Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Let's Discuss Labels

Labels are a fraught topic in the Autistic community. Sort of like bad puns you can't detect. Labels are essentially a marker of identity. Generally, identities come about because of some sort of "deviance" (the opposite is normativity).Still, there are markers which mark dominant groups (ex. white), although many are made by the disenfranchised one (ex. the term allistic for non-Autistics). The dominant group who generally believe in their own superiority or at least normality which manifests itself as believing they're standard often get upset by labels meant to equalize their experiences with the "deviants." For example, many cisgender people get upset by the term "cisgender." It is believed that a normal person does not deserve labels even while they know, for a fact, Transgender people are just as normal as cisgender people, because, you know, people. In the Large Autistic communities (as in including parents), the label Autistic is shamed. Why is this?

Well, labels are said to create difference and further pathologize Autistic people. After all, we're all the same, right? Well, no.  As already discussed, the difference between neurodivergents (which includes Autistic people) and neurotypicals exists. (A Response to "But We All Are!") The erasure of an a label denies identity. Therefore, by denying the labels, an intrinsic part of the Autistic is erased. Without the outward expression of Autistic identity, a connection to Autistic culture is lost; meaningful connections between Autistic people with other Autistic people are lost. This is important. The mental health of Autistic people notwithstanding, the assimilation of Autistic people into neurotypical society is antithetical to the concept of neurodiversity which affirms the validity of all brain types. (Assimilation is not integration/inclusion. Please be aware of this.)

"But you're not defined by your Autism!" Yes I am. My world is the world as known, as experienced, as sensed by an Autistic. I share common traits with other Autistic people and share a more or less common Autistic experience*. You cannot separate my Autistic self from the rest of myself. Most of my formative experiences have been through the lens of Autism; those experiences definitely include school experiences. This has been covered many, many times.


No. I'm taking pride in difference. Pride is not "fetishizing." What is wrong with understanding and accepting your differences? I like being me. I enjoy being exactly who I am and expressing it. I don't feel a need to hide it. I have a distinct identities: what is wrong with the expression of my various identities? 

"But you might get bullied." That's not the fault of the Autistic. People get harassed because the harassment of that individual is excused by norms. These norms exclude people whom do not meet the standard. This standard (although it represents a minority of people) is allistic, abled, white, male, cis, thin, not mentally ill, straight, monosexual, dyadic, upper middle class, etc. That standard exists for no reason. Yet, it is vigorously enforced. You may know this concept as victim-blaming.   
"But you're no different and this is a way to make yourself superior." Okay, this is bullshit. Let me explain: we need pride BECAUSE WE WERE TAUGHT WE WERE INFERIOR. Just like you don't have Straight Pride Parades, having pride in a marginalized identity is not trying to be "superior."  It may surprise you, but being treated as a defectives who deserve to be tackled for "non-compliance" doesn't exactly catalyze feelings of self-worth or basic humanity. This is a way for us to say we are comfortable with who we are. What is your problem with that. What is your problem with that? 

Seriously,  enough with this "no labels" nonsense. Labels exist for a reason. They are an identity marker. They are simple descriptors. If there were "no labels" for sexuality, I would not have the language for being Bisexual and the biphobia associated with it. I am Jewish. That is a label. It marks me that way because that's, well, who I am. "No labels" acts in a similar way to "color-blind racism;" it allows for the assumptions and oppression to stay without necessitating the dominant group to accept their privilege.

*sort of. Sensory issues and society's coldness to it? Yeah, pretty similar for everyone. Anything more than Not really. Autism is not the only identity which shapes me. All of them do and more or less equally. I'm not going to go around claiming I have the same experiences as every other Autistic and whatnot. Things are intersectional. *cough* white, straight, abled feminism *cough*

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