This post was originally published on my Tumblr about a week ago.
Im autistic. I was diagnosed with Aspergers syndrome back when it was still called that, in 2005; I was 27.
I like to think I can discuss most topics dispassionately and let my opinions be guided by the facts and reason rather than letting my feelings about it cloud my judgement. But I cant stay calm when debating with anti-vaxxers. Well, I can as long as the debate stays within the bounds of Do vaccines cause autism? Do they cause other health problems? Why should the mandate to vaccinate over-ride a parents personal choices about their children?
When it gets into the realms of Supposing vaccines might cause autism, are the benefits worth the risks? thats my danger zone, because so many anti-vaxxers so quickly start saying things that I cant help hearing as Id rather my child died of measles than ended up like you. And I cant debate that calmly. That person just told me I ought to be dead.
So Ive learned to avoid those debates. But heres the thing. I know perfectly well that just because I dont get into those discussions, doesnt mean they dont happen. I know that there are people who think a childs autism is a mitigating factor if that childs parents murder them. I know there are people who think my neurological condition is a scourge on the Earth and humanity would be better off if people like me were eradicated.
I cant engage those people in debate. So, allistic allies, I need you to do that for me.
Not necessarily to convince the bigots themselves; its extremely rare for someone to change their ethical or political belief for being confronted, no matter how rational the argument. Sometimes they go away and think about it and change their minds later and come back when theyve figured out a way to save face. But far more importantly, the bigot isnt the only one listening. I need you to demonstrate to people who havent made up their minds on the question, why the bigots are wrong. I need you to keep the bigots from expanding their numbers by converting impressionable outsiders.
I should not have to debate whether I have the right to exist. But because that debate is happening whether I join in or not, I need you, allies, to pitch in and take my side. Please dont refuse to engage on the basis that there shouldnt even be an argument. There shouldnt, but thats not how you stop bigotry.