Something that comes up from time to time is the subject of my name. Although I started blogging on a whim, I made a conscious decision to use a pseudonym as a means of protecting my son’s anonymity. Since one of my hobbies is genealogy, and there is a lot of Scots-Irish ancestry in my family, I chose a name that represented that. And I was fortunate enough to be able to tie in my name to the name of this blog, as an homage to a wonderful writer.
In addition to my pseudonym, I don’t post pictures of my son where his full face is showing. I could go into all the reasons why I made this choice. I could talk about him not being of an age to give informed consent to put his face or name out there. But all that really matters is that I gave it considerable thought before making the choice that I thought was best for my child.
It’s odd, though, that the name issue comes up. If I blogged under the pseudonym of “Tammy” or “Claire”, I suppose no one would say anything. It’s funny that my choosing of a unique name is what makes people question me. I get the impression that people think they would somehow know me better if I used my real name. But you wouldn’t. If you don’t know me through my writing, then you will never know me. And believe me when I say that you can know everything about a person, and still not know them. There have been people in my life that never uttered their thoughts or opinions on things, always playing it safe. And all it does is leave me with an empty space when I think of them, because I will never really know them.
Many bloggers have chosen to put their child’s face and name out there, as a proud declaration about autism. That’s their choice, and I don’t judge them for it. Some of my very close friends share their children’s beautiful faces. They made a choice for their children, just like I made a choice for my child. Different choices don’t make anyone better than the other, just different.
How we write, and the different choices we make about what we share in our writing is very similar to advocacy. People choose to advocate in different ways. For some people, autism is something they celebrate. They make a concerted effort to never publicly discuss autism in a negative way. Others experience autism in a different way and, for them, it’s not always a positive experience. They might choose to write about autism in a more honest way that reflects their personal experience.
My approach, in case you’re a new reader, is one of honesty. This blog wasn’t created with advocacy as the main concept. I created it so I would have a place to write about my feelings and experience as an autism parent, as well as other random things that come to mind. I write as honestly as possible because, as a reader, I don’t like reading things that leave me feeling like I’m only getting part of the picture. If I read a blog and it leaves me feeling like I’ve just spent time with a used car salesman, someone who tells you about all of the great and wonderful features but neglects to tell you that the air conditioning doesn’t work or the car was in a fender bender, then I usually don’t come back to that blog. That’s my choice, because I want to experience authenticity when I read about people. But some people prefer a purely positive experience, I suppose. Some people can’t handle anything negative, so they want to hear about fields of daisies.
And since the spectrum is so very vast, I think that different people need different kinds of advocacy. People that can communicate and function reasonably well will advocate for equality and inclusion. But others that have found no way to communicate their needs will have someone advocating for them, and they need much more than equality and inclusion. Each is doing their part to advocate, but ultimately their needs and sense of urgency is different.
Imagine the absurdity of someone insisting that all bloggers must use only their real names, and photos of their children must have a full frontal view of their face. How laughable would it be for someone to presume to tell others how they should write about their family on their own blog?
It’s about as laughable as telling people that they all must advocate in exactly the same way, using exactly the same language.
There is someone out there right this moment, who is in crisis with their child. They are desperate and they are frightened, and right now they don’t have the kindest things to say about autism.
There is also someone out there right now who is learning to celebrate their uniqueness and feel good about everything that makes them different. They want people to know that autism isn’t always something to be feared.
Can both of those examples be right? For me, they are just as right as the fact that I blog as Flannery, and you blog as Joe.