I believe many people have an ill concept of bravery. Being bold in the moment and then returning to mediocrity is something we have come to reward in society because it is easier to identify a single, anomalous moment than to pay attention long enough to truly see those who have exchanged moments of bravery for a lifetime of steadfast sublimity.
In the realm of autism awareness and acceptance, I see autistic individuals overlooked for achievement time and time again. If I were to jump in front of a bullet meant for another, I would forever have hero marked upon my gravestone. Though if I conduct myself through 100 years of life defying the stereotypes of autism, I will not be seen as brave or as a hero, but as an instigator, a know-it-all, and insensitive to autistic individuals who speak with assistive devices rather than with their mouths.
As a feminist with autism, this problem increases ten fold. Ideas that are considered eye opening or ground breaking from the mouths of my male counterparts are valued without much scrutiny. While revolutionary ideas from female autistics are questioned endlessly, devalued, and disregarded as out of touch with reality. I am seen not as intelligent, but as emotional to my detriment. I have even been told I am less autistic because I am female, and therefore I do not truly understand what autistic men face in life.
When I proposed the idea nearly a decade ago that nonspeaking autistic individuals who were assigned very low IQs (due to their inability to participate in the testing) were in fact average to high IQ individuals trapped within their own body, I was dismissed. I was told no empirical data existed to support my ideas, and not one effort was made to collaborate and explore the possibility that my idea was plausible. No truly innovative idea has empirical data to support it at its inception. This is understood, but I was not heard.
Every morning when I awake, I hear the noise of an unwelcoming world. In the air exists a strange cacophony of disdain fuelled by laws passed to limit me as a woman, and medications sold to limit me as an autistic. I don’t want to contribute to a societal normality based on inequity and derisory hierarchy, where fear is the motivator, and love is distorted into a discipline stick.
We are all oceans of life, and fear is the cold that freezes us beneath a hard shell, suffocating the life within us. Imagine the life that would rise out of us if we could only escape the cold of fear.
However I will not change nor will I compromise my extraordinary will to trail blaze. I will continue to be brave only in my gratitude, whilst remaining steadfast in my work to bash down barriers. I only hope that the next generation will get to live their lives on their own terms. That the words “feminist” and “autistic” will be meet with applause, rather than with gasps of judgement, defeat and denial.
I am me. I am autistic. I am female. I face a world every day where my ideas, my diagnosis, and my gender are more criminal than the acts of hatred that beat me down. You can bruise me with your words, but I will be no less female, and no less autistic. I will only be the one who continues standing up, again and agin, until I am no longer standing alone.