Identity is an odd term. It’s often used to express unique individual characteristics but the word comes from the Latin idem which means ‘same’.
Another angle for considering identity is that identity is partly defined by what groups and communities you feel part of.
In a nutshell, this is why 2 years ago I wouldn’t have minded someone saying I had autism, but I now I would refute them.
I am autistic, that means a few key things. The first is that I am complete and whole as I am. There is no non-autistic me somewhere trying to get out. The autism traits cannot be separated from me. Secondly it means that I have a group to which I belong.
As an autistic person I have lived much of my life without a group I felt part off. Sure, I am fortunate to have many caring and open minded friends, but it’s always been very apparent to me that I was different.
Autistic is not just describing me, it’s me telling you who I relate too.
This realisation has been life changing in both its subtlety and its scope. I am part of something larger where I fit in, I have role models and peers.
When someone refers to me as someone "with autism" they don’t just strip me of the concept of being whole, they also remove me from my community.
Identity first language is part of me accepting myself and essential for me to develop a happy and productive life.