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Another Kind of Masking

painting of 2 people dressed for Carnival in costumes, hats, and full face masks. One is wearing white and the other black with red and orange. They are standing in front of a watery canal in Venice with buildings across the water behind them.
Carnival in Venice painting by Hubertine Heijermans, public domain image

As public health laws change in response to lowering Covid-19 rates, many people are taking off their masks and moving about the world with their faces showing. Today we want to bring your attention to another sort of masking familiar to many people on the autism spectrum and others who are neurodiverse or neurodivergent.

What masking are we talking about? Here's a definition from Kieran, the Autistic Advocate:

“Masking is a build up of layer upon layer of mass complexity, whereby an Autistic person attempts to ‘fit in’ and maintain safety in an endless variety of differing situations and environments by applying in fluctuating degrees often uncontextualised and sometimes rehearsed, learnt behaviours to appropriate situations; whilst simultaneously suppressing natural behaviours and conjunctively their sense of self-identity, initially consciously, over time becoming unconscious, often at great cost.”

You can read Kieran's entire article, "Masking: I am not OK" by clicking here (content warning: this article has some profanity). There are also a growing number of videos available online, so we can hear directly from people who are autistic/neurodiverse/neurodivergent about how masking impacts them, and how we can be supportive and inclusive. We find Cory Singer's videos incredibly illuminating - Here's Cory's definition of masking, and you can watch the entire video by clicking here:

"Masking is when someone with autism, like myself, basically pretends not to be autistic to make people who are not autistic comfortable. We mask our autistic traits and tendencies. It's bad for us because it is mentally exhausting, and it comes from a place of trauma. Unfortunately, with the way society is set up is, in order to get by, you have to fit in. Masking can lead to depression and autistic burnout."

Click here to watch another of Cory's videos describing a day at work that requires masking and more masking, and also the toll that this takes on the person doing the masking.

We ask you to join us in thinking about this unseen-by-you masking labor that our friends and family members who are autistic/neurodivergent/neurodiverse put in, and to do some work of your own to build a more inclusive culture in which all people can be themselves, just as they are. We believe we should each find safe acceptance and the warmth of understanding and wholehearted acceptance and welcome in our communities, without this type of masking required.

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