Autistic masking is a trauma response to the consistent bullying, harassment, stigma and marginalisation Autistic people face. It is so much more than trying to fit in or fly under the radar. It is unconscious self preservation, an automatic response to keep us safe. I could write about Autistic masking all day but frankly Kieran Rose does it so much better!
There is also a misconception around Autistic masking that we become outwardly non-Autistic in our behaviours, mannerisms and speech. This plays very nicely into the neuro-majority idea of invisible disabilities and differences, which is a total fallacy. The idea of ‘invisible’ disabilities was created so that non-Disabled people could continue to gaslight, neglect and abuse us under the guise of ‘not knowing’. When people say they “don’t see disability” they are telling us that we all have the same needs and strengths and therefore need no accommodations. It is the same putrid ‘superhuman’ ideas which envelope the Paralympics but not the Olympics; the idea that we are amazing because we “overcame our struggles.”
Autistic shielding appreciates that there is no such thing as invisible differences or disabilities – simply that people do not care enough to educate themselves and really see other people. Shielding is projecting the most intense, strange and wonderful things about yourself – waving our freak flags high for all to see. Shielding, like masking, is a protective response to trauma, it is creating a barrier of fierceness which only lets the right ones in, the ones who resonate with our weird vibes, our special interests and our Autistic embodiment.
So, shielding protects the individual (although there are likely to be some people who abuse us for being unashamedly ourselves) and allows us to create beautiful Autistic communities. I see that in the likes of Weird Pride Day and Aucademy – we are emancipating ourselves from oppression by creating a shield which we can sit under together. We are using our shields to signal to each other that we are safe people, and under these shields we create safe spaces for ourselves and our neurokin.