About a year and a half ago now I moved into a house in the suburbs. When one of our neighbors came by to welcome us to the neighborhood, they came with some gifts. A nice bottle of champagne…. and a pair of Autism Speaks lightbulbs so that the whole street could “light it Up Blue.”
If you’ve been reading Feminist Sonar for a long time, then you know that I am not a fan of Autism Speaks and neither are the people I ask to write guest posts.
So I did what any self respecting disability advocate would do. I said thank you, invited them inside, and then gently explained why I don’t do that.
And the short version of that conversation boils down to this: Disabled people need to stand up for one another.
If I only spoke out against the injustices that happen to deaf/blind people with mysterious chronic pain conditions which cause them to sometimes need wheelchairs, and whose issues which stem from birth are due to complications due to Rubella – I would be a very lonely advocate, and my site would be useless.
Disability activism, and especially disabled feminism, require us to stick up for one another. Ableism doesn’t affect one person or one group, it affects all of us.
When someone glares at me, or bitches about the blind girl who gets to use the disability serviee line at gencon, they’re also making noise about other people who need that service line. They’re commenting on what kind of disability should be able to skip the line.
When someone uses the “R” word, they’re not just hurting people with TBI’s or who were born with intellectual disabilities, they’re also making fun of people who are Deaf and who have an Deaf accent (they just make not realize that’s another group that gets made fun of for “sounding” like that)
When I get asked by a guy on the subway whether or not I like sex with the lights on or off, and the train car explodes with the laughter of social hyenas, it doesn’t just hurt me, it hurts disabled women everywhere who want to have healthy sex lives which aren’t the butt of a joke.
When I’m handed a lightbulb which will show my support for a toxic organization which paints people with autism with a brush dipped in the paint of violence, and which advocates for a cure… it’s not just hurting my perfectly functional autistic friends, but I’m hurting anybody who has been told they should just get cured.
And that includes me
We have to stop tearing each other down. We have to stand up for one another. The intersections of disabled activism are enormously important to our voices being heard, and to the eventual freedoms that we crave being granted to us. When we speak with one voice, united, we are stronger than in our subsections.
We must also know how to be quiet, and how to accept when it is not our turn to speak, but I believe we are stronger together
So what did I do when my neighbors left, the blue Autism Speaks lightbulbs sitting on my table?
The first thing I did was contact Jess Banks and tell her what happened, and how uncomfortable I was at the idea of putting them out but should I do it for neighborhood solidarity?
And when she confirmed that I was doing the right thing – Well, then I took the lightbulbs outside and smashed them with my white cane.
We have to smash the constructions of ableist thought together, and I do that with my cane, and with my words.
We have to, because our lives literally depend on it. Disabled children die because of organizations like Autism Speaks and the Justice Rothenberg Center. Children are abused with bleach to make the autism go away. Children are abused by being locked away. By being told they can’t stim. By being made fun of for their disabilities.