It is time for our community to “come out of the closet.” We can no longer hide behind religious and personal belief exemptions and hope to protect our children, or even ourselves. The global drug industry that produces vaccines is no longer willing to tolerate us. They want to force everyone to use their products, and they increasingly have the police power of government to back them up. As the largest advertiser in America they have the clout to buy completely one-sided media coverage, and they are using their power to generate hate against us. California, New York and Maine have already lost their rights. It looks like New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts could be next.
Once upon a time we could keep our mouths shut and stay under the radar. Those days are over. Either we stand up and fight or get ready to roll up your children’s sleeves. There is no in-between anymore. You can’t hide and fight at the same time. It is time to choose.
At the foundation of every injustice is a lie. The lie that vaccines are safe for everybody. The lie that vaccines do not cause autism. The lie that autism is just a difference. The lie that the government is doing everything possible to protect your children. The first step to correcting the injustice is to refuse to accept the lies any longer. Coming out is all about refusing to accept the lies anymore, lies about reality, about ourselves, about what happened to our children, about the world that makes this possible.
Back in June the biggest gay pride parade ever was held in New York City. The police estimated 4 million people showed up. It was the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, which is considered the founding event of the gay rights movement. The “Stonewall Riots” began when a handful of drag queens and friends that frequented the Stonewall Inn reached their breaking point when the police raided the bar one too many times and attempted to roust them. They fought back. They fought back for days. They fought back for years. A handful turned into a couple of hundred demonstrating in the streets of Greenwich Village, and a couple of hundred turned into 4 million just in one city. That handful of drag queens changed the world.
And they are not so different from us. A vilified group of outcasts that the powers-that-be say are legitimate targets for de-humanization, discrimination and violence. When we were trying to persuade the lawmakers not to take away our religious exemption this winter and spring in Albany, NY, we encountered behavior I have never seen in almost 20 years of advocacy. Legislators and their staffs called us “Nazis,” “lunatics,” “flat earthers,” and more. We were compared to holocaust deniers. Staffers wore masks when we entered the room, one legislator made us meet outdoors because she thought we would contaminate her office. Staffers refused to shake hands, some more surgical masks. Many previously accessible legislators refused to meet with us.
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The key to the success of the gay rights movement was people coming out of the closet and refusing to lie about themselves or their lives anymore, and the same will be true for us. In New York there were 26,000 children with religious exemption. Those children probably have 40,000 parents. I would estimate at most 4,000 people did anything to fight the repeal of our religious exemption. What could have happened if all those parents were actively engaged in protecting their children’s rights and bodies? Far too many were hiding and hoping other people would get the job done.
Coming out may lead to conflicts with people who are dear to you. Some people may ostracize you. But you may find much more tolerance and support than you expect. Thousands of people in New York have been involuntarily forced to come out because of their children’s expulsion from school, and many are surprised at the support they are receiving. And those people who will not accept your choices, well, do you really need them? What are they bringing to your family’s life? It may or may not be easy to come out and tell the truth, but we don’t have a choice anymore: Come out!
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John Gilmore is the executive director of the Autism Action Network, a national 501c4 advocacy organization, working on a range of issues that impact individuals and families affected by autism. He lives with his wife and two sons. His son Luke has an autism diagnosis, among other health conditions and developmental delays, as a result of vaccine-induced encephalitis as an infant. www.autismactionnetwork.org