Monday, June 29, 2015

Person-first vs Identity-first language

I'm told I'm rude, as I request my own language. "Don't be rude to me", as if not allowing someone call me whatever they want, not listening to my preferences, is rude. As if they are not the one being rude, overriding me; coming into my space to tell me I'm wrong; speaking out over and over about how it doesn't matter what an autistic person says, you aren't allowed to say Autistic, it is such a bad word.

Don't be rude. Because it is rude for me to request you not to tell me to call myself a person with autism, but it is not rude for you to tell me I must do so. Because it is rude for me to request for you to call me autistic, but not for you to tell me how to speak about myself.

It is my say how I speak about myself. It is also my say how I wish to be spoken about. If I ask you to call me autistic, and you refuse, then that is rejecting my requests for my own identity. If the community asks you to call us autistic, and you reject it, then that is rejecting ours.

It is not the decision of the parent, therapist, teacher, or general neurotypical community, how I should view myself. It is my decision about if I see myself as autistic, a person with autism. I say I'm autistic. You should listen to that.

In particular, I extend that even. I view it as, if you make a request like "not autistic, person with autism" or call me a "person with autism" when you know I prefer autistic, I find it insulting. I find it not "person first", but demeaning. For, we don't speak about a person with baldness - we speak about bald people. We speak about Americans, females, tall people. The only times we bring out the "with Foo" are when we want to separate it from the person because we view it as negative.

I'm autistic. I've been autistic my entire life. No matter what I do, I am still autistic. It is an intrinsic part of me; a part with impairments, a part that is disabling, but a part of me that cannot be removed. And when you are changing the language from how you usually speak, when you are invoking the "with Foo", that is against the normal usage, and is only invoked when something is so negative we need to change how we speak, you're doing that with something that is part of me. You're saying it is bad.

And by doing so you are saying part of me is bad.

I'm impaired, but I'm not lesser. I'm not wrong. I'm not bad because I'm autistic.

And when you override my language preferences, you are saying, even more, I'm not a person first. Because I'm not a person who gets the ability to choose the ability how to speak about themselves; I'm someone who doesn't have that ability, only those who are "normal" get to do that.

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