men in autistic spaces needs to be called out because it is offensive and harmful. The author also points out the ways that parents of autistic people can foster and enable this entitled behaviour by upholding heteronormative standards of ‘normalcy’. This article is both unique and important because it is a dynamic I have witnessed many times and have never before (or since) come across a criticism or commentary calling attention to it. As ever increasing numbers of autistic people identifying as female are diagnosed as adults, or who are identified as female (but who may identify their gender in a spectrum of ways), we enter autistic spaces which we expect to be safe spaces. This dynamic interrupts that safety and it is important to bring awareness and change to make autistic spaces safer for all and was applauded when it was released by a number of autistic activists.

 

Wong, Elly. (2016, May 17). The magical (realism) theory of disability. Retrieved from  https://magicalrealismdisability.wordpress.com/

Images in this article are described, facilitating accessibility for people using screen readers. This article is useful and instructive for a number of reasons: firstly, because it is a first person autistic narrative by an autistic of colour that demonstrates autism in a positive light. Trigger warnings exist for this article for “violence, ableism, and sexual violence in some detail, and contains images of body horror”. The author challenges how bodies come to be called ‘natural’ or ‘beautiful’ in an artistic and/or sexualized sense and will certainly challenge the ways readers conceptualize disability, femininity, maleness and autonomy over one’s own body. On top of the content of the article itself, it is also instructive as an example of analogical writing: the author uses the analogy, imagery and ideas of the show Hannibal to communicate as deeply as only autistic analogies can, the possibilities of neurodiversity and the realities and violence of living while autistic, the complications of complicity and the impossibility of having a disabled body that can remain neutral in an ableist world. If you find this article disturbing, please take a moment to read Lydia Brown’s article “I am autistic, and I am obsessed with violence” (March 12, 2014) which can be found on their website and contextualizes the relationship between autism and violence from their perspective.

 

Ashkenazy, Elesia. (2011, March 10). World Autism Interviews: Isabel Espinal/New England. Retrieved from: http://aspitude.blogspot.ca/2011/03/world-autism-interviews-isabel.html

In this article, Elesia Ashkenazy (who was also one of the editors of the All the Weight of Our Dreams anthology by autistics of colour) interviews Isabel Espinal, a New Yorker born to parents from the Dominican Republic. Isabel identifies as a woman and was diagnosed later in life, at 46 years old. She is also a mother of three children. The narrative she presents is representative of the ways in which the dominant white, male narrative of autism is being shifted by the first person stories of women-identified, genderqueer/nonbinary and/or people of colour autistics are visibilizing ourselves to contest that dominant narrative. Her story directly counteracts specific stereotypes that have been promoted by autism researchers and parent-led fundraising bodies like Autism Speaks: “I had a friend who said ‘No way,’ because I am very empathetic and the classic symptom of Aspergers (in her view) is lack of empathy”. This is an inaccurate conception that is far too common. Another misconception Isabel addresses is the idea that autism is universally stigmatized in communities of colour, where the realities are more complex and nuanced and the leap to pathologize communities’ and families’ response to autism can be a white supremacist extension of the pathologization of those communities and families, rather than an accurate and participatory reflection of people’s real (and varianced) experiences. I resonated with Isabel’s description of her family’s acceptance of their autistic children: “In my family children are precious no matter what”.

 

COBRA, Conversations of a Black Rhapsodic Aspie. (2016, June 23). Rhaps and Rhymes: “Any Relief?”. Retrieved from: https://conversationsofablackaspie.wordpress.com/2016/07/23/rhaps-and-rhymes-any-relief/

Rhaps and Rhymes is a section of COBRA’s website where they post their original poetry. The poem in this post talks about police and white people’s brutality impacting the lives and bodies of Black people. The poem was written after the events that impacted Charles Kinsey and Arnaldo Eliud Rios Soto. Charles Kinsey is a mental health therapist. He worked with Arnaldo, a young Latinx autistic man who left his group home. While retrieving Arnaldo, Kinsey was shot by North Miami police officer Jonathan Aledda. Kinsey was lying on the ground with his hands in the air when Aledda fired shots, narrowly missing Arnaldo but hitting Kinsey in the leg.

COBRA also mentions four more Black men murdered by police, Philandro Castile, a kitchen supervisor from Minnesota, Alton Sterling, a respected and beloved father of five. Eric Garner, father of six and grandfather of two known as a ‘gentle giant’ around his Staten Island neighbourhood, was killed in an act of police brutality; James Powell, who was only 15 years old when he was murdered by a white police officer in 1964; Michael Brown, who was only 18 years old when he was murdered by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri–he was unarmed and had his hands up at the time he was shot; Freddie Carlos Gray, Jr., who was 25 and was murdered by police while they were transporting him and Tamir Rice, who was still a child (12 years old) when he was murdered by two white police officers.

COBRA ends the poem with the line “But if you’re of dark complexion with autistic description/ This is scary beyond belief”.

 

Additional Resources

 

https://autismandrace.com/

https://anautismobserver.wordpress.com/

https://unabashedautist.com/

http://www.themusicalautist.org/

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