23 Feb 2021

World Autism Day, the blue problem

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In reply to NVA - Zet Autisme in het licht!:

Op vrijdag 2 april is het Wereld Autisme Dag. Overal op de wereld wordt op deze dag aandacht gevraagd voor autisme. Dit gebeurt onder meer door bekende gebouwen en monumenten blauw te verlichten.


Don't light up blue!

It is almost that time again, World Autism Day. The day when many organisations celebrate the diversity of the spectrum. The day when autistic people are put in the spotlight worldwide. A day that is meant to celebrate diversity of the spectrum and to give people on the spectrum a place in the spotlight.

Already earlier on this blog I wrote a piece about the problem of the colour blue being promoted by various organisations. And this year both the NVA and the AutismeFonds are continuing this ableist tradition in the Netherlands.

The colour blue, its origins and its problems

Although at first sight it seems like a playful action to illuminate different buildings and objects with the colour blue in the context of World Autism Day, there are some problems. The colour blue was not chosen at random, it came over from America. In America there are various organisations that fight for the rights of autistic people, although they do not all do this in the same way. An example of an organisation that stands up for the rights of autistic people is ASAN. Another is Autism Speaks.

Burn Blue This last organisation is seen by many as a hate group. A group that makes many problematic statements, such as approving (and even promoting) torture, conversion “therapies” and the silencing of autistic people. The organisation originated in the past as a movement of parents, therapists and researchers. The organisation has never listened to the people they say they want to help. Within the American autistic community there are many stories of people who, with the help of Autism Speaks, ended up in ABA and other such harmful forms of “therapy”.

During the establishment of the organisation, promotional material also had to be thought up. And colour soon became the central theme. The colour that was thought up quickly became blue. This was not chosen at random. The colour blue stands, in many Western cultures, for the male gender. And in those days it was thought that autism only occurred in men.

Times have changed

Since then, there has been much research into autism. To the fact that autism is not a disease. That autism does not only occur in men, but in all people. And that autism is just as diverse as the term spectrum suggests. In addition, many organisations have arisen that do, in fact, fight for the rights of autistic people. Old ideas are rejected and condemned. The voices of autistic people are increasingly represented by autistic people themselves.

We also see more and more voices raised against the colour blue that was once chosen by neurotypical people with little understanding of the spectrum. An example of such a movement is RedInstead or OurGoldenMovement. These movements no longer want to connect the colour blue with autism, but replace it with red and gold respectively. They were started by neurodivergent people themselves as a protest against the negative aspects of the colour blue.

Although these movements originated abroad, we slowly see the same movements emerging in the Netherlands. Last year for example on this website](/2020/03/the-color-of-autism-is-gold.html), joined by actions of others under the hashtag #Gaut.

Gaut again this year!

Let’s colour the world #Gaut again this year! As I wrote, times have changed, and the colour blue in combination with autism is outdated. That’s why I and others call upon you to do away with the colour blue in combination with autism, and use gold (or red) instead!

So this year on 2 April, I will once again colour #Gaut and call on others to do the same! I hope that we will again see beautiful initiatives around #OurGoldenMoment and that there will be space for people to be able to tell their story on 2 April, without shame and negative tones. Let us, as neurodivergent people, take back our holiday and not support those who would rather lose us. This is our day, our golden day. Gaut

Thanks for reading
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Tags: autisme WereldAutismeDag NVA AutismeFonds 
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David Westerink
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I am David, born in 1984 and I'm autistic. I write blog posts and advocate for autism acceptance. I'm willing to talk to anyone about anything.

I have my own podcast (in Dutch) about autism and neurodiversity! Checkout the AutCast!

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