I. The Immutable Fire of Grief
We have always grown out of what others tried to define us as. We started writing our own stories more prominently in the 1990s. We always wanted our own narratives. A lot of that is lost: old listservs and expired blog domain names, and who got left out in the prominent record of our “short” history, and who was included. Sometimes we try to recollect it.
Other things we lost: stories, people, community members. Some recently, some to obscurity, some over a decade ago, many to direct and indirect violence. And so those of us who live have always been the immutable fire of grief, leaping in flames. But before the renewal of the forest fireweed, there’s us, floating down through the air as smoked out ash.
Whether it is the police targeting a Black autistic person or the school to prison pipeline, trans autistic people being denied gender affirming care, being abused at home or a victim of filicide, subjected to compliance-training behavior therapies like ABA, workplace discrimination, or a combination… Or maybe it’s something else, and – and – and…
II. Ash and Candles in the Dark
There is pain and beauty and darkness. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again:
I see beauty and pain and candles lit against the darkness as we mourn and try in vain to collect our emotions. I see the darkness pressing against the community… [but] I watch a community in pain sometimes come together in the most poignant of ways.
Ash slips through cracks and fingers so easily. Many of the people we’ve lost we’ll never know. In the cases of the people we did know, sometimes it still wasn’t enough. Though I burned myself out at least two years ago and haven’t really been as present since, I am not suggesting we give up. Rather, acknowledging the trauma weaves a stronger community.
Pride and acceptance aren’t the only pillars of the autistic and neurodiversity community – or any community. There’s the history and what came before, to remember, honor where proper, and learn from. There’s the coping and community support. There’s the fighting with steep odds and the resting, and the myriad contributions to a community’s culture.
There’s also being alive, woven into the community tapestry by sheer existence. Because what is a community without its people?