Normally when people say they’re going to “make an example of” someone they mean to criticize and shame them for crossing some boundary. It’s rare for somebody to be held up as an example for something positive.
But that’s my intention in writing about my own experiences and interacting with people in “real life”: I am open about who and what I am because I want people to look at me and see that I’m not some scary threat to their way of life. To put a human face to the labels of autistic and transsexual. To be seen as a person first so that when these people encounter others they have a little understanding and do not see them as being so very different from themselves.
I’m not pushing myself in anyone’s face: that’s not my style. I live a fairly normal life, I do fairly normal things. I don’t stand up and preach: I just do what I do. Sleep, work, watch TV, read books, blog and tweet. And that is why I see myself as an example: for all my differences — which are what make me a unique individual — I have things in common with pretty much all of the various people I meet. I guess it’s a consequence of being of the same species on the same planet.
Seeing the person rather than just some label — gay, black, Christian, old — requires that there is some level of engagement. Some aspect that includes rather than excludes. Something that shifts the balance from being one of them towards being one of us. It’s easy to fall prey to common prejudices based on media-reinforced stereotypes — the man-hating feminist, the racist white skinhead, the Muslim suicide bomber — and to see anyone who appears to match the description as a living instance of the stereotype. As a threat. As other.
Breaking those habits of thought associated with stereotypes can be done. What it takes is counter-examples: people who take ownership of the labels and associate them with positives. I’m just one person; I don’t claim to represent all autistics or all trans* people. I don’t need to: of the people who know me, many of them accept me for who I am. By accepting me they accept my autism and my gender. I hope that this helps open their minds to others who are autistic or trans*.
That is why I am determined to make an example of myself. To be a living, breathing demonstration that we are people, and not some strange, alien species of freaks which is how some segments of the media still sensationally portray us.
4 thoughts on “Being An Example”
“Set the right example, it may inspire others”
– a fortune cookie I once got
I really liked that one. Much better than preaching or even discussion, sometimes. Just living in the way you believe to be true and right, let others see that and hopefully inspire others and topple prejudices. And that’s exactly what you do, by being so open about things.
It’s also why I tell people I’m autistic a little more often than is necessary, Just by being me and telling them this, I have already changed their perception/prejudice of autistics a little bit, and that’s what I want. We don’t even have to give them a full explanation of what ‘autism’ means, or ‘transsexuality’.
I think in a world that is dominated by media and stereotypes this is very important. Keep up the good work! 🙂
Thank you. I believe it’s important to try to influence perceptions in a positive way. I don’t think being aggressive or argumentative is effective because people stop listening, so I take an indirect approach by just being myself and being open about who I am. Advocacy can be about educating through personal example; it’s not always about head-on confrontation.
I totally agree with you about being and example and influencing people in a positive way-I think it’s way more effective. When others see you as a person and not as a threat, it really changes their whole way of thinking.
That is definitely the key to it: the differences seem less threatening once you are accepted as a person.