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Championing Intersectional Advocacy for Neurodivergent and Disabled Communities


You’re likely here because you’re interested in advocacy and supporting the neurodivergent (ND) community. To advocate effectively, it's essential that we recognize all forms of oppression impacting our society and strive for justice and liberation for all marginalized groups. Many neurodivergent and disabled individuals hold multiple marginalized identities, making intersectionality a crucial topic of discussion.


We are posting this blog on Juneteenth, a day to commemorate the emancipation of enslaved Americans, which is also during LGBTQIA+ pride month, so we are centering Black and Queer identities in many of our examples. Today is a time to reflect on the past, examine the present, and make changes to do better than our predecessors. Let's get started!


What is Intersectionality?

Intersectionality, a term coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw, highlights how people with multiple marginalized identities face compounded oppression. In the context of disability and ND advocacy, ND individuals who also hold other marginalized identities may have compounded struggles.


The Wheel of Privilege and Power, included below, is a framework for conceptualizing power and privilege which was adapted from James R Vanderwoerd's "Web of Oppression" and Sylvia Duckworth's "Wheel of Power/Privilege." Take a look at the image below and consider where you might place yourself in each section. How might someone with more or less privilege in a category experience the world differently?



Centering Black and Queer Identities

Inequalities faced by marginalized communities build on each other when they intersect in an individual, resulting in vastly different experiences. For instance, a white Autistic child’s experiences differ significantly from those of a Black Autistic child like Ryan Gainer, a 15-year-old who was killed by police and should still be alive today.


The intersectional identities of boys who are both Black and Autistic create a higher risk of police violence than boys who only hold one of those identities. Let's take a look at why this might be. The Office of Justice Programs reports that neurodivergent individuals are seven times more likely to encounter law enforcement than “neurotypical” individuals. Young Black men are nearly three times more likely to be killed by law enforcement than their white counterparts, and the National Association of Mental Illness reported that almost half of Black people who die at the hands of police are disabled.


Looking at those statistics, it's clear how people with intersecting marginalized identities can face greater, compounded oppression than those with only one marginalized identity. For queer folx, the risk of violence is even higher. In 2022, anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes accounted for more than one in five (20.8%) of all hate crimes. In the last 12 months, nine in ten (90.9%) trans and gender non-conforming victims were people of color, and more than six in ten (61.8%) were Black transgender women.


In neurodiversity advocacy spaces, we talk a lot about unmasking and being your authentic self, but it's also important to remember that neurodivergent traits such as stimming, demand avoidance, gaze aversion, and communication differences can be misunderstood by uninformed people, and can lead to unsafe situations especially for multiply marginalized folks. The lens of intersectionality is essential when advocating for inclusive and safe environments. At CAYR Connections, we envision a world where people can be themselves and receive the support they need, without fear of violence.


Collective Liberation for All

Our goal is not just the liberation of one group, but the liberation of all, including BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ communities. Their struggle is our struggle, and also our responsibility. One of our organizational core values is justice. As Fannie Lou Hamer said, “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.” The ND community is diverse, and we stand in solidarity with all oppressed groups. Advocating for justice for all is just the right thing to do.


How Can I Help?

  • Center marginalized voices. Prioritize ND, Black, Queer, and other non-dominant voices.

  • Do the work. Take the initiative to unlearn racist, ableist, or other discriminatory beliefs. Do not expect ND, BIPOC, Queer, or other marginalized folks to educate you. If you need their help, make sure to compensate them for their physical, mental, and/or emotional labor.

  • Be open to accountability. Acknowledge your biases, and approach situations with curiosity, openness, and empathy.

  • Hold others accountable. Do not accept the status quo of society. Work to create safer and more inclusive environments by dismantling harmful practices and systems.


At CAYR Connections, we are tackling the inequities facing neurodivergent and disabled people through our all-ages programming and our plans to establish an inclusive school. While our main focus is on neurodiversity, neurodivergent identities intersect with many other marginalized identities, including Black, Brown, Indigenous, AAPI, LGBTQIA+, and Disabled communities. We believe in addressing the struggles of one group by working towards the collective liberation of all oppressed groups.


Our advocacy is intersectional, supporting the liberation of everyone oppressed by our dominant, colonial society. This can be an uncomfortable truth for many, especially white people, but the safety and well-being of marginalized communities are more important than preserving white comfort. When we advocate for access for neurodivergent people, we mean ALL neurodivergent individuals, especially those who are multiply marginalized by society.


Thank you for reading. This post was written by volunteer board member Megan McCoy (AuDHD, Queer, White). My aim in this piece is to define our organization’s stance on intersectionality and center Black, Queer, and neurodivergent perspectives. If you have any questions, comments, concerns, please feel free to reach out at info@cayrconnections.org 


Find more voices here: 

We have put together lists of neurodivergent creators, most of whom have other marginalized identities. We have focused on autistic voices but I would like to acknowledge that this is just one part of the ND umbrella .


Here are some additional voices that I encourage you to follow. Please remember that people are not resources. Compensate them when you can. Listen to their stories and perspectives. 


Britt Hawthorne on instagram @britthawthorne on Juneteenth



Shaiden on instagram @breakswithshaiden on being Autistic and police encounters. CW police violence against Black, autistic children



Sources: 

Blain, K. N. (2022, October 7). Fannie Lou Hamer’s message to contemporary America. AAIHS. https://www.aaihs.org/fannie-lou-hamers-message-to-contemporary-america/


Crenshaw, K. (2018b, June 22). Kimberlé Crenshaw: What is intersectionality?. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ViDtnfQ9FHc


Hawthorne, Britt (2024, June 17). 5 Things I teach my children about Juneteenth. Instagram. https://www.instagram.com/p/C8SVzkjRTft/?img_index=1


Lawoyin, Asiatu (2024, June 4). “Re: ‘Pride would not exist without BLACK Trans & Queer Lives.’” Edited and reposted series by me, Asiatu Lawoyin, Autistic Abolitionalist: Education and Coach. https://www.instagram.com/p/C7yzrD5tZM5/?img_index=1 


Levin, S. (2024, March 21). “a talented, goofy kid”: Family of Ryan Gainer, autistic teen killed by police, speak out. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2024/mar/21/ryan-gainer-autistic-teen-police-killing-california


Parker Brooks, M., & Houck, D. W. (Eds.). (2010, December 3). “nobody’s free until everybody’s free,”: Speech delivered at the founding of the National Women’s Political Caucus, Washington, D.C., July 10, 1971. OUP Academic. https://academic.oup.com/mississippi-scholarship-online/book/29348/chapter-abstract/244099842?redirectedFrom=fulltext 


Shaiden (2024, May 4). It’s been a month since Ryan Gainer was shot by police. Instagram. https://www.instagram.com/p/C6kDCKprFj9/ 

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