'NTs'... When a Word Becomes 'Loaded' and Why I Don't do Bigotry

© Donna Williams

Just for those who don't know, the term 'NT' stands for 'Neuro-Typical'. It came to be used to contrast those who were 'neuro-typical' with those who were 'neuro-atypical', basically 'typical' and 'atypical' brains. Over time, however, the term went from being purely an adjective to being commonly used in satire, to being used by some groups in as a derogatory, loaded 'category' used to refer collectively to non-autistic people as a population.

I recently did a tour through which I met some wonderfully kind, enlightened organisers and many carers and professionals who had, humbly, come to learn about alternative realities.

I met some autie spectrum people dotted about the audience, sharing rows with non-autie parents and others and many came up and met me.

At one of my lectures, though, I met some autie spectrum Aspies who came in as a group and sat, almost huddled together, away from all non-auties.

At the end of my lecture I asked 'did you enjoy the talk'.

The leader of their group replied in a tone lacking in warmth, 'it would have been better without any NTs present'. The others chimed in in support of him. Alienated, I left them to it.

Later when they were buddying up with more of the same separatist rhetoric and there was a tone to it that sat uncomfortably with me, a tone I'd heard before, in hierarchical non-autie children in playgrounds once upon a time (where I'd also known nice ones).

I had to let this group know that I simply don't do bigotry... that my non-autie friends are not typical, mundane, boring or expendable and that I refuse to use any derogatory term that hints they are such, such as 'NT'.

As you can imagine, they were quite taken aback. I was meant to 'understand'. I was meant to be 'one of them'. But if 'one of them' meant I was meant to hang out in a group and dislike or disrespect another group, and share this as 'belonging' and 'shared culture' and 'shared understanding' then this wasn't 'me'.

The NT term was popularised by a caring autistic person called Jim Sinclair and was merely an adjective then.

But the term NT became championed by Temple Grandin and later Wendy Lawson and many others who followed.

Much satire began, which was healthy. There was a lot that needed changing and satire is a powerful tool and can build bridges, and it did.

But as the Internet took over from pen pal lists and groups became bigger and more exclusive and excluding, healthy satire soon moved to self righteous dogma and outright bigotry and because it was PC to say nothing everybody let the venom seep in without critique.

I used to use the term 'the worlders' (I, by contrast was a 'my worlder').

But many people don't know, I distinguished between 'the worlders' (socially invasive people) and 'others'. I always knew that some non-auties were NOT 'the worlders', that some non-auties fitted in well with me. So I called them Gadoodleborgers, bridge-keepers, people who were open to alternative normality's.

I married a Gadoodleborger. Some Aspies find him Aspie. Others have said he's 'NT'. He's simply a beautiful person who accepts and is compatible with the rather alternative walking 'normality' that is me. I could want nothing more.

I have a wonderful small circle of Gadoodleborgonian friends, none of whom are 'on the spectrum'.

I even have some friends who have some 'the worlder' elements and that's their stuff.

All that matters is do they accept it isn't 'my stuff'. That's what makes them friends.

I have some lovely autie and Aspie friends too.

And I have friends who are objects and elements like rain and wind and they are part of my social world too.

I have always used the term 'non-autie'.

I used NT a few times, before it was satire or bigotry, in the days it was just an adjective, not a LOADED one.

Now, I make it clear, bigotry is about hierachy and I don't do hierachy.

I don't care how much abuse or prejudice or bigotry I received from Harry, Mary or Joe and I've written enough books on it to know what those things are.

I am not going to feel better by doing the same rubbish in reverse, in fact I'd lose my best friend if I did- me- because I wouldn't love or relax with that person.

I do not define all non-autie people by those who mistreated me or a time when people were less enlightened or as 'trapped with me' as I was with them.

I needed people to get understanding, to find a place of equality opposite me.

But I did not need or want them to feel shame, guilt or to grovel to me or anyone like me.

Ivory towers are shaky, lonely, unstable structures.

I don't fancy making one my special space. A corner will do me just fine. Corners are cosy.

I forgive people their misunderstandings and assumptions because I make those every day and I don't care if those folks are autie, Aspie or non-autie, canine, feline, tree or tractor.

Every day I meet non-auties and respond and behave as though I don't understand their system, values, reality, I misunderstand and assume.

And their are Aspie people who assume and misunderstand auties all the time- many of us don't have a techie, engineering, scientist bone in our bodies and are geared for ARTism and surrealism, not science. Many of us are not visual thinkers, some of us are musical thinkers and many are kinesthetic with very very poor visual processing. Many of us are not ideas people who wonder, we are discovers who experience and it hasn't occurred to us to wonder. So we have many in our own ranks making misunderstandings, assumptions, projections all the time.

Non-auties often are grand enough to chill-out about the ways autie spectrum people misunderstand them or assume an reality they don't experience.

I can be grand enough to do the same when their version rubs me the wrong way.

I find diversity interesting- INCLUDING THEIRS.

When one hasn't truly moved in their world, with trust and openness then they may all 'look the same', just as autie spectrum people may to them.

But they are actually wonderfully different from each other.

We have invited them to embark on the adventure of understanding our differences and our diversity.

But have we truly turned a new page to look at them on their own terms without judging them by our own?

I'm not one for the mainland. Peripheries and islands work for me.

But I'd hope that when I visit that mainland that I leave the old battle scars behind me.

If I'm big enough to do so.