Two Tylers: Bullying and Why Autistic People Need to Know About Gay Rights
Last week, ABC's 20/20 was about bullying. The hardest sequences for me to watch was this one, which is about Tyler Long, who was bullied because of his Aspergers. He hanged himself, and the school took no action when other students made fun of his suicide by wearing nooses around their necks.
There are two Tyler's in this video: Tyler Long, whose parents were unable to convince his school to even hold a moment of silence for him, and Tyler Clementi, a gay student who also killed himself, and whose death has caused demonstrations of mourning across the nation. I have the traits that caused both boys to be a target for bullies: I am autistic and gay.
If you can stand to watch the video, I think it's really worth it, to understand how important it is that we all work to help and protect each other. Click here to watch it, and read some further comments from me.
As the concept for this blog has developed in my mind, I have decided to write about both gay issues and autism issues. It is important to me be openly gay in the autistic community because some people with autism who I have known have found it an unusual experience to interact with a person they know is gay. I think this is partly because people with autism tend not to know that many people, and also because we may not notice the sort of subtle social cues that people often use to let others know about things like sexual orientation.
I think it's important for people who care about autism to know about gay issues because I think the gay rights movement gives us the best model for our own civil rights movement, just as the African-American fight for equality was the best model for gay people to follow. There are a lot of differences between being black and being gay, but the two groups faced some similar problems that arose from being minority groups subject to legal and societal bigotry. Gay people used the campaign waged by African Americans both as a model for our own actions and as a metaphor to help people understand our struggle.
In his superb profile of Ari Ne'eman, the first openly autistic autistic presidential appointee, Steve Silberman draws the parallel between the gay rights movement and autistic rights movement: