Updated: May 25, 2019
You-do-You, Boo Boo was a little throw-away line my daughter said to me, one day as we were driving home from work together. For the life of me I can't remember what I was rambling on about, but clearly, it was a personal challenge. I remember laughing when she said it. I took me right out of my self absorption. Yes, I thought, I will 'do me'.
A couple of days ago I was talking with a young man about starting up an account on a dating site. This young man has autism and, for as long as I have known him, he has hated his disability. He knows others see the world in a different way and he wants to be like everyone else. He wants to be a neurotypical so he can navigate the social world and get what he really wants - a girlfriend. Over the years he has cried, lashed out and been mean to anyone who has a visually apparent disability. He has rebelled to have the same as anyone else his age.
This young man is not going to go on a dating site that has a hint of disability. Tinder or bust! (or some variety of Tinder) We spoke about the people who are on dating sites and the fact that they can be mean. To my complete surprise, he leaned back in his chair, extended his arms openly, puffed his chest and said: 'what's not to love about a young autistic man like me'?
It wasn't so much his confidence in his 'what's not to love' statement - no, no, no, his self-confidence in his own social appeal has never been a question! It was more that he included his disability in the self-description. Now, I am the last person to think disability must form part of identity. How a person self-identifies is entirely up to them. My surprise was that in years gone by, this young man would have died a thousand deaths before whispering the word autism in the same sentence as his name.
I laughed and said 'don't forget your stunning blue eyes in that list' and he stopped and genuinely asked, 'are my eyes stunning at the moment?' The dangers of telling him his eyes are stunning know no bounds ... He knows my daughter, so I told him I was changing Tasha's words. Instead of 'you-do-you', I think it could also be 'you-be-you, boo boo'. I thought I was being funny. He smiled generously and changed the topic. Oh, the brutal honesty ...
That night, as I was listening to Twitter, I came across this post by Simon Sinek:
In our sector we operate daily in a world of social discrimination against persons with disability. In Twitter and Facebook read posts from people I can tell have scares from the social rejection they have experienced in life. There's hope. We live in a time when there are many social movements to reduce discrimination. Laws are changing and social reforms, like NDIS, are happening. Maybe one day I might feel the urge to be more politically active. For now it's about making our little corner of the world better.
My feeling is that bitterness repels. What's that saying 'honey attracts, vinegar repels'? - or something to that effect. To change discourse, discrimination and inequity, my feeling is that we need to keep conversations open. We need to use honey. In my mind that's laughter and fun. We need to engage with those who don't think the same as us, who might not have the same values, or who might fear. Diversity isn't something to fear.
I'm not out to change the world. Quite frankly, I've been living with a man for the last thirty-odd years who has proven changing people isn't that easy (he's still a work-in-progress!). When I came across Simon's innocuous little post, I paused. I just read and re-read. So true. He's not a spokes person for our sector, but if he can be a social influencer with these thoughts and beliefs - I'm in.