Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Do Not Politicize Barron Trump

In late summer, someone I respect told me that rumors were circulating around Barron Trump being autistic, based on his behavior on camera at the RNC. I looked at the rumors, found them believable but not confirmable, and felt it would be unethical to report on them in any way.  Still, I knew that if Trump won, the rumors would eventually go mainstream, find an outlet or a celebrity to promote them, and then I'd need to respond.

 Yesterday, Rosie O'Donnell (whose history speaking on autism isn't good) tweeted the following, the video has half a million views, so:
My simple take is this - Do not politicize Barron Trump. Do not try to out people - anyone in any context - as disabled. Do not be ableist or spread stigma to serve political agendas.

A few more thoughts:
  • You do not know whether Barron Trump is or isn't autistic. 
The video is not especially convincing, just pictures of a ten-year-old boy who is sometimes restless and rarely smiles when on camera in front of millions of people. He could be autistic, because autism is a common natural variation in the human neurotype, but he could also not be. Stop speculating.
  • It is both unethical and cruel to speculate about a child's disability.
In fact, it's best not to speculate about anyone's disability, as such speculations inevitably reveal more about stigma than about the individual. 
  • Barron Trump is not a public figure
Yes, horrible right-wing media outlets politicized both Sasha/Malia and Chelsea Clinton. Those people were horrible. Don't be like them.
There's an assumption that Trump's antivax ideas come from his own experience. He's said:
You take this little beautiful baby, and you pump—I mean, it looks just like it's meant for a horse, not for a child, and we've had so many instances, people that work for me...

Just the other day, 2 years old, 2½ years old, a child, a beautiful child went to have the vaccine, and came back, and a week later got a tremendous fever, got very, very sick, now is autistic
Reminder: There is no autism epidemic. We diagnose differently now. Vaccines do not cause autism

[This paragraph was edited for clarity] Really, though, it doesn't matter who Trump was talking about. If his own son or not, the point is that vaccines do not cause autism
  • I am going to fight against antivaxxers in the CDC, in HHS, as the Surgeon General, in the FDA. Barron Trump is not a pawn in that fight.
Someday, I hope we have more openly actually autistic public figures, including presidents and other elected officials. I hope we have children who live in a world where talking about their neurodiversity is no more controversial than describing their hair color. We do not live in that world. 

My experience over the last year has shown me how quickly the Left is willing to go ableist. Let's try to do better on this one.


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