I think perhaps part of the difficulty is the terminology we use. Is autism one condition or is it a set of conditions that can produce similar symptoms in some people?

It’s obvious to me as an autistic person (although of course I could be wrong) that not all autism is the same.

I’m all for looking for treatment for people like Hugh to allow them to live independent, fulfilled lives.

When I talk about problems with terminology, I was actually nervous about your reaction to my recent story coming out as a dignosed autistic person. I have lived independently since I was 17 years old, and while I do struggle with some social challenges, I am not disabled in any practical sense of the word.

People who know me for a long time are seldom very surprised when I tell them I’ve been diagnosed as autistic, but people who know me only casually usually have no idea.

I find that the way my brain works, works for me. I like it. (Maybe because it’s the only thing I know.) But if I were disabled, if I were not able to care for myself, if my family were stressed caring for me, I’m pretty sure I would want treatment.

I would want to be able to marry and live independently.

I agree with you that some advocates get carried away. I once published a story about a mentally disabled man who may have been autistic, though I don’t actually know what his diagnosis was, so I did not mention it in the story.

He and his abled lover were friends with my partner and me. They shattered some of misconceptions about consent and mental disability. I framed the story in the context of how we should not assume that mentally disabled people cannot lead fulfilled lives.

But the subject is so fraught that a woman I’ve known for years who is a passionate advocate for people with disabilities blocked me on social media and stopped talking to me. I gathered she was upset I implied that mentally disabled people might sometimes not be able to enter romantic partnerships.

But to this day I’m really not sure what caused her very strong reaction against my piece.

I guess that illustrates how volatile the subject is. But in any case, I hope my own diagnosis gives me at least a little freedom to try to talk about the subject personally.

And I wonder if having such a large autism spectrum is helpful or ultimately counterproductive. I think it’s fair to say that when we talk about autism we aren’t all talking about the same thing.

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Writer. Runner. Marine. Airman. Former LGBTQ and HIV activist. Former ActUpNY and Queer Nation. Polyglot. Middle-aged, uppity faggot. jamesfinnwrites@gmail.com

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