John Marble’s Speech for ASAN Gala 2019

Hi, welcome. I am going to do, a few informational or housekeeping announcements. And then I will explain, who this strange person before you is, and do a more official welcoming as we get into it.

You should know, first of all, if you have not been here before: This is a space that you can be yourself. Feel free to be your autistic self, your disabled self. If you need to get up from the table, and walk around, roll around, moonwalk around, crawl around that is fine. We want you to just be here, and celebrate with us, tonight. If you need to take a break, that is okay. We’re glad that you’re here!

There are stim toys on the table. There’s tangles, in different colors.
Feel free to take them home, feel free to trade them with other people.
Feel free to use them. There’s also, the Autistic Self Advocacy Network ‘s annual report. Feel free to take that home as well. I’m also a firm believer that anything can be a stim toy, if you want it to be; so feel free to stim with it as well!

Whatever makes you feel comfortable. There’s other great swag on the table, look around, take it home.
And, feel free to connect with each other.
Ironically so I like to public speak a lot, and when I speak in public, I generally do not use notes, which means I don’t bring my glasses and I forgot, I am MCing and I am not public speaking tonight, and I did not bring my glasses so please bear with me, as I squint sometimes at these notes, but if you can’t be awkward at an autistic event, where can you be awkward?

After dessert, you can also buy merchandise from the Autistic Self Advocacy Network’s, like, T shirts and stickers. They also have some really great, holiday cards, one says flappy Hanukkah, one says merry Christmas and a flappy new year, which I love, as well as ASAN books like “loud hands” and knowing why, a new anthology written by autistic people, who are diagnosed as adults.

And after dessert, gosh, I’m getting I’m getting older, because I had to ask what this was earlier tonight. You can take an unselfie outside, to support the Autistic Self Advocacy Network. What that is, is that there’s a frame, with information on it, that’s really cute, and you can take a photo, and you can share it on social media, to show, your support for ASAN.

Giving Tuesday’s coming up around Thanksgiving, so if you want to share it around that time, that is great as well.
And if you notice, at registration, there are also some cards on the table.
Some of you are familiar, with this. Some might be new to this.

That wasn’t for dramatic effect, I was just thirsty. These cards, which you should feel free to wear, include I do not have these in order, green, which means, go ahead, and talk with me.
Yellow, which means, please only talk to me, if I know you personally.
And red, which means, I would prefer that you not talk to me right now.
So it’s a great way to indicate, if you would like to use these; what your current level is.
After the entire event is over, and we’re just socializing, I will be green.
I came from California, and packed hundreds of cards, to give to people. I left them all at my hotel, which is not this hotel. So that’s my executive functioning joke for the evening!

And if you are looking for the restroom, what you’re going to do is go out these doors, and to the left and then go down the hall, and take another left & they’ll be behind the elevators, and restrooms, are gender neutral. If you need help, finding where the restrooms are, feel free, to ask, an ASAN staff member. If you’re an ASAN staff member in the room, would you mind raising your hand?

All right!
If you have any questions, they should be able to help you, with that.
We also have a quiet space, which is right next door, so feel free to use that.
We’ve dimmed the lights, and it’s just a nice place to retreat into.
At other events that I’ve been at where they’ve had quiet spaces, one thing I’ve loved about it is that, we’ve kind of turned into an autistic happy hour space, where people where autistic people gather and quietly connect.
But this is all an autistic happy hour space, and you get dinner!
But please feel free to use the quiet space if you would like to. All right, who am I, why am I here, sorry (taking a sip) my name is John Marble. I come from California.
Where I live in San Francisco. Moved there after 16 years, in D.C.
So that’s who I am.
I’m autistic.
Oh, my gosh!
One of the most important… housekeeping informational things that I forgot, that I’ve seen Scott Robertson, doing the entire night. If you would like, to cheer, anyone’s remarks, or boo anyone’s remarks we use Flapplause, to indicate our enthusiasm.
Or if anything, we don’t use, clapping.
So we find that to be a bit more accessible, for people.

As I noted, I come from San Francisco, where a lot a lot of queer spaces use kind of air snapping, and sometimes I get them confused.
And use flapplause at year events, you should know, it’s catching on in the queer community in San Francisco, because of my mixups, please use Flapplause in evidence clapping. Gosh, I am more nervous to be here in this event than anywhere I speak and it’s because these are my people here.

I would not be here today, if it were not for the Autistic Self Advocacy Network. ASAN, changed my life; it saved my life.

Ten years ago, I had a great job, working for the Obama Administration. A few years into it, I was spinning out of control. I was doing great at work. But I was just lost after a lifetime of trying to figure out what was wrong with me.
As I would describe it at the time.
And it took a colleague saying, “You know, I think you should meet somebody named Ari:
“Who is Ari Ne’eman? The Executive Director at the time of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network”.
And I kind of had an inclination about what it was about me, but I didn’t know how to go through the diagnostic process, so Ari had me meet him, not at the ASAN offices, but at the loudest Starbucks in the city, which was across the street.


And we never talked about this, but I’m convinced he was setting me up at the time to check me out.


I love that story, so I’m just from now on going to say that. Because after ten minutes, Ari, graciously said, you know, John, I see that you’re having a bit of difficulty with the noise here, why don’t we go to the Autistic Self Advocacy Network offices across the street and we’ll talk further, which we did.
Ari, connected me to people like Sara, who was the first person after my diagnosis to hold my hand, to say it’s going to be okay. I connected with Samantha who I see is here, my guiding light.
And probably, like, the first Deaf besides Ari, the first official autistic person that I met.
And, my life, flowered out from there. It was at that point that I started to understand myself.
Started to accept myself.
I met autistic people, who looked like me, and worked for the Government.
Then I met autistic people who looked and acted nothing like me…
I met autistic people, with down’s syndrome. Autistic people with other Intellectual Disabilities.
Autistic people with other disabilities. And through it all I saw this wondrous connecting thread that flowed through us all.
And now I’ve had the privilege of meeting…. probably thousands of us, along with our parents. To find that autistic community.
And to realize that we are a community.
And within our community, there’s more communities, there’s culture.

There’s autistic culture.
There’s disabled autistic culture.
There’s black autistic culture.
There’s Deaf, Hard of Hearing, autistic culture.
There’s pretty much any slice of our community that you could do, we’re out there, flowering.
And there’s many, many more voices, besides the stereotype that is me as a white man.
And I’m so thankful for that.
I’m now in the position, where, in San Francisco, I’ve worked with other autistic people, to start a company, that helps companies support their autistic neurodiverse employees.
And wouldn’t be there, I wouldn’t be here today, if it wasn’t for the Autistic Self Advocacy Network.
I get thirsty, not dramatic effect, but this is the dramatic effect here.

[LAUGHTER], you know, I’ll give you a secret that I found, I had the privilege of meeting hundreds of autistic people, across this country.
This year, I was able to go to New Zealand and Australia to meet with autistic, advocates there. And I’ll tell you, that, as a community, I found that we have all the answers, and all the solutions.

Everything that nonautistic people spend hundreds of millions of dollars to try to figure out, regarding employment, and accommodation, and housing collectively, as a community, we have those answers. What we don’t yet have, is the capacity, and connections, the capital, and the platform, to lead…And being here tonight, is important, because the Autistic Self Advocacy Network is the one group that is empowering autistic people, to lead.
And giving platform, primarily to autistic voices.
It is so crucial, that we support this organization.
It saved my life.
I know, it has saved more of yours, as well.
And I think, of the countless kids that are coming up, that are going to lead better lives, because ASAN is here today.
So whatever you can do to support ASAN, thank you!
Thank you for being here tonight.
If you can make a monthly donation, that would be fantastic!
It is easy to do so on the ASAN Web site.
So please do.

Sorry, I got emotional. And uh, lost lost my place. Yes, I’m sorry.

Am I introducing Alice now? Wait, sorry, I can’t hear you but I just see you mouthing Alice. Yes, am I introducing Alice? Wait, I’m not introducing Alice now. All right. Yes, I’m being my authentic self here tonight, aren’t I?

You know, it’s actually really relaxing, because I I polish like so much when I public speak, because it’s, like, my father was a preacher and I worked for, like, 20 years for politicians so like I know how to speak and how to do rhythm of a crowd.
But, like, I just get to be awkward here and it is wonderful!

And I see Rebecca Cokley here, a former colleague in the Obama administration here as well, wow if I was nervous to be here at ASAN, I’m even more nervous to introduce this next guest.

I have a bunch of notes, but the most important thing to me, is that I get to call her a friend. Alice Wong is one of the leading thinkers and voices on disability, in our nation, and probably around the world. As I have the wrong notes, Alice, it’s so funny that I’m fumbling, introducing you. She’s a founder and director of the disability visibility project, an online community, dedicated to creating sharing and amplifying the disability media and culture, it’s hard saying that as you roll up as a robot. By the way, it is so nice to be an autistic event to have a robot that’s not trying to teach us social skills.

Alice is coimportant in crip the vote and you should follow that on #cripthevote, an online, nonpartisan movement, I’m going to read the official thing and say what I think about it. A nonpartisan movement, which promotes civic engagement for people, with disabilities.

By the way, it’s also just a great way, to help politicians, come correct, when they say something unhelpful, if you use the hashtag CripTheVote, it will alert a bunch of disabled people that we need to engage our politicians on this.

Alice is also the editor of two anthologies by disabled people, resistance and hope, which was published last year, and the upcoming disability visibility, coming out in the summer of 2020. If you do not know Alice, you’re about to hear from her, follow her on social media. She has been, saving grace, in my own life.

Alice, probably more than anybody else, helped me accept my disability as normal. And helped me understand, the utter boring normalcy that is disability. And I found so much joy, in my disability because, of Alice’s action, and because of my friendship, with you. And she also loves koalas and I know you’re not talking about it tonight, but if you see her afterwards, ask her about koalas because she knows a lot about it.

I’m very, very honored to introduce you Alice, who will be speaking right now.