Autistic Pride Day 2019
In April, we’re bombarded with stories of “autism awareness” from some corners and calls for “autism acceptance” from others. But in June, we have a day devoted to celebrating ourselves and our neurodivergence. June 18th is Autistic Pride Day. Originated by the now-inactive group Aspies for Freedom, Autistic Pride Day is now in its 15th year. It’s a distinctly autistic celebration – for us, by us, and about us – that focuses on self-advocacy, respect, and celebrating our differences.
Why do we need Autistic Pride?
The idea behind Autistic Pride is to take back the narrative surrounding autism. For decades, NTs have spoken for us and about us as if we weren’t there or couldn’t understand them, with the result that a lot of the “conventional wisdom” surrounding autism is completely false. Groups like Autism Speaks have spread fearmongering lies, so-called “experts” have told us what we feel and experience while silencing our voices.
The point of Autistic Pride is to tell our own stories. Almost all of us have been bullied, outcast, or isolated. We may have been told or shown that we’re burdens on our friends and family. Anti-vaxxers regularly imply that autistic people would be better off dead. But we are enough as we are. We have the right to be proud of ourselves, to revel in our stimming and happy flapping, to take joy in our special interests. Autism does not rob us of our humanity or our ability to enjoy our lives.
Different, Not Less
A large part of the autism rights movement is the simple idea that we who are on the autism spectrum are different from neurotypical people, but not less than them. We are not broken and in need of fixing, nor are we sick and in need of a cure. We experience the world differently due to our particular brain wiring and sensitivities. It’s important for us to educate the NT world about what we’re capable of along with the supports we need.
Being an “Us” Instead of a “Them”
For those of us who were diagnosed as adults, finding other people like us is a dream come true. After feeling like aliens or outsiders all our lives, finally finding “our tribe” is a great relief and a joyous moment. Naturally, we want to celebrate! NTs might not understand, because they think a lack of inborn social skills means we don’t like people, but many autistic adults really do want to be around people like ourselves. We’ve been different and alone our whole lives, now we can be different together. Spending time in a group of people who will listen to us ramble about our special interests, or agree with us about our food aversions, or compare notes on brands of weighted blanket or stim tools lets us be our truest, authentic selves.
How Can You Participate in Autistic Pride Day?
There are Autistic Pride Day events held all over the country. If there’s one near you, go check it out! I don’t have one near me, so if you go, please let me know what it’s like! I have visions of sensory tents with furry things to pet and fidget toys to play with, de-stress tents with blackout shades and beanbags to squeeze between, adult-sized sensory swings…a setup that tells each of us “you’re welcome here just as you are”.
If you’re going to an LGBTQ+ Pride event this month, you can show your autistic pride as well by rocking a rainbow infinity patch or pin, or an autistic pride shirt like these at RedBubble. A rainbow infinity flag is a great option, too, but I can’t seem to find those for sale. If you know where to get one, please leave the link in the comments! To help avoid overwhelm, try these tips for navigating festivals.
If there isn’t an event near you, there’s still a little time for you to put something together with your autistic friends. It could be a game night, dinner and drinks, a picnic in the park, or anything you like to do. There might also be online events you could join.
If nothing else, you can always wear your rainbow infinity, use it as a profile picture, or make a post about Autistic Pride Day. The louder we are, the more reach we’ll have.
So even though it’s a little early, I wish everyone a happy Autistic Pride Day!
Have you been to any Autistic Pride events or LGBTQ+ Pride events that included Autistic Pride? Have you helped to organize any events? What do you think is the most important element for an Autistic Pride celebration?