Last night, during the presidential debates, President Obama said “autistic kid.”
OH, THE MOTHERFUCKING HORROR.
Everyone should immediately commence to freaking out about person-first language instead of what really matters, which is that many people with disabilities require government assistance and that is what the president was talking about.
This is what ran through my mind when I heard those words:
(1) Hooray! We’re on the president’s radar!
(2) Hooray! The president used the term embraced by many, many self-advocates!
(3) Oh, shit. The person-firsters are going to have a motherfucking field day with this.
I would like to state for the record that if you prefer person first terminology, cool, man. Do your thang. I couldn’t care less how you refer to yourself or your child or your nephew or that mythological family with the kid that the president mentioned. Those words don’t hurt me.
BUT! DO NOT TELL ME HOW TO REFER TO MYSELF OR MY CHILD.
When you tell me that those words are limiting, that they are obscuring the person with the disability? No. They aren’t. YOU are. If I say that I am autistic or that my son is autistic and that means that you can’t see the individual intertwined within? That can’t be undone with a phrase such as “with autism.”
I use person first language sometimes. If someone prefers it, I try to use it when I refer to them or their child. But my preference—and that of many people I know—is to use “autistic.” Most people I know who say “autistic” don’t care if you say “with autism.” But for some reason, the people who say “with autism” really, really care if I say “autistic.” I don’t think it is asking too much to hope that people don’t tell me what words I can use.
I know that person-first language REALLY matters to some of you. Dude, that’s cool. Cool like a motherfucking cucumber. I get it. Words matter to me too. Use person-first language. Use your words. But let me use mine and let the president use his. Or we can bitch about his language enough that he never talks about us again.
President Obama wasn’t disrespecting your kid. I believe that he was respecting the self-advocates he talks to. If he were disrespecting your kid, he’d be dismantling Medicaid instead of talking about your family.
Seriously. I have seen this argument being debated all over the internet today. Today? This is what you want to obsess about? This is the important thing? Because I have a hell of a long list of things that bothered me about the debate last night and wanting to tell other people how to refer to themselves isn’t even on the goddamn list.