Content/trigger warning: murder of Disabled people by their caregivers, violent ableism, mention of sick pet
Today is March 1. Disability Day of Mourning. Why is it that I never have anything poignant and impactful to say on the days when I really, really should?
Oh, well. Here we go anyway.
For those who don’t know, Disability Day of Mourning is a candlelight vigil held by several disability self-advocacy groups, including ASAN (Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, which is the organization that actually keeps track of the data) and Not Dead Yet, at which the names of all the Disabled people who were murdered by their caregivers are read. Vigils are held all over the United States, and there is also a virtual vigil that happens online. Speeches are also given, and poems are read, at least during the virtual vigil. One year, I contributed a poem I wrote and a video of myself performing Delain’s song “We Are the Others”.
I can’t go. My job has shitty benefits, including not enough time off, and my pay will be docked if I miss work. I need the money for vet bills; my ESA needs surgery. (She should be okay.) It’s not that relevant, but I’m experiencing a ton of internalized ableism due to my inability to attend such an important event; I feel like I’m a bad activist. More relevant, though, is what I felt when I listened to the list of names: “There are so many”. And this year, over 100 cases of filicide of Disabled people by their caregivers were reported. That’s 550 murders since the inception of DDoM five years ago. One disabled person murdered by someone who was supposed to love and accept them every three days.
But so many abled people don’t find this as horrifying as I do. They think that the lives of Disabled people are not worth living. They pity and sympathize with our murderers. They insist that our disabilities must have made our lives so hellish that our murders are mercy killings. They wail and whinge about how hard it must be for a parent to have a child who is Disabled and they would have done the same thing. This is one of the most egregious forms of ableism I know of: our lives are seen as more tragic than our deaths.
“But Mara,” I can hear the abled fuckwads saying, “what about low-functioning Autistic people? Their lives are tragic!”
No Autistic life is tragic; abled people just don’t fucking understand us. They don’t understand that functioning labels are arbitrary and useless at best, dehumanizing at worst. I’ve played this game on this blog before, but let’s play again. It’s called A Tale of Two Autistic People.
Autistic Person Number One:
-Can’t keep a living space clean
-Doesn’t know when she’s thirsty
-Has no sense of time
-Has screaming, self-injurious meltdowns
-Can’t always speak
-Can’t handle personal finance
-Stims when distressed
-Is frightened by eye contact
-Has difficulties with executive function
Autistic Person Number Two:
-Has a master’s degree
-Is a member of MENSA
-Is able to care for a pet
-Is capable of feeding themselves
-Has won awards for writing
-Has an excellent memory
-Is a skilled musician
-Holds a rank of third-degree black belt in a martial art
-Always looks put together
Which person is low-functioning and which person is high-functioning? Surprise: they’re both me. “Low-functioning” denies agency; “high-functioning” denies support. And regardless of what bullshit functioning label we get slapped with, all of our lives are worth living, even in this rancid ableist garbage fire of a society. And that doesn’t only apply to Autistic people. Disabled lives are worth living, and on Disability Day of Mourning, we honor those lives that ended too early because someone who should have accepted them for who they were didn’t understand that.
Anyway, I’m not here to debate the finer points of eugenics. I’m here to, as they say, “Mourn the dead. Fight like hell for the living.” I couldn’t go to the vigil. But I’ll try to keep fighting.
Oh, and in case anyone is interested, here’s my poem. It is specifically about how harmful messages from Autism $peaks like their go-fuck-yourself horrendous video “Autism Every Day” directly result in ableist filicide. It’s called “Anthem for April”, but I think it’s appropriate now.
Don’t reduce me to the puzzle piece you find ugly and malign
And the part of me your narrow typical mind can condone
The puzzle piece I find ugly is the ubiquitous blue design
Alex Spourdalakis’ and Katie McCarron’s mass-produced tombstone
From its azure knobs and corners drips blood only we can see
And I am not a mysterious conundrum or tragic riddle to be solved
Set fire to the bigoted texts written about children like me
And know we grow into adults with internalized bigotry unresolved
I am dismissed as if eye contact with danger didn’t fill me with dread
You think your degree gives you the right to decide my identity
Not that nor a family member nor a psych class puts you inside my head
How many letters must follow my name before you will listen to me?