Alternatives to Ableist Language

Content/trigger warning: cursing, ableist terms (most of which are censored)

Hello, dear readers! Time for an entry I’m surprised my Patreon supporters didn’t select earlier: alternatives to ableist language.

Now, ableism is not a list of words, it’s a system of oppression that disenfranchises, harms, and even kills Disabled people. But eliminating ableist language from one’s vocabulary is a good first step someone can take as an ally or as a Disabled person trying to unlearn internalized or lateral ableism. So, here are some common ableist terms (this is going to be a long list, but not an exhaustive one) and what you can say instead. Yes, some of my suggestions include curse words. It’s me; what else did you expect?

Autistic Hoya also already did something very like this here (https://www.autistichoya.com/p/ableist-words-and-terms-to-avoid.html), and they’re better at writing than I am, so feel free to just check theirs out. Yes, I used Autistic Hoya’s post to write this entry and I credit them with not just the information in this blog entry but at least 30% of what I know about ableism.

  • Blind to/To turn a blind eye to: Ignorant of/To be willfully ignorant of
  • Confined to a wheelchair: Wheelchair user, uses a wheelchair, uses a wheelchair full-time (or some of the time, depending), requires a wheelchair
  • Cr*pple (referring to a person with a mobility disability): Person with a mobility disability, physically D/disabled
  • Cr*ppling (used metaphorically): Paralytic, debilitating, insurmountable
  • Cr*zy/Ins*ne^ (referring to a mentally ill person): Mentally ill, psychiatrically D/disabled
  • Cr*zy/Ins*ne^ (used to insult a person): Wild, impulsive, impetuous, feckless, reckless, unpredictable, out of control
  • Cr*zy/Ins*ne^ (referring to something else, like a party): Busy, ridiculous, wild, unbelievable, weird
  • Deaf ears/To fall on deaf ears: Unwilling ears/To [talk to] someone unwilling to listen
  • Derp/Herp-derp/Duh/Doy/Durr (mimicking sounds that ID/DD/LD people supposedly make): That was obvious/Of course/Oh right, I knew that
  • Deluded/Delusional (referring to a person experiencing an altered state such as paranoia or hearing voices): Having intrusive thoughts, experiencing paranoia, hearing voices, experiencing a psychotic break, etc. (as appropriate for the situation)
  • Deluded/Delusional (used to insult a person): Ignorant, out of touch, has unrealistic expectations, believes things that aren’t true
  • Diffabled/Differently abled (referring to D/disabled people): D/disabled
  • Double-blind clinical trial: Doubly anonymous clinical trial/Neither participants nor researchers knew [who was receiving the placebo and who was receiving the real treatment]
  • D*mb/St*p*d^^ (referring to an action): Poorly thought-out, ill-advised, a terrible idea
  • D*mb/St*p*d^^ (referring to an ID/DD/LD person): Person with an intellectual disability, developmentally D/disabled, learning D/disabled (as appropriate for the situation)
  • D*mb/St*p*d^^ (used to insult a person): Unwise, foolish, inept, incompetent, impulsive, ignorant, impetuous, doesn’t think before they act
  • H*nd*c*pped/H*nd*c*p*ble (referring to a D/disabled person, usually physically D/disabled): D/disabled, physically D/disabled (if applicable)
  • Id**t/M*r*n/Imb*c*le: Fool, goofus, incompetent dingbat, fuck-knuckle
  • L*me (referring to person with a mobility disability): Person with a mobility disability, physically D/disabled
  • L*me (used as an insult): Uncool, insipid, boring, un-fun, crappy, shitty
  • Loony bin/Madhouse (referring to an actual institution): Institution for people with mental and/or psychiatric disabilities
  • Loony bin/Madhouse (used metaphorically): Disorganized, wild, confusing, unpredictable
  • [Name of neurodivergent condition, e.g., “Psychotic,” “Bipolar,” “Autistic,” “OCD”] (used metaphorically): Wild, impulsive, impetuous, feckless, reckless, unpredictable, out of control
  • Narcissistic/Borderline (referring to people who are supposedly evil/abusive due to NPD or BPD; not ableist if being used as neutral descriptors for people who actually have those conditions): Selfish, self-centered, egotistical, toxic, manipulative, abusive, impulsive, out of control, evil, mean, asshole, dickhead, motherfucker
  • -phobic (e.g., homophobic, Islamophobic): Bigoted against [oppressed group], -misic, -antagonistic
  • Ps*ch*path/S*c**path (referring to people who are supposedly evil/abusive due to ASPD): Evil, abusive, callous, heartless, soulless, toxic, manipulative, selfish, mean, asshole, dickhead, motherfucker
  • R*t*rd/R*t*rded (referring to a person with an intellectual disability): Person with an intellectual disability, has an intellectual disability (I know, this is PFL, which I often rail against, but that’s what the community prefers)
  • R*t*rd/R*t*rded/-tard as suffix (used as an insult): Ding-dong, assclown, dicksoiree, fuckstick
  • Sp*z (referring to a person with a neurological disability): Neurologically D/disabled or name the specific disability (e.g., cerebral palsy, epilepsy, etc.)
  • Sp*z (used as an insult): Out of control, aimless, reckless, feckless, clumsy, forgetful, klutzy, flighty
  • Special needs/Has special needs: D/disabled/Is D/disabled
  • Wheelchair bound: Wheelchair user, uses a wheelchair, uses a wheelchair full-time (or some of the time, depending), requires a wheelchair

^Plus any number of saneist terms like deranged, cuckoo, nuts/nutso, daft, m*d, loony, lunatic, mental, maniac, ps*cho, wacko, unhinged

^^Yes, this is an ableist term. There are some Disabled people who aren’t ID/DD/LD who insist it isn’t, but how the fuck would they know, it doesn’t target them.

Another important thing to think about when eliminating ableist language from one’s vocabulary is to say what you mean. Is that person with a TBI st*p*d, or do they have memory difficulties? Is that abusive person a s*c**path, or are they cruel and uncaring? Is your schedule cr*zy, or is it busy as all fuck? It’s important to not associate disability with negative shit that actually doesn’t have anything to do with disability–for instance, armchair diagnosis of abusive people–and it’s also important to speak and think accurately and respectfully when you are talking about disability.

I think that’s all I have for now. Thanks to my Patreon supporters: Ace, Emily, Hannah, Mackenzie, Sam, and Sydney! Reminder that it’s only $1 a month to be as cool as them, see blog entries two days before everyone else, and vote in polls to help me choose blog entry topics!

Why Sysmeds Need to Shut Up

Content/trigger warning: discussion of pluralmisia

Hello, dear readers! This will be a bit of an unusual entry. My Patreon supporters chose “Why sysmeds need to shut up” as the topic, so I’ll be talking about plurality, which can be but is not necessarily disability-related. Let me explain.

What is plurality, anyway? Plurality, also called multiplicity, is a catch-all term for when a person shares a bodymind with others. These others can be referred to as other people, headmates, alters, fragments, etc., depending on a variety of conditions (i.e., “alters” is usually used within the context of DID or OSDD-1 only, and even some people with those disorders don’t like the term “alters”). I have OSDD-1 and I have three alters: Valkyrja, Olivia, and Em. The child I used to be until I was traumatized so badly I became a different person also lives in my head too, but I’m not sure what to call her (aside from, y’know, her name). So, technically, I’m a system: a group of people sharing one bodymind.

There are many ways systems can be formed. Most research about systems has been done on traumagenic systems, or systems that were formed due to trauma (like me). However, systems can be formed in a variety of different ways. Full disclosure, I’m fairly new to the plural community and don’t know all the different ways a system can be formed, but here are some:

Traumagenic: formed from trauma
Parogenic: formed deliberately
Endogenic: formed without trauma
Quoigenic: formed for unknown/undisclosed reasons
Paragenic: formed by daydreaming
Mixed origin: formed by different causes

The idea that systems can exist without disorder or trauma can be hard to swallow for some people. But I promise, it’s true. Even if the countless systems I know on Twitter and Discord are somehow lying, one of my friends from college is an endogenic system.

Something important to know about plurality is that it is not only not inherently disordered, it is not inherently a disability. That’s not internalized ableism, either. That’s the consensus from the plural community; being plural is not necessarily disabling. OSDD-1 sure as fuck is a disability–dissociating when I get into an argument, for example, is a massive inconvenience–as is DID, but merely being plural is not.

You may be wondering what all this has to do with sysmeds. You’re probably wondering what sysmeds even are. “Sysmed,” which is short for “system medicalist,” is a term for a dickhead person who insists that people cannot be systems unless they have a medical condition like OSDD-1 or DID. As I’ve already mentioned, that’s just plain not true. Systems can develop due to many different causes. Modern psychiatry is kind of behind the times on this, but is that anything new? Remember how the DSM pathologized asexuality, homosexuality, and transness? The fact that not a lot of research has been done into non-traumagenic systems doesn’t mean sysmeds are right. Every phenomenon related to the human mind existed prior to its codification by mainstream psychiatry.

So sysmeds are wrong, and they are a particularly gross kind of wrong that invalidates people’s identities. This kind of invalidation is totally pluralmisic against any kind of system that isn’t traumagenic. That’s why sysmeds need to shut up. I may be traumagenic, but I sure as hell will defend other systems who aren’t.

I think that’s all I have for now. Thanks to my Patreon supporters: Ace, Emily, Hannah, Mackenzie, Sam, and Sydney! Reminder that it’s only $1 a month to be as cool as them, see blog entries two days early, and vote in polls to help me pick blog entry topics!

Things You Didn’t Know Were Autmisic

Hello, dear readers! Welcome to my latest entry: things you didn’t know were autmisic, i.e., discriminatory towards Autistic people. Now, I’ve talked about many neurotypicalist things on this blog that are autmisic in addition to being neurotypicalist in general–labeling interests and behaviors as “cringe” comes to mind–so for this entry, I’m going to try to focus on things that are either primarily or only autmisic. Let’s dive in.

The first thing that comes to mind when I think about autmisia is ABA. I’ve mentioned briefly why ABA is horrible before. In fact, what I said was “ABA, or applied behavior analysis, is an abusive practice in psychiatry that is a form of conversion therapy to force Autistic people to act allistic. ABA often uses aversives such as forcing Autistic children to taste Tabasco sauce, and the actual techniques for ABA were based on dog training. ABA misunderstands Autisticness; it is based on the idea that Autisticness is a behavioral disorder and not a neurotype. The inventor of ABA, Ivar Lovaas, has said ‘Autistic children are severely disturbed…You see, you start pretty much from scratch when you work with an autistic child. You have a person in the physical sense—they have hair, a nose and a mouth—but they are not people in the psychological sense. One way to look at the job of helping autistic kids is to see it as a matter of constructing a person. You have the raw materials, but l you (sic) have to build the person.’” I also referenced a paper (link here https://neurodiversityconnects.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/PTSD.ABA_.pdf) about how ABA causes PTSD.

But something I didn’t emphasize enough in my previous discussions of ABA is that no ABA is okay. Some ABA child-torturers providers insist that their ABA is play-based or reward-oriented. Use of aversives is more obviously evil than this, but even “play-based” or “reward-oriented” ABA is based on the flawed idea that Autisticness is a behavioral disorder and that as such you can make a person not Autistic by changing their behavior. This is like saying that colored contacts permanently change a person’s eye color. An Autistic child who has been conditioned by ABA to act allistic by forcing eye contact, not playing in ways that are rewarding for them, not stimming, etc. is still Autistic; they’re just also suffering because they are no longer able to express themselves. In conclusion, #ABAIsNeverOkay, and ABA is extremely autmisic.

Something you may not know was autmisic is expecting people to know right and left on a dime. Yes, really. Many Autistic people, myself included, struggle with right and left. So the next time you’re out for a run and want to pass someone walking, don’t say “on your right” or “on your left” and expect the person to move right away; if they’re Autistic, they’ll probably get confused and either not move or move the wrong way, and you’ll run into them.

Antivaxxers represent another thing that people do tend to know is autmisic but may not know how bad of a problem it still is. In the actual fucking year 2021 (or 5781 if you’re Jewish like me) and there are still people who think vaccines cause autism. I’ve heard horror stories from teachers and daycare providers who have gotten sick because their young students’/clients’ parents are antivaxxers. I don’t think I have to spell this out, but thinking that you’d rather have a child who is dead from the mumps or measles or pertussis than an Autistic child is autmisic as all fuck.

What else…grabbing, otherwise touching, or making loud noises to get a person’s attention is also autmisic. I recently went to see my PCP and someone standing behind me in line tried to get my attention by clapping her hands right by my fucking ear. I nearly had a goddamn meltdown right there in the hospital atrium. Autistic people can’t stand being startled, grabbed, and/or touched without consent, and doing any of those to us can result in distress, pain, or both.

This next one isn’t only autmisic, but it is primarily autmisic, so here we go: acting like you don’t have to listen to an Autistic person who self-advocates because they “don’t speak for people with severe autism” is some bullshit. First of all, functioning labels are also autmisic…hmm, should have mentioned that earlier…but anyway functioning labels are arbitrary, useless, and dehumanizing, and any Autistic self-advocate speaking out against autmisia is speaking for every Autistic person who deserves to be accommodated and respected (which is all of us). The “you don’t speak for people with severe autism/people with autism who are non-speaking/people with autism who can’t work/people who are like my father’s brother’s nephew’s cousin’s former roommate’s son with autism” line is just an excuse for allistic people to keep believing autmisic bullshit. Don’t fall for it.

You may notice that those bullshit lines about “you don’t speak for [x]” use person-first language. I’ve talked about why PFL is often ableist before, but I don’t think I have talked about why it is autmisic. Autisticness is a disability, sure, but it’s also an inherent part of how Autistic people experience the world. You can’t separate an Autistic person from their Autisticness the way you could from, say, a tuberculosis patient from the bacteria infecting them. “Person with autism” implies that the two can be separated when in reality, they can’t. There are people who identify as autigender, meaning their understanding of gender is so entwined with their Autisticness that the two can’t be separated; that’s how crucial Autisticness is to a person’s self. “Person with autism” implies a separation that, in reality, does not exist, so “Autistic” is the accurate and respectful term. Note: some Autistic people do, in fact, prefer “person with autism;” “Autistic” is overwhelmingly preferred by the Autistic community, but there are still people out there with enough internalized autmisia that they prefer “person with autism.” So default to “Autistic,” but if someone tells you that they prefer “person with autism” for themselves, respect that (until they figure out they’re wrong).

I think that’s all I have for now. Thanks to my Patreon supporters: Ace, Emily, Hannah, Max, Sam, and Sydney! It’s only $1 a month to be as cool as them; this gets you early viewing of my blog entries and participation in polls to help me decide which topics to write about next!

Being Disabled Is a Full-Time Job

Content/trigger warning: emetophobia, discussion of medical ableism and fatmisia, suicide, psych meds

Being Disabled means putting up with a truly unfathomable amount of bullshit, either from society, from your own bodymind, or both. (Note that I say “bodymind” because I have always thought separating the two was silly, and Disabled Twitter has provided me with a word that gets the connection between the two across.) Obviously the specific type of bullshit varies depending on a person’s disabilities, and I can’t speak for the entire Disabled community, but just for an example, I will go over a typical pre-pandemic day for me to demonstrate just how much work being Disabled is on a quotidian basis.

-I wake up. It takes me multiple alarms to get up because of my hypersomnia. I debate skipping work to sleep til 3 PM, but I’m too afraid of losing my job to do that, so I get up. I’m already exhausted.

-I take my antacid for my hiatal hernia-induced GERD and set an alarm for half an hour. I need coffee to function because of my hypersomnia, but if I drink it before the antacid has kicked in, I will be vomiting uncontrollably for hours. I make my coffee and put it in a travel mug for when the alarm goes off.

-I get dressed. I avoid looking at reflective surfaces because seeing my reflection when I’m particularly or fully undressed gives me horrible body dysmorphia. If my clothes are too tight, I also get body dysmorphia and have to change.

-I commute to work. My anxiety is so bad I can’t drive, so I don’t own a car; I take the El. I have to wear ear defenders or listen to music in order to deal with the noise from the other commuters. If I have to be squished in close with other commuters because the train is crowded, that puts me at risk of having a meltdown.

-I drink my coffee. Ahhhh. I use the coffee to wash down my psych meds.

-I arrive at work. The overly friendly security guard tries to make conversation. I try to reply with “small talk” even though it’s costing me dearly fuel-wise to try to figure out socially appropriate things to say.

-Morning meetings should help me plan my day, but I can’t focus during them. Sudden tasks come up without warning, putting me at risk of having a meltdown.

-I have so many meetings over the course of the day. I wish I could skip them to just do my actual fucking job, because I can’t focus during meetings anyway, but I can’t. Meetings also force me to engage in more small talk, which is exhausting and difficult.

-If I am having a bad brain day, especially if I forgot to take my meds, I have to talk myself out of leaving the office and walking into traffic. I first experienced suicidal ideation as a child, and my brain has spent so many years telling me that I want/deserve to die that I still experience those thoughts pretty regularly. I also have to talk myself into eating/convince myself that I deserve food, especially if I have had the misfortune of seeing my reflection that day.

-I also probably spend some of the day dissociated, and if I get startled or otherwise experience a trigger for one of my trauma-related disorders, I have to spend energy dealing with flashbacks or one of my protector alters trying to fuck shit up.

-I commute home. It’s pretty much the same as my commute to work, except I’m even more exhausted now and as such at higher risk of having a meltdown.

-I get home. I reheat some leftovers and maybe take a shower. Showering isn’t hard for me–I love showers–but I’m one of the few Disabled people I know who has an easy time with showering/bathing.

-I spend time with my wife and cat, then I fall asleep. I have to get at least 11-12 hours of sleep to be able to function the next day because my life is so exhausting.

See what I mean? That’s a lot of shit to deal with that wouldn’t even be on my radar if I were abled. Notice that I didn’t even include any chores like cooking, cleaning, or taking out the trash; that’s because I almost never have the fuel to do chores after such a long-ass day. This is why I’m always behind on chores.

And don’t get me started on all the shit I have to do in order to keep my health in its partially functional state. Actually, yes, get me started, because that’s what I’m writing about. I don’t have a PCP because I’m broke and scared of medical fatmisia and I don’t see enough specialists because I’m broke and can’t do phones…but if I were on top of my shit, I would be regularly seeing a PCP, a sleep specialist, and a GI specialist. As it is, I see a therapist and a psychiatrist, both of which require a ton of time, energy, and money. (Especially therapy; that shit is work, some of which needs to be done outside of my therapy sessions.) Staying on top of refilling my psych meds also takes time and money. If I did see all the specialists I should be seeing, I’d practically need a damn secretary to make all my appointments for me, if only because my Autisticness means I can rarely handle phone calls.

Also, when you’re Disabled, doctors often don’t know how to deal with you. A lot of Disabled people are fat and tend to get told “just lose weight” when we have health complaints. Not to mention if I did a Twitter poll of the chronically ill community asking if they had to explain their own illnesses to their doctors, I’d bet the poll would come back with an overabundance of “yes” answers, especially among people with “rare” (read: underdiagnosed) illnesses. When doctors don’t know our condition/s well, that means we have to do research. That’s a lot of time and energy spent on work that shouldn’t be our responsibility, but doctors rarely can admit when they don’t know things, and doing research is often key to Disabled patients’ being able to advocate for ourselves when our #DoctorsAreDickheads (thanks to Stevie Boebi for the hashtag).

There’s also the issue of medication. I’m lucky enough that I only take a few pills in the morning (and I also have an anxiety med to take as needed). Many Disabled people have delicate and complicated medication schedules that they have to keep track of. Sometimes this can involve going into a doctor’s office for a treatment; sometimes it involves having a pill reminder. Remembering to take medication and taking it can be a huge part of a Disabled person’s day.

I also want to emphasize that anyone who says “Well, just get on disability if being Disabled is a full-time job” is a towering pile of ableist shit-garbage at worst and ignorant at best. In many states, the percentage of people who apply for SSI or SSDI and get it is in the fucking twenties, and if you are approved, the process takes years and is extremely difficult, humiliating, and inaccessible.

I think that’s all I have for now. Thanks to my Patreon supporters: Ace, Hannah, Emily, Mackenzie, Sara, and Sydney! To be as cool as them, it’s only $1 a month to see blog entries two days early and to vote in polls to help me choose what topics to blog about.

Autistic and Other ND Masking

Content/trigger warning: mention of murder by police, discussion of ableism

I’m so fucking tired.

I actually have an accomodation at work that allows me to turn my Zoom camera off whenever I want. This is because performing neuronormative facial expressions is fucking exhausting and I can’t do it for long. Performing neuronormative facial expressions is a part of what Autistic people call “masking,” which is a word for “pretending to be neurotypical.” Not all Autistic people are able to mask, and masking has recently become something of a hot topic on Autistic Twitter and TikTok. Despite being neck deep in the online Autistic community, I’m only just becoming familiar with masking and how I mask. I mean, during Zoom meetings, I still have to modulate my vocal cadences to sound neurotypical even with my camera off, and I only realized when writing this blog entry that that was a form of masking. Other forms of Autistic masking can include:

-Suppressing stimming
-Forcing eye contact
-Standing differently/mimicking neurotypical body language
-Learning and following social scripts, some or all of which may not align with actual views
-Using pre-prepared jokes or phrases
-Engaging in popular activities, especially social ones, that we don’t want to engage in
-Refraining from infodumping

Honestly, learning some of what constitutes masking made me a little bit surprised at how much I mask. And it makes me wonder if masking so much is why I’m so fucking exhausted all the fucking time. Because what happens when you force an Autistic person to mask?

Exhaustion.

Meltdowns.

Burnout.

Masking is hell. It’s draining. It’s concealing the essence of who you are. It’s like expecting a person to hack off parts of themselves in order to fit into a designated space. And yet it wasn’t even widely discussed enough for a lot of Autistic people (HI) to know what the fuck it was until recently. We destroy ourselves in the name of ablenormativity and I’d be willing to bet most psychologists wouldn’t know what I was talking about if I tried to talk with them about “Autistic masking.”

You might be thinking “it sounds like society forces Autistic people to mask.” If you’re not thinking that, you should be. Masking is a safety issue, especially if you’re also part of a different marginalized group that’s at higher risk of, say, having the police called on you (and then being subsequently murdered) for acting “strange.”

Also, while masking is primarily discussed in relation to Autistic people, we’re not the only neurodivergent people who mask. I would say that any neurodivergent person suppressing themselves in order to appear neurotypical is masking. For example, an ADHDer who was masking might:

-Suppress stims/fidgets
-Get good grades through good memory despite poor organizational and study skills
-Overcompensate/try harder at tasks and activities to make up for developmental difficulties
-Joke or kid about ADHD-related mistakes
-Pretend to be incompetent to avoid high expectations
-Conceal that they’re experiencing RSD

I could continue making lists for how different neurodivergencies are usually masked, but we’d be here all day.

There also are a lot of conversations around masking that I don’t want to get into. Or at least, there are two conversations around masking that I don’t want to get into. These two conversations are:

  1. Autistic women and girls mask more than Autistic men and boys because women and girls are expected to be more pacifying and unobtrusive
  2. Whether or not being able to mask is a privilege

The first conversation often erases non-binary people and involves second-wave bullshit about being ~*~socialized female~*~ and I, a cis binary woman, am not qualified to address that particular stripe of bullshit. As for the second conversation, having been in situations when I was able vs. unable to mask, it mystifies me that there’s even a debate here. Of course being able to mask is a privilege. The fact that masking sucks to the degree that it leads to mental health breakdowns doesn’t mean it’s not a privilege to be safer and treated better than Autistic people who can’t mask. (And no, able to mask vs. unable to mask isn’t in any way the new “high functioning vs. low functioning,” don’t @ me.) But that’s not what I want to focus on here; I’m trying to give more general information about masking, not drop hot takes.

So what do we do about masking? At some point during the arc of me keeping this blog (it’s been over FOUR YEARS!? WHAT!?), I would have said “Take the mask off! Be yourself! That’s the only way to normalize Autistic behavior!”

Yeah, past self? That’s not fucking safe. Dismantling ableism is the name of the game, of course, but ableism is a structural issue that is inextricable from other forms of oppression. Actually, I don’t think I’ve shared the updated definition of ableism with my readers! This is the latest definition of ableism, modified this year, from activist Talila “TL” Lewis:

“Ableism: A system that places value on people’s bodies and minds based on societally constructed ideas of normality, intelligence, excellence, desirability, and productivity. These constructed ideas are deeply rooted in anti-Blackness, eugenics, misogyny, colonialism, imperialism, and capitalism.

“This form of systemic oppression leads to people and society determining who is valuable and worthy based on a person’s language, appearance, religion, and/or their ability to satisfactorily [re]produce, excel, and ‘behave.’”

So unmasking is not going to pull out the evil ableism tree at its roots; it might only pull off some of the leaves, or it might backfire spectacularly and put someone in danger. Do I want a society in which nobody has to mask? Absofuckinglutely. Do I think we should take off our masks whenever possible, because masking is so detrimental to health and well-being? Yes. Do I think that we should stay masked when it isn’t safe to unmask? Until the revolution, sadly, yes.

Hey, it’s complicated.

Thanks to my Patreon supporters: Ace, Emily, Karina, Mackenzie, and Sydney! If you’re reading this and are not a Patreon supporter, it’s only $1 to see blog entries two days early and participate in producer polls to help me choose topics to write about and $5 to submit potential topics for those polls!

Empathy

Content/trigger warning: discussion of ableism

Hello, dear readers! This is going to be a fairly short entry, but it’s what my Patreon supporters voted on. So, here we go: empathy.

First off, please don’t Merriam-Webster at me with what empathy ~actually is. Dictionary definitions are okay starting points, but they certainly don’t encompass the entire meaning of every word. I mean, look at the dictionary definition of “sexism;” dictionary.com has you slog through two outdated definitions about discrimination based on gender before you get to the correct definition, “ingrained or institutionalized prejudice against women.”

With that out of the way, what the hell actually is empathy? Empathy is the ability to experience what another person is experiencing. Not to understand what another person is experiencing or to know that another person is to experience something, but to perceive that another person is experiencing something and experience it as well. This is part of why I get miffed when people say “empathy” when what they really mean is “compassion.” The other part is–you guessed it–ableism, which I’ll go into a little later.

So, types of empathy. Yes, there are types of empathy! I learned this from Eb Brandeberry (@ebthen on Twitter). The three types are cognitive, emotional (also called affective), and compassionate. Compassionate empathy is the closest to what most people mean when they say “empathy;” it’s when you literally feel someone else’s suffering when you know they’re suffering. Emotional empathy is like compassionate empathy, but for other people’s emotions instead of their suffering. Cognitive empathy is when you can put yourself into someone’s shoes in regards to their perspective without necessarily engaging with their emotions.

So what does any of this have to do with ableism? Various disabling neurodivergent conditions can involve inability to experience or difficulty experiencing the three types of empathy. Interestingly, sometimes being ND can lead to hyperempathy; because I’m Autistic, my emotional empathy is off the charts. However, my cognitive empathy is next to nonexistent, and my compassionate empathy depends on whether or not I can identify that someone is suffering. Because people misuse “empathy” so much, it’s hard to do research on which neurodivergent conditions actually involve low or none of whatever kind of empathy, but some personality disorders also are associated with low empathy (BPD, which I have, is associated with low cognitive empathy.) So saying things like “empathy is required to be a moral person” is ableist (specifically neurotypicalist, I guess), not only because you actually mean compassion but because not everyone is capable of empathy. You also want to be careful with how you discuss neurodivergence and empathy, because, for instance, Autisticness can be associated with high or low empathy of various kinds, not to mention symptoms can vary between individuals with the same condition. So just be careful to say exactly what you mean when discussing empathy.

And…wow, short entry. But I did say it would be short. Go forth and use words correctly!

Thanks to my Patreon supporters: Ace, Emily, Karina, Mackenzie, and Sydney! If you’re reading this and are not a Patreon supporter, it’s only $1 to see blog entries two days early and participate in producer polls to help me choose topics to write about and $5 to submit potential topics for those polls!

Also, if you can, please help my ESA, who needs another surgery to prevent her cancer from coming back: https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-an-esa-kitty-beat-mammary-cancer?utm_source=customer&utm_medium=copy_link&utm_campaign=p_cf%20share-flow-1&fbclid=IwAR1rIjjoSEGOFR2arvpbtfmXzVPM_dZWG7_-nQl1vBaJaY79U76Nlyih_PM

Actually Decent Disability Representation

Content/trigger warning: abortion mention, eugenics mention

This is going to be a short entry because it’s about decent disability representation and there is very little decent disability representation out there. I’m also only including characters that are explicitly stated to be Disabled, not characters who are coded as Disabled or characters that I headcanon as Disabled. Does Seven of Nine from Star Trek: Voyager count as Disabled because of her cognitive development being Borg-induced and all the trauma she carries from being a former drone? In my mind, absolutely, but it’s not acknowledged in canon, so I won’t be talking about her in this entry (any more than I already have done).

So let’s start out with an example that everyone reading this probably called that I was going to talk about: Toph Beifong from Avatar: The Last Airbender. Now, I have some issues with Toph in that her earthbending enables her to “see,” so that falls a little bit into the “Disabled superhero that isn’t really Disabled because of their super-ness” trope, a.k.a. the “supercrip” trope. But her disability also directly drove that adaptation, so I can’t be too mad; it’s just a little annoying that such a prominent Disabled character has elements of the aforementioned “supercrip” trope. (Note: I’m sighted. If a blind person feels like Toph is a supercrip, they have more reason than I do to think so, and you should listen to them.)

There are some things that are arguably pretty damn good about Toph as disability representation. She’s not ashamed of her blindness. She’s open about it and won’t hesitate to call out the people around her–particularly Sokka–when they make vidist comments or forget about her blindness. She’s also a well-rounded character as opposed to just being the token Disabled one in the group.

My favorite part of Toph as disability representation is that the show makes jokes about Toph being blind that aren’t ableist or and are genuinely funny. For example, when Toph insists that she can put up a poster, she does so with the image facing the wall, so it looked like she just put up a blank piece of paper. She then says, “It’s upside down, isn’t it?” Disability can be hilarious, although abled comedy writers have yet to figure out how and tend to just be ableist pieces of shit.

I don’t really have any better examples from TV or movies, and I couldn’t think of a perfect example. For an okay example, there’s Roland in Saved!, whois halfway decent representation because Roland is a well-rounded character, there aren’t any ableist jokes at his expense (that I can remember), and he’s not just a token Disabled member of the cast. And yet Macaulay Culkin cripped up for the role. Boo.

Roland does bring up being Disabled with regard to his relationship, but I recall it being handled pretty well. IMDb saved my ass here; apparently what he said to his girlfriend, Cassandra, was “I don’t want to be the guy who’s with the girl because he needs her, I want to be the guy who’s with the girl because he wants her.” The idea of Disabled people needing abled partners does come up in real life, so it makes sense to have a Disabled character say that to an abled partner. It’s realistic. Not the kind of thing abled writers usually do right, either (I say as if I have any idea whether the writer who wrote that line is abled or Disabled).

This is probably the part where you’d expect my geeky ass to talk about Geordi LaForge as good disability representation. Well…not exactly. Geordi gets hurt so often that there are YouTube compilations of him getting hurt. He’s borderline a Butt Monkey character. Not to mention the writers had no idea how to write Black male Disabled sexuality, so Geordi never had a datemate. It’s also my understanding that Geordi got un-Disabled at some point (I haven’t seen most of the TNG movies or every episode of Trek, so feel free to correct me if I’m wrong), which also pisses me off. So are there good elements to Geordi as disability representation? Sure; for example, when Geordi tells off a pro–eugenics-of-Disabled-people Romulan commodore. Was he probably some of the best disability representation for the time Star Trek: The Next Generation was airing, and is it valid that some Disabled people see themselves in Geordi? Absolutely, and I don’t want to discount that…but at the same time, we can do better.

And Star Trek has done better! In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode “Melora,” the eponymous character uses a wheelchair because her species is used to lower gravity than most of the species on DS9. I’m not a wheelchair user, but the episode seemed to be well done to me, such as when Melora decides to not become un-Disabled (THANK FUCK; I should do an entry on why un-Disabling fictional characters is usually ableist) using a new “neuromuscular adaptation” treatment developed by Dr. Bashir. Melora also drops some truth bombs to Sisko about how her disability (when it’s properly accommodated) isn’t a problem until people make it one, and how abled people will never be able to understand what it’s like to be Disabled. I especially like when Melora saves the day by using her ability to move in lower gravity to take out the bad guy du jour. Unfortunately, though, Melora was not played by a wheelchair user.

There was, however, a Law and Order: Special Victims Unit episode in which a trisomy 21 actress plays a trisomy 21 character…and I wrote a whole section on it before remembering a few particularly egregious lines that revealed that the message of the episode was “Down syndrome bad, eugenic abortion…well, we’re not going to condemn it.” So that’s really all I have for TV and movies, although I have heard good things about the disability rep in Breaking Bad and Call the Midwife because both of those actually star Disabled actors. I have no interest in Breaking Bad, though, and I can’t stand Call the Midwife because it is just too fucking stressful. (Thanks, hyperempathy.) So here we go with some book recommendations.

The first is the Binti trilogy by Nnedi Okorafor, which is one of the most realistic and respectful depictions of PTSD that I’ve read. Binti is an Africanfuturist book about a Himba girl who is accepted to the best university in the known universe. The title character experiences a horribly traumatic event in the first book and has symptoms of PTSD in the second and third books, and the symptoms are described so realistically it made me want to throw the book across the room (but in a good way). The second is Mira Grant’s Into the Drowning Deep, a horror novel about killer mermaids that contains not just an Autistic character, but an Autistic lesbian who contributes to the survival of at least some of the cast using her accommodations.

Holy hell, I actually managed to write more than a few paragraphs on actually good Disabled representation! Still not a very long entry, but in any case, thanks for reading, and if you know of any good Disabled rep that I missed, please leave a comment telling me about it!

Thanks to my Patreon supporters: Ace, Emily, Karina, Mackenzie, and Sydney! If you’re reading this and are not a Patreon supporter, it’s only $1 to see blog entries two days early and participate in producer polls to help me choose topics to write about and $5 to submit potential topics for those polls!

Also, if you can, please help my ESA, who needs another surgery to prevent her cancer from coming back: https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-an-esa-kitty-beat-mammary-cancer?utm_source=customer&utm_medium=copy_link&utm_campaign=p_cf%20share-flow-1&fbclid=IwAR1rIjjoSEGOFR2arvpbtfmXzVPM_dZWG7_-nQl1vBaJaY79U76Nlyih_PM

Suicide Prevention

Content/trigger warning: suicide, police mention

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you probably think you know where I’m going with this. You probably think I’m going to say “if we dismantle ableism, people experiencing suicidal ideation won’t be afraid of being judged for their symptoms or being forcibly institutionalized and will seek help.” Well, you’re sort of right. We do have to dismantle ableism.

The thing is we can’t dismantle ableism without establishing a wholly equitable, non-capitalist society. To paraphrase the great Lydia Brown, ableism is part of every axis of oppression. Also, I’ve mentioned this before, but capitalism is inherently ableist because…well, many reasons, but mainly because capitalism devalues lives that can’t be spent being “productive.” At least in the United States, organic mental illness is not the only reason people die by suicide, so organic mental illness is not the only cause of suicide we should discuss when talking about suicide prevention. Being oppressed, especially on multiple axes, is fucking depressing. Generational trauma is fucking depressing. Living in a country that is circling the toilet bowl of fascism is fucking depressing.

I’m cribbing from an image that Latinas Rising created and posted on Facebook, but here are some methods of suicide prevention that go beyond the “get help” narrative:

  • Universal basic income
  • Youth suicide prevention courses
  • Affordable healthcare
  • Food security
  • Housing security/affordable housing
  • Community engagement activities
  • Increasing accessibility to mental healthcare
  • Disestablishment of abusive mental health institutions/no more forced institutionalization of suicidal people
  • Parenting skills and family relationship programs, especially ones that teach parents to accept and love their LGBTQIAP+ children

And of course…

  • Destigmatizing mental health treatment
  • Destigmatizing being openly Disabled

Suicide hotlines aren’t enough. Actually, let me go into why suicide hotlines suck. To my knowledge, only one of them–Trans Lifeline, at 877-565-8860–doesn’t have the capability/policy of calling the fucking police on suicidal people. The police don’t know how to deal with mentally ill people. They just kill us for having symptoms, and of course it’s even more dangerous to call the police on a suicidal person of color, especially if they are Black. So suicide hotlines aren’t safe. They’re also by and large not accessible to people who are unable to talk on the phone. Yes, there are some text-only hotlines, but they may not be specialized, which leads me to my next point: LGBTQIAP+ people have a higher rate of suicide, especially teen suicide, than zedcishet people–The Trevor Project reports that members of the LGBTQIAP+ community aged 15 to 24 are up to four times more likely than their zedcishet peers to attempt suicide–and many general suicide hotlines don’t have the resources to help LGBTQIAP+ callers. I mean, a 2011 study revealed that 26% of surveyed asexual people had experienced suicidal thoughts within the past two weeks compared with 24% of surveyed zedsexual non-hetero people and 12% of surveyed zedcishet people. But as an asexual person, if I had called a suicide helpline as a despondent 19-year-old who was despairing at being an inhuman “biological snafu” (as I called myself at the time) the helpline operator probably would have told me that I was experiencing low sexual desire due to my depression, or at the very least not known what asexuality was.

Another problem with the “get help” narrative is that “help” isn’t accessible to huge swathes of people. Therapy and medication aren’t right for everyone. And when they are right for someone, they are fucking expensive, even with insurance, and plenty of people in the States either don’t have insurance or have shitty insurance. Also, the medical-industrial complex is so violent that many people who seek psychiatric treatment end up so traumatized by the experience that they can no longer safely access therapy and medication. So even when people don’t have barriers to “getting help,” the “help” often hurts. I’m lucky enough to have gone through almost a decade of psychiatric and psychological treatment without incurring medical trauma, but I’ve seen more mental health professionals than I could count on two hands, and only four of them didn’t horribly suck in some way (and by “horribly suck” I mean they misdiagnosed me, pathologized asexuality, or guilt-tripped me for escaping my abusive parents).

“Help” also isn’t enough to prevent suicide for many oppressed people. I already mentioned LGBTQIAP+ people, but of course being part of any oppressed group in the States is traumatizing. Mental health treatment, even competent mental health treatment, can’t ameliorate the intense suffering caused by racism, classism, misogyny, Christian hegemony, fatmisia, xenomisia, ableism, disfiguremisia, etc., and of course I can’t emphasize enough how violent capitalism is and how it contributes to all these -isms. Being marginalized on a systemic level, especially in a capitalist society, can lead to the kind of extreme hopelessness that causes suicide. (This paragraph has been brought to you by months of living paycheck-to-paycheck and still not making ends meet while working 48-hour weeks and having a sick ESA. For months now I’ve been convinced that I survived and escaped abuse only to let capitalism kill me because it was only a matter of time before the financial stress got to me.)

I think that’s all I have for now. Tl;dr we can only prevent suicide in the United States by dramatically changing society.Thanks for reading, and if you have thought about ending your life but are still here, I’m glad you stayed.

Thanks to my Patreon supporters: Ace, Emily, Karina, Mackenzie, and Sydney! If you’re reading this and are not a Patreon supporter, it’s only $1 to see blog entries two days early and participate in producer polls to help me choose topics to write about and $5 to submit potential topics for those polls!

Also, if you can, please help my ESA. She’s having a chain mastectomy to remove a cancerous tumor and prevent the cancer from coming back on October 23, and it will be $1661. https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-b039elanna-beat-lung-cancer

Disabled Mimicry and Why It’s Ableist

Content/trigger warning: reclaimed slur, mention of racist appropriation, euthanasia mention, cursing

Cripping up. Disabled mimicry. Cripface (please don’t ever use this; it’s an appropriation of “blackface,” and while I’m not qualified to discuss why that’s wrong and fucked up, the very talented Dominick Evans is, and he wrote about that here: https://www.dominickevans.com/2017/07/please-stop-comparing-cripping-up-to-blackface/). All of these are words for the phenomenon of abled actors playing Disabled people (although “cripping up” is specifically to be used for abled actors playing physically Disabled characters). Here’s the problem: in the words of Isabelle Atkins, it’s not acting. It’s appropriation.

If you’re thinking that I’m only cribbing from other, more eloquent people in this entry so far, you’re right. I’m exhausted and out of fuel and only writing this because it’s already the 30th, and I don’t have any particularly groundbreaking thoughts on cripping up. In fact, here are two other sources I used for this entry:

https://theboar.org/2019/03/disabled-access-arts/

https://amp.cnn.com/cnn/2018/03/01/opinions/hollywood-disability-new-normal-opinion-novic/index.html

If you’re still here, I guess I’ll keep going and try to say something worthwhile. I’ll try to break down why disabled mimicry is fucked up by listing the problems with it and giving examples when possible.

  1. It implies that disability is something that abled people can understand by imitating it. You know how people will break an ankle and be on crutches for a few months and think that means they understand ableism and what it’s like to live life as a Disabled person? It’s kind of like that except worse.
  2. They get shit wrong. See: Sally Hawkins’ fuckawful ASL in The Shape of Water. They could have just cast a non-speaking actress who was fluent in ASL. They could have. But they didn’t. And not only did ASL speakers have to sit through that performance, now a shitload of abled people think that signing looks like whatever the fuck Sally Hawkins was doing with her hands in that movie.
  3. The fucking adulation heaped on these abled actors for cripping up. The fact that these abled people are appropriating Disabledness isn’t only condoned, it’s celebrated. I mean, the aforementioned Sally Hawkins and her mangled ASL got a best actress nomination for her performance in The Shape of Water. As Isabelle Atkins points out, this is particularly fucked up because abled actors are being praised for the same thing Disabled people are condemned, mocked, or even killed for. (This is what makes cripping up appropriation; something is appropriative when you get praise for it and the people you stole it from get shit for it.)
  4. They take potential jobs away from Disabled actors. I hear some people saying, “But there are so few Disabled actors!” Well, how the fuck would we know, considering how few opportunities Disabled actors are given? (Well, and the film industry is disgustingly inaccessible. There’s that too. That also needs to change.) I mean, look at R.J. Mitte, the actor with cerebral palsy who played Walter White’s son Walter “Flynn” White on Breaking Bad. He specifically auditioned for his role in Breaking Bad because he wanted to play roles in which he could educate viewers on disability, and how the fuck is he supposed to do that if Hollywood keeps casting abled actors as characters with CP?
  5. They play roles in ableist stories because they don’t know any better. I’m especially thinking about roles in inspiration porn stories, such as when abled actor Bradley Cooper played Joseph Merrick in The Elephant Man; the character of Merrick only existed to ~inspire the abled characters (and audience). I’m also thinking about the fucking travesty that was Me Before You, a pro-euthanasia-of-Disabled people clusterfuck that took the idea of Disabled people being a burden to a horrifying extreme, in which the abled actor Sam Claflin played the paraplegic Will Traynor.
  6. REPRESENTATION FUCKING MATTERS. It’s important that young Disabled people (and, fuck, older Disabled people) see themselves properly represented on screen. We need to know that our lives aren’t just something that can be poorly mimicked by abled people; we need to know that we are the ultimate experts on our lives and experiences.

I think that’s all I have for now. Sorry this entry is sort of below par, but it’s been a hard month.Speaking of which, I’m trying to move to a cheaper place so I have money to pay for my ESA’s vet care (she has kidney disease, a diaphragmatic hernia, and also had a cancerous mammary mass removed this year). I need to catch up on rent and pay to break my lease first, though, so…please help if you can https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-b039elanna-beat-lung-cancer

I’m not sure what my next TIfYC entry will be about, but some of you will! That’s right, next month I will allow $5 Patreon supporters to suggest one blog entry topic (within reason) for both this blog and This Is for You, Carrie each month. Also starting in September, $1 supporters will be allowed to participate in producer polls that will help me decide what to write about. Speaking of which, thanks to my Patreon supporters: Ace, Hannah, Emily, Karina, Mackenzie, and Rose!

Cringe Culture Is Neurotypicalist

Content/trigger warning: ABA, ableism (especially extreme autmisia), neurotypicalism

I write fanfiction.

No, I’m not giving you my LJ (yes, I’m that old) or ff.net or AO3 name. But I write fanfiction. I have written fanfiction since the age of four, when I saw The Lion King and immediately wrote fix fic to rectify Mufasa’s death. I had an OC, Kelsey the Good (read: was exclusively a scavenger and did not present a threat to living lion cubs) Hyena, who saved Simba from drowning in a river. Yeah, Kelsey was a self-insert to the degree that I thought of myself as Kelsey. I used to picture myself as a bipedal hyena walking into my kindergarten class. As recently as…well…now, while I don’t write self-inserts anymore, I still write fanfiction about characters that I over-identify with.

The kids these days call this kind of thing “cringe.”

SuperWhoLocks (fans of Supernatural, Doctor Who, and Sherlock) have been a fairly recent target of being called “cringe.” People who are enthusiastically fannish about their favorite TV show are often called “cringe,” especially if their favorite show is nerdy—have you ever heard someone say it’s “cringe” that grown zedcishet Statesian men are obsessed with football?—and especially if they’re high school age or older.

Stop me if you get where I’m going with this.

Actually, don’t, because this is a blog entry and you literally are unable to stop me from writing unless you have a TARDIS to go back in time and slap my hands away from my keyboard. A high schooler being obsessively interested in something the mainstream considers silly and unpopular…what does that sound like?

By chance, does that sound like an Autistic person with a special interest that’s considered “developmentally inappropriate”? Or an ADHDer with a hyperfixation? Or a person with depression engaging in escapism?

Now do you get where I’m going with this?

Despite or perhaps because of the fact that “cringey” interests tend to be those of ND people–and sometimes the neurotypicalism is more overt (i.e., calling hand spinners “cringe”)–douchezeppelins seem to think that shaming people with these interests is going to somehow help them. Apparently, said douchezeppelins think that shaming people will make them realize that they’re being “socially inappropriate” and that they need to “grow up” or whatever complete bullshit excuse they have for bullying. The bullying involved in cringe culture is not only condoned, it is celebrated. If I may quote a popular Tumblr post about cringe culture, “[fans] are degenerates that deserve to be shamed and we absolutley (sic) need cringe culture.”

Look, behavior shaming is just bullying, and if you are bullying someone for liking a thing, you’re being an absolute shitheel. I shouldn’t have to say that cringe culture is neurotypicalist to get people to stop bullying, but I’ve seen Autistic disability justice advocates say that cringe culture is crowdsourced ABA, and I agree with that to some degree, so let me go into that more.

ABA, or applied behavior analysis, is an abusive practice in psychiatry that is a form of conversion therapy to force Autistic people to act allistic. ABA often uses aversives such as forcing Autistic children to taste Tabasco sauce, and the actual techniques for ABA were based on dog training. ABA misunderstands Autisticness; it is based on the idea that Autisticness is a behavioral disorder and not a neurotype. The inventor of ABA, Ivar Lovaas, has said “Autistic children are severely disturbed…You see, you start pretty much from scratch when you work with an autistic child. You have a person in the physical sense—they have hair, a nose and a mouth—but they are not people in the psychological sense. One way to look at the job of helping autistic kids is to see it as a matter of constructing a person. You have the raw materials, but l you (sic) have to build the person.”

So the tl;dr of ABA is that it’s an abusive practice that is aimed at forcing Autistic people to behave in a way that is palatable to NTs. While it isn’t only Autistic people who are targeted by cringe culture and its neurotypicalist bullying, I agree that cringe culture is an abusive practice aimed at forcing neurodivergent people to behave in a way that is palatable to NTs. I don’t think cringe culture shares the impressive rate of producing PTSD in ND people the way ABA does in Autistic people (yes, really https://neurodiversityconnects.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/PTSD.ABA_.pdf), but bullying is certainly traumatic. Cringe culture is socially sanctioned abuse that primarily targets neurodivergent people, and if you see someone on the Internet who still plays Undertale or who writes self-insert Pokemon fanfiction or who draws Bowsette fanart or what the fuck ever, please, let them enjoy things.

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