[Posted on 15 August, 2017 by Maj-Britt Posserud]
This June I was fortunate enough to participate in the Gothenburg West Pride parade (http://westpride.se/english). It was a wonderful and touching experience. This West Pride event stressed not only the fight against discrimination of differences in sexual orientation and identity, but also the fight against all prejudice, oppression and marginalization, under the motto of Love. The West Pride movement has thus grown to include all marginalized groups and everybody who supports being different.
I was reminded of a blog entry earlier this year by Professor Gillberg who stated that “Normal is way overrated”. This motto also hangs on one of the GNC walls.
In a way the strive most people demonstrate for normality is a paradox, since we are all unique individuals. I think the strive to be “normal” is rather a strive to belong, to be part of the group, part of “the flock”. As human beings we are all unique but we are also a flock, we have no chance of surviving alone. Thus, the need to belong is essential and most humans will give up almost everything to belong. A few will even join the IS movement and turn into terrorists in order to belong to a group.
I would say “most people”, because people with autism are often different in this respect. People with autism have very independent minds and a conspicuous lack of flock mentality. Thus, they will often retain their values, not succumbing to group pressure only to conform. This is a special and precious quality of people with autism, but may often come at a high price; to be shunned by the group, isolated and discriminated.
Gay Pride is a movement that started almost 50 years ago, holding demonstrations in June each year to fight discrimination and oppression of homosexuals. It has since come to include other sexual minorities (LGBT – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender).
Inspired by Gay Pride, Autistic Pride is now celebrated on June 18 each year, under the motto “there is no cure for being yourself”. The parallel to homosexuality is striking, as not long ago, homosexuality was also considered a disorder that should be cured. Many people with autism oppose the view of autism as a disorder that needs a cure. People with autism believe the society and community services should instead focus on providing better opportunities for people with autism to function in society while retaining their differences. Ultimately, fighting for a society that accepts being different is vital for all of us; so that we all may belong as we are. I believe the West Pride movement has taken an important step in going beyond the fight for LGBT rights, to make it a fight against all forms of marginalization and oppression. The Pride movement thus invites us all to belong without having to change who we are. To be proud of who we are.