Dear William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and Sir Patrick Stewart,
Star Trek was created out of a simple vision - a vision of an Earth that has advanced beyond hatred, prejudice, greed and war. To that end, an organization like Autism Speaks, that seeks to destroy an entire population of people, does not seem to fit in with that vision. And yet it was with great disappointment that I heard that all three of you are participating in a fundraiser to "Sound Off for Autism Speaks".
Autism Speaks has habitually rejected the perspectives of actual autistic people. They have no autistic people on their board of directors and prefer to instead misquote and plagiarize Autistic activists. They continually use scare tactics to refer to autism as an "epidemic", comparing it to deadly diseases such as cancer and AIDS. Autism Speaks paints a picture of autism as a life-ruining burden, that sucks money from our nation and holds our children hostage. Autism doesn't kill, but rhetoric spouted by organizations like Autism Speaks does. Included in this blog post by Autistic activist Kassiane Sibly is an incomplete list of disabled children and adults murdered by their parents or caregivers, most of them Autistic. These human beings were cruelly murdered, executed for the "crime" of being disabled. And Autism Speaks tacitly encourages these abominations by using fear-mongering language in their website and advertisements to paint a picture of autism as a devastation, instead of simply a different way of being.
In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Masterpiece Society", Geordi LaForge finds himself on a planet where people like him do not exist, a planet where disabled fetuses are terminated at conception and genetic conditions are eradicated through DNA manipulation. Hannah Bates, a scientist on the planet, explains to him: "It was the wish of our founders that no one have to suffer a life with disabilities." Geordi responds: "Who gave them the right to decide whether or not I should be here? Whether or not I might have something to contribute?" I ask the same of Autism Speaks. No one should have the power to decide for someone else whether or not they should exist. That power lies with the individual, and the individual alone.
Gene Roddenberry once said: "Star Trek was an attempt to say that humanity will reach maturity and
wisdom on the day that it begins not just to tolerate, but take a
special delight in differences in ideas and differences in life forms.
[…] If we cannot learn to actually enjoy those small differences, to
take a positive delight in those small differences between our own kind,
here on this planet, then we do not deserve to go out into space and
meet the diversity that is almost certainly out there.”Autism Speaks actively seeks to destroy diversity and difference by making prevention and a cure for autism its primary mission, and silencing the voices of those who can truly offer insight into autism - autistic people themselves.
I encourage you to take a look at the Autistic Self Advocacy Network's informational flier on Autism Speaks, and read this letter from autistic activist Leah Grantham on this very topic. Consider supporting an autism organization run by Autistics, such as the Autistic Self Advocacy Network or Autism Network International. Autism Speaks is the antithesis of everything Star Trek has represented for nearly half a century. I am not autistic, but I am disabled, and I stand with my Autistic brethren on this matter. Star Trek has, since its inception, continually pushed boundaries and re-framed diversity. I beg you to please follow the example of the show that has touched so many hearts, and stand for diversity, acceptance, and justice for all.
Cara Liebowitz, a disabled Trekkie