It’s 2021 and it’s still socially acceptable to dehumanize, belittle and call Autistics unkind names. Autistic slurs are so common they’ve infiltrated pop culture. Autistics see the stigma and bigotry written into TV shows, books, magazines, and movies. We also experience it in our healthcare, education, work and career programs, doctors’ offices and many of our support services.
In my activism experience, one of the most common responses from non-Autistic ’autism professionals,’ ’autism experts’ or non-Autistic parents of Autistic children is to lament and call us names – especially the word ‘troll’. I’ve seen this word used many times in my advocacy work. This type of response is common to many fighting for disability rights, and civil and human rights. So much so, that Autistic advocate Jim Sinclair wrote about this phenomenon as one of the three discrediting tactics commonly used against us.
I’ve also seen Whitney Ellenby, the author of “Autism Uncensored,” use her husband to call us Russian Trolls. This was in response to Autistics self-advocating against the harm promoted by her momoir book about their Autistic child. During their book releases, both parents and authors alternated gaslighting and battling Autistics because they had a financial interest in silencing us.
Both Newman and Ellenby offered either Autistic abuse or eugenics in their books, plus a deep overshare of their child’s personal life. They contributed to the myths, misinformation, autism mystic, stigma, bigotry and dehumanization of Autistics with their work. Neither could understand the harm they caused – or didn’t want to. Regardless, it’s Autistics that suffer from these types of publications, not non-Autistic parents.
Over in Australia, a comedy club referred to Autistics as trolls in defense of Nikki Osbourne’s stigma-laced and punch-down-humor autism act. These are just a few examples of Autistic self-advocates being called trolls in recent years, instead of being heard, listened to and respected. It’s never ending the dismissiveness of Autistic stakeholders to our personhood and to our Autistic children’s personhood.
I’m accustomed to name-calling and and the ugly backlash at this point. At least I thought I was until I saw the email debacle contained in Liam O’Dells article about the Spectrum 10K DNA Study in the UK. In response to Autistic advocates critiquing the ethics of the DNA study, scientists and researchers were instructed to ignore and not respond to the Twitter ’trolls.’
This last reference astounds me. We are talking about Autistic bigotry, stigma and dehumanization baked right into autism research and internalized by scientists. Talk about a complete LACK of ethics and horrible discrimination towards us Autistics fighting for disability and human rights. How are these people allowed in Autistic healthcare or Autistic anything with those attitudes and ‘troll’ slur? Autistics are supposed to trust these people in any way, shape or form now?
If that insult wasn’t enough, this statement by Simon Baron-Cohen really fires up the gaslight:
Is the autism community saying no genetic research should ever happen?— SIMON BARON-COHEN
No one in the Autistic Community (not the autism community – that’s a different community and you know it) is stating we want zero research to ever happen. We’re saying — why should we trust you? How have you earned that trust? What makes you the right people to do this research? What are you going to do with it later? How many Autistic adults have you bypassed and used Autistic children’s DNA instead? These are legitimate questions, concerns and there’s a history here. A dark, ugly horrible history here with eugenics and Autistics and disabled people.
Ignoring our history, or minimizing it, is morally corrupt. Stop the bs, and get real. Autistics are going nowhere, and if you truly want to help us, you better start showing some respect, humanity, compassion and actually listen.
Until then, you can get the fuck out of my healthcare and support services. Not that I have a choice in the matter. At least not here in the United States.
Just to be clear here is what Autistics are fighting for:
- I am Autistic. [or] I support those who are Autistic.
- I embrace my Autism as a very significant part of my identity.
- I embrace those who would sacrifice to protect all Autistic life.
- I embrace the belief that Autism does not need any “curing”.
- I embrace the self-advocacy goal of “Everything about us, with us”.
- I embrace the definition of Autism as a neuro-social difference.
- I embrace measures directed at protecting Autistics from attack.
- I embrace a person-centred approach to all Autism issues.
- I embrace rigorous scientific approaches to co-occurring conditions.
- I embrace Autistics leading their own welfare organisations.
Before you attempt to gaslight us again, Simon Baron-Cohen, here’s the Autistic Human Rights Charter. Go read it and find out exactly what we’re about. You’ve only had at least two decades now to read-in. Do your homework.
Founder of InternationalBadassActivists.org
Co-founder of The Autistic Cooperative
Autistic parent to Autistics since ‘93
Authentic Autistic vintage ‘72
3 Discredit tactics for Autistic & Disabled People
- Deny they are Autistic or Disabled
- Diminish the Autistic or Disabled person’s lived experience.
- Use Prejudice to Silence Autistic & Disabled People