Whose Planet Is It Anyway?

Friday, July 21, 2006

Here's hypocrisy for you

You'd think that the gay community, after years of enduring vicious prejudice and misguided cure attempts, would be among the first to support neurodiversity, wouldn't you? Well, if you thought so, your outlook on human nature is far too rosy. The American gay television network here! has announced that it supports Autism Speaks and will be running their autism-awareness ads.

"We understand the importance of supporting Autism Speaks so they can continue their important work in funding research to find a cure for this devastating disorder," said Maria Dwyer, Senior Vice President, Distribution Sales and Marketing for here!

I really have to wonder what gays who advocate curing autism are thinking. Are they so completely ignorant of their own history? Don't they know that Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA), now touted as a wondrous means of making autistic children indistinguishable from their peers, used to be a "cure" for homosexuality? Don't they realize that when the mental disorder label was officially removed from homosexuality, autistics became another convenient target for many psychologists?

It's no secret that Autism Speaks/NAAR is funding eugenics research to develop a prenatal test for autism. If we end up in a society so intolerant of natural differences that millions of autistic children are routinely aborted, which is the ultimate goal of this research, what do gay supporters of Autism Speaks expect will happen when the researchers discover the gay gene? That discovery is only a few years away, too. Some pro-life Christians have spoken out against prenatal screening for autism, but do any gays really expect to find help there? More likely, when the gay gene becomes just another "birth defect" targeted for elimination, the silence from the evangelical Christians will be deafening. I wouldn't be at all surprised if many conservative Christian mothers had the gay prenatal test themselves and, if the result came back positive, sneaked off to an out-of-town abortion clinic and told their friends they went on vacation.

This is what I have to say to pro-cure gays: At some point in the not-so-distant future, your community is going to need neurodiversity advocates a lot more than we need you. So get your head out of your ass and quit pandering to bigots like Autism Speaks. It's their intolerant vision of the future that is a devastating epidemic, not the existence of autistic people.

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18 Comments:

  • I agree, that sucks. I guess the gay community is just not informed about the thinking in the autistic community. Once they meet John Best Jr. and become familiar with his opinions, things should become clearer.

    To be realistic, minority communities don't really care about other minority communities. The black community probably didn't care much or know much about the removal of homosexuality from the DSM-II.

    By Blogger Joseph, at 4:58 PM  

  • Hey now I am an evangelical Christian, wass silence got to do with it.

    I read this too, and thought is this the betrayal of one minority to another and then I read more and thought NO.

    What has this commercial organisation Gay Television or whatever got to do with the roots of the movement, it is exploitation and surface scum just as autism speaks is, they belong together, they represent the same values

    By Blogger laurentius rex, at 5:17 PM  

  • ABA was not "originally developed as a cure for homosexuality". Neither Ivar Lovaas nor George Rekers "originally developed" ABA.

    ABA was first formally defined (meaning that this branch of science already existed, but lacked a formal definition and description) in 1968, in a paper which mentions neither autism nor homosexuality. Neither Drs Lovaas or Rekers are in the authorship. Nor are they mentioned.

    The late Donald M. Baer, who was the lead author of the 1968 article defining ABA, opposed Dr Lovaas' Feminine Boy Project. Dr Baer was in the authorship of a major published criticism of the FBP (Nordyke et al, 1977).

    The dates encompassed by Dr Lovaas' famous autism study (Lovaas, 1987) are 1970-1984. In 1973, Dr Lovaas and his UCLA colleagues published a major paper about their first attempt at designing a comprehensive ABA-based early intensive intervention for autistic children. This study was submitted in 1971, at which point the authors had treated 20 autistic children over the course of 7 years. So the treatment of these autistic children goes back to circa 1964.

    Dr Lovaas' first (unpublished) collaboration with Dr Rekers seems to date from 1971; at this point, Rekers must have been a young student. Dr Lovaas' funding as PI for the FBP spanned 1972-1976. The two single subject designs reporting the "success" of the FBP were published in 1974 (Rekers & Lovaas, 1974; Rekers, Lovaas & Low, 1974). The first of these two studies advertises itself as the first of its kind.

    The first study reporting an ABA-based comprehensive early intervention program for an autistic child was published in 1964 (Wolf, Risley & Mees, 1964). Wolf and Risley were also authors of that 1968 paper defining ABA.

    When the FBP died, Dr Rekers did not "move on" to autistic children. Nor did Richard Green, the third researcher involved in the FBP (and nor did A.C. Rosen, P.M. Bentler, B.P. Low, J. Money, etc). Dr Lovaas' work with autistic children predates by many years his work with feminine boys, so he did not "move on" to autistic children either; he was already there.

    By Anonymous Michelle Dawson, at 5:40 PM  

  • I've found the segments of the gay community I've encountered so ableist... no, "ableist" sounds too nice for what it was... so disability-hating, that I have never managed to form a meaningful connection to that community. Which makes it very hard for me to find a partner, among other things.

    By Blogger ballastexistenz, at 7:18 PM  

  • I've heard of a poem by Pastor Martin Niemöller that seems very relevant.

    "When the Nazis came for the communists,
    I remained silent;
    I was not a communist.

    When they locked up the social democrats,
    I remained silent;
    I was not a social democrat.

    When they came for the trade unionists,
    I did not speak out;
    I was not a trade unionist.

    When they came for the Jews,
    I did not speak out;
    I was not a Jew.

    When they came for me,
    there was no one left to speak out."

    By Anonymous Kath, at 7:30 PM  

  • Joseph: You're right, they're just uninformed, not malicious, but because the gay community's experiences have been so similar to those of autistics (being rejected by society and sometimes even their parents and taught to hate themselves for their differences), I would've expected them to know better.

    Larry: I wasn't trying to insult evangelical Christians, just pointing out that I haven't noticed any arguments from that direction against aborting gay fetuses.

    Michelle: Thanks for the info. I've edited the post to remove the inaccuracies and potential misreadings that you mentioned.

    Ballastexistenz: I hope our efforts will help to raise their awareness.

    Kath: Here's the disability version.

    By Blogger abfh, at 8:25 PM  

  • Hey abfh,

    I'm new on blogger and I must compliment you on a good entry. I thought a gay community network would know better than to support the persecution of another minority group given that they have been pathologized in the same sense before as autistic people are now! I agree with you in that I don't sense much malicious intent in the network rather than just ignorance. Someone needs to remind them to see the parallels between the condition of autistics today and the conditions of homosexuals when homosexuality was pathologized.

    I am also new to the Autism Assembly and have written a series of entries, including an earlier one about how the marketing of autism to the public today can by definition count as a form of terrorism. Please leaves some comments soon!

    By Blogger MeridiusMD899, at 9:46 PM  

  • Idealists are almost always disappointed to discover that members of "outgroups" are not, in general, any less prejudiced than members of the majority. The reason for this disappointment is that we forget that prejudice is by definition an irrational way of thinking, and we expect it to follow the rules of rational thought processes. To expect that someone who has personally experienced the detrimental effects of prejudice will have a rational basis to reject prejudice against others is to expect prejudice to behave rationally. It simply doesn't happen. There's no "natural solidarity of the oppressed" and many activist movements have failed because they've assumed the existence of such "solidarity" as a substitute for the actual very hard work of coalition-building.

    By Blogger ebohlman, at 2:56 AM  

  • It is very common for one group of oppressed people to start attacking other oppressed people. There is much homophobia among black people, and of course some disability rights activists have fallen into the same trap, joining forces with those same gay-hating Christian conservatives to campaign against abortion rights. However, it is equally true that there are debates within minorities about these things. For instance, black rapper Kanye West has spoken out against homophobia in black culture. Building coalitions can lead to such debates starting up. In Britain, left-wingers, including gay ones, and feminists, are now working alongside orthodox Muslims in anti-war activity, and as a result there is a growing debate about such issues as gay rights and women's rights in the Muslim community. The starting point is that if members of group A start actively supporting group B, whatever negative ideas group B might have about group A can then be undermined. An idea then comes to my mind - next time there's a gay pride march somewhere, autistics in the area should consider going along as a group and identify themselves as 'autistic pride' supporting 'gay pride'.

    By Blogger Redaspie, at 6:57 AM  

  • It makes sense to a certain extent.

    Every minority group looks out for its own interests first.

    for example before learning of the ARM (autistics rights movement) I was staunchly pro-choice, now however... I'd rather take away the right to abortion thansee swaths of the (potential) autistic population wiped out.

    Going off what RedAspie said, I think that maybe the Gay rights comunity ARE doing some coalition building, but with the pro-cure side of advocacy.

    Once again they have the vast majority of funding, publicity and public opinion on there said.

    By Blogger Nathzn, at 9:03 AM  

  • "for example before learning of the ARM (autistics rights movement) I was staunchly pro-choice, now however... I'd rather take away the right to abortion thansee swaths of the (potential) autistic population wiped out."

    Er, this was actually precisely one example of what we've been talking about - and one I actually mentioned! Society remains every bit as sexist as it is disablist, and the right of women to control what goes on in their own bodies is something that womens' activists have fought very hard for. I can't see how us calling for abortion to be banned is any different from gay rights activists calling for a cure for autism.

    By Blogger Redaspie, at 1:01 PM  

  • "for example before learning of the ARM (autistics rights movement) I was staunchly pro-choice, now however... I'd rather take away the right to abortion thansee swaths of the (potential) autistic population wiped out."

    Er, this was actually precisely one example of what we've been talking about - and one I actually mentioned! Society remains every bit as sexist as it is disablist, and the right of women to control what goes on in their own bodies is something that womens' activists have fought very hard for. I can't see how us calling for abortion to be banned is any different from gay rights activists calling for a cure for autism.

    By Blogger Redaspie, at 1:02 PM  

  • I' not seriously saying that that i disagree with the right to control one's own body (I really need to stop saying everything dead-pan) but, yeah that's my point, that people tend to look at their own interests.

    takeing away the right for abortion wold be like with holding morphine from a gun shot wound paient (can't think of any better anology right now)

    Sorry for missunderstanding

    By Blogger Nathzn, at 2:31 PM  

  • OK no probs. The issue of abortion has been a contentious one for disability rights activists I understand, and really it shouldn't be as pro-choice activists are actually pretty supportive of disability rights. I intend to post a blog entry about this tomorrow in fact.

    By Blogger Redaspie, at 5:28 PM  

  • Eugenics through prenatal testing involves two rights: (1) The right of reproductive choice; (2) The right to information.

    I've always been pro-choice, but the eugenics issue does warrant having to rethink the matter. So do other technological advances. For example, should people be free to clone themselves and their kids at will?

    Rights are not absolute.

    By Blogger Joseph, at 10:59 AM  

  • Joseph,
    Excellent point. There is a current disconnect between pro-choice and prenatal testing that we must continue to discuss.

    abfh,
    Great post. What stands out of course, is the fact that no matter what general rights are obtained for any community, it never abolishes bigotry entirely. Legislating the right to be accepted, to marry, to work, etc, seems to be an important first step to being recognized at all, but inevitably leads to differing perspectives.

    By Blogger Estee Klar-Wolfond, at 6:45 AM  

  • I don’t see this as being about the hypocrisy of the gay community: I’m not aware of a major groundswell of autie-bashing among lesbians and gay men. When I looked up the link I got this:

    “ “Our network has several staff members directly impacted by autism. We understand the importance of supporting Autism Speaks so they can continue their important work in funding research to find a cure for this devastating disorder,” said Maria Dwyer, Senior Vice President, Distribution Sales and Marketing for here! and the mother of a 7 year-old son with autism. “here! is dedicated to supporting important pro-social causes and is thrilled to lend our airwaves to generating awareness within the gay and lesbian community about autism.” ”

    So this is a personal curebie agenda. The broadcast service this person happens to have access to is a gay television network, but it could have easily been any other. Sure, you would think that Ms. Dwyer is well-positioned to have a broader mind, but maybe she’s a victim in all aspects of her life, or maybe she’s a really accomplished neo-con who just happens to be gay. You just don’t know.

    I can’t speak for the gay men’s communities (but please note that the black community includes gay men just as much as the gay community includes black men), but I have some experience with lesbian communities. Back in the eighties when I was active, there was a lot of disability awareness and empowerment literature being produced by lesbians. Fat Power, the Mad Movement, wheelchair accessibility, signing, sexuality. From what I know, it’s routine at large lesbian events to have ASL interpreters, or at least to try to get them. I know a couple of hearing women who’ve hooked up with deaf women while taking sign language classes.

    Often it’s more talk than action, and it’s possible that as the community has become less political with the whole post-modernist representational analysis thing — third wave feminism, yawn — that disability rights have disappeared even as a subject of talk. But I do know that lesbians and lesbian publishers have been influential in good ways.

    In addition, AIDS has made many gay men very conscious of disability issues.

    So I take exception to the idea that there is a single navel-gazing Gay Community out there that doesn’t care about anyone else.

    By Blogger Alison Cummins, at 4:00 PM  

  • Alison, I don't even know if Ms. Dwyer is gay or if she just happens to be working for a gay network, but my point is that the owners shouldn't let their network be used to advance a personal curebie agenda -- and you can be sure they wouldn't, if their viewers and advertisers were complaining as vigorously as they ought to be.

    By Blogger abfh, at 5:49 PM  

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