In a few weeks, I'm taking part in two panels at the ASA meeting in Rhode Island. It's taken me several years to get to the point of feeling comfortable with something like this.
It's not the speaking part. I've been an invited speaker in dozens of national conferences over the past 20 years, I've guest lectured at Universities, been interviewed on TV and radio. But *all* of that has been in my capacity as a physical therapist and an expert in my sub-field. By all accounts, I am an excellent speaker--I don't read prepared remarks or simply recite the information on my slides, and I connect with the audience. No, the speaking itself is not the problem.
It's the "Hey, look at me, I'm a successful adult with AS" issue. I dislike calling attention to myself. I loathe being turned into "a self-narrating zoo exhibit". (A phrase I first heard from my friend, Phil Schwartz, though I don't know if it is of his creation.)
So why did I agree to speak? Partly because if I don't, than I miss an opportunity to change the conversation--to challenge perceptions in the 'NT' world about living on the spectrum. There is more than one paradox/danger here: If I *do* speak up/come 'out', then I risk personal stress-overload, thus reinforcing stereotypes of Aspie failings. And, invariably, some will simply deny I *am* an Aspie, simply because I can be eloquent and display emotional literacy.
And for the privilege of taking several days from my work (I'm in private practice-if I don't work, I don't get paid), upending my own typical schedule (stressful--'nuff said), spending time and energy preparing my talks, and exposing myself emotionally in a charged venue, I get to pay the ASA.
According to their website, it is a discounted rate. (Gee. Thanks.) In EVERY OTHER conference related speaking engagement I have ever had, I have been given free registration. Even for small organizations that could not afford to pay transportation/hotel/honorarium fees. The registration was free.
Can I afford the $135? Yes. That's not the point. The point is the ASA is, in part, drawing in conference participants (and income) *because* of the work my fellow speakers and I are putting together. We are the value added of the conference.
I wrote a polite email to the organizers pointing some of this out. I received a curt response thanking me for my concerns and a promise to discuss it with the powers that be.
So the ironic conclusion: I am paying, in real dollars, lost work, and personal 'cost', to present in 2 panels for an organization I am not sure I want to belong to because I feel I owe it to my community of fellow travelers.
What's wrong with this picture?