Okay... So Louis likes the left side of Harry's neck? But that's also the side where all his tattoos are. What is the significance that Harry is the left and Louis has everything on the right? Like what is so symbolic about those sides for them? Most sentimental cute couple though :( 💘
You make a good point.
Lovebites on the left side of his neck
All the tattoos on his left arm.
Wedding bracelet on his left wrist
White paint on the left side of his head
And I’ll just leave this here
Harry on the left. Louis on the right. Complements.
If you’re reading this, you have probably been directed here by an autistic person. You probably don’t have autism, but you love someone who does.
Maybe that person is your brother, or your cousin, or your best friend’s little sister, or your son. You love this person a lot, and you want to honor them.
You’ve decided to get a tattoo.
Tattoos, by nature and by design, are often symbolic. So how do you symbolise this person that you love?
Well, they’re autistic. And autism has a symbol: a puzzle piece, often blue.
You think about it, and it makes sense to you. You look at this person, the one that you love, and you see a person who doesn’t quite “fit” into the world around them. You’ve seen how things that make sense to you don’t always match up for them. You think about how they hold a piece of your heart, how they are a piece of your life. Maybe they even love puzzles.
It’s symbolic. It resonates with you. It means something special.
And now you are confused, and hurt, and angry, because people—autistic people—are looking at this design, this thing that you intended as as an expression of honor and love, and they are saying that it is hateful, that it is condescending, that they would never trust anyone who had that tattooed on them.
So here is the thing (some of the things) about puzzle pieces.
The blue puzzle piece is the symbol of Autism Speaks, the most visible autism-related organisation. Autism Speaks is neither run by nor supported by autistic people. It is an organisation run by non-autistic (or “allistic”) people that makes a lot of money by portraying autistic children as scary burdens who ruin the lives of their parents and families. They want to eliminate autism (and by extension, autistic people). We want to be accepted and supported, not eliminated.
It’s a bit like trying to honor your dog-loving best friend by getting the PETA logo tattooed on your arm. If they know anything about PETA, your friend would probably be confused and horrified. On the surface, “People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals” sounds great! In reality, they kidnap animals and kill them, and their stated goals result in the future elimination of all companion animals (i.e., pets.).
But even if Autism Speaks didn’t exist, a puzzle piece wouldn’t be a respectful symbol of autism. Because there was a time before autism speaks, and the puzzle piece was still not a good symbol.
Puzzle pieces in bold, bright colors tend to bring to mind one if two things: autism, or preschoolers. And unfortunately, a lot of people don’t make any distinction between the two. A lot of the discussion around autism is very child focused and patronizing. But autism is not a childhood condition. It’s not something that you grow out of. Every autistic child, if they survive, becomes an autistic adult. Autistic adults exist, but we are often completely forgotten about and left out if the discussion altogether. A symbol that erases the majority of the affected population is not a good symbol for that population.
The autistic community encompasses a large group of people. Some of us are nonverbal. Some of up have no trouble speaking. Some of us have caretakers. Some of us live independently. Some of us are teenagers. Some of us are adults. Some of us are autistic parents of autistic children, or children of autistic parents. Some of us have been part of the community for years, and some of us are only beginning to learn about autism and how it has shaped (and continues to shape) our lives.
Some of us have been abused by parents, teachers, or other caretakers. Some of us have been killed by them.
And when we look at the puzzle piece and what it represents to non-autistic people—something missing, something broken, something lost, something that doesn’t fit—we do not see love, or support, or honor. We see the fear, the frustration, the reasons and excuses and justifications given for the abuse and murder of autistic children—children whose only crimes were that their brains work like ours.
That is heartbreaking, and it is horrifying.
As a community, and as individuals, we say no to puzzle pieces. We are not missing, we are not broken. We fit, and we belong.
You want to honor your loved one. There are better designs with which to do that—designs that don’t tacitly endorse abuse. Probably the best design would be something unique to them—not a symbol of autism at all, but a design based on something they love.
But if you are specifically looking for a design that celebrates or acknowledges autism, maybe consider the following: