Are we all truly the same?
Polymorphism in biology is the apparent distinction between variations within the same species. It is suggested that the diversity of humanity is the result of this discontinuous genetic variation.
Research has attempted to explain the variations of skin colour by studying the complexities of the evolution of our genome. It is suggested that lighter skin tones evolved due to humans migrating to a location with less sun. This presupposes that biologically, there is an advantage to having darker skin, which is tied to the external environment.
Epigenetics is the study of the heritable changes that can affect the expression of the genome without changing the fundamental DNA sequence. Environmental aspects of experience can influence the genes that are activated in subsequent generations.
A study of the descendants of Holocaust survivors demonstrated that the trauma was passed on through the generations. Apparently, it is known that children of the survivors suffer from stress disorders. There is increasing evidence for this – yet I have not seen a single study that makes the connection between historical slavery and the effects it has on genetic memory.
Despite the biological advantage to darker skin – there is an insidious hindrance in society that is seemingly unresolvable. It is clear that there is a difference in skin tone, but what that difference means is open to interpretation.
I have always perceived the cultural diversity of humanity as excruciatingly beautiful. It always confuses me when I am confronted with others who do not share my view. Perhaps that is a symptom of autism – the inability to put myself in someone else’s shoes. Maybe racial prejudice is simply illogical.
Who gets to decide what in society is intolerable? Often it is only those who hold power. Wealth divisions have resulted in historical injustices that relate both to society and to the scientific study of this phenomena.
In 1870 Carl Westphal described “Contrary Sexual Feeling” as a disease. Today sexual diversity is acknowledged in Law as a protected characteristic. Despite the advancement of equal rights, the LGBTQ+ community still endures torment simply because of who they are.
Autism is currently only acknowledged as a disease that requires eradicating. Recently Chris Packham opened up about his Asperger’s diagnosis and created a program that has been receiving excellent reviews. I haven’t watched the programme yet – but I came across a clip today that broke my heart.
It showed Packham going to America to investigate the treatment they are using at Brown University in Rhode Island. He described Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation as “electromagnetic radiation on the brain.” The clip showed Patrick, an autistic volunteer for TMS, as Packham asked him: “Do you like the idea of this piece of machinery changing your brain?” Patrick responded:
“I guess so, erm. Sometimes when I make mistakes around other people and stuff. I, um, think of ways I could change.”
The scene changes to show Packham debating whether he would ever have the treatment. He rejects the idea of taking a cure, although he admits that the answer would have been different in his early adult years.
This hit home. Not just because I started this draft before I saw the clip – the initial drive to receive my diagnosis was with the intention to eventually be cured. I wonder I would have felt the same if I started my research before my diagnosis?
Scientists looking for a cure often look to the brain or the genome for answers. The perspective of the neurodiversity movement is often ignored in Law and Medicine. How can society impact on the epigenetically transferred conditions that affect oppressed communities? If it perpetuates the toxic cycle of torment and poverty, then it only makes it worse.
Autistic people are not the problem. We can function in a healthy environment. People who are on the lower end of the spectrum often have multiple complex conditions that impact further on their experience of life. These are the conditions that require eradicating – not autism.
It is heart-breaking to consider that I realise that part of my drive is not only intersectional neurodiversity:
How can I prove my existence is not a mistake?
We are not the burden of humanity;