The question has to be asked – do NTs actually hate us?
You have to wonder, all the barrage of vitriol that is so often thrown our way. The ‘cure or kill’ brigade with their ‘autism as monster’, ‘autism as stealer of children’, ‘autism as fate worse than cancer’, etc, etc, ad nauseum propaganda, certainly seem to hate us. The autism ‘experts’ with their “if autistics do it, it’s pathological, wrong and bad, if NTs do it, it’s normal, good and okay” bias, also often give the impression of hating us, behind their cool masks of supposed ‘objectivity’.
There are ‘hate autism’ parents and their organisations who spew fear and loathing at us every chance they get. Bluntly calling autism an ‘epidemic’ of ‘brain damage’, they furiously label autistic advocates as ‘sad and deluded’, ‘attention seekers’, ‘nuisances’, a ‘noisy minority’ who are ‘hijacking’ or ‘trivialising’ autism, etc, etc, and of course as ‘not really’ autistic because we can talk (and therefore can’t speak for the non-verbal, though how then, those who aren’t autistic at all can, defies logic), even claiming that we are somehow ‘out to harm’ the ‘real’ autistics. I can think of at least one prominent ‘anti-autism’ parent (who shall go unnamed) who actively trolls autism websites, spraying his hate messages – which includes homophobia as well as neurophobia (hatred of autistics) – around at every opportunity.
There’s also a compliant media, who for the most part tamely rehashes all this negativity anytime the ‘autism issue’ comes up, the many professionals who make no effort to understand or offer any meaningful support to their autistic students, patients or clients, employers who refuse us even the smallest accommodations, workmates who never miss a chance to dump on us, the family members of some of us who react angrily to just about everything we do, and last but not least the general public who either don’t understand or don’t care or just seem to want us to go away, disappear into some wormhole in space… Need I go on?
I feel there’s more than one thing going on here. One is classic xenophobia, a human reaction to anyone ‘different’ and/or ‘strange’ which has been around since our ancestors lived in tribes in caves, and had to be wary of any strangers who might muscle in on their hunting territory, or even attack, kill, rape or enslave them. And autism – at least as a diagnosed condition, in large numbers and hugely visible – has only been around for a little while. So there’s that factor, which can eventually be overcome, just as non-acceptance of gays has been largely overcome, at least in the Western world, at least partly by gay people coming out in fairly large numbers - and thus becoming ‘familiar’, no longer ‘strangers’. We can become ‘familiar’ too, in time.
Another factor is a failure of NTs to understand themselves. Their responses to the world and other people are largely subconscious, automatic, intuitive and so quick they don’t even realise it’s happening, they ‘just know’ things. And because they don’t even realise there is a process happening, they don’t seem to get that it isn’t happening for us, that we’ve had to learn consciously, intellectually, and slowly, what they take for granted. Instead, they assume we know the ‘rules’ and are deliberately flouting them, being rude, arrogant, selfish, insulting, etc, etc; and react angrily to that.
And yet a third factor is the belief of many autism parents that they are entitled to a ‘normal’ child, and that it’s a huge affront, a violation of their ‘rights’, almost a crime in fact, for them to have one that isn’t. This is not an inference by the way, many of them outright say so, in very forthright terms that go way beyond ‘grieving’ into ‘grievance’. Their concern seems to be not for the child’s welfare, but for themselves. It’s as if they have this expectation of what their kid should be, how their child should reflect well on them, boost their social standing – so if their kid looks unlikely to ever be a cheerleader or football star, be ‘popular’, go to a prestigious (or any) university, bring home trophies, etc, etc, in short, if they have a kid they can’t show off, this is a ‘sin’ in their eyes. How this ‘I have a right to a normal child’ belief evolved, I’m really not sure, but those who hold this view consider themselves not only entitled to such a child, but entitled to do anything at all that will change their ‘deficient’ or ‘abnormal’ child into the one they believe they should have had from the beginning. They swing into action, blasting the child with every weapon at their command, and blasting too anyone who might have a different view of autism. They seem to hate autism because it disrupted the life they believe they are entitled to.
One final factor may be simple ‘demonisation’. Every society sooner or later creates a Bogeyman - a whipping boy, scapegoat, hated ‘other’, Foul Thing, an Evil Enemy who sole purpose is to unite folk against it. I believe to many Big Bad Autism has become this kind of ‘nasty’, a thing to be resisted, fought, overcome, obliterated, crushed, smashed and wiped out of existence, no matter what effort of time, energy or expense that entails. It’s the Big Bad Bogeyman who threatens education/health/insurance/etc budgets, ties up resources that some believe would be better used on ‘real’ people’s needs, ‘intrudes’ into and complicates ‘normal’ people’s lives unbearably. That there might be anything worthwhile to autism, or that autistics should be allowed to simply be autistic, is akin, in these people’s eyes, to saying ‘Hitler was a nice man’.
Wow. When I put it all together like this, you truly do begin to wonder… Yes, thankfully there are many NTs who aren’t like that, who accept us as we are, who are even our allies, for which I say a big ‘Hallelujah! It’s just that there are so many more who aren’t, who spread these messages of doom and gloom and hatred… it’s mind-boggling. However! Call me a hopeless optimist – but I do believe that most of this is due to simple fear and total ignorance. If only we can overcome that, educate people, we will have won at least one of the many battles facing us, and hopefully gained at least some new allies in our fight for human dignity and equality. For sure, right now we’re so far ‘out there’, getting such bad ‘PR’, that we’ve got little to lose by going for it.