There is no such thing as being a Voice of the Voiceless. In fact, when someone describes themself in that manner, I am immediately inclined to distrust them. Very few people are truly “voiceless”, as even those who have literally lost their voice can still find ways to communicate. Usually, all these oh-so-helpful souls actually do by taking it upon themselves to be our voice is to speak over us, and drown out anything useful we might have to say.
Every marginalised community knows the pain of an organisation established to help them who does nothing of the sort, often causing harm instead, simply because the organisation takes it upon themselves to be our “voice”. More often than not, these organisations are created and lead by people outside of the community, their mission statements shaped from the perspective of someone outside looking in, rather than coming directly from experience.
Notorious group Autism Speaks is a prime example of this, churning out media that portrays autism as a disease to be cured, describing our brains as having pieces missing, and painting the picture that all autistic people are totally dependent on others to survive. Harmful “therapies” to alter harmless behaviours like stimming and fidgeting, in order to comply with neurotypical standards, are promoted to parents and guardians. These adults are often encouraged to film their children’s meltdowns and post them online, usually captioned “autism won today”, rather than to consider how to help their child avoid reaching meltdown in the first place. We are pressured to behave in ways that are physically uncomfortable, such as mandating the need to make eye contact or communicate in a particular fashion. As autistic children grow into autistic adults, Autism Speaks loses interest, and autistic adults are often left with deep mental scars to work through. Despite the protests of many autistic people, celebrities still choose to endorse Autism Speaks, choosing to listen to the voices of people who know autistic people over our own voices.
Then there are “charities” like the LGB Alliance, lead predominantly by heterosexuals who claim to represent the interests of lesbians, gay men and bisexuals. Instead, all they do is sow hatred and division among the LGBTQAI+ community, the vast majority of whom recognise that the LGB Alliance does not speak for them. Despite this, they have been granted charitable status and are given a large platform from which to spew hatred and lies.
There are far too many such groups for me to list here, but what they all have in common is that repairing the damage and deconstructing the misconceptions they create takes up time and resources. These are resources which could be used to actively improve matters instead of being in a permanent state of damage control. Instead, oppression and control are maintained.
The simple truth of the matter is this; we are not voiceless, and speaking on our behalf is not helpful. Enabling us to speak by removing barriers and elevating voices is far more useful, and very much appreciated. Organisations should be at least guided by those they intend to help, or they risk inflicting damage on the community instead.
Rather than being a “voice of the voiceless”, consider being a microphone instead.