As an autistic person, I refuse to support “Autism Awareness” or “Light It Up Blue.” Some people will disagree with me on this. I may anger a few people by saying that I don’t consider myself diseased, nor do I want to be “cured” of something by which I identify, something that makes me, well, me. The fact that I think differently doesn’t mean that my thoughts are “broken” or any less valid than those of anyone else.
First off, “awareness” is a term attached to anything in the human body or psyche that needs to be disposed of. My “meow” is just that…a meow, not a bark that needs some tweaking. To begin with, I wasn’t broken. However, we often break people while trying to fix our intact comrades. Every day, I still struggle with the bullying and abuse from my past. At this point, many readers are probably thinking, “So just get over it and stop being a baby.” What you may not realize is that once a person goes through something traumatic, it can change the structure of the brain. It takes years to unlearn such childhood lessons as “your opinion doesn’t matter” and “you should apologize for wasting space that could go to people who actually deserve to live.” These lessons are ingrained in my psyche; they continuously echo in my head like a line from a bad pop song. Since I was taught such lessons, I learned that there is intrinsically nothing wrong with me; that I’m not wasting oxygen and water. I have realized that it’s okay to be autistic. However, the self-aware portion of me is in a constant battle with a more primal slice of my brain that insists that I’m no use to anyone. The good news is that it does get better. The bad news is that it took thousands of dollars worth of therapy and a considerable amount of wisdom acquired over the years to patch up some old wounds that may never fully heal and still sometimes bleed. All I have is proverbial gauze, along with an ibuprofen that takes the edge off the pain. Nonetheless, there is a significant difference between who I am now and who I was seven years ago. Meditation and anti-anxiety techniques are quite handy. The heart of the problem is that other autistics are not as lucky as I was, and many end up becoming hopeless in a world that tries to eradicate all things different.
This is why it disgusts me that the puzzle piece is used as the symbol for autism. Using the puzzle piece to represent us is dehumanizing; it’s implying that something about us needs to be fixed or put back together. It symbolizes the belief that we are less than whole. This perpetrates a slew of stigmatizing myths about autistic people–that we’re “annoying,” “stupid,” or worse, that we “lack empathy.”
Another reason why I don’t accept the “light it up blue” idea is that it’s promoted by the organization Autism Speaks, who push for a cure for autism. This organization is infamous for its greed; much of their money does not go toward research. Worse yet, they had the nerve to release a documentary where a mother admitted that she seriously thought of driving her daughter over a bridge when the child was diagnosed with autism…and the only reason why she didn’t was because her neurotypical child was waiting for her at home. This woman admitted it while her child was in the room with her.
So, I ask the world one small favor: instead of lighting it up blue, support Autism Acceptance by walking in red.