For those of you who are not aware of what the #ActuallyAutistic hashtag is about, I’m just going to briefly sum it up before I get on to the rest of what I want to talk about. This hashtag can confirm that whoever wrote the post/status/tweet etc was actually autistic. It gets easier to separate a neurotypical (sorry if this is spelt wrong, just inform me the correct spelling and I’ll edit it) from an autistic voice. The #autistic hashtag did not filter well enough and would still bring up NT voices instead of voices from the autistic community. NT voices are still welcomed to use it and do, although it is frowned upon as…well, we’re sick of hearing NT voices.
Let me explain why.
This post was triggered by a recent debate on Twitter about autism, which featured mostly NT people who felt like their opinions were more important than the opinions of actually autistic voices. The most annoying thing about that is that it’s not even rare for NT’s to do this to us. It’s a problem because it spreads misinformation and autistic people get harmed by it as well as silencing our voices. Especially when these opinions come from the parents of autistic children, other NT people feel like this makes their voice valid despite not being autistic.
I’m not saying that NT support in our community isn’t valid, welcomed or encouraged because it is. I am not saying that every NT voice is wrong. What I am saying is that a NT voice should NEVER silence an autistic voice.
An example of this is the ‘debate’ over whether autistic people prefer being called “a person with autism” or “an autistic person”. You can probably guess which one I and a majority of us prefer in my choice of wording. I’ve heard it frequently in real life, too, where people will tell me “You should really say you’re a person with autism because your disability doesn’t define you and you’re a person without the autism”. It sounds like they mean well, but they’re actually doing the opposite of helping.
My autism makes up so much of who I am that if you were to take it away hardly any of me would be left. Autism DOES DEFINE ME and I (as are many of us) are okay with that, more than okay with that. I would never change that for the world. I am an autistic person and not a person with autism, but the voice people are more likely to listen to isn’t an autistic person but someone who is NT and that is not okay.
They also make it sound like autism is a bad thing and it somehow dehumanizes me or makes me less of a person. Which simply isn’t true.
The #actuallyautistic hashtag is important because it filters out the voices of people who shouldn’t get a say on things like what autistic people should prefer to be called by, whether or not it’s rude/offensive. It brings out the voices that deserve to be heard. That should have been heard in the first place but weren’t. It helps autistic people strengthen the community, even socialise with likeminded people via social media (as many autistic people, although far from all, have problems with socializing in real life and social media can be our only way of talking to people comfortably). It helps us understand our disability better. It helps give us a voice and a platform to speak up about how how disability affects us, how people treat us because of it and all our preferences. It is vitally important that autistic people have NT allies that are willing to give us the platform instead of keeping it for themselves. #ActuallyAutistic gives us a chance to do that.
I’ve only been active on Twitter, despite having an account for a while, fairly recently so only recently discovered the hashtag and I would consider this a turning point in my life. There’s plenty of things I have discovered since joining the online community. I have found people to talk about autism with who are also female and autistic. We’ve even discussed things right down to why we think autistic females are misdiagnosed so frequently, or ignored so much in the media, that some people think autism in females isn’t possible. We’ve talked about food habits and how so many of us have problems with food that can turn into eating disorders (and have for so many of us). How depression/anxiety seems to walk hand in hand with it. Most importantly, I feel like I have found a support system and a safe space where I can openly be myself and share opinions of what autism is like and have people feel the same or similar and want to talk to me about it. My voice is not silenced or ignored. It is encouraged.
Through the people who I have met and fellow autistic tweeters, I have found things about myself that make so much sense and have been so helpful that I didn’t know before. There’s so much to learn about my disability. Even though I was diagnosed at eleven, I have been surrounded by NT people of which most are ablest and this has manipulated my mind into thinking things that simply aren’t true.
#ActuallyAutistic is a hashtag that deserves full support because it means so much to me. So much to all of us. It’s time that autistic voices took charge.
Thank you for reading.