Whose Planet Is It Anyway?

Monday, March 31, 2008

Reporting Live from the Closet

One of the more frustrating aspects of the media's ignorant panic-mongering about autism over the past few years has been the reluctance of autistic journalists and media executives (who presumably exist in numbers reflecting the proportion of autistics in the general population) to speak out against the widespread bigotry. The drums of the autism war have been beating so loudly that most people who are at risk of being targeted have gone into full duck-and-cover mode, just hoping that the madness ends before they find themselves and their families in the line of fire.

To make myself clear, I do not intend any criticism of those who made the choice to stay quiet and pass as non-autistics to protect their careers and their civil rights. Staying in the closet is an entirely reasonable and prudent response to a sudden outpouring of genocidal hatred against a minority group which, until quite recently, was not even recognized as a separate and distinct group. As you might guess, I write my blog anonymously for the same reason.

Nonetheless, it is very frustrating, and I was both surprised and pleased when I saw an article by an autistic manager at CNN included as part of CNN's autism awareness coverage. She described her recent Asperger diagnosis at age 48, her lifelong difficulties in making small talk, her tendency toward sensory overload, the efforts she and her husband have made over the years to understand their differences and to keep their marriage happy, and the anxiety she endures as a result of society's judgmental expectations.

The article ends with this statement:

I could tell you so much more, but instead let me share one last insight. Don't pity me or try to cure or change me. If you could live in my head for just one day, you might weep at how much beauty I perceive in the world with my exquisite senses. I would not trade one small bit of that beauty, as overwhelming and powerful as it can be, for "normalcy."

Who is this CNN manager venturing forth onto the autism war's battlefield, making such a strong statement in defense of her humanity, her joy in life, and social acceptance of neurological diversity?

Nobody knows. She was too afraid to sign her name to the article.

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  • Powerful stuff.

    Perhaps now Jenny McCarthy will have to stop denying the existence of autistic adults.


    By Blogger Club 166, at 4:39 PM  

  • It good to see that there is at least a positive comment from an autistic journalist making it onto the MSM.

    By the way, from my point of view, the use of the word genocide to describe situations in which currently living members of the group are not being killed dilutes the meaning in a way that is to the disadvantage of people currently surviving genocide, such as those in Darfur and those who have survived genocide in the past. Maybe eugenics would be a better term than genocide.

    By Blogger VAB, at 4:54 PM  

  • "Perhaps now Jenny McCarthy will have to stop denying the existence of autistic adults."

    'Stupid is as stupid does' Forrest Gump. (re: JMcC)

    By Blogger David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E., at 5:43 PM  

  • I'm not surprised at all that she was too afraid to sign the article. I'm often amazed at all the negativity thrown towards autistics, especially adults.

    I doubt Jenny will ever stop denying there are autistic adults. Jenny is as Jenny does.

    By Blogger mumkeepingsane, at 6:38 PM  

  • VAB, eugenics (imposing measures to prevent children from being born within a group) is considered to be a form of genocide, as is *any* action taken to wipe out an entire group of people.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:42 PM  

  • I think the bigger question/concern is not coming out of the closet, but what is keeping her in there. That is the bigger story. I can just imagine the talk in the newsroom. The charge comes from above to fill Wednesday with stories about autism. A co-worker of this person who is also a confident says "you should tell your story". She says yes, but only if I can do it anonymously. Why anonymously? It would be more powerful to me if she gave those reasons, then that might really "open some eyes". The fact is, there is tremendous repercussions when you come out. I've experienced it myself. I understand why she is keeping "silent", though I find it regrettable.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:46 PM  

  • Joe, David, and mumkeepingsane: As long as it is profitable for Jenny McCarthy to deny the existence of autistic adults, I have no doubt she will continue to do so.

    VAB: As Uly mentioned, the United Nations defines genocide to include preventing births in a minority population. See Article 2, section d, of the United Nations Convention on Genocide.

    While I agree that eugenics does not necessarily equate to genocide under all circumstances (for instance, it would not be genocide to abort a fetus that had a one-of-a-kind genetic anomaly because no existing minority population would be affected), the worldwide autistic community consists of about 50 to 60 million human beings, and its "eradication," to use Suzanne Wright's term, would indeed be a genocide.

    CS: Regrettable, indeed.

    By Blogger abfh, at 7:04 PM  

  • This comment has been removed by the author.

    By Blogger Jenny, at 11:21 PM  

  • Ooops, gave out too much information about someone else. I don't have permission to "out" the person I was discussing.

    By Blogger Jenny, at 11:33 PM  

  • Lovely to read something positive. Such as shame to have to be afraid. But understandable.

    By Blogger Casdok, at 3:50 AM  

  • I read this story the other day and thought of you abfh right off.

    By Blogger A Bishops Wife, at 5:39 AM  

  • Wow, amazing post. I've had my head buried in our own world of getting services, surviving school and trying to figure it all out, I totally missed out on the what I'm starting to recognize as a 'culture.'

    To me this is not unlike a deaf culture.

    I'm learning everyday.

    By Blogger Genevieve Hinson, at 10:44 AM  

  • I can relate to this. I have Asperger's Syndrome. I work in journalism and do lots of other writing on the side, and for some time I was very hesitant to write anything about my perspective on Asperger's, and thereby out myself. I don't regret the fact that I ultimately did so, but I certainly don't blame anyone who prefers to stay incognito.

    By Blogger John Markley, at 4:39 PM  

  • It's a shame that anyone should have to hide anything about themselves to be successful... but then again, a lot of being successful is bluff and deception so maybe it shouldn't be so surprising after all.

    By Blogger Sister Sunshine, at 9:25 AM  

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