I WILL Light It Up Blue

As has always been the case concerning April 2nd and the entire month of April in general, I am breaking rank with my fellow autism spectrum people and am lighting it up blue. Please note that this does not mean I think any less of those who disagree with me and choose to boycott this campaign. Believe me, I don’t. I know it sometimes seems I’m being dismissive of you all but trust me that it isn’t the case.

Unlike virtually every other autism spectrum person I’ve ever met, I for one wish it would have been different for me. It seems most people on the autism spectrum are OK with it (I even recently asked the question on Quora, “Why don’t autistic people want to be cured?”). I got a range of responses but not one of them challenged the premise of my question, leading me to believe that (from my very small sample size anyway), none of them really care about a cure and some are even frightened by the thought.

I will say that some of these concerns are not at all unfounded, but rather overplayed and overstated. It seems to me the biggest concern with the autism spectrum community is the topic of eugenics. Fine, I’ll buy that concern, but I think it’s taken to too much of an extreme. Is a pre-natal test for autism spectrum disorder (similar to pre-natal tests for Down Syndrome) really a bad thing? As someone who is staunchly and unapologetically pro-choice (for whatever reason) I don’t think so. Let’s face it: what’s worse? A fetus that’s aborted early term before it can even feel pain or a special needs baby born to parents who either do not want to deal with that kind of thing or who are ill-equipped to deal with it? There will still be plenty who would decide to go through with the pregnancy and have the child, something we see all the time with Down Syndrome. Less than half of fetuses that test positive for Down Syndrome will be aborted on those grounds, so the argument that the powers that be are hellbent on culling autistic people as a whole is absolute bullshit at best.

So we’ve addressed that, let’s switch back to born people. Many born people fear that should a cure be discovered it will be forced upon them. Again, I hear you. I realize this might seem scary, but instead of having a fear-based, knee-jerk emotional response, consider this: in pretty much every country on this earth we have the right to refuse medical treatment for any reason, even if such a refusal would result in our death. Do you really think this would be any different from any other medical treatment? I don’t see why it would. The right to refuse medical treatment has been consistently upheld and I don’t see this changing anytime soon.

So I think I’ve addressed the two big concerns that many people have. I’ll now move into my pro-cure argument. You are welcome to stop reading now if I’ve pissed you off, but if not and you’re actually willing to learn this perspective, continue reading.

I have a dear friend (and please, please don’t take this as me attacking you, I promise I’m not!) who describes neurotypical vs. autistic in the similar light as the whole Windows vs. MacOS debate. Whereas I think it is a reasonable attempt to bridge the gap and there is some merit to the argument, to me there seems to be a glaring flaw in the analogy and I’ll address that here.

Let me first state what I do find accurate and attractive about the argument. Does the fact that MacOS has a much smaller market share automatically mean it is an inferior product? Absolutely not. There are some very strong points about operating system, not the least of which include how everything just flows together and integrates seamlessly and the much lower risk of malware. However, let’s not ignore the downsides: there is only a fraction of the software available for MacOS as there is for Windows. When it comes to availability of software, Windows wins hands down – there is no contest. I would absolutely agree that neither platform is necessarily superior or inferior to the other, only that they have their relative strengths and weaknesses. I would agree with this as it extends to neurotypical vs. autistic debate – each type does have its relative strengths and weaknesses.

That said, here is where I think the argument fails. Depending upon my needs as an end-user, I have the ability to freely choose which operating system best fulfills my needs. As an engineer who uses products such as Autodesk AutoCAD and Inventor, Windows is by far the superior choice for me for a work computer, and this is what I use at work. Whereas AutoCAD does have a Mac version it is several iterations behind the Windows version and Inventor does not run on a Mac at all. For personal use, Mac is the best choice for me as I do a lot of creative stuff. So there, I use both. Windows and Mac apologists, no need to attack me – I use both platforms.

Alas, that’s where the analogy fails in the NT vs. ND debate. I can’t freely choose which internal wiring I’m born with. That is pre-set and as of right now I am unable to change to a different platform that would best suit my needs. There is no question that in my specific case a neurotypical “operating system” would suit me far better than my pre-installed autistic wiring. Though I probably would have only lasted maybe 10 to 15 years in my childhood dream job, my life would no doubt have been easier doing that than what I’m doing now. I would like to have had the choice to switch to a platform more suited to my ambitions and desires, and there’s no question which platform would have been the superior choice for that.

As such, pro-cure argument as it stands today is not about forcing a cure on anyone. It’s about choice and nothing else. I 100% do not appreciate being called a traitor, a faker or a whole host of other things I’ve been accused of since I started expressing this viewpoint, nor is my viewpoint in any way fueled by self-hate. We are shaped by our experiences, and I am no exception. My own personal life experience combined with the input from others has led me to this viewpoint. Note that my language is different today than it was when I began this blog – I was adamantly pro-cure/anti-neurodiversity. I believed that should a cure become available that it should absolutely be administered as soon as a diagnosis is made and that it was negligent not to. However, I listened to you. I learned that not everyone has had the same experience as I have, and in doing so I have modified my argument. I only ask for the same courtesy in return.

And that is why, despite the admittedly bothersome ideology of groups like Autism Speaks and the like, I continue to support these groups who push for cure research in hopes that one will become available that those on the autism spectrum could then choose. I imagine would choose not to accept it, and that’s fine, but there is a small percentage of us who would.

THIS is why I break rank and will light it up blue tomorrow. Thank you for reading and hopefully understanding my experience.

More on Cure vs. No Cure

OK, I think I’ve had a sufficient break from this topic (after the barrage of hate mail I received over it) that I’m ready to attempt to address it again, but before I do let me forewarn you: if you cross the line I will blacklist your sorry ass and revoke your commenting privileges, do I make myself clear? Alright, back to the topic at hand.

So I’ve seen a number of people recently likening autism spectrum disorder to sexual orientation (a term some use is “neurological orientation”). First off, I’ll make it completely clear that I absolutely do not buy into the concept of neurological orientation. Equating sexual orientation to a neurological disorder or mental illness makes absolutely no sense to me. It’s a false equivalency.

Now, what I might consider a more accurate comparison (and I’ll entertain this concept even though I’m not 100% convinced of it) is comparing it to gender identity. Now, that might be a semantics game but hear me out here: gender dysphoria is currently treatable by hormone therapy and reassignment surgery. That is, it is possible to transition to have the physical appearance that properly aligns with one’s true identity (and if someone starts talking stupid bullshit in the comments dismissing that concept I will also blacklist your sorry ass so don’t go there).

So, how does this relate to the cure? Well, not all transgender people actually undergo the medical side of things and have reassignment surgery, nor are they really forced to by the medical establishment. I’d like to think of a cure for autism (and other deviant so-called “neurotypes”) in the same way; an option on the table for individuals who desire to become normal for whatever reason but otherwise would leave those who somehow or for whatever reason enjoy being neurological deviants alone (though I openly admit I don’t understand how anyone could enjoy being that way). I’ve always said I’m a complete Libertarian – I’m not about forcing anything on anyone. You live your life how you want, it affects me absolutely nil.

So I guess what I’m saying is that it is possible to take an equitable and fair approach to  the cure issue and not leave anyone dangling out in the wind. A lack of a cure leaves me still dangling out in the wind wishing I was normal (for professional and personal reasons) whereas a forced cure would leave those who, for whatever reason, are content with the way they are dangling out in the wind. The simple existence of a cure (should one come available) is of no threat to your existence. That’s not what you should be fighting. What you should be fighting for would be the fair application of such.

Of course, I think deep down that’s what you’re fighting for anyway, even though you incorrectly assume it must mean throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

To Cure or Not to Cure

That, ladies and gentlemen, is the question. Ok, maybe not really, but this does bring up a rant for today. 

​I saw a picture earlier today that made me feel a little angry. Well strike that, more like a lot angry. I won’t show it here because just thinking about it makes me seethe in rage, but it said something to the effect of “We are autistic, but we don’t want to be cured because we are not sick.” 

Now, that statement seems harmless enough but what enrages me is the fact that it’s speaking in the plural, as though it were speaking for all of us on the autism spectrum. Quite frankly the statement does not speak for me in the slightest. I, for one, long for a cure and if a cure were to come along in my lifetime I would accept it. 

The reason for this is simple: autism is a disqualifying medical condition (it might not be a sickness in and of itself but it is a medical condition) for my dream job. The FAA has outright stated that those on the autism spectrum are not eligible for medical clearance to fly, be it general or special issuance. Given as such, barring a dramatic reversal in policy by the powers that be, the only way I can live my dream would be if I were to be cured, thus I would choose to be cured if in fact a cure were to become available. 

I will say, however, that I am sensitive to those who say otherwise and think their autism (or, quite frankly, any other mental or physical medical condition) are part of who they are and they wouldn’t be themselves if they were cured. As a staunch libertarian I will defend your right to accept or reject any treatment or cure you do not wish to receive. I don’t really give a fuck what you do with your life. It affects me not. You can rest assured that if the government tried to hold you down and force a treatment/cure down your throat and against your will I would be right there fighting for your rights. All I ask in return is that you not criticize me and those who feel the way I do. 

The point being here is don’t act like you speak for all of us. Either choice would be valid and should be made in context of a person’s personal and professional goals. For some of us, autism is a hindrance or an automatic bar to that. Some of might also not like the other bullshit that comes with being on the spectrum (also read: any other mental or physical handicap). You might not want to be cured, but I long for a cure and I should not be viewed negatively for such.