Identity-first language, and why it’s important

Female-presenting white red-haired person wearing black t-shirt bearing “I’M WITH AUTISM” slogan and an arrow pointing to the left, where there is a giant letter A. The words “This isn’t how it works” in ALL CAPS are written above the image.

[March 2018 update: since publishing this page a while back, and in anticipation of Autism ACCEPTANCE Month 2018, I’ve added a few more links and a highly educational illustration to this page. Read, inform yourself, and respect each other! – Mama Pineapple.]


So far, this site doesn’t have information and resources organised by ‘theme’ (perhaps the information management geek in me will get the better of me at some point…). Nevertheless, identity-first language is a topic I thought important enough to warrant its own page.

Identity-first language means I refer to myself as an “autistic person”, rather than using a person-first descriptor such as “person with autism”. I allude to this usage in this blog post:

I’ve earned the right to label myself as autistic. It explains everything. It is not all that I am, but it defines so much of who I am.

And that is why, for me at least, the identity label comes first. That I’m still a person should be obvious.

For me, as someone who is adult diagnosed, and who has only recently learnt in depth about autism in general, let alone my own or that of my daughter, I am repeatedly struck by how often autistic people are seen as somehow less than human. The root of this seems to lie with the common misconceptions that we lack empathy and that we are emotionless – two “facts” that are categorically untrue, as you discover the moment you actually start listening to autistic people.

But rather than write a longer, more in-depth blog post about the reasoning behind my choice, however, I thought I’d instead link to a load of pieces by autistic people who have already done the work of explaining this matter far more effectively than I have time to do right now.

[To any autistic person out there who does prefer to refer to themselves as a “person with autism”: whilst I don’t agree with this rationale, I accept and respect your right to refer to yourself in the way with which you’re most comfortable. Just as long as it’s your choice.]

Individual blog posts and articles

Video

Compiled lists


[Featured image description: Female-presenting white red-haired person wearing black t-shirt bearing “I’M WITH AUTISM” slogan and an arrow pointing to their left (the viewer’s right) where there is a giant letter ‘A’ made of coloured puzzle pieces. The words “This isn’t how it works” in ALL CAPS are written above the image.

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