Hold Space for Multiply Marginalized Autistics

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[Image description: a microphone on a mic stand]

A multiply marginalized person is someone who identifies as being from more than one marginalized group. An example of an intersected person is an LGBTQ+ Indigenous person, a disabled woman, an elderly Muslim, or a neurodivergent first-generation immigrant.

Being multiply marginalized creates a whole new set of challenges to face; an LGBTQ+ Indigenous person must not only deal with homophobia/transphobia and racism, but unique marginalization not experienced by people who only have to deal with homophobia/transphobia or only have to deal with racism. Only those people who live that experience are able to observe, note, and understand the unique barriers of prejudice and discrimination that they face, and therefore nobody but they must present and represent on these issues.

A multiply marginalized autistic is an autistic person who comes from one or more other marginalized groups; autistic women, BIPOC (Black/Indigenous/Person of Colour) autistics, transgender and non-binary autistics, physically disabled and chronically ill autistics, Jewish autistics, and migrant autistics are included in the population of multiply marginalized autistics.

The story of autism, thus far, has predominantly been the story of white, cisgender, young heteronormative men such as myself. We have dominated the conversation for so long that mainstream understanding of the autistic experience has been shaped around what the experiences of my own population are, but we are missing so much of the story because we have excluded multiply marginalized perspectives of autism.

Coming from this most dominant group, my story has mostly been told already. I was a “gifted child” who was a brilliant learner but “lazy” (tested in neurotypical manners and placed in learning environments where neurodivergent people cannot thrive). I read many books but underachieved in school. I missed social development milestones and had a hard time making friends. I played with Lego and Nintendo games.

I did not have to face police violence, disproportionate poverty, and the school-to-prison pipeline that many BIPOC autistics have had to survive in. I am not a member of the Lost Generation of autistic women who had their autistic behaviours coded as a personality disorder, blamed on menstrual stress, and were conditioned to hide their own personal pain and trauma to impress men in our patriarchal society. I am not LGBTQ+, and have not had to face ableism and exclusion within communities that wear the label of Pride but enforce its own code of behaviour and are intolerant of people who are not abled. I have never had to live in an institution, I have never been in prison, I have parents who love and support me and have always had a good home life when many autistics cannot say the same. Therefore, my knowledge of these experiences is limited by the fact that I have not lived them.

That is why we must take an active role in including autistics from other marginalized groups into our conversations about autism. We must not just invite them into our conversations, but challenge ourselves as to who is missing and why intersected people are not already in our circles. We must do humbling self-observance on how our own behaviours, attitudes, biases, and prejudices have lead to autistics with other experiences of oppression forming their own separate communities instead of feeling welcome within ours. Only when we allow autistics from multiply marginalized groups to play a leading role in conversations about autism, and we work to change the dominant story of autism, can we have an accurate perspective on the spectrum of autistic experiences.

In closing I would like to link Autistic, Typing’s wonderful Pass The Mic post. Pass The Mic is an initiative to raise awareness of BIPOC and ethnic minority autistic self-advocates. You can find this directory of BIPOC and ethnic minority self-advocates to follow at https://www.facebook.com/AutisticTyping/photos/a.389117508355320/455211958412541/?type=3&theater

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