Chapter 6: Navigating Social Disability as a Neurodivergent Misfit
I have been exploring different symbolic synergies for myself as I see myself as a catalyst for change. Recently, I have considered terms such as "transformation enabler" and "initiator" to describe my role in driving change. My mind ventures beyond the boundaries of the conventional and I possess an unwavering commitment to justice and equity. Every day, I am stirred from my slumber by the compulsion to make the world a better place. This desire has been a constant in my life since I can recall. Recently, my parents presented me with a box of my childhood artifacts, and among them was a project from my 6th grade year that documented my aspirations and desires for the future. Each of my wishes centered on the idea of social justice. I was, and presently continue to be, a non-conformist.
Individuals like myself, whom I lovingly refer to as "misfits," are not uncommon in our world. In fact, there are countless misfits who find themselves turning to substances as a means of coping with the profound social injustices, environmental decay, and human pain that often hits them with greater force than most.
Neurodivergent misfits, like myself, possess an innate proclivity towards championing the human experience.
We possess an immense capacity for care, one that runs so deep that it can be painful. It is only natural to seek ways to alleviate that pain. However, the bureaucratic means for doing so often inflict more suffering than the substances we turn to for relief.
In my 43 years on this planet, I have come to realize that our society demands concrete evidence of harm before acknowledging a problem's existence. Mere expression of pain or discomfort holds little sway, particularly when monetary gain supersedes human dignity. As an autistic person unmasking in a capitalist society, I am confronted with the harsh realities of social disability. Working within government systems, I have repeatedly expressed the pain and suffering caused by certain practices, only to be met with dismissive responses and accusations of arrogance. It feels like being repeatedly punched in the same tender spot, with no respite or remedy in sight.
The term "social disability" refers to a type of disability that arises from systems or practices that only cater to the needs of certain individuals, particularly those who benefit from white supremacy. The concept of social disability involves a system that favors certain groups while labeling others as disabled. This group includes non-white individuals, those with physical disabilities, individuals living in poverty, LGBTQIA, non-christian, women, and those who are neurodivergent, with each identity intersecting with others. Imagine a small group of wealthy, Christian, white men in the center of a web of intersecting identities.
Those with fewer intersections will be closer to the center and more privileged, while those with more intersections will be pushed further away and more marginalized.
The reality we inhabit is one where conforming yields greater privilege, while non-conformity due to inability or choice leads to social marginalization.
Misfits are individuals on the web of intersecting identities who are able to hover on the edges of the middle circle, using their proximity to privilege to bring attention to marginalized perspectives and advocate for change. Misfits are not leveraging their proximity to the center for personal benefit; rather, they are driven by a profound sense of care for the collective.
As I reflect on my current situation at work, I find myself working with my human resources representative to address issues that have caused me harm. It can be an overwhelming experience, as I feel like I'm spending a lot of time rehashing events to prove that what happened had a negative impact on me. What makes it even more challenging is that the people involved are not inherently malicious; rather, they simply lack awareness and understanding.
My ultimate goal is to bring about a transformation in my workplace. Rather than constantly advocating for myself and my specific needs, I want to create an environment where all employees have the necessary knowledge and tools to communicate and express themselves without fear of causing or experiencing harm. This means striving towards neuroinclusion and ensuring that individuals like myself are not isolated, fired, burnt out, or overlooked. I believe that by promoting a culture of understanding and respect, we can all work towards a healthier, and more productive workplace for everyone.
As a misfit, I feel a sense of responsibility to use my upcoming meeting on Tuesday as a catalyst for broader change within our work systems. How can I leverage my personal experience to bring about a transformative shift in workplace accommodations?