Lisa D. (chaoticidealism) wrote,
Lisa D.

I Am Not Normal

I am not normal, and I wish autistic people would stop insisting that they are.

Does that sound odd?

Let me put it this way:
In our world, we grow up being told that normal is good and disability is bad, and that it's shameful not to be able to do something or to need help with something. We are told that disability is always obvious, always severe, and always something that makes your life a living hell, not worth living, a burden to others, and altogether inferior. We are told that the worst thing in the world is "not to live a normal life". Heroes in our movies cheerfully face being killed, but panic and go into deep mourning at the prospect of permanent disability. And when disabled people are depicted doing something other than being objects of pity, they are shown as inspirational for simply doing things that "normal" people do every day.

Sometimes, when people are diagnosed with something that carries with it the stigma of "disability", they have this odd reaction: "But my life isn't a living hell. I'm not a tragedy. I'm still valuable. I'm not a burden." And that's true. But instead of challenging this popular perception of disability that carries all those tags along with it, they challenge the idea that they are disabled in the first place. They say, "But I'm better off than this profoundly retarded person, or this quadriplegic , or this person with the end-stage cancer. I'm not really disabled. I'm really quite normal. This is just a quirk."

Trying to distance yourself from the idea of disability, by saying you are better off than some other arbitrary group of disabled people by some arbitrary criterion, doesn't work very well. Yes, you're not dying. Yes, you can talk. You can use a toilet and you can read and use a computer. So what? That's true of most disabled people. All disabled people (barring anencephalic infants, who still have a brain stem) have and use their brains. We all have personalities, preferences, and desires. Maybe your desire is to get a Nobel Prize; maybe your desire is to have applesauce for dinner today. Either way, getting it means a lot to you. Does it make one life worth less than the other if the fellow who wants the Nobel Prize doesn't think much of applesauce?

We need to acknowledge our differences, not sweep them under the rug. People are different. Autistics are different from other people. The idea that difference is bad needs to be challenged just like the idea that disability is bad and tragic. We are not "better" if we are closer to NT.

Feeling superior to other autistic people or to people with what you consider to be "severe disabilities" isn't going to help you in the long run, because if you judge people by impairment or by skills, you're still judging yourself inferior, no matter how close to typical you consider yourself to be. Once you face that, there are generally three options: One, begin to consider yourself inferior and become depressed. Two, consider yourself superior and become defensively narcissistic. Or, three, declare yourself equal because you have come to understand that disability does not make you better or worse than anyone else.

No, we are not normal. But this does not mean what you might think it means. It only means you don't fall into the average range; it places absolutely no limit on your value.
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Tags: autistic culture, disability rights
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