I am not sure how much I have to say; this is the third Autistic Pride Day I’ve written something for. It feels as though I have exhausted and extolled the mantras of pride, taking up space, having loud hands, and of having a neurodiversity community that will have each other’s backs as surely as we carry the weight of the dead, of injustice, and of trauma that can result in emotional whiplash among us. I will try anyway.
There is something to be said about the value of connection. There is something to be said about a group of autistic adults and self-advocates and activists whose previous generations are dead and lost, in institutions or just dead. There is something to be said about a group of autistic adults and self-advocates and activists whose future generations we try to teach neurodiversity and self-acceptance and self-advocacy to.
There is something to to be said about the pride we carry, that we carry as surely as we bear the pain of discrimination and the pain of things done to us. We carry it like the candles we hold up to the dusky, darkening sky on our Days of Mourning, lighting them together to build a torch. The torch has the power to light the way, or set fire to what we’ve built already.
The pride we carry can change things and people everywhere. The Lancet, a major medical journal, published an article on Autistic Pride. The Republic of Malta wants to build an inclusive rights agenda for autistic adults. California is shutting down its institutions for people with developmental disabilities. Maryland voted to end subminium wage for disabled people. All the Weight of our Dreams, the anthology by autistic people of color, has a webpage and is forthcoming. We had two Democratic candidates for president notice people with disabilities as a voting bloc and start supporting disability rights legislation. The FDA is taking comments on a proposed ban on contingent electric shock devices used on disabled students. There is a battle for the future of autism advocacy – something that previously would have been unheard of. More and more we’re creeping into mainstream publications like the Washington Post and other places.
Many of us are traumatized and a lot of us are scared. Many of us are in pain and many of us have doubts. Many of us have negative self-image and many of us are not sure how to move in this world. None of that has to preclude pride. To my autistic brethren who are there and talking about pride: remember that the torch we carry has the power to light the way, or set fire to what we’ve built already. And to my autistic brethren who don’t yet know how to be proud: I will wait for you, always.