Tag Archives: identity

Words matter to me

I want to talk a little about why I like labels so much. I mean, I’ve talked a lot about labels and their usefulness and whatnot, and I have my arguments for why labels are more helpful than harmful, but that’s not quite what I want to talk about today. This time, I want to be more personal. I want to talk about why I like them *for me.*

When I explore things like “am I aromantic?” I get people telling me that the words aren’t important and I should just live my life. I find that incredibly frustrating, because it is completely invalidating to how I process and deal with things. It actually seems a bit ironic because I usually get that kind of feedback from people who think in words, while I, the person who largely thinks in concepts and sensations, wants the words for labels and identities.

I’m not sure why it’s working that way. I would have thought that word-thinkers would be all about their words, since they use them to think, and my less-wordy self would be less interested in words. But it just doesn’t seem to work that way. I may not do my primary thinking in words, but I still LOVE WORDS SO MUCH. Maybe the fact that I often need to actively translate my thoughts into words to be able to communicate them to other people leads to me appreciating words to a rather extreme degree.

What I really want to say, though, is that having words for things helps me understand them. Being able to grab onto a word let’s me put down a signpost, so I can anchor my rather abstract thoughts into something concrete. I’m not always very good at bringing things together into coherent wholes, and words help me do that.

Ok, here’s an obvious example – “Aspergers.” Before I had that word, I was still myself. I was being who I was for my whole life – who else would I be? But there was a lot about myself that I did not understand, and my behaviors and challenges and difficulties I had often felt random and spread out and incoherent. Gaining a word let me take what was very chaotic for me and find an order and coherence to understanding what was going on. That was REALLY helpful.

This is what words and labels do for me. They don’t confine me, they help me understand what otherwise is often confusing.

To draw another analogy – I once heard that autistic people often do not see wholes very well or easily. We see pieces – all the pieces – and it can take a lot of work to bring those pieces into a whole that we can make sense out of. This is true for me, at least a little bit. How about some more examples? One obvious one, that I’ve written about before, is faces. I see faces in pieces rather than wholes. I am actually not capable of seeing a face as a whole, which can be problematic at times. As another example – ok, story time. I was visiting a friend’s house and she was showing me around. She brought me into one room without announcing what it was first. For a good 30 seconds, I looked around only seeing details – “dresser, dresser, shelf, door, bed, another door” until suddenly it clicked – “BEDROOM!” I had the word for the room, and suddenly all those details and bits and pieces came together into a coherent whole.

So for me, words matter. It’s the opposite of helpful when people try to tell me to not worry about the words, because if I am pursuing finding the right words for something, you can believe that there is a reason for it. Usually that I need to find a way to bring coherence to a number of disparate things that are difficult for me to manage until viewed as a whole.

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It’s an identity, not a box!

I confess, another post about words and labels.

I still see people talking about “labelling” themselves or their child and feeling hesitant (or outright against the idea) because they don’t know what good would come of a label. There is also a lot of attitude I see around about labels as boxes. As though once you “slap a label” on someone, they are somehow now confined to a box.

Even now I get twitchy every time I see comments like those. It just seems like such a negative and unhelpful framework to me. Heck, it’s downright sad. Am I in a box now because I have a label? I certainly don’t think so.

That said, I am starting to see use in reframing the issue as one of identity, rather than labels. I could say that I have lots of labels, or I could say I have identities.

Things like:
writer
blogger
crafter
crocheter
cat person
horseback rider
female
androgynous
reader
cuddler
American
white
pagan
adult
and yes, aspie/autistic

Not one of those words is a box! None of them confine me. While some of them come with attached stereotypes, I am not bound by those stereotypes, nor do I feel any need to conform to them. Ultimately, I am ME and those are words that I use to describe me. Whether you want to call them identities or labels or just adjectives, ultimately what they are, are ways for you to have some idea of who I am. They are how I see myself, things about myself I consider important, things that impact my life and my worldview and how I interact with myself and with other people.

I wish I understood what it was that made people fear the idea of labels, because then maybe I could address it directly (my SO suggests that it might be because it is how they use labels on others, but that thought is very depressing to me). As it is, I’m left with conjecture and my own experience of having these words has been wonderful and helpful. Maybe I’m odd, but I often feel like I know myself better when I have a word I can use to describe something about myself. The words don’t confine me to boxes, it’s more like they provide some adhesive, enabling me to see random bits of myself as a more unified whole.

Before my “box,” all I knew was that I had a whole bunch of apparently random issues. I didn’t know what was going on or why I had those issues or what I could do about them.
After my “box” all those separate random issues unified into a single thing. A thing I could wrap my mind around and understand. I knew what was going on, I had things I could do to help myself, I could understand myself better. Not just via the word (though even that is significant to me. I love words), but via having a specific thing to learn about.

It’s hard to quantify exactly what “getting a label” did to help me. However, help it did. And it’s not a box, it’s an identity, ok?

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Are vs Have – results!

Incoming results  from my Are vs. Have poll seemed to pretty much stop once I hit 128, so at that point I started sorting through them to see if I found anything interesting. Well – I did! At least, it’s interesting to me. Hopefully you’ll find it interesting too. ^_^

A note on categories

When I was sorting through them, I just tried to categorize them as best I could. The types of answers were, in some cases, very different, so the categories will be different too. There was some fuzziness between some of the categories, and sometimes it was a bit of a toss-up whether any given thing would be best in this category or that category. Nonetheless, I did my best to put them all in an order that made sense to me. I’m just intending to share some numbers – just understand that some of them could be shuffled around a wee bit.

Ok! Numbers! Take a look:

When asked to name what we are, the types of results were as follows:

Things we do: 41
Gender: 11
Nationality/ethnicity: 11
Physical trait: 22
Relationships: 17
Things we like: 6
Personality: 35
Neurology: 12
Couldn’t figure out how to categorize: 3

When asked to name what we have, this is what I found:

Physical trait: 46
Health matters: 12
Objects: 9
Skills/Achievements: 25
Relationships: 13
Neurology: 15
Likes/wants: 7
Personality: 9
Couldn’t figure out how to categorize: 5
Didn’t fit within the context of a thing one has: 2
And finally, one assertion from someone who apparently does not describe themself that way.

And now I blather

So to state the obvious – we clearly define ourselves, overwhelmingly, by what we do, and various personality characteristics. Physical traits trailed behind in third.

Of the 17 responses based on relationships with others, 8 of them were some variant of “mom.” Nearly half!

At first I had tried to have separate categories for jobs and hobbies, but that proved untenable. With no context for the answers, there were many that I could not figure out where exactly they should go, and probably would have needed to create yet another category, even fuzzier than jobs and hobbies, that I would call “things we care about” or something. In the end, “things we do” proved to be an excellent, and interesting, category. Whether it’s a hobby or a job or activism or nervous habits or whatever, what we do is, apparently, who we are.

As for the haves, physical traits definitely dominated the field here. It seems that, by and large, our bodies are things that we have, far more than things that we are.

Answers related to health were entirely matters of illness or health issues in general. Not a single person put “good health” or anything of the like. Similarly, there were a number of answers that I categorized as neurology in both the ares and the haves, but not a single one was “neurotypical” or anything related. Which tells me that as much as we may be trying to get away from the word “normal,” the concept of normalcy seems to be very much around.

Interestingly, many of the neurology results were similar between the two. Depression, anxiety, and the autism spectrum all featured highly, but we seem to be split in terms of whether they are something we have or something we are.

There were some similarities between some of the skills and achievements in the haves, and some of the things we do in the ares. There were several answers of “job” in terms of what we have, but actual job titles were always things we are. So for instance, a person may have a job, but they are an engineer.

Not one single person put gender as a thing they have. The same goes for nationality or ethnicity. While they were both in the minority of responses of ares, they were only ares.

There is, of course, some bias in these results. Some from where I got my responses (almost all of my responses were either from people related to the autism community in some way, and people from Ravelry who were kind enough to let me impose on them), some from my own interpretations of the results, and there is probably a factor of ease of language in terms of how we self-describe. Even with all that, though, I found the sorts of answers given really quite fascinating.

I am currently still undecided about publishing the results, as I worry someone will be offended if I do. I can promise that even published, all answers will remain entirely anonymous. Even I have no way of tracking who answered what, in any way.

So I put it to you: what do you think of the results I got?

Would anyone like to see the answers themselves, and maybe even take a crack at doing your own sorting?

Or, conversely, would anyone strongly prefer that I not publish the results?

In the end, 128 responses is a small sample size, but for this blog it isn’t bad. Maybe someday when I’m famous (heh) I could do this again and see what the population at large has to say about themselves. (of course, in the meantime the poll is still open, so you can go put your answer in if you want)

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Are vs. Have

This time I’m going to go ahead and beg – please share this! The more you share, the more responses I’ll get and the more awesome it will be. First give me ALL you answers, and then tell lots of people, please pretty please!

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Who are we?

I rather want to talk about identity again. It seems to be one of those topics that I just love to keep on visiting. I am increasingly fascinated by concepts of identity, ways people self-identify, what aspects of a person might be an “identity” and what is kept separate.

Sometimes clothing choices get thrown in here too. Specifically, when I see people talking about clothing in terms of conformity or lack thereof, and always someone will sneer at all those non-conformists insisting on conforming to the prevailing standard of nonconformity, and I just keep thinking that’s missing the point. Clothing has a bunch of different uses. Of course, the primary two are protection from the elements and hiding body parts that are considered taboo. But beyond that, there are all sorts of stylistic choices people can make as to how they cover themselves. Those choices are largely informed not so much by personal style, but as a way to announce to the world what group you identify with. Whether you’re a metalhead or doing business casual, your clothing choices tell the world around you what you are choosing as an identity. Change the uniform, and you change your identity and how people will perceive you.

So yeah, subgroups and counter-cultures almost always come with a uniform – a look you will be expected to conform to in order to be part of the group. It’s a way of showing allegiance. It doesn’t just matter in counter-cultures either. It matters in the business world – it matters a lot. Wearing the right clothes, showing through the bits of fabric that you use to cover yourself that you belong in their world and deserve respect and attention and the right job. It may seem stupid, but it matters a whole lot.

Anyway, I don’t only want to talk about clothes. Identity is such a thing. It’s fascinating to me to see how so much of the autism community is about autism as an identity (and yeah, I’m in that camp too), and it’s fascinating to me when people reject the autism identity and want it to be something separate. I am very interested in how and why people make these choices – deciding which aspects of themselves are intrinsic and which are not. Why do I say that I am a crafter, rather than a person who does crafts? Or a cat person, rather than a person who has cats? Or a person with red hair, rather than a redhead? Some things are intrinsic to me, some are not.

I have actually occasionally pondered putting all call out, asking if anyone would be willing to make me a couple of lists of self-descriptions – one of things that you are, and another of things that you have. As with crafting and cats and hair, I imagine many (if not most) of the items could be put in either list depending on how you choose to phrase it. Which is, in fact, exactly the thing that I am interested in – which traits would you put in which list, and why? (by the way, if I did ask, and I could offer a way to do so anonymously, would you do it? I haven’t been brave enough to ask yet and I’m hoping for some encouragement here)

Increasingly I think that identity, and being able to carve about a space for oneself via identity, really matters. Being able to identify with a group matters. Choosing who you are, it matters. I’ve always been different, and over time I carved myself out an identity based around being different. When I went in for my assessment to see if I had Asperger’s, the psychologist was able to identify me as the possible aspie immediately. I was surprised, but she told me it was something she saw a lot of. The people who are different all their lives are the ones who frequently wind up turning it into an identity, so my pink hair, long skirt, and boy cut t-shirt with a cartoon on it showed me as that person.

I’m not really sure where I’m going with this, and I don’t think I have much of a point. These are just thoughts that have been rolling around in my head and I wanted to share them. Identity – it’s interesting.

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Privilege, validation, and reflection

Privilege is such a tricky thing to talk about. Often people with privilege don’t like to admit it, or feel defensive if it’s pointed out. I often see people assume that privilege means that life has been handed to you on a silver platter and you didn’t have to work for anything, so if their privilege is pointed out, they think they are being accused of not having worked for what they accomplished.

In activism spaces, this is not what privilege means. Privilege is more subtle than that. Now, I’m not going to try to explain what privilege is. That would be a blog post all to itself, and there are plenty of really good write-ups out there that have explained it all much better than I could. Instead, I want to talk about one particular type of privilege (since privilege takes many different forms). It’s a general type I see a lot of when looking at various lists of privilege (white, male, cisgendered, and straight being the ones I see most often talked about). That is – that you see people like you on a regular basis. That your reality and identity is reflected back at you by popular media and the people around you.

When you enjoy that sort of privilege, it’s easy to take it for granted. In my post ‘autism and race,’ I wrote:

I need to confess something. Until that post by TheAutcast, it had never occurred to me to think much about autism and race. I am white and I sat comfortably in my white privilege, seeing white faces reflected back at me, and it did not occur to me to question this.

And it’s not like I’m blind to this sort of privilege. I’m aware of it with things like gender and disability. But when something about you is privileged, it’s really easy to just not notice.

I have also found that it’s easy to dismiss. I grew up with the message that external validation was going to end when I turned into an adult, and that people are not supposed to need that sort of thing. This, I think, had two basic results. In the areas where I do experience that kind of validation – seeing people who are like me – it’s easy to take little notice of it, or dismiss it as not “really” doing anything for me. In areas where I do not experience that kind of validation, I find that I wish I did, but I have vague feelings of guilt and shame associated with those desires.

I am slowly realizing, however, that this is actually a really big deal. Like that cheerios commercial, and some of the reactions I saw about how it’s SO AWESOME for biracial people and/or mixed families to actually see other people who look like them on TV. And, importantly, being portrayed in a totally casual, ‘this is no big deal,’ some families look like this kind of way.

Or this post talking about race and adoption, and the impact it can have on children to not regularly see people like themselves in their daily life.

And there’s the fact that I love seeing strong, confident characters on TV who also happen to be introverts. Or the times when people have reflected my gender identity back to me, validating and supporting me in it, and just how utterly good that felt.

This kind of thing matters. It’s a privilege that everyone should enjoy. I don’t really know of many neurodiverse characters being represented in popular media, and when it is implicitly referenced it is often in a not terribly positive way. I find myself wondering what it would be like if I saw a strong, confident TV character who just happened to flap their hands when excited, or spun in a chair when stressed, or was sometimes confused in social situations, or just needed to fixate on a few specks of dust sometimes. And if all those things were presented simply as part of who this person is, rather than with a “what’s wrong with you?” tone. No manic pixie dream girl, no person who’s funny because they are broken, just a strong, interesting character who happens to be on the autism spectrum.

Wouldn’t that be cool? I think seeing that, in a likable, positive character, would feel really good. I think it would be awesome.

This kind of thing matters. The validation of seeing people like you, of having your identity and your reality reflected back at you, it matters.

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person first vs. identity first

Picture by Landon Bryce of ThAutcast. Used with permission.

Identity language is an interesting and often tricky thing. It’s been on my list of things to write about since very near the start of this blog, but I never thought I had a sufficiently formed opinion to really be able to write about it.

An early instance of this coming up was in a forum I had been participating in on autism and Asperger’s. Someone started a thread saying that he strongly preferred person-first language. He wanted to be called a “person with aspergers” and he did not agree with or appreciate the current dominant trend in the autism community to go with identity-first language. I had not done a whole lot of thinking about it at that point and was really quite interested, so I asked a bunch of questions on the topic. Why is it important with this, but not with other things? Where is the line drawn? I don’t call myself a person with crafting, I call myself a crafter. Why is one ok and the other not?

Sadly, the discussion did not continue after that point. He apparently thought I was being nasty, was nasty back to me and there was no more talk. Since then the topic of how we refer to ourselves and just how surprisingly volatile a topic that can really be has been lurking around in the back of my head. I have read any number of blog posts on the subject and lurked in several different online discussions. I have noticed a few trends.

People on the autism spectrum usually, though not always, prefer identity first language – “autistic person” (aspie can also be used but I’ve noticed some pushback against that word in some circles. I have yet to figure out what’s wrong with it, though). However, other people (sometimes people on the spectrum but often allistic friends, family, or professionals) prefer person-first language – “person with autism.” It’s the justifications of these two choices that I find particularly interesting.

There was a thread on ThAutcast’s facebook page that had people talking about this, and there were a few really interesting posts on both sides of the debate.

People who are in favor of person-first language usually claim that it is more respectful to phrase things that way. That it places the emphasis on the person, rather than on the autism.

As a teacher and a mother of a son with autism I prefer person first language. My son has autism rather than my autistic son. He is not autism, it is just a part of who he is. He was a person before he was a disability.

I prefer “person with autism” by far! ANY individual has MANY unique qualities. But we own our qualities, they do not own us!

”Person with autism” puts the person first and the disability/condition last. Autistic person puts the condition first, as if its the most important part of the person.

There are some interesting assumptions in these quotes, aren’t there? They seem to be saying that if I say “autistic person” then I’m claiming that it’s the only quality a person has, or that the person IS autism in some weird, existential way. However, the bit I really find interesting is the claim that “autistic person” is implying that the autism is the most important part of a person.

The thing that strikes me about that is that the english language does not work that way. We use adjective-noun pairings, so the emphasis is actually on the second word, not the first. If I describe a color as being “bluish green” do you visualize something that is closer to green or closer to blue? What if I say “greenish blue”? In English, the first word is a descriptor or modifier of the second word, not the other way around.

And from a linguistics point of view, “person who happens to be experiencing life while living with a label of autism” or whatever the latest in person first is doesn’t sound like the emphasis is on the person. Linguistically, it puts the emphasis on autism, on what makes us different. It kinda even makes it sound like the speaker thinks “Autistic person” is an oxymoron.

So as far as I can tell “person with autism” does not, at all, put the emphasis on the person like people want to claim it does.

Instead, I think it is trying to separate the autism from the person. To treat autism as something that gets attached to a person. That we “have” it much the same way a person has a cold. That it is not an intrinsic part of ourselves, but something separate and apart. Autistic people, for the most part, seem to disagree with this assessment.

I am no more defined by my autism alone than by my hair color, and yet no-one ever questions it when people are refered [sic] to as, say, blonde. If autism wouldn’t be viewed as something less than, people wouldn’t find “person with autism” to be the more respectful term.

I am Autistic, just like I am biracial, just like I am an athlete, a dancer, a writer, an activist. It is an integral part of who I am.

I prefer aspie or autistic person. I cringe at ‘person with autism’, because it makes it sound like the autism is detachable from me. I consider autism just as inherent to my personality as my sense of humor or my IQ

There seems to be a culture slowly emerging among autistic people. It’s still shaky at this point, but increasingly one part of it is pride in being different, and considering autism an identity rather than something we’re “trapped behind.” As such, a rather large number of us strongly prefer identity-first language.

Now, one method I like to use to sort out if a particular way of using language is problematic or not is to replace key words with something else. Two of the above quotations did just that in comparing “autistic” to things like hair color, race, and other points of identity.

So, in terms of identity, I am female. I do not call myself a “person with femaleness.” For me to do so would be ridiculous. When I call myself a female person, I am not saying that my genitals entirely define me. Nor am I saying that it is a quality that “owns me” or that I am reducing my personhood in some way. I am simply describing one aspect of my personhood. I could say the same thing regarding many other forms of my identity, from my preferred androgynous gender identity to the fact that I view myself as a crafter.

On the other hand, what if I replaced “autism” with a different kind of word? Like, maybe “cancer.” One does not say “cancerous person,” unless you happen to have cancer and wish to do so personally (I have never encountered this, but people have many different ways of coping with terrible things, so it wouldn’t surprise me if someone, somewhere chose to do so). Cancer is a horrible disease that is indeed something separate and apart from someone’s intrinsic personhood.

An example of one person’s attitude towards cancer.

So I suppose the question is, is autism more like being female, a crafter, etc; or is it more like a disease such as cancer. From my point of view, those who insist on saying “person with autism” are implicitly saying that they view it more like the latter. Unfortunately, this is really quite offensive and hurtful to those of us who view autism as an identity. In my mind, “getting rid” of my aspergers would basically be getting rid of me. I don’t view myself as some sort of horrible cancer, and I don’t like the idea that other people do.

I think Jess put it well in a comment on this post: “When cancer is excised, we know exactly what’s left behind. Autism is very, very different. It is an entire way of existing. Of seeing and feeling and experiencing the world. It’s a different perspective, a different focus, a different system.”

Now, all of that isn’t even the worst of it. The real problems happen when we try to voice this, and lay claim to our right to identify how we choose.

There are some excellent examples of this over on Autistic Hoya. One in particular happened when she was communicating with an advocate for people and families of people with brain injuries. This person actually directly told Lydia (Autistic Hoya) that she was wrong to use the term “autistic person” and that it is more respectful to say “person with autism.” This person told an autistic person that the way they identify is incorrect, refused to respect both her choice and the general autistic culture, and insisted on using a form that most of us do not prefer. I find this absolutely appalling. You can read Lydia’s response to this letter as well in the link above. Even sadder is when she mentioned in the comments “the person who wrote this letter responded, if you can believe it, with an even more arrogant and condescending email.” I do not have the details on this one, but the very fact that it happened is astonishing to me. Or at least, it should be astonishing.

Sadly, I find this to be yet another example of how autistic people are consistently pushed out of our own advocacy. It should go without saying that we should respect an individual’s right to self-identify. There are people on the spectrum out there who prefer to identify as “people with autism/aspergers” and their choice should be respected. Similarly, the choice to identify as “autistic person” should also be respected, and we should not have to deal with being “corrected” by allistic people, or have our preferences ignored in the name of “respect.” (For the record, it is not respectful to deny a person the right to self-identify. It is, in fact, quite disrespectful.) Then again, it should also go without saying that autistic people should be included in our own advocacy, and our voices should be heard. Yet all too often, we are not included, and our voices are not heard.

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labels, yet again

stock image by littledarksprite on deviantart

Will I ever be done with talking about labels? Probably not.

I want to talk about the autism vs. aspergers label again. I did once before, mostly to talk some about the arguments in favor of everyone on the spectrum calling themselves autistic, and why I disagreed with those arguments. Well, I’ve had some more thoughts on one point in particular that I want to get into more.

“They serve to alienate those of us who do not use that kind of terminology, and those who have never received the “Asperger’s” diagnosis, by separating one group of Autistics from another.”

This was one of the arguments that I talked a bit about. Or rather, I admitted that I did not understand what she was saying. I actually still don’t, but I think it might have something to do with solidarity and/or unity. Which is a worthwhile thing, even if I think the logic showed is flawed (assuming I’m interpreting it correctly). I mean, why are those who use the word “Asperger’s” alienating those who use the word “autistic” but not vice versa? It makes no sense to me.

Jumping a bit (you’ll see why soon), one of the discussion questions on the Asperger’s Support Network facebook page was someone asking for opinions regarding merging autism and Asperger’s into a single “autism spectrum disorder” diagnosis in the latest edition of the DSM. I found some of the replies interesting.

I am not happy. Aspergers has a slightly less negative stigmatism[sic] than the word Autism. It may be out of the DSM, but I will continue to use the term. There are a lot of ignorant people out there who are too quick to slap an overly negative label on a child sight unseen once the “a” word (autism) has been used.

 

 This is tragic. I am now 50. When I was in third grade I was diagonsed[sic] with “a touch of Autism” Everyone wigged out over the word Autism. This can not possibly be useful.

So apparently while some people are possibly seeking out a diagnosis of autism for the services they’ll gain access to, other people want to avoid the word due to a stigma attached to it. I find this unfortunate but understandable – people do react in different ways to the different words. I also find it interesting because it’s very different from how I’ve been finding myself thinking about it all.

Confession time – I have been finding myself increasingly wanting to simply call myself “autistic” rather than an aspie. This is not because of any thought-out logical reason, or for reasons of solidarity or to try to avoid alienating those who use the word autistic. No, this is because I keep feeling that I could gain more legitimacy this way. I keep fearing that by using “Asperger’s” people will think that I don’t really need help, or must not really struggle. And there are the “oh, you have Asperger’s? Well, you’re not REALLY autistic” people. Maybe they’re trying to be supportive when they say that, but I just wind up feeling alienated. And even in my tiny corner of the internet, I’ve run into people who tell me that since I’m “only” an aspie, my voice does not really count among autistic voices. So I want to claim the word autism as a way to claim my place. As a way to not be alienated, to legitimize myself, to say “I count too.”

Additionally, I struggle with feeling worthless kind of a lot. Sometimes I wonder if maybe it would be easier if I could claim the label “autistic.” That maybe it would make it easier to say “I have overcome x, y, and z obstacles to get to where I am now and that is awesome” instead of saying “I have not achieved a, b, or c. That is pathetic.” Rationally speaking, it’s fairly unlikely that a simple word change would make an ingrained thought pattern go away. I mean, getting my Asperger’s diagnosis ranks among the most validating events of my entire life, but the thought pattern is still there.

Once again, I do not actually have an answer to any of this. Only thoughts and rambles. I do, however, think that we would be better off if we worked to overcome the stigma of autism, rather than simply avoided the word because it’s ooky or something. Though I say that, but I must also admit that people need to decide for themselves where their energy should go. If someone is using all their energy just to try to get help and overcome whatever obstacles are in their life, I’m not going to judge them if they haven’t any energy left over to combat other people’s prejudices and biases about a word. If they choose to use a less loaded word because it makes their life easier, who am I to tell them that they’re wrong?

Then, of course, there’s this view:

Although my son has Aspergers the specialist put his diagnosis as high functioning autism so he would get easier access to services than with an aspie diagnosis so this should actually really benefit people x

Autism means better services. This is also sad, but unsurprising given the all too prevalent attitude that Asperger’s shouldn’t or doesn’t really count.

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an excellent quotation

“Autism isn’t something a person has, or a shell that a person is trapped inside. There’s no normal child hidden behind the autism. Autism is a way of being. It is pervasive; it colors every experience, every sensation, perception, thought, emotion and encounter – every aspect of existence. It is not possible to separate the autism from the person – and if it were possible, the person you’d have left would not be the same person you started with.”

-Jim Sinclair

From here.

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Identity, a ramble

This is something I’ve been thinking about for maybe a month or so.  My thoughts are not fully coherent yet and I have not yet figured out a good way to articulate the things that I am thinking, so I don’t know how much sense this post will make.  Still, I figure that I can give it a shot and see how it goes.

I have been thinking about the concept of self-ness and identity.  Specifically, of what exactly that’s made of.  Really, this is sort of a metaphysical, quasi-religious, quasi-philosophical type of question, but part of what inspired it was my diagnosis of Asperger’s, so I figured it could put it here.  Basically, I am wondering what exactly brings about my sense of me, my who-ness.  It’s hard to ask the question because it’s hard to put words to what I’m thinking of.

Ok, so I have a concept of self.  My personality, if you will.  Since getting my diagnosis, I started working on integrating that into my identity.  It is sometimes said that Asperger’s is not something a person has, it’s something that a person is.  What Asperger’s really is (as far as I know, at least) is a neurological difference.  My brain structure is different somehow than the “normal” brain structure, and that does not just impact how I function, it impacts who I am.

Additionally, I have been reading a few books by Oliver Sacks.  He writes some interesting things on neurological problems that impact identity.  Then a few days ago I was at a pagan gathering, and I listened in on a conversation from some people regarding the idea of eternal souls.  So then I started wondering, for those who believe in souls, where do they see the line between soul and body in making up a person’s identity?

I grew up as a very conservative christian, and I am aware of their basic idea of things.  “You do not have a soul.  You are a soul, you have a body.”  In other words, your “self-ness” is only your soul, which just happens to be attached to your body for a while.  Many of them seem to deny the possibility that something as mundane as physical form can impact one’s self.  I don’t know much about what atheists would say to this questions, but I suppose at least some of them would take the opposite stance, that our self is purely a matter of physical form, neurology, brain chemicals, etc.  Nor do I know a whole lot about what pagans would say, aside from the basic fact that there is probably a plethora of opinions out there.  I still haven’t figured out what I think.  I sort of believe in a soul, I guess.  At the very least, I’m not so sure that I am only my body and nothing more, and I don’t really know what other options there are.

Yeah, this wasn’t very coherent.  Maybe I’m wondering where the line is between body and soul?  I keep trying to figure out if there is an atheist version of this question, but I’m having trouble figuring out how that would work.

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