The Autism Women’s Network was created by Autistic women as a way to create a diverse community supporting allies, friends, and advocates. Their projects in the past have not solely focused on women’s issues, but also examined the intersection between issues which affect multiple populations. DIVERgent is an initiative exploring the ways disabled women are perceived by examining ableism and sexism in our culture.
The newest project comes from the Committee on Autism & Ethnicity as a way to highlight how the lives of individuals in multiple marginalized populations are affected on a daily basis.
The Autism and Race Anthology will be a collection of writings by autistic people of color. These writings will include personal experiences, ideas, hopes and other stories in their own words. With no formal structure of submissions, writings vary from prose to poetry depending on how people want their words to be heard. There has yet to be an anthology of this nature and this self-published work from the Autism Women’s Network hopes to start the conversation of how race impacts the lives of autistic individuals.
The editor of the project is Lydia Brown, also known as Autistic Hoya. Lydia is a well known activist and writer who focuses on looking at violence against multiply-marginalized disabled people. Other notable experience includes working with the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, active president of the Washington Metro Disabled Students Collective, and receiving an honor by the White House as a Champion of Change for disability rights. In addition to all the advocacy work, Lydia also is currently a student at Georgetown University.
Lydia notes the main leaders in the autistic rights and neurodiversity movement as well as those most well known for being autistic are all white. This unfortunately creates more of a stereotype of what autism is supposed to look like and does not take into account the myriad of ways race affects an individual. From diagnosis to supports available to how individuals are perceived by law enforcement, race does have an impact. Yet this topics has not been discussed by professionals in the field or explored in depth by researchers or organizations. Lydia says of the project,
“We want to amplify what autistic people of color have to say about being autistic, being racialized, doing activism, navigating racism and ableism, building communities, and simply existing.”
As Autism Women’s Network is a non-profit, a campaign was launched this past fall to help gather funds to bring this work to life. The funds are used to cover publishing costs and help provide stipends to those working on the anthology. 2/3rds of the $10,000 goal was met, yet the lack of funds will not stop this project. Autism Women’s Network aims to have the anthology finished this year. When finished, this anthology will be available in both print and digital versions.