Today is Valentine’s Day. And, for weeks or maybe just today, many neurotypicals will be making plans with significant others or lamenting their lack thereof. However, it’s time for the Autistics and the Disability Community to take a different approach to this holiday. Instead of focusing on significant others, we need to claim Valentine’s Day as a celebration of love for ourselves and our community.
Much of what society tells us we should strive for is based on a non-disabled/neurotypical, cisgender, heterosexual, upper middle class point of view. As members of the Disability Community, we usually do not fit into these dictated molds. In fact, those with Autism and invisible disabilities may have spent a good portion of their lives attempting to mask their disabilities. Feeling like we are already seen as different, many of us mask the extent of our support needs, our neurodiversity, our true gender, or our sexuality or asexuality. Well, it’s time for us to take off the masks to show the world we love ourselves.
Historically, the Disability Communities have been at the forefront of advocating for getting our needs met through policy or law changes. Our elder generations had to strive to get their most basic needs met and therefore became well-versed at advocating. Advocating for those needs should been seen as the best self-care and self-love we can give ourselves and others in the community. But, even when we get these needs met, we are still seen as other or different.
Because of this, over the past 15 years, the Disability Community has begun reclaiming our narrative by telling our stories, sharing our lives, and raising our voices through various platforms. Earlier this month, Alice Wong, Mia Mingus, and Sandy Ho, launched the Access Is Love project. As described on their website, “Access Is Love, aims to build a world where accessibility is understood as an act of love.” This project seeks to bring awareness and generate action in creating and expanding accessibility as an intersectional issue and a shared responsibility with society. As many have written about, and as research has shown, accessibility not only benefits the Disability Community, but the broader community as well because everyone’s quality of life has been improved. Because of this improvement, a sense of disability pride has emerged in our community, a testament to our strong self-love.
Although Autistics and people with disabilities may feel that they don’t fit in to what society says Valentine’s Day is, it can be a chance to create a new, lasting sense of self-love and pride, and allow people the opportunity to be their true, authentic self. So, this February 14th, let’s be part of evolving the new perspective on what love is for Autistics and the Disability Community. As Whitney Houston sings in Greatest Love of All, “learning to love yourself, it is the greatest love of all.” And, not only have we have begun to do that, but we are continuing to create a world where we are truly accepted and appreciated for who we are.