Jim Sinclair (activist)

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Jim Sinclair is an autism-rights movement activist who, with fellow autistics Kathy Lissner Grant and Donna Williams, formed Autism Network International (ANI) in 1992.[1] Sinclair became the original coordinator of ANI.[2]


Sinclair has said that they did not speak until age 12.[3] Sinclair was raised as a girl, but describes having an intersex body and,[4] in a 1997 introduction to the Intersex Society of North America, Sinclair wrote, "I remain openly and proudly neuter, both physically and socially."[5]

In 1989, American talk show host Sally Jessy Raphael interviewed Toby (an alias of Sinclair), who was a then self-described androgynous and nonsexual person.

In 1998, Sinclair was a graduate student of rehabilitation counseling at Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York.[2][6] They never found a job in the field despite possessing knowledge and qualifications, likely due to having a radical stance on autism and neurodiversity.

Sinclair was the first person to "articulate the autism-rights position".[7]


Sinclair wrote the essay, "Don't Mourn for Us" (1993) with an anti-cure perspective on autism.[8] The essay has been thought of by some to be a touchstone for the fledgling autism-rights movement, and has been mentioned in The New York Times[3] and New York Magazine.[7]

You didn't lose a child to autism. You lost a child because the child you waited for never came into existence. That isn't the fault of the autistic child who does exist, and it shouldn't be our burden. We need and deserve families who can see us and value us for ourselves, not families whose vision of us is obscured by the ghosts of children who never lived. Grieve if you must, for your own lost dreams. But don't mourn for us. We are alive. We are real.[8]
—Jim Sinclair, "Don't Mourn for Us", Our Voice, Vol. 1, No. 3, 1993

Sinclair also expresses their frustration with the double standard autistic people face, such as being told their persistence is "pathological" when neurotypical people are praised for their dedication to something important to them.[6]

Sinclair is the first documented autistic person to reject people-first language.[9]


Sinclair established and ran Autreat, the first independent autistic-run gathering,[10] for fifteen years after attending conferences that mainly included parents of autistic children and professionals. They and other autistic adults described these conferences as isolating and dehumanizing. Autreat explicitly prioritizes autistic needs, with programs like an "Ask a Neurotypical" panel.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Shapiro, Joseph (26 June 2006). "Autism Movement Seeks Acceptance, Not Cures". NPR. Retrieved 29 February 2016.
  2. ^ a b "Autreat 1998: Presenters". Autreat. 1998.
  3. ^ a b Harmon, Amy (20 December 2004). "How About Not 'Curing' Us, Some Autistics Are Pleading". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 November 2007.
  4. ^ Leith, Sam (16 February 2013). "Family Differences". The Spectator. Retrieved 2 March 2016.
  5. ^ Sinclair, Jim (1997). "Self-introduction to the Intersex Society of North America". Archived from the original on 7 February 2009. Retrieved 28 June 2011.
  6. ^ a b "Learning to Live With Autism". Syracuse Herald Journal. 16 August 1999. Retrieved 2 March 2016 – via HighBeam Research.
  7. ^ a b Solomon, Andrew (25 May 2008). "The Autism Rights Movement". New York Magazine. Retrieved 28 June 2008.
  8. ^ a b Sinclair, Jim (1993). "Don't mourn for us". Autreat. Retrieved 11 August 2014.
  9. ^ a b Pripas-Kapit, Sarah (2020), Kapp, Steven K. (ed.), "Historicizing Jim Sinclair's "Don't Mourn for Us": A Cultural and Intellectual History of Neurodiversity's First Manifesto", Autistic Community and the Neurodiversity Movement: Stories from the Frontline, Springer, pp. 23–39, doi:10.1007/978-981-13-8437-0_2, ISBN 978-981-13-8437-0
  10. ^ Ne'eman, Ari. "The Neurodiversity Movement." Disability: A Reference Handbook, by Michael Rembis, ABC-CLIO, 2019, pp. 99–104. Contemporary World Issues. Gale eBooks, https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/CX7901900016/GVRL?u=sain79627&sid=GVRL&xid=186bb814.

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