Jim Sinclair is hailed as a pioneer of the autism rights movement. The essays provided, including "Don't Mourn For Us," laid out many points of the modern neurodiversity movement, such as identity-first language and a call for support rather than cures. Sinclair has played a large role in Autreat and co-founded Autism Network International.
Sinclair was raised as a girl, but upon numerous examinations neither of the gender identifiable organs could be found. As a result, Sinclair now identifies as neuter (no gender). In an introduction to the Intersex Society of North America, it states Sinclair is “remain openly and proudly neuter, both physically and socially.”
Sinclair wrote several well-known essays including "Don't Mourn For Us," which argued that autism is a difference instead of a life-destroying tragedy. Sinclair presented this in 1993 in Toronto, Canada at an International Autism Conference. In interviews, Sinclair discussed the possibility of autistic culture and the importance of respect.
Sinclair co-founded Autism Network International (ANI) with Kathy Lissner Grant and Donna Williams in 1992 and has been a coordinator since then.
"I have a long history of promoting the “different does not necessarily mean defective” position. This is how I approach characteristics that make me different or abnormal but do not, in and of themselves, compromise my ability to lead a full and meaningful life.... [T]hese may bring me into some degree of conflict with my physical or social environment, but they don’t bring me into conflict with me."
Sinclair argues that autism is not a disease or horrible disorder; instead, difficult aspects should be helped and aspects that don't cause distress in the autistic person or others should be left alone. In "Don't Mourn For Us," Sinclair warns against the cure perspective, and discusses the harm that anti-autism viewpoints can do to autistic children. Sinclair encourages parents to love the child they already have.
"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.... Grieve if you must, for your own lost dreams. But don't mourn for us. We are alive. We are real. And we're here waiting for you."
In 1999, Sinclair also expressed 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.
- New York Times: How About Not "Curing" Us, Some Autistics Are Pleading
- Autreat: 1998 Presenters
- Jim Sinclair: Self-Introduction to the Intersex Society of North America
- http://www.autreat.com/dont_mourn.html Don't Mourn For Us
- Interview with Jim Sinclair
- Jim Sinclair: Is Cure a Goal?
- Don't Mourn For Us