Just over a year ago, I posted my very first post on this blog. The subject matter that I chose was chosen very, very deliberately. I wanted to start with an explanation as to why my tagline is ‘one Autistic person blogging about things in their head’ instead of ‘one person with autism…’
In that post, I linked to five different sites which explain why many Autistic people prefer identity-first language (autistic person) as opposed to person-first language (person with autism). Those five sites don’t represent the sum total of places where this discussion has taken place. There are many more. There is even an entire site dedicated to identity-first language specifically related to the word Autistic.
So, a little while ago, imagine the look on my face when I saw myself described as ‘an author who writes in the context of being a person with autism’.
As an aside, it’s a little amusing that every time I read the words ‘with autism’, I kinda associate it with the old-fashioned ‘with child’ and my brain does that thing where I imagine having little autisms running around at my feet, etc. This may be a coping method because I’m at the point where I cannot understand why this is even a debate anymore.
Anyway, back to my story: I had a look around the site of the person who had described me as ‘an author who writes in the context of being a person with autism’ and noted that they were an abled health professional but they looked like they were trying to listen to disabled people, so I decided to send them a message to explain about identity-first language. The site owner was very receptive to my message and promised that the description of me would be edited.
It was edited! I now write in the context of autism.
… Yeah, ok… Except no.
I know that identity-first language is not a universal choice among Autistic people. I know some people prefer person-first language and when they tell me that, I respect their wishes. Surely, this is not that much of a complicated thing?
The word Autistic is in my tagline. It’s clear what my preference is and spend a little time reading a post or two and I’m sure that becomes even clearer. This is part of my identity and, to me, it’s an important part of it, and I just can’t understand why people are scared to write or say the word. It’s not the word that’s bad. It’s the way we’re treated that’s bad and, trust me, we don’t receive better treatment when you say we’re with autism instead of using the big scary A-word.
To me, this would be similar to this:
“Oh, hi, Cathy!”
“Please don’t call me Cathy. My name is Catherine.”
“Oh, but Cathy suits you so much better so I’m just going to keep calling you Cathy because it would be disrespectful not to.”
I bring up the point about respect because that always plays into the argument. People tell us what to call ourselves because they say what we’re choosing to call ourselves is disrespectful… to ourselves?
Surely, we are competent enough to decide what is and isn’t respectful with regards to ourselves? Or is that? Is it that people don’t believe that we’re competent enough to even get a say in what we’re called?