Jim Sinclair (activist)

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Jim Sinclair, B.A., M.S., is a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor who specializes in working with autistic people and is an autism-rights movement activist who, with fellow autistics Kathy Lissner Grant and Donna Williams, formed Autism Network International (ANI) in 1992. Being the only one of the three with an Internet connection, Sinclair became the original coordinator of ANI.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Sinclair has said that they did not speak until age 12.[1] In 1998, they were a graduate student of rehabilitation counseling at Syracuse University in Syracuse, N.Y.[2]


Sinclair wrote the essay, “Don’t Mourn for Us,” with an anti-cure perspective on autism.[3]

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.[3]
—Jim Sinclair, “Don’t Mourn for Us,” Our Voice, Vol. 1, No. 3, 1993

The essay has been thought of by some to be a touchstone for the fledgling autism-rights movement, and has been mentioned in the The New York Times[1] and New York Magazine.[4] They were featured in the autobiographical book Somebody Somewhere: Breaking Free from the World of Autism (1994) by Donna Williams, which described the formation of ANI.

Sinclair has expressed a political philosophy which supports autistic self-advocacy and opposes attempts to cure autism. In an interview with Michael Ellermann, Sinclair explained that most people “don’t refer to ‘people with femaleness,’ ‘people who are citizens of Denmark,’ ‘people with introversion,’ ‘people with athleticism,’ ‘people with excitability,’ etc. We say that someone is a woman or a man, American or Danish or Vietnamese, introverted or athletic or excitable.”[5]

In 1999, Sinclair wrote the commentary, “Why I dislike ‘person first’ language,” and stated that “saying ‘person with autism’ suggests that the autism can be separated from the person […] that even if autism is part of the person, it isn’t a very important part.” They explained by stating that “It is only when someone has decided that the characteristic being referred to is negative that suddenly people want to separate it from the person. I know that autism is not a terrible thing, and that it does not make me any less a person. If other people have trouble remembering that autism doesn’t make me any less a person, then that’s their problem, not mine.”[6]

In the mid-1990s, autism conferences rarely featured autistic public speakers and, even more rarely, paid them for their work; Sinclair was among the first international public advocates in the autism field.

Personal life[edit]

Sinclair was raised as a girl, but self-identifies as “intersexed.” In their introduction to the Intersex Society of North America, they wrote that they “remain openly and proudly neuter, both physically and socially.”[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Harmon, Amy (2004-12-20). "How About Not ‘Curing’ Us, Some Autistics Are Pleading". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-11-07. 
  2. ^ "Autreat 1998: Presenters". Autreat. 1998. 
  3. ^ a b Sinclair, Jim (1993). "Don’t mourn for us". Autreat. Retrieved 2014-08-11. 
  4. ^ Solomon, Andrew (2008-05-25). "The Autism Rights Movement". New York Magazine. Retrieved 2008-06-28. 
  5. ^ Ellermann, Michael. "Interview with Jim Sinclair" (PDF). Michael Ellerman. Retrieved 2015-12-23. 
  6. ^ Sinclair, Jim (1999). "Why I dislike ‘person first’ language". Autism Mythbusters. Retrieved 2015-12-23. 
  7. ^ Sinclair, Jim (1997). "Self-introduction to the Intersex Society of North America". Retrieved 2011-06-28. 

External links[edit]