Carl Cameron is a Mentor, who has a career behind him delivering courses on Autism, he’s also very late diagnosed and will be the first to tell you the irony in being the last to recognise Autism in himself.
I have the privilege of a platform and Carl wants to talk about taking off the Mask and how it is An Act of Resistance.
Masking one’s autism is a deeply personal and complex matter, to mask is to lie, to reveal your autism, warts and all leaves you vulnerable, exposed and open, perhaps to exploitation.
We all live on the same planet, there has to be give and take, being different, being autistic doesn’t give you a ‘get out of jail card,’ a licence to behave in anyway you want too. A diagnosis of autism is an explanation, not an excuse. When you travel to another country the rules change, the language changes, the culture changes. Being autistic is like visiting another country, you have to respect the culture, the etiquette. But the question remains how do you play the game and yet remain true to yourself, your nature, your way of being.
To mask is to lie, and autistic people on the whole don’t want to lie, it feels wrong and uncomfortable.
Just how much to disclose?
The only people I talk to in the wonderful University of Hull are my students, who are of course autistic.
I work for a project in the City of Hull called Matthews Hub, Mentoring and supporting autistic people into employment.
I have found this to be demonstrably the true.
Not every autistic person has the same passions that I do, and I might not have a thing for electricity pylons, the history of the Spanish Civil War or a detailed knowledge of Norwegian Railways, but what I can do, what we as autistic people can do, is to respect how important to us those interests are, why talking about them is important, how important the drive to pursue them is. To deny them to a cruel thing to do to autistic people.
Masking is not fair, we make all the adjustments, we are expected to understand Neurotypical culture without any effort or energy being made by the predominant Neurotype to understand ours, or to understand the damage that we do to ourselves for their benefit, by doing so.
When we mask not only do we deny and damage ourselves, we also reinforce the behaviour, attitudes and culture of the predominant Neurotype.
We permit their expectations and support our own discrimination.
By throwing off the mask, not only are we taking back control of our lives and allowing ourselves to truly be the people we really are, we also making a political statement, it’s an act of resistance.
An act of resistance…
I talk a great deal about how Autistic people are in a civil rights movement.
Carl makes a really good point, that Masking, although a form of self-protection, aside from the emotional and physical harm it does it, despite how much Masking plays into our early death rate, our suicide rate, our heart attack rate, despite how it causes us to Burnout which in turn can lead to depression, but it also holds us back and harms us as a people.
Masking DOES reinforce the behaviour, attitudes and culture of the predominant Neurotype – the not Autistic.
It plays into the hands of those who wish to normalise us, it encourages them, because they do not understand Masking and see it as a good thing, that it’s good to be ‘Normal’.
There is huge privilege in being able to even write this, because so many Autistic people are not safe in removing their Masks, to truly allow themselves to be themselves.
Not Masking draws attention to our differences, but at what point do we have to draw the line and say enough? That we are no longer doing this because it is killing us. That YOU, the predominant Neurotype are killing us.
Well you are.
Right now AIMS-2, a European initiative spearheaded by Autism Speaks, funded by Pharmaceutical Companies is sinking hundreds of millions into seeking a cure, ‘medical treatments’, a way to eradicate us.
Right now, across the world, Behavioural Therapies are the ‘in-thing’, training Autistic children to not be Autistic.
Right now, Autistic children are being forced through school systems that cause distress and overload, with the aim being to give us a qualification that allows us access to a workplace which does not want us and actively excludes us.
Right now Autistic children are being locked away, like some relative in Victorian times locked in an attic.
Right now Autistic people with greater support needs and learning difficulties are being beaten and abused in Care Homes.
Right now parents are being encouraged to seek diagnosis for their children by tantalising awareness campaigns that drip feed a tiny further grain of truth about Autism and then are being accused of FII (Munchhausen’s by Proxy) because the Diagnostic services aren’t given the proper training and diagnostic criteria isn’t good enough.
I could go on and on and on.
Much of these things are out of the hands of most Autistic people, but there is one thing that is in the hands of nearly all of us:
We Mask to keep ourselves safe and to make non-Autistic people feel comfortable.
So, stop making them feel comfortable.
Show them what it is to be Autistic, literally flap it in their faces and be proud of it.
If you can do it safely, do it as well as you can.
If you can’t do it safely, talk about it where it is safe to do so, join the chorus of people saying “No more!”
Every Civil Rights Movement demands moments of sacrifice.
It should not have to be this way, but history shows us that it seems to be the only way.
Those of you with the privilege to take your Mask off to any degree:
I call on you now to do so.
Make that sacrifice.
Show the world that you are not ashamed, show the world how utterly fucking incredible you are.
Be honest about how the world makes life hard, how Autism can make life hard.
Autism is yours after all, it belongs to YOU and nobody else.