Autism and identity


Categories: Personal Autism

Tyler Cowen has a really interesting piece with the catchy title An Economic and Rational Choice Approach to the Autism Spectrum and Human Neurodiversity. I found it interesting, anyway.

One of the commenters writes:

Please, please, please, do not refer to people with autism as “autistics”. I am the mother of a young man with autism and consider the word extremely offensive. He is a person, not a diagnosis. You may make an excellent point, but the use of that term sets my teeth so on edge that I cannot even read your publication. The correct phrase is PERSON, PEOPLE, OR INDIVIDUAL WITH AUTISM.

I reprint my response here in case Mr. Cowen feels that I did not live up to the standards of discourse he prefers for his blog:

You know what?

Fuck. You.

You are not the one who gets to decide whether to be offended. The autistics are, and you know what? I know a lot of autistic pople. NONE of us like “person with autism”, because that insultingly implies that autism is this horrible thing that happened to us, and that the real person is seperate from it.

It’s like referring to someone as a “person with humanity” or a “person with maleness”. This is a matter of identity.

Only place I’ve seen “person with autism” advocated is the eugenics nuts at Autism Speaks who want us wiped out.

I don’t have autism. I am autistic. This permeates everything I experience. It defines what it is like to be me. A thing that was otherwise like me, but not autistic, would be someone else.

So, a followup, someone on tumblr commented on having been corrected both ways. I elaborate:

Honestly, I don’t object to people who, for one reason or another, prefer to say “person with autism”. Heck, maybe there are people of whom it’s true; to be honest, I don’t identify as “male”, just as a person who happens to be male; it’s not part of my identity. Maybe there are people for whom autism isn’t identity-shaping.

But I do object, strongly, to people saying that it’s vital to separate the trait out and make it look alien and not part of the person, because for basically everyone I know (and I know a lot of autistics), it’s very much not that way at all.

I’ve yet to meet a person who has an autism diagnosis and prefers “person with autism”, that I know of.

Comments [archived]

From: Catsidhe
Date: 2012-01-23 15:00:47 -0600


When I first came out as an Aspie, one of the points I was very careful about was this exact one.

My coming out post is here if you’re curious.

From: Lissa
Date: 2012-01-24 09:31:03 -0600

I’m autistic. It is part of my identity. It explains why I have panic attacks when people get near me, why I don’t make mouth noise (speak :) ) or understand it when other people do. Trying to separate “my autism” from “me” would be making a new person.
So I’m an autistic – I don’t “have” autism.
What other people call it is their business, but the presumption of them trying to speak for me would annoy me the way it did you.