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Jim Sinclair (activist)

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Jim Sinclair is an American autistic activist and writer who is widely considered the founder of the autism rights movement.[1] Sinclair, along with Kathy Lissner Grant and Donna Williams, formed Autism Network International.[2] Sinclair became the original coordinator of ANI.[3] Sinclair is an advocate for the anti-cure position on autism, arguing that autism is an integral part of a person's identity and should not be cured.[4]


Sinclair has said that they did not speak until age 12.[4] Sinclair was raised as a girl, but describes having an intersex body,[5] and in a 1997 introduction to the Intersex Society of North America, Sinclair wrote, "I remain openly and proudly neuter, both physically and socially."[6]

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.[7][better source needed]

In 1998, Sinclair was a graduate student of rehabilitation counseling at Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York.[3][8] They never found a job in the field despite possessing knowledge and qualifications, likely due to having a radical stance on autism and neurodiversity.[citation needed]

Sinclair was the first person to "articulate the autism-rights position".[1]


In 1993, Sinclair wrote the essay "Don't Mourn for Us" (1993) with an anti-cure perspective on autism.[9] The essay has been thought of by some[who?] to be a touchstone for the fledgling autism-rights movement and has been mentioned in The New York Times[4] and New York Magazine.[1] In the essay, Sinclair writes,

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.[9]
—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.[8] Sinclair has criticized the medical view that autistic people have deficits in social skills, arguing that autistic people can be compared to a different culture in a neurotypical-dominated society.[10]

Sinclair is the first documented autistic person to reject people-first language.[11]


Sinclair established and ran Autreat, the first independent autistic-run gathering,[12] 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.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Solomon, Andrew (25 May 2008). "The Autism Rights Movement". New York Magazine. Retrieved 28 June 2008.
  2. ^ Shapiro, Joseph (26 June 2006). "Autism Movement Seeks Acceptance, Not Cures". NPR. Retrieved 29 February 2016.
  3. ^ a b "Information About Presentations". Autreat. 1998. Retrieved 12 January 2024.
  4. ^ a b c Harmon, Amy (20 December 2004). "How About Not 'Curing' Us, Some Autistics Are Pleading". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 November 2007.
  5. ^ Leith, Sam (16 February 2013). "Family Differences". The Spectator. Archived from the original on 6 March 2016. Retrieved 2 March 2016.
  6. ^ Sinclair, Jim (1997). "Self-introduction to the Intersex Society of North America". Syracuse University. Archived from the original on 7 February 2009. Retrieved 28 June 2011.
  7. ^ "Toby on *Sally*". Ace Archive. Retrieved 12 January 2024.
  8. ^ a b "Learning to Live With Autism". Syracuse Herald Journal. 16 August 1999. Retrieved 2 March 2016.
  9. ^ a b Sinclair, Jim (1993). "Don't mourn for us". Autreat. Retrieved 11 August 2014.
  10. ^ Sinclair, Jim (22 February 2010). "Being Autistic Together". Disability Studies Quarterly. 30 (1). doi:10.18061/dsq.v30i1.1075. ISSN 2159-8371.
  11. ^ 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
  12. ^ Ari, Ne'eman (2019). "The Neurodiversity Movement". In Rembis, Michael A. (ed.). Disability: a reference handbook. Contemporary world issues. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO, LLC. pp. 99–104. ISBN 978-1-4408-6229-8.

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