Monday, March 27, 2006

Pro-fester Group

Amanda Baggs recently posted A Long Delayed Reply to the Scafer Autism Report. Which reminded me that I never actually finished writing my reply.
Lenny Schafer called autistic rights activists the "pro-fester" group. But in my opinion, the "pro-fester" group are those who discourage oppressed people from achieving. Malcolm X's teacher, who discouraged him from being a lawyer and told him to be a carpenter instead. The myriad of doctors who, even now, advocate institutionalization from infancy for developmentally disabled people, citing a stereotype that they will die young and/or achieve little. The people who now encourage women to abort, citing the same stereotype.
Neither we nor curebies like Lenny Schafer are part of the pro-fester group. We both want to help autistics achieve their dreams. The difference is that curebies are stuck in narrow definitions of what constitutes achievement and how one should achieve.
I think there are so many ways of helping people other than helping them conform. I want to help people find acceptance and self-respect, and keep them from losing it in the first place. I want people like me to stop feeling like human garbage or like only their ability to do X, Y or Z prevents them from feeling that way.
I also want that for NTs, like Gabi Kupfer, sister of profoundly delayed Zach, who is quoted in the book Before And After Zachariah as asking her mother the terrified question "Mommy, what if I'm developmentally delayed?" because she was having trouble tying her shoes. Gabi had already learnt the awful lesson that her mother's love was conditional on her ability to conform to expectations of her. Though that lesson is especially painful for disabled people, most people who've internalized that lesson end up feeling that fear, that panicked question "what if I'm not the kind of person society considers acceptable?"
Curebies' solution is to eradicate difference, to make everyone fit that mold. Some people, such as the authors of books like The Difficult Child, They Say You're Crazy and The Highly Sensitive Child, want to widen the boundaries of acceptability only just enough to accomodate their select group, be it "difficult" children, highly sensitive people or people diagnosed with mild "mental illnesses" like depression or anxiety disorders.
I'm not like either of those (although some autistics are). I want to stop saying "you are acceptable if you fit our standards" and start saying "you are acceptable". No "if". I think everyone is beautiful in their own way. That's the meaning of the title of this blog. Abnormality is part of diversity, and diversity is beautiful.
Of course, if a person needs treatment for some condition that is inherently (ie, not indirectly through discrimination, internal or external) painful or deadly, they should get it. I'm in favor of curing the lung problems of cystic fibrosis, or the Hirschsprung's disease people with Mowat-Wilson Syndrome have. In the second example, they also have an assortment of differences that should be accepted, not eradicated, such as developmental delays and intersexing.


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