Hi! My name is Jude!
You don’t know me, but I’m writing this letter to you because I wish someone had written this letter to me when I was your age. It brings me some relief to be able to make sense of so much of my life now that I’m equipped with the missing pieces that evaded me for so long, but I also feel anger and sorrow for what was stolen from me in that journey— what I know is ultimately being stolen from you as well.
I want to do whatever I can to ease the pain from the burden that comes with surviving in a society that is actively harming you. I want to destroy the lie that society tries to convince you that your pain is the only option. I want to affirm your existence as someone who is Autistic and make sure you understand everything you deserve.
You deserve to be seen.
You deserve to be seen because you exist, and that’s it! White supremacy has sold us the lie that your worth is tied to being able to produce within the confines of capitalism. We are quickly taught to mask our emotions and stimming and the way we need to communicate or we will be alienated from community, family, and friends.
You deserve the truth.
You are told that because you are different, it’s ok to punish and harm you; because you don’t adhere to the lie, it is ok to withhold acceptance and love and project what is wrong with the world on to you. You are not allowed to be angry or upset about this because you’re told that you are what’s wrong, not the status quo.
But you deserve so much more than the lies we’ve been sold. You deserve to be in community with people who work to understand you and encourage your growth and support you because the struggle for survival is a shared burden, and you do not deserve nor are you responsible for the harm enacted upon you because you cannot adhere to the lies they were told.
You should be allowed to ask questions and communicate in a way that is comfortable for you. You deserve to feel and express your emotions instead of masking and repressing your pain.
To survive, so many of us have had to make parts of ourselves invisible, but you deserve to stand in your truth whether your neurodivergence, your Blackness, your queerness— every single part of your humanity deserves to be respected and seen.
You deserve to rest.
So many comorbid diagnoses that are common with autism are from prolonged stress and are trauma related. And what is more stressful than living in a society that causes you to mask your emotions because you make them uncomfortable by going against the status quo, harm you if you don’t, and then expect you to work yourself to death under these conditions.
I’ve had OCD for fifteen years of my life because I wasn’t allowed to rest and be happy with my body, with my self, with my humanity. Fifteen years of internalizing the lies that were told to me about my fat, Black, trans body. Those lies developed in my thoughts, constantly screaming at me that I have to be who society tells me, or I am worthless.
I later developed intracranial hypertension that was causing me to lose the ability to see and walk. To save my life, I needed to leave my job and rest, and with that I have never been able to thrive and flourish as much as I have when I stopped forcing my mind and body to operate within the confines that were killing me.
I was able to receive treatment that stopped my obsessive thoughts for the first time in 15 years, but for so many I know, that route requires an amount of privilege that just isn’t possible. We are taught that we have to be strong and endure, but there is nothing wrong with demanding grace and rest, the ability to be soft.
Things that are considered strong tend to snap easier under stress, sometimes even more so. You deserve to not have to define your entire existence in how hard you work and produce. You deserve to one day not have the anxiety and guilt that is imposed upon you when you’re simply taking care of yourself.
You deserve to not have to worry if you’ll survive if you you’re not working yourself to death. You deserve to map out your needs and support so you can take the least stressful path possible and to be in community with people who make that possible, but you still deserve to know what true rest truly means.
You deserve boundaries.
You deserve bodily autonomy.
You deserve to be able to negotiate your needs being met.
You deserve consent.
I have been chastised because my reaction to being hit or touched seemed like I was making too big a deal. But now, I understand my sensory issues, I realize I do tend to feel pain in ways that are different from someone who does not have that disorder; but it does not matter, because I never gave the consent to be hit. I never gave the consent to be touched. My reaction wouldn’t be a problem if consent wasn’t violated, and I am allowed to express my pain when I am harmed.
You deserve to know a life where you are not constantly in fear of being hit and your consent being violated. You are allowed to have boundaries, and to be in community with people who respect those boundaries and your bodily autonomy, who do not guilt you or shame you.
You deserve people who encourage you to negotiate your needs being met while still respecting your bodily autonomy.
YOU DESERVE TO SAY NO.
You deserve to be in community with people who understand and respect your capacity may not always be the same, and who will extend you grace when you are out of spoons to even text back.
There wasn’t ever an age where you deserved to be hit, and I’m so sorry for any of the times where your neurodivergence was used to justify violence against you. I’m sorry for the times when your pain was seen as disrespect.
I’m so sorry for all the times you were made to feel that you deserved the harm you endured, but I want you to know you never did. Your body is yours. Because you’re autistic, your needs may be need to be met differently than others, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
There is nothing wrong with you.
Your body is a good body because it is yours, because you exist, and because you deserve the full control and autonomy and boundaries that comes with your body— with your existence.
You deserve love without suffering.
You deserve love that wishes to do you no harm.
As human beings, we will always cause harm, but you deserve to experience love that works to make amends everyday, to grow with you, to reduce and prevent the harm that comes with living in humanity.
bell hooks wrote that love and abuse cannot exist together, but I disagree, with the wording at the very least. I know that my mother loved me, but to say that she didn’t both love and abuse me feels like it ignores the generational trauma that comes with living in a society that teaches us to impose harm and masquerades it as respect and caring. I feel like this reasoning is used to weaponize love in abusive relationships, because if love can’t coexist with abuse, then I must not really be receiving abuse.
But I believe love and abuse can coexist, as I love myself in a world that harms me everyday, but just because that love exists, I do not have to accept that love. You do not have to accept that love.
You deserve to accept a love that sees you and listens to you and understands you.
You deserve a love that doesn’t make you feel ashamed for expressing your emotions and communicating through stimming—
- Love that makes space to let you listen to your music with the bass so loud it shakes the furniture.
- Love that helps you when you’re overwhelmed.
- Love that encourages you to grow but doesn’t just tell you to get over your anxiety.
- Love that understand you need your sound cancelling headphones to go out in public.
- Love that lets you talk about your favorite thing for hours and doesn’t make you feel annoying,
- Love that reassures you.
- Love that doesn’t make you feel lesser for having to ask questions, or not understanding something that might be considered easier for a neurotypical person.
- Love that understands how you want to be touched.
- Love that learns everyday what intimacy means for you.
- Love that communicates with you and gives you grace and support and patience.
- Love that will be in community to hold themselves accountable when they have caused harm and work to change.
You deserve love that lets you be you.
It actually wasn’t until recently that I realized that I deserved all of these things— that we all deserved them, and how and why it was so hard for me to see and embrace these things. And they can come from community, family, romantic partners— none of these things are mutually exclusive, so you shouldn’t have to sacrifice yourself to have your needs met. But there is also no need to feel guilty for what you did for survival with the harm that was enacted upon you.
I don’t want you to think that you have to wake up and hurt yourself everyday to think you are worthy of living.
You deserve all of these things because you exist and in your existence is the beauty that comes with being you, all of you, and you deserve to live your life in a way that embraces you.
- A Letter to Autistic Teens: Know What You Deserve - January 1, 2022
This is so beautiful and useful and validating. Thank you!
Thank you ❤️ This means lots ✨
Jude, I kind of just used your idea—of saying what another person might need to hear—to write a public apology (on behalf of my community) to a young black female whose story was recently written up in the local paper (this is in southern VT). The story said that she had been run out of town—she literally had to leave for her safety—by racist harrassers at the local school where she was the only black student. The school officials did nothing to help or protect her.
I think the power of your piece made me feel that a public apology needed to made. It’s a horrible situation, but I hope (if the paper publishes it) that my words will counteract the evil she faced, even if just in a small way.