I am proud. Not because of thinking I'm better than you, but because I've seen what some of us have gone through.
I've seen the struggles of autistic people because of being autistic, fighting not themselves, not their bodies, but the world, and society, and winning. Making progress, making it better and doing it despite the fact that society is telling them they can't.
So I have to be proud for them. They're doing drastic things, hard things.
I only really became part of the community four years ago, and in these four years, I've seen changes happening. I've seen progress being made, things getting better. And it's not getting better because of time; it's getting better because of lots of hard work by autistic people fighting in many cases even when their disability would "get in the way". It's people going out in situations where they are facing sensory overload in order to talk to people about changing laws. It's people finding ways to be listened to when their voices are being denied because they're computerized voices. It's people doing thing, even when it's hard. And it's progress happening.
We need to be proud of how much has happened. And of what people have done.
And yet, we need to think of those who are being denied these chances. We need to think of those who are hiding who they are, being told they're someone else. We need to help them.
We need to be able to be proud of who we are just for who we are. We need to say "I can be me, I am me". Because not everyone can say that yet.
We need to show them we can and see what we can do to make their lives easier. Whether that just means living openly, speaking out, or seeing what we can do in our own small fields, we need to help make it better for everyone else.
I need to look at the children being told in schools they can't stim. The children having their hands held down. The children being told they need to look people in the eyes and that eye contact is more important than learning academic material.
I need to speak up for them; work on changing academic environments, and do what I can to work with them, stimming, and just speaking to individuals, showing, that I'm an effective adult who's gone to college, and yet, is visibly autistic while I'm working with them. That hiding my symptoms isn't what makes me "functional"; that being able to teach children is far more "functional" than "I can look you in the eyes".
I need to show the children that it's okay to be me, so that they can be less afraid growing up of being who they are. If just speaking out to them about who I am, changes the lives of those near me. I need to do it, loudly, proudly, because they aren't ready yet to be like I am.
I need to work on changing the world in my own way. So that we don't need to say "I am proud" just for being who I am.
But we're not there yet. So, right now. Yes, I am proud to be autistic.