Autistic Shielding: Being authentic is a privilege

person holding clear glass jar

Cw: racism, violence, murder, police brutality.

Autistic Shielding is not a tool or headstate that we can all obtain in our current world.

A lot of us fear being our authentic Autistic selves for many reasons. We can be vulnerable people due to our trusting nature and differences in reading social interactions. Add intersecting identities and our safety becomes much more insecure.

I hold a lot of privilege in being white. I can flap and act ‘odd’ in public, safe in the knowledge that I am unlikely to get assaulted or murdered. Unfortunately, this is not the same experience for our Black, Indigenous, neurokin of Colour. They are at constant threat of being assaulted and abused, especially by police and others in so-called ‘authority.’ It is much safer for People of Colour to fly under the radar and hide different parts of themselves. Parts of themselves which are seen as ‘too black’ and ‘too Autistic.’

People of Colour are held to a higher standard than us white folk – loud Autistic expressions are likely to be seen as ‘aggression’ in NDs of Colour much more readily than a white Autistic person.

Similar issues arise for Autistic people who speak their own language and those who use AAC, such as a speller or BSL. These hand and arm movements could be seen as something aggressive, a behaviour which needs stopping at whatever cost – we know all to well the costs that is, especially with armed police officers in the US.

Then of course there are refugees, unhoused people, trans and gender diverse people, travellers, sex workers. All of these members of the Autistic community are often unable to show their authentic selves because it puts them in perilous situations. Masking is a much more useful protective factor, despite the strain that it puts on a person long-term. Immediate safety has to take priority over long term mental health.

So, we can’t all shield now but I’m trying to help build a better world, so this can become a reality for people who want it.

Whether you mask, camouflage, fly under the radar or shield you are a part of our community.

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