Hey, so I wanted to talk about the idea of redemption--I'm not trying to convert you to Christianity, it's a completely different kind of redemption. I think the idea of redemption is around in the conversation about Asperger's and high-functioning autism. And what I mean by redemption is the idea that if someone has a disability, if they're good at something else, it's okay that they have a disability.
And the kind of things you can be good at, it's a very narrow thing, it's the kind of things that are considered to be good by, like, intellectuals or something. Or I shouldn't say that--like, let's say you're really good at playing soccer, that would probably be okay. Or if you're really good at killing cows, or music criticism. Anything like that. If you have an ASD but you're good at something like that, then it's okay that you have an ASD, and you shouldn't even call it a disability, because all the trouble that you take up is canceled out by the fact that you do such and such good thing.
Well, this just isn't a point of view that I want to be part of, because I think it's kind of messed up and offensive. And the whole idea that people who take extra work to take care of, or people who have a disability--even people who are just kind of different and need a different thing from the world--we live in a culture that sees that as such an awful thing, like such people are such a huge burden and you should be really freaked out about them. And into the middle of that come people like Temple Grandin who will try to argue that people with Asperger's and HFA are, like, super special smart at certain things, and because of that, it's not really a disability, or it's okay, or "a dash of autism creates a genius" or whatever stupid recipe thing she's been saying lately--I just think that's really ableist. If you think, "well, it's okay to have this, because it creates a genius"--I mean, the whole idea that being a genius is such an important and valuable thing--well, it's not the most important thing in life and that's not the only kind of valuable people that there are.
It's weird for me, because I guess I'm a "high-functioning" person, but really, the reason I think of myself as a high-functioning person is just because people don't perceive me as having a disability most of the time. But it's funny because I don't feel that I'm a genius or that anyone perceives me that way. I definitely don't feel like a fucking savant--I mean, I'm good at some things, but it's not anything big, and I think when people meet me, there's very little sense of me being a genius--I mean, to the extent that anyone thinks anything about me in terms of disability or difference, it's probably that I'm kind of out of it, or that I seem like kind of an asshole, or just that I'm kind of stupid. So I don't relate to the genius thing. I guess I relate more to people who are intellectually disabled, because I feel like people give them the same kind of impatience and weird looks that they give me.
So those are the people that I feel the closest to, and it's upsetting to see other Asperger's people, like, throw intellectually disabled people under the bus--I just see so much writing by people with Asperger's, who if they see themselves grouped with people who are 'retarded,' they'll be like, "Oh, I'm not retarded, it's not the same thing, people think it's the same thing!" and it's like, okay buddy, it's not exactly the same thing, but there's some overlap, just calm down, there are similar things about the way retarded and autistic people move, and the way we sometimes process things, and the way people treat us.
Like, okay, I get that it's not exactly the same thing, but don't fall all over yourself trying to distance yourself from another group of people with a disability because it just makes you look like an asshole. And I really feel like this idea that people with ASDs are valuable only as long as we have these particular amazing talents is just kind of bad in the long run. And I feel bad when I think about any particular person who's achieved some measure of success because they're seen as being so super talented and their ASD is some adorable quirk because they're so talented it's okay--what if that person goes through something really bad and their speech kind of shuts down? Or, like, I used to be really good at reading and now I have a lot of trouble reading--that skill is just not really there for me anymore. And, if you've spent so much time arguing that you're okay because you're so good at such and such, what do you do if you stop being good at such and such? What does that make you? Does it make you not okay anymore?
I don't think that it does. I don't think anybody should have to redeem themselves for their disability by being a genius, you know?
I think people can act like this with all kinds of minority groups that make them uncomfortable. I mean, you can see it so much in Queer Eye for the Straight Guy--the whole fact that all the gay guys in public and on television are guys who have these particular skills that are supposed to be useful for straight people (I know, and they don't have any lesbians because we're not good at anything, I guess) but it's just like, they're trying to say, "Look, you have to accept gay guys--yeah, they're gay, and it's weird, but look at this other stuff they can do! Look how they can help YOU!" and it's like, why do you have to be so fucking selfish and think that other people only matter if they can contribute something in a way that you think is an appropriate way to contribute? I mean, what's wrong with someone being just a regular gay person who's kind of mediocre? You'd be okay with a straight person being mediocre.
And like, the average nondisabled person that I meet, I don't usually think that they're super great and they're going to cure cancer or something, but all of the sudden you're supposed to think that people with Asperger's are okay but a person with Down Syndrome isn't okay because a person with Asperger's might cure cancer?
Kind of stupid, and also, most of the time, not true. Lots of people with Asperger's, like me for example, are pretty dumb, not particularly great at anything, and I don't think that affects my value as a human one bit. That's all. I just wish that people wouldn't talk about ASDs this way, because I feel that while it may enhance the social status of a small group of people with ASDs who have special talents, it really insults and hurts a lot of other people with disabilities, and in the long run can even have a negative affect on the people who are considered to be savants.