I do not know what it is about norms and normies that makes it necessary for people like myself or Lydia Brown to write about it multiple times, but here it is again: calling me [insert word here] “with autism” is wrong. Not just wrong in the sense that I do not like it. It is wrong in the same sense that putting one’s fingers or penis into a child’s anal passage is wrong.
Oh, I am sorry, did I offend your delicate sensibilities with such an analogy? Well, I guess it will hurt you to know that I am not in the least bit sorry. In fact, let me give you another analogy combined with a story from my past experiences. I think I was in my early or mid-teens when I first got my hands on a paperback edition of the four-novella collection Four Past Midnight, a Stephen King collection that, like most of his post-fame works, has its ups and downs. But what I remember most about that collection is a scene in the third novella, The Library Policeman. A man called Sam is called upon to write and give a speech at some function I forget the exact nature of. One person that Sam talks to about this assures him that the whole speech-giving is no big deal, and if worst comes to worst, he can just wiggle his dick at the audience. But Sam decides to try and do this properly, so he goes to the library and borrows a book or two on writing a speech. Unfortunately, the librarian that Sam deals with turns out to actually be some weird kind of creature that feeds on fear (and who better to extract fear from when you are in a position of minor authority than a child?). I will not go into the details, bad or otherwise, of the story, except to say that there is one scene in which Sam has a flashback to when he ran into a man who raped and threatened him at a local library when he was a child. Stephen King‘s description of this event is sad, sick, and downright uncomfortable to read, but for a good reason. It puts a reader right into the mind of young Sam (and, to a degree that the rest of the story fails at, adult Sam). That is the real reason King was such a revered author at one point: he knew how to make people care about and feel for his characters.
Being that I have issues I have discussed with others before about psychosexual molestation and unwelcome touch, it does not take me a lot of effort to imagine how a young Sam would feel with this stranger pushing a lot of unyielding flesh up his anal passage. Well, friends and neighbours, I am here to tell you something you might find equally dirty and uncomfortable: that is how it makes me feel when you call me an adult with autism, a person with autism, or anything that implies autism as a separate entity to me. Capiche? Comprendez? Do you understand, you ignorant little shit-throwing partially-evolved simian?
*cough* Excuse me, back to where I was for a moment. There is a critical point that a lot of people seem to be in the habit of forgetting here. Words have impacts, as do phrasings of words. When we want to politely converse with a person about things, we do not begin by shoving things up their asshole. We do not slap them in the face hard enough to leave bruises. We do not throw offensive material onto them. But when you call me [insert word here] “with autism”, you have the exact same impact upon me. This is not a matter for debate, it is not something I should submit to be trained out of, and it sure as hell is not something I am going to budge on. [Insert word here] “with autism” implies that autism is separate to the person being spoken of. There is no other way to put that. As Lydia wrote so well, she does not refer to herself as a woman with Americanness or a woman with Chineseness. Yet when I challenge “person first” assholes to go to areas of Los Angeles or New York and start referring to residents out loud as “people with blackness”, I keep getting told this is somehow different. If you think it is somehow different, you are part of our problem, not the solution.
Actually, “person first”, I keep putting it in quotes because it is a lie, a misnomer. You see, my comparisons to using phrases like “…with Chineseness”, “…with blackness”, or “…with Spanishness” go right to the heart of the problem. You see, whilst people would agree with me that identifying characteristics that cannot be removed are important to shaping a person and their view of the world, it is the brain within the head that makes all of the difference, not the colours of the skin, hair, and eyes that hide the brain from easy viewing. Fiction is replete with examples of individuals who were raised by groups of wild animals as children and turned out to be more noble and mannered as adults than is the case with children who were raised by Humans. But real, documented cases of children growing up feral prove the exact opposite. And the outcomes of taking these children and trying to reintegrate them with society have often proven dependent on both the age at which they were rescued and the quality of care/training they received after rescue. The point being that much of what we are past a certain age tends to reflect what we were told, shown, and given before that age. The fact that it is all I can do to not rip a person’s head off when they put their hands upon me without sufficient warning or cause (or reason) reflects the fact that respect for my personal space was something I had to win with violence as an adolescent, and had a serious shortage of as a child. And as Kruma Steward has written about both at length and beautifully, if you teach a person to think of themselves as subservient or a lesser Human being throughout their childhood, it takes a concerted effort to undo that. So when I state that [insert improper noun here] “with autism” is no different to “nigger” to my ear, I want you to understand my full meaning. Go and read the document at the end of the link I have just given if you do not get it yet.
I did not have problems that continue to haunt me to this day with education because I am autistic. I have problems that continue to haunt me to this day with education because nobody investigated the fact that I am autistic, and decided that it was okay to mistreat me on the basis of how I reacted when they responded inappropriately to how my autism manifested in my everyday life. Hence, the problem is not me because I am autistic, you little assholes. The problem is you because you are ignorant on a level that should not be tolerated anywhere in a democratic society, assholes. And if you think that using wordplay to try and convince me that what makes me more visually perceptive, more disrciminating of sound, and more intelligent (as an average rule) than you is somehow wrong, dirty, and bad will help your case, you are very sadly mistaken. The reality is that people just like you threw me to the sharks and expected me to swim along as a child, and then punished me both physically and psychologically for my failure or unwillingness to comply. You might have a different conception of yourselves based on where you come from and what your elders told you, but where I come from, and based on what both my elders and my deductive abilities of those times told me, you are child abusers. Trying to separate me from what makes me what I am is nothing more than child abuse, or abuse of an adult based on characteristics that he cannot help (the distinction between these two is nothing in my eyes), so far as I am concerned.
There are examples of times when governments or other organisations with power, when their power was absolute and unchallenged, tried to strip away things that defined their outsiders. In the Middle Ages, Christians would torture and bully enemies into renouncing either what made them different (eg Muslims) or what made them offensive in the eyes of their leadership (eg being a woman innocent of any wrongdoing said leadership imagined). Modern examples include the Muslim theocracy fascination with women who do not mind having sexual feelings, or with harming people of cultures that do not parrot their thoughts back to them in this and other regards. In that example, I think that John Lydon hit the nail right on the head when he challenged those he was debating at the time to name one Muslim democracy, then he might be inclined to give so much as a sniffle about what is supposedly being done to them in and around Israel. I disagree with the line of thinking, but the pinciple is valid. Show me one curebie who is capable of listening to a word I say, and I might be inclined to give you the time of day concerning “person first” bullshit.
Being autistic is as much a part of my identity, of my core identity mind you (not just the secondary or tertiary parts), as is being the grandson of a Scotsman, of being from Parramatta, of being male, of speaking English as a first language, of having thinning brown hair with orange highlights, of having blue eyes, of being heterosexual and liking sex with small, curvy, dark-haired women. The list goes on and on. According to one fiction in cinema called Braveheart, there was a ruthless King of England (Edward I) who considered my grandfather’s people inferior and wished to “breed” or hunt them out of existence. That King, awesome in some ways as he was (his handling of one of his son’s “advisors” is storytelling gold), was unrelentingly depicted as a villain. If he did not order his generals and soldiers to start calling Scots “people with Scottishness” or something to similar effect, then you can colour me surprised, and change my middle name to it. (Yes, “person first” assholes, I am being sarcastic. Mildly, anyway.)
Hence, I do not consider “person first” language as applied to the autistic, especially not autistic individuals of comparable age to me (or those old enough to know what those bits in their laps are really for, for that matter) to be a matter of preference. It is just plain wrong. You, the “person first” crowd, had a chance to convince me otherwise. You have failed, and you will never get another chance.