Beginning With Tears

I didn’t want to start out this way. I didn’t want my first post on this blog to be about pain and tragedy. But today is the Disability Community Day of Mourning, and I did not want to let that pass without a few words.

Last year, at age 43, I discovered that I am autistic. I see this new knowledge as a blessing, a gift of self-understanding and self-acceptance that puts so many struggles and triumphs in my life into better perspective. It helps me to honor myself as I really am, to appreciate my strengths and my neurodiverse perspective while also connecting with others who share similar “wiring.” Yes, there are difficulties associated with autism, but finally knowing that I am autistic helps me manage them and allows me to take care of myself better.

But there’s also no escaping that much of the world does not see things the way I do. They do not see autism as a benefit to society, or even as a neutral difference among human beings. Instead, they see it as a tragedy, as something to be eradicated. They see it as something harmful, as a burden to those who love us — a burden so great that they will even excuse violence done to us by those who claim to love us.

This day of mourning exists because, with frightening frequency, disabled people are killed by their families and caregivers, and society sympathizes with their killers. Zoe Gross explains it better than I could, in her essay, “Killing Words.” (That link opens a pdf document.) All I want to add is that today my heart aches for this new community I have just found, a community that has already helped me so much as I learn more about my place within it.

So for all those in mourning, I stand with you. And for those who would like more information, ASAN’s Anti-Filicide Toolkit is a solid place to start.

(Image of a yellow candle on a black background, with the words “Disability Community Day of Mourning” in white.)

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