In the past, I have written so many things about so-called “person first” language that it is starting to make me angry that I have to keep doing it. But once in a while, an article comes along that is so fundamentally stupid that you just have to congratulate the author on how little they “get it”.
Introducing Person First Attitude Trumps Language. You see, some asshole wants us to believe that what some call identity-first language or what I refer to as separationist language is a matter of choice. Big sigh.
Particularly offensive to me was the following:
Jacob feels very strongly that when others use person first language they are more likely to see him – Jacob, a fellow human being – rather than the hard of his autism in his body.
This is the problem with separationist language in a nutshell. Not only are people who use it thinking that they live in a vacuum where their actions do not have consequences for others, they seem to really not understand the worst objections to it.
Judy, I have news for you and Jacob. When people know that you are autistic, they are not going to give a rat’s arse how you tell them. They have already made up their minds concerning how Human they see you as. And if the only place they get information from is hate groups like Autism Speaks, then you could refer to yourself as Jesus Reborn and they still will not see you as Human.
I do not care how strongly Jacob feels, either. When someone calls me “person with autism”, I can assure you that my desire to tear off their head and kick it around like a ball is more powerful than Jacob’s expressed preference by a factor of at least ten.
Again, allow me to invoke the ghost of George Orwell. Mister Orwell has written at some length concerning how control of the person’s language translates into control of the person’s thoughts. This is easily concreted by explaining the base-level response to two statements. Observe:
- I have autism
Say it out loud with me: I have diabetes. I have cancer. I have AIDS. I have measles. I have asthma. What do these statements make you think? That the person considers these things to be a part of themselves? Or that the person considers these very nasty and very difficult-to-live-with things to be foreign invaders that they would get rid of, given half a chance? If you picked the first response, you are dead wrong. The film Philadelphia was released twenty years ago to this day, and contains one great scene in which Tom Hanks‘ character tells Denzel Washington‘s in response to a question concerning his appearance, “I have AIDS”. I will go further into this point in a second.
- I am autistic
The speaker is basically saying “I am part of a ‘new’ race where skin colour, eye colour, hair colour is irrelevant to membership. The only qualification for membership is differences in neurology that lead to noticeable differences in life experience.”
Separationist language has been formed by years of uncomfortable context. When Tom Hanks‘ character is telling Denzel Washington‘s that the reason he does not look so well is because he has AIDS, the manner in which Denzel and his character responds is priceless. He is clearly uncomfortable, and cannot hide one bit of it from his new prospective client.
A later scene in which Denzel and his character meet again, and Denzel basically reconsiders, we get a brief summary of why AIDS discrimination is legally actionable. The similarity between it and racial discrimination, although not nearly as dramatic as that between neurology discrimination and racial discrimination, seems to speak to Denzel‘s character and his sense of justice.
Both men understand one thing. Hanks‘ character regards AIDS as being a hostile invader to his body that will kill him very soon, and not in a pleasant way. Washington‘s character has only heard about AIDS through the media, and thus his conception of what it is and how one acquires it is very uninformed. (Remind you of anyone?)
AIDS presently has one similarity to autism, and it is an artificial one. Dying from the methods by which curebies try to make one “not autistic anymore” is a horrible, painful, and quite upsetting experience. Not just for the individual who is dying, but also for the other autistic individuals who hear about it after the fact. This similarity could easily be remedied by making murdering a person for being autistic punishable by death under Federal laws in every country around the world. Even if that country does not normally have a death penalty.
People who say “I have autism” or “[subject] has autism” are not just separating me from the most indelible characteristic of my person. No. They are essentially communicating to me that they do not see being autistic as any different than having AIDS.
If I need to tell you, Judy, or Jacob, how offensive I find this, then perhaps you should not be in the business of telling people how they should refer to themselves. Or more importantly, how others should be referring to them.
I know of numerous people who have what I think of when I read the words “person first attitude”. They are members of, march for, or otherwise speak in support of Autism Speaks For Normie Assholes.
Judy, Jacob, please try to understand this point. You do not live in a vacuum. When either of you use separationist language because you think it asserts your personhood to people who are unwilling to recognise it, you effectively deprive all autistic individuals of the acknowledgement that autism is an indelible part of their identity which cannot be removed without murdering them.
I do not like the experience of life that I have had thus far as a result of being autistic. I have been abused so badly that numerous psychological professionals acknowledge that I have borderline PTSD (that is, I almost but not quite meet the diagnostic criteria for PTSD). But here is the thing. If I say to an asshole like Suzanne Wright “please, I do not want to be autistic anymore, can you please make me normal?”, then the people who subjected me to intense psychological torture at various stages of my life have won.
Americans who have more privilege than sense often proclaim that one can take their guns from their “cold, dead hands”. They do not realise how easy that would be for most professional soldiers, of course. But those are the conditions under which one can separate me from what makes me me. And the being autistic part, with a visual cortex that is twice the size it should be or amygdalae that are too small to filter much of anything? That is not a negotiable, separate part.
The sooner we stop thinking of separationist language as an acceptable choice as opposed to one that may have dire consequences for all of us, the sooner we can start making the normie brigade understand all of the above.
It really is that simple.