Depending on who you ask, April is Autism Awareness Month or Autism Acceptance Month — but curiously (not like incidents with dogs in the night-time, though) April is never called Autism Pride Month.
Autistics, like myself, have gained a surge in visibility — at least, in theory. From Benedict Cumberbatch’s titular Sherlock (let’s be real, any media incarnation of Holmes, from Elementary to House, eventually gets aut-baited) to The Good Doctor. New York Times Best-Seller books are written about us — though rarely, by us. Often, the best-selling titles are written by parents or caretakers, who seek to “give us a voice.”
Yet, those seeking to give us a voice often don’t heed our warnings that, for instance, Autism Speaks is a hate-group. Or, that non-speaking autistics who use assistive tech can speak for themselves. Or. That you’re likely reading more autistic writers than you think, and checking out the work of more autistic publishers than you think.
So, forget awareness and acceptance. Let’s make it Autism Pride Month, and keep that pride going year-round. Check out these badass #actuallyautistic writers and publishers, and read what some of us have to say, in our own words.
1. Lydia X. Z. Brown
“Disability justice is the art and the practice of honouring the body. As my comrade, Tallulah Lewis will say, it is about honouring the whole humanity of everyone. Disability justice is an intesectional imperative. It is an imperative to recognising that disability is wrapped up intricately in queerness, in race, in class, in gender, and so on. And that liberation, meaning not just the end of oppressive systems, but also the creation and the sustaining of just, equitable and life-giving, loving societies and worlds, has to be collective. That that liberation can only be achieved by confronting and ending all systems of oppression, in understanding how they are interlinked.” — from “Disability justice is the art and the practice of honouring the body” An interview with Lydia X.Z. Brown”
Lydia X. Z. Brown works to make space better, safer and accessible to multiply-marginalized disabled people. As queer disability justice advocate they’ve worked for disability rights and access since they were 16. Now a public law scholar they write, consult and help shape legal policy and social change on a national scale. Brown currently serves as the chairperson of the Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Council.
In addition, Brown edited the first anthology of writing and art by autistic people of color, All the Weight of Our Dreams, published by the Autism Women’s Network.
2. torrin a. greathouse
“I think that poetry and activism have developed an unhealthy relationship with the language of empathy, positing that we must not only understand the suffering of others, but vicariously experience it in order to do the social work that these positions entail. Poets whose work engages with sociopolitical oppression, both theirs and others, in a nuanced way is often applauded as a work of “empathy.” The importance of this language is how it intersects with the ableist framing of the word. Many autistic people — myself included — do not experience the immediate empathetic reaction to another person’s suffering in the way that allistic folx do. Does this hamper our ability as poets, editors, and activists to engage in/with work involving the oppression of others? No. Instead it demands the rigorous work of understanding intersecting systems of political and social oppression, our neurodivergence demanding in turn a divergent understanding of how we engage in our work, striving not for “empathy” but instead informed compassion." — torrin a. greathouse
3. Caseyrenée Lopez
“When I first started writing seriously, I was stifled by my fears of revealing how “weird” I am, but once I started expressing myself, in meaningful, authentic ways, people responded positively. It is an uplifting feeling, knowing that people understand and enjoy my work.
I am not the popular image that comes to mind when you think of autism, I’m sure, but that’s the point — we’re all unique. Autistic people, like all other marginalized communities, are not a monolith. I’m tired of disguising myself and trying to fit into a mold that isn’t cut for me. I am neurodivergent and that’s cool with me.” — Caseyrenée Lopez
Caseyrenée is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Crab Fat Magazine, “founded on the principles of inclusive & diverse writing/publishing,” and Damaged Goods Press, publishing poetry and prose by queer and trans writers. Their debut collection, the new gods, is now available from Bottlecap Press.
4. Noemi Martinez
“Left out of the conversation many times are the older femmes and women of color who have only figured out they are on the spectrum well into their 30s and 40s. We have an a-ha moment and the discovery is usually done on our own. Receiving an ASD diagnosis when I was a teen, or in my 20s, might have given me some answers and relief over my “weirdness,” my neurodiverse brain, my communication style, but I probably wouldn’t have gotten support or better care, just prescription for more harassment. My learning disability wasn’t formally diagnosed until I was in my late 20s by a university psychologist because of my anger issues surrounding math classes. I was angry and frustrated because I had taken remedial math 8 times and couldn’t graduate and I was tired of trying to do everything to appear ‘normal’
We’ve been writing about and creating art about our crip bodies and brains all along.”
She is also working behind the scenes to do a chapbook series with Hermanax Resist Press and is excited about this and has so many ideas.
5. Nathan Spoon
“As an autistic poet I have always learned best on my own and have also been drawn to poets and literary thinkers who are independent learners. Fortunately, many such independent voices are at the heart of American poetry. Some earlier examples are Wheatley, Whitman, Dickinson and Frost, while more recent ones are Hart Crane, R. P. Blackmur, John Cage and Gwendolyn Brooks. While I think being autistic and learning disabled gives some editors a degree of pause, it makes any successes I’ve experienced sweeter. The biggest surprise has been which editors are interested in my poems. Acceptances are almost entirely from editors with education credentials or institutional affiliation connecting them to prestigious academic institutions, which leaves me, as a person who never attended university, feeling at home and like I am following a similar course to that of poets I love.” — Nathan Spoon
Nathan Spoon is the author of Doomsday Bunker (Swan World, 2017) and My Name is Gretchen Merryweather (hardPressed poetry, 2017). His poems appear in Poetry, Mantis, Oxford Poetry and the anthology What Have You Lost? (HarperCollins). He is a senior editor of X-Peri.
6. Aleph Altman-Mills
Aleph Altman-Mills explores the mindscape of what it feels to be autistic. Having been published in The Legendary, Words Dance, and Mobius, among others, Aleph’s use of sound to create poems that produce an experience for readers that is practically untranslated from autism.
“In my mouth, polished shut,
words flew back and forth like war planes,
crashed into the sinkhole of my throat.
I shook with the sputter of their burning out engines.
You pretended the duct tape you wrapped around my mouth
was a bandage, and now, I always prefer
— from “How I Became A Poet,” by Aleph Altman Mills
7. Robin M. Eames
Robin M. Eames work explores the mythic and the personal. But it’s in the fissures, the spaces in-between, where their art finds purchase. Here it grows and spreads, providing shelter, nourishment, and encouragement for other marginalized disabled people to continue on.
“To the crips who aren’t dead yet
living and fighting and fighting to live
and loving each other and fighting
for each other
I am here for you.”
—from “Lovecry/Battlesong,” by Robin M. Eames