Sunday, 30 December 2012

I Am

People-first language is a controversial topic.  And perhaps this will be an unpopular opinion, but I honestly don't know why it is such a big issue.
I am autistic.  I have autism.  I have Asperger's Syndrome.  I'm an ASD kid.  I have used all of these to describe myself.
Technically, I am a "person with autism" or "person with Asperger's Syndrome" or "person with ASD," but of course I am a person -- what else would I be?!?  I'm obviously a person!  My opinion, unpopular or not, is that neurotypical people don't (necessarily) introduce themselves as "Hi, my name is ______ and I'm a person" so why should autistic people feel the need to qualify their autism with their inherent personhood?
That's just what I feel.  Because living with autism has been a constant challenge in my life and I'm only getting to a point now where I am really able to see and understand my limitations.  But despite all the negatives that come with autism -- and yes, some days, there are a lot -- ASD is part of who I am.  ASD is not wholly who I am, but it is as much a part of me as my brown hair or my blue eyes.  I have not always felt as positively about my ASD as I do now, but at this point, I do believe it is a defining part of my character and I want to own it when I describe myself.
I am autistic.
There are other people who view person-first language differently.  I know other people who introduce themselves as being "a person with autism."  And that's fine.  That's great!  I think that we as humans are in charge of creating ourselves and coming up with comfortable labels is all a part of that process.  I choose to refer to myself as autistic, but others may not choose to refer to themselves that way.  Basically, I think advocates sometimes get so caught up in thinking their way is right that it's really difficult to see things from the other side's perspective.  I don't think we should have only people-first language but I also don't think it should be obliterated.  I think every person should refer to himself or herself as he or she wishes to be referred, and then I think it's our job to respect that choice.
It's taken me 20 years to understand person-first language and the conflicts surrounding it, but that's where I stand right now.
I am autistic.  And I will refer to you as you wish to be referred to.