Monday, June 20, 2016

Oh No! I Appear To Have Missed Autistic Pride Day: Why Every Day Should Be About Autism Acceptance

So it seems that I'm a bad Neurodiversity activist, at least momentarily. This past Saturday, my friends and I had a great camp, barbecue and swimming weekend a little bit out of North Bay, Ontario on beautiful Lake Nippissing. In my haste to pack the car, buy sunscreen, help with the food prep and drive the two hours there and back one important fact completely slipped my mind:
Saturday was Autistic Pride Day. 

Indeed, when I checked my social media accounts and saw them flooded with a slew of Autistic Pride posts, my heart sank a little. After all, what kind of Neurodiversity activist and cause fighter am I if I completely forget to post something special to Differently Wired on this of all days? I hastily re-shared a blog post by fellow Autistic blogger Alyssa Hubert and wrote a quick "Yay! Pride!" message between hamburgers and beers and called it a day. Duty done...even if it was a rather half-assed contribution.

Except it really wasn't duty done...not fully. If anything, this whole experience has gotten me thinking; should we keep this important sentiment limited to one day? When I say this, I feel like anyone who has ever said that "every day should be Christmas," because we should be kind to people all year round, but I really do feel its a shared sentiment. I'll never say that it isn't important for oppressed minorities to have a day of defiant pride and celebration - indeed, this is essential for any group in the fight for equality. All I'm saying is,  we really shouldn't only take one day in June to celebrate our pride as people on the Spectrum in being who we are. I know many of us also choose to defiantly mark April as Autism ACCEPTANCE Month or Neurodiversity Month, but even still this isn't enough. It's fantastic that we do, but we should be pushing for our voices to be heard every day of our lives. After all, the mainstream media doesn't take a holiday, and we need to be out there educating others and reaffirming our right to be different and exist in this world. Because being on the Autism spectrum doesn't make us broken; it makes us unique and equally deserving of dignity, respect and acceptance.

So this is my affirmation to all of you that I'll never stop fighting or wait for only one day or one month in order to campaign for the recognition of dignity and respect for every human on this planet who is differently wired. After all, if the average human lifespan is roughly 80 years, then every one of us has the right to be accepted, respected and loved every day of those eight or more decades. Anything other than that is just totally wrong.

As always yours in diversity, 

Adam Michael

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Tragedy in Orlando: Why Words And Ideas Carry Weight And Social Responsibility

Today's post isn't strictly about Neurodiversity, but it does relate to that theme in a more general sense. As I'm sure you've all heard by now, Orlando, Florida has played host to one of the most violent gun crimes in the history of the United States, if not North America as a whole. Fifty people were gunned down by an extremist with an assault rife at a gay club, all because they dared to be who they were and embrace it publicly. According to some unconfirmed reports, it all went down because the shooter found the sight of two gay men kissing to be "abhorrent."


I think it's safe to say that we're all outraged by this flagrant disregard for human life. In our haste to condemn it as a tragedy, however, let's not turn a blind eye to the toxic soup of social and religious factors that made this shooting a possibility to begin with. To paraphrase a wonderful Facebook post that has been making the rounds this morning, the physical bullets that were fired by the gunner at fifty innocent members of the LGBTQ community and their allies at the bar were made possible by the ideological and philosophical bullets that conservatives, religious fundamentalists, and other hate-filled extremists have been flinging at the gay, bi, transgendered, pansexual, intersex and related communities for years. Because you can't say bigoted things about those whose sexual orientation and gender identies are anything but straight and cisgendered on the one hand and condemn an act like this on the other. It doesn't work like that.

While the victims in this case were part of the LGBTQ community, this kind of tragedy has a very real possibility of occurring to any oppressed and marginalized group. Any time society pushes certain groups to the fringes, uses religion and social policy to diminish the value of their existences, pathologizes them, and otherwise perpetuates hate against them, we dehumanize people. And to use a rather extreme example, Nazi Germany taught us historically that, whenever others are dehumanized, it becomes that much easier to justify violence against them. This is never okay, and we need to realize that hate-filled political, religious, and social statements are no longer merely opinions; they are the currency by which we as a society purchase violent massacres and allow them to occur.

We here at Differently Wired stand with our brothers, sisters, and siblings of non-binary gender in the LBGTQ community in our opposition to hate and intolerance. We know as well as they the difficulties of living within socially defined boxes that don't suit us, the liberation of coming out in defiance of said boxes and smashing them with our efforts to feel pride and happiness with who we are, and the stigma we face when we encounter others in the world who just don't get it. Because far beyond the "Neuro" prefix, on a more fundamental level Differently Wired has, and always will, stand for "Diversity" in all its forms. We are none of us perfect, after all, but we are all perfectly who we are meant to be.

We stand in solidarity with anyone who is gay, bi, pansexual, transgendered, intersex and others, and with all the victims of this horrible tragedy. Let's work to ensure it never happens again.

As always, yours in Diversity,

Adam Michael