Janette Bertrand, The Lady Who Listened

Janette Bertrand knew how to listen to those who were cast aside by society.

I’m pretty sure she’d be fine with me calling her by her first name. So let me tell you about Janette. She was a big name on TV when I was growing up in Québec. She had one project after another. What I remember the most about her projects is that when she was in the position of being the host of a talk show, she would talk to the people affected by the topic of the day directly. If she had people who were dying of AIDS on her show (and she did!), she would talk to the patients directly.

She did this for all kinds of folks: folks who had been cheated on, prostitutes, LGBTQ+ folks, ex-junkies, folks who were handicapped in one way or another. These were people that society, generally speaking, did not care to hear. This was on national television, in the 80s and the 90s, as I was growing up. Every time these people were on her show, it was just her and these people, talking. There were no intermediaries to push this or that agenda over what the people themselves wanted to share.

There was one peculiar aspect in her life: Janette had short nights. Did she brag about having short nights? Not that I recall. She just happened to be someone who had short nights, and she used those short nights to produce a body of work that helped countless people. It helped the people who were on her show, and those of us watching the show, because we heard straight from the mouth of those folks how it was to live their life.

I don’t recall if there was an episode with autistic people, but I would be surprised if there had been one. Janette wanted to know, directly, without intermediaries. Heck, one of her shows was called Janette veut savoir, in English this would be Janette Wants to Know. Can you be any more explicit with your goal? Isn’t this exactly what was autistic folks want? To be heard, without judgment, and without neurotypical people doing some sort of translation of what our wants and needs are?

I started writing this article because of a newspaper article that I had read about some jackass CEO. I was going to mention him in this piece, but I decided against it. I don’t want to give him more exposure than he already has. At any rate, the guy is an exemplar of the snap out of it, just do it, you just need mental strength, neurotypical crap that is tossed at us. He, contrarily to Janette, does brag about having short nights. You just need to muster the mental strength and to want it so bad that it will happen. Oh, barf!

Janette is still alive, by the way. She is 98 years old now. Wow! I very much doubt that the CEO I mention above will make it to that age. Here’s her page on Wikipedia, in French. Here it is in English. Here’s a picture of her:

Janette Bertrand in 2010 (By Asclepias – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0)

I don’t drink anymore, but here’s to you, Janette. You embodied everything us autistic folks desire when dealing with neurotypical people. May you live many more years. You definitely are a lady.






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