Respect is a wonderful thing. It forms the foundation of how my family tries to live our lives. We respect one another, we respect our individual autonomy, we respect ourselves (even though sometimes that one is hard to remember to do, at least for me).
And what it means for us is that we value other people for their inherent existence. Every single person is worthy of a basic level of respect due to simply being. Of course, people can, and often do, do things or say things that aren’t worthy of respect. Acts of intentional violence. Bigotry. Cruelty. I don’t respect those things. I don’t have respect for people who do those things, while at the same time recognising that they still deserve a basic level of respect for existing. That may seem like some masterful cognitive dissonance, but it is actually very simple, and explained like this: I don’t laugh at prison rape jokes. Because a) rape is never funny, and b) no one, even the most cruel or horrible of people, deserves that to happen to them. I respect their right to safety, even if I don’t respect who they are as a person.
To me, this is the basis of respect. I respect the right of a racist to have a racist opinion, although I cannot respect that opinion and will fight to change the kinds of views those opinions are based on. I respect the right of a gun owner to have guns, although I cannot respect people who take that responsibility lightly or use those guns to commit crimes. I respect the right of people to be religious, although I will not, cannot, respect the people who use those beliefs to discriminate, hurt or in any way harm other people. So perhaps it is more accurate to say that I always respect the rights that people have, rather than the people themselves.
What has all of this to do with autism, or being autistic?
Well, I believe that autistic people have a right to be respected too. Which seems like it makes sense and doesn’t need saying , but when you look at how autistic people are treated in the general community, how they are talked about (but rarely *to*), how people respond to autistic voices….
Well. Maybe it does need saying.
Maybe people need to remember what respect is all about, and remember that in its most basic form, it applies to everyone. That being autistic does not remove that right to inherent respect. That our bodily autonomy isn’t a gift that gets granted, but a basic foundation of our own humanity that shouldn’t be taken away. That our safety isn’t something that gets trumped by someone else’s convenience. That our voices are due *at least* the same amount of respect granted to the voice of a racist.
Respect starts with recognising the inherent value someone has as a fellow being. And in too many cases, autistic people aren’t granted even that.
Respect us. Respect our lives, our safety, our voices. We deserve it.