I’ve been “out” to my friends for about a year. Those same friends who have been with me for longer than that knew my son was autistic, or likely autistic. Since then, I’ve had many friends, old and new, come to me asking for information pertaining to autism.
I made myself an open book to them, because what better way to learn about autism than an autistic person? I’m often tagged in posts, privately messaged, sent pictures with question marks on them, etc. And this makes me extremely happy that my friends care enough to ask me how they can be better allies to the autistic community, because that means there’s one more person in my corner when things get tough.
Most of my friends have started realizing that disability rights are intrinsically intertwined with basically every other movement. A lot of my friends are physically disabled and already knew to include cognitive disabilities in their activism. Some have auto-immune disorders, are in wheelchairs, or can’t perform basic functions without a great deal of help. In other words, their lives are full enough with their own bodies and their own rights, but fit my activism in with their own, and I’m grateful. But most of my friends are able-bodied allistic people who benefit from the current system.
I want to encourage allies to be more like my friends. My friends do not speak over me, but allow me to speak for myself. They trust an actually autistic person to speak for themselves and stay in their lane. They do not presume to speak for me. They cite sources from actually autistic people, not just myself, check their sources, and are careful to stay away from organizations that push for cures and do not focus on adults.
My friends listen and learn. I absolutely encourage questions on why certain organizations are considered bad, the difference between eugenics and being unable to care for a certain type of child, what they can do when they see someone stimming, etc. A lot of my friends are busy with their own lives and movements and can only focus on one aspect at a time(a concept I’m absolutely familiar with, believe me) but still want to make sure that they’re being a respectful as possible.
And that is absolutely the difference between an ally and an “ally.” The ability to listen and learn, and engage respectfully. I am so proud to call my friends allies.