Thoughts on Own Voices
I began looking into the autism hashtags on Twitter in late 2018 and early 2019 between beginning to suspect I might be autistic and before seeking a diagnosis. Like most social media sites, Twitter uses algorithms to determine what to show you, even from the people you follow. So an interesting thing happened as I broadened my searches from just writing related topics to autism and ADHD.
Tweets and hashtags related to the own voices movement, most specifically those related to authors with autism and ADHD, began popping up in my feed. Before then, I hadn’t heard of such a thing.
Even then, it didn’t really hit me exactly how much some of us needed such a thing until I discovered certain characters had autistic or “has ADHD” tags connected to them on AO3. Generally, these are characters who are coded in such a way people “head canon” them as having autism or ADHD or some other disability or neurological divergence. I’ve been on something of a Batman kick for the past year or so, and some of the stories under the autistic Tim Drake and autistic Damian Wayne tag hit me hard.
Never in my life had I seen characters exhibit some of the behaviors I have had longer than I can remember. Things I learned super early on I needed to hide to do if I didn’t want to be punished or shamed for were shown as, not always healthy perhaps, but normal and understandable. I saw characters who think along the same lines or experience the world in a similar way, and the sense of belonging, of being “normal,” was so overwhelming, it had me crying.
I had already realized I’d coded the protagonists for both of the main plot lines in The Icarus Project as autistic without setting out to do so. In fact, that was part of what got me thinking perhaps I ought to seek a diagnosis since that happened through giving these particular characters some of my own “flaws.” (Read autistc traits I was punished or ridiculed for exhibiting.) Realizing this for what it was, I have placed drafting Icarus on the back burner as I practice writing these characters in the way they deserve to be written.
Reading own voices works and participating in conversations about how different groups, even ones we belong to since not everyone experiences everything the same way, expands our understanding of others and ourselves. I seem to have had, “Oh, so that’s why I do that,” moments four or five times a week since starting this journey almost two years ago now. I have discovered parts of myself buried since I was teeny tiny and found better and healthier ways of coping through it. It has made me a better mother, and I have hope it will make maintaining friendships easier moving forward.
We are living within a revolution within the media whether we like it or not. We have been for some years now. As respected as the big five publishers, and smaller publishing houses, still are, one good thing we stand to gain from such gate keepers becoming less all powerful is an increase in the opportunity for such voices to be heard. I greatly encourage those of you looking to broaden your reading horizons to search for own voices authors from a variety of backgrounds. There’s no better way to increase understanding than to simply listen to those who have lived an experience.
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A. B. England is a novelist, all around geek, avid crafter, and the home-schooling mother of two.
She is an autistic creator with a love of mythology, fantasy, and all flavors of science fiction.
Yekara Series Book 2
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