With a pathologized status comes the experience of stigma, dehumanization, and marginalization. Stigma refers to the possession of an attribute that marks persons as disgraced or ‘‘discreditable,’’ marking their identity as ‘‘spoiled.’’ Stigmatized persons may attempt to conceal these spoiled aspects of their identity from others, attempting to ‘‘pass’’ as normal. Investigation of ‘‘passing’’ and ‘‘concealment’’ has been explored in depth in other stigmatized populations; however, the application of stigma in autism research is a relatively new endeavor. Stigma impacts both on how an individual is viewed and treated by others and how that treatment is internalized and interacts with one’s identity.

A Conceptual Analysis of Autistic Masking: Understanding the Narrative of Stigma and the Illusion of Choice

Some people shy away from the word disabled because they feel that it’s stigmatizing. (Some people feel the same way about the word autistic.) But you don’t remove stigma by dancing around it and being coy and hush-hush about it. That actually increases stigma. Disabled is not a slur and never was; it’s a neutral description. I believe that the truth is people are not just uncomfortable with the word, they are uncomfortable with disability itself.

#SayTheWord, Not “Special Needs” | The E is for Erin

But the term identity politics is a bit more vague. It was coined by Renee Anspach who was describing how disabled and mentally ill people were using their identities as paths to activism.

Anspach observed that the taking up of these stigmatised identities was key in interrupting the process of stigmatisation.

Writing in the 1970s, Anspach talks about deviance theory, the sociological idea that stigmatised ways of being are seen as a personal flaws or deviations.

The label assigned to these groups is designated unidirectionally, the society imposes the label on the person.

Think of how frequently the stigmatised identity gets a name, and the rest of us just get to be called “normal.” Think of how angry some people get when the marginialised group wants a word besides “normal” to describe other people on that scale.

Spider-Verse, Identity Politics, Leftist Infighting, and the Oppression Olympics – YouTube

Stigma and Minority Stress

The primary aim of the minority stress model is to explain disparities in health between majority and stigmatized minority groups (Meyer 2003). Social stress theory hinges on the idea that social disadvantage can translate into health disparities (Schwartz and Meyer 2010). Researchers hypothesize that decreased social standing leads to stigmatized minority groups being exposed to more stressful life situations, with simultaneously fewer resources to cope with these events. Social structure facilitates this process through acts of discrimination and social exclusion, which are added stress burdens that socially advantaged groups are not equally exposed to.

(PDF) Extending the Minority Stress Model to Understand Mental Health Problems Experienced by the Autistic Population

Why are there greater mental health stresses on autistic people from gender-minority groups? To quote from the research paper,

“The increased rates of mental health problems in these minority populations are often a consequence of the stigma and marginalisation attached to living outside mainstream sociocultural norms (Meyer 2003). This stigma can lead to what Meyer (2003) refers to as ‘minority stress’. This stress could come from external adverse events, which among other forms of victimization could include verbal abuse, acts of violence, sexual assault by a known or unknown person, reduced opportunities for employment and medical care, and harassment from persons in positions of authority (Sandfort et al. 2007).”

Ann’s Autism Blog: Autism, Transgender and Avoiding Tragedy

As evidenced by the minority disability movement, autism is increasingly being considered part of the identities of autistic people. Autistic individuals thus constitute an identity-based minority and may be exposed to excess social stress as a result of disadvantaged and stigmatized social status. This study tests the utility of the minority stress model as an explanation for the experience of mental health problems within a sample of high-functioning autistic individuals (N=111). Minority stressors including everyday discrimination, internalised stigma, and concealment significantly predicted poorer mental health, despite controlling for general stress exposure. These results indicate the potential utility of minority stress in explaining increased mental health problems in autistic populations. Implications for research and clinical applications are discussed.

(PDF) Extending the Minority Stress Model to Understand Mental Health Problems Experienced by the Autistic Population