Note For Anyone Writing About Me

Guide to Writing About Me

I am an Autistic person,not a person with autism. I am also not Aspergers. The diagnosis isn't even in the DSM anymore, and yes, I agree with the consolidation of all autistic spectrum stuff under one umbrella. I have other issues with the DSM.

I don't like Autism Speaks. I'm Disabled, not differently abled, and I am an Autistic activist. Self-advocate is true, but incomplete.

Citing My Posts

MLA: Zisk, Alyssa Hillary. "Post Title." Yes, That Too. Day Month Year of post. Web. Day Month Year of retrieval.

APA: Zisk, A. H. (Year Month Day of post.) Post Title. [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Thursday, March 21, 2013

If It's A Personal Choice...

Yes, I really do think it's a personal choice, what language you use to refer to yourself. See why I dislike person-first crusaders and insist that they get my language choice correct, every time, without fail, because if they think language matters they can deal with the fact that I think so too and that my opinion on what I should be called trumps theirs. But that I also will call people with autism just that when they say it is what they want to be called. No issues calling Hope Block a person with autism. None. Her choice, I'll do it.
But if you think it's a personal choice and you aren't autistic, you don't get to go telling other people which they should use.
Does asking if we can use person-first language, with the statement that language matters, sound like telling someone which they should use to you? It sure does to me. I bet it did to the person who said it knows it sounds that way, too, since they later only mentioned the part about asking, not the statement that language matters. Yes, this happened on twitter, no, I can't get you their exact tweets because they blocked me after saying that we will have to agree to disagree. (Nope. Can't tell me I have to do anything, that's another point of fail.) but seriously, if you want me to blog about all the ways you failed, the best way to do it is to block me immediately after saying we should agree to disagree, because when we're talking about issues where a power gradient under which you have more power than me is directly relevant, that is one of the ways in which you failed at not being oppressive. I won't use your name, because then people might harass you over it and that would be bad and not-ok, but the things that should not be done are getting discussed.
Yes, it is a matter of personal preference.
There is a difference between teaching your students that what individuals prefer to be called is a matter of personal preference, that some will care and some won't, and that it doesn't much matter between person-first and identity-first for the ones who won't care, and just teaching person-first. Teaching "person-first for the ones who don't care, respect personal preference for the ones who do" is reasonable, because if a person doesn't care which they are called (it happens,) it's not that big a deal what they are called.
Only teaching person-first is how we get person-first crusader types, the ones who call it every time they see  identity-first, and when told not to call me a person with autism, they suggest person-only, not mentioning disability at all. Um, wrong direction, folks. If I'm telling you not to separate my disability from me, I probably don't want you to ignore it either.
That's the point where I got a little snarky. Not really rude, but not the epitome of polite. I said that if they could go person-only, I could go identity-only, and called myself an Autistic, noun, capital A. The person who had originally been asked about using person-first asked why they would hide a disability, and the asker said they weren't suggesting hiding it. (Not sure how "don't mention disability at all" isn't hiding it, unless we're talking about a situation where the disability isn't relevant, which, in the context of the conversation, it was relevant. Also, talking about things is important?)
Seeing the person first, not just the disability, is a pretty common thing people say. I've heard it before. Anyone who has read my "Don't Call Me A Person With Autism" page/posts should be able to tell that I've heard it before. I've heard all the common arguments before. And... if the word person being in there and a person being right in front of you isn't enough to see the person, you shouldn't be working with people with disabilities. No, really. You shouldn't. If you need reminding that an Autistic person is a person, you shouldn't be working with us.
This is the point where personal preference was actually mentioned. Along with the fact that many individuals with disabilities prefer person-first. Which is true. And also completely irrelevant when faced with a disabled person who prefers identity-first or identity-only explaining why you shouldn't tell other people what words to use talking about disabilities that you don't have. Because, guess what? That's why I got into the conversation. Not because I'm opposed to person-first language being a thing-I'm not. I'll use it for individuals who prefer it; I do use it for disabilities that I don't have where there is a consensus on it (meaning basically everything except Blind, Deaf, and Autistic people. Heck, I've even used it for people with autism whose preference I wasn't sure of but whose writing led me to suspect it was probably person-first.) Because I was faced with a person who teaches, who has made no mention of being autistic or of being a person with autism, telling another person that language matters while asking if they can use person-first. Like I said before, that sounds a whole lot like a civilly-phrased "USE PERSON-FIRST" coming from a person who is probably not autistic/having autism to a person using the words to describe not-the-person-asking-for-person-first. Which means it's not cool.
And intent isn't magical. Saying that you didn't intend to "tell others to use your preference to describe not-you" doesn't mean that you didn't do exactly that, and if you don't have a personal stake in it (you don't have the disability,) the person you are telling so having the disability or not is completely irrelevant. If you don't have a personal stake, they can't have less of one, and they're still describing not-you.
And telling me what you think about the intent of teaching person-first is yet another piece of being completely irrelevant. No, really. Intent isn't magical, as not intending to tell people what to do doesn't prevent it, not intending to stub my toe so hard it bled didn't keep me from doing so, not intending x doesn't keep it from happening. The intent of teaching person-first can be respect. I even believe that it is, or at least that you think it is. Which isn't necessarily the same. But if it leads to unwillingness to respect what other people want to be called (hint: not respectful to suggest person-only in response to reading the stuff on my Don't Call Me A Person With Autism page, even if you think you respect my opinion,) then disrespect is what's happening.
You want to agree to disagree about person-first or identity-first being the one to describe the indifferent? Be my guest, you can do that with anyone you want, but that involves not asking them to use your preference, and it involves thinking the issue isn't that important. You don't agree to disagree on things that are important. That's part of how you know/show they are important.

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