There is something about growing, changing, identifying parts of yourself that you had not recognised, that is deeply unsettlingly liberating. I have been struggling to put words to it. Then today, this beautiful butterfly sat in my path.
“When she transformed into a butterfly, the caterpillars spoke not of her beauty, but of her weirdness. They wanted her to change back into what she always had been. But she had wings.” Dean Jackson
image below shows a black, white, yellow and red butterfly on a leaf, and features the words from the Dean Jackson quote above
Since I began to identify as autistic no one has actually confronted me with disbelief that I could be. In fact the opposite has been true. People have welcomed me to the autistic community, told me they see it too, and encouraged me to continue looking at my life through this lens.
No one has called me weird, at least not to my face. No one has expressed their desire that I should be anything other than what I am comfortable being.
But there is an unsettling feeling there, in the core of my being, that this is how autistic people are seen by many in society, and that even though people who know me personally have been completely accepting of me, the people “out there” are not. I know it because I’ve seen it. I’ve seen the discrimination, aggression, and intolerance directed at my children and at my friends. I know one day I will face it too.
I know people will push back against my advocating for the rights of autistic people. My rights.
I know people will dismiss my advocacy as insignificant because they see their life as more important than the reality of autistic people. My reality.
I know people will stigmatise me the way I have seen them stigmatise the autistic community. My community.
I don’t know how I will feel or respond when it happens. But I do know this.
Resting in my identity as an autistic person does not mean I am a different person. It does mean I am more complete, more full, and I am finding I am more capable of doing the things I want to when I acknowledge who I really am. It might look “weird” to others, but it is empowerment to me.
I have wings.
This post is part of my emerging autistic identity series- read them all by clicking here (clicking link will open a new window, posts are in reverse chronological order- first at the bottom)