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 I mean, look at the dictionary definition of “sexism;” dictionary.com has you slog through two outdated definitions about discrimination based on gender before you get to the correct definition, “ingrained or institutionalized prejudice against women.”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 Afrofuturist 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

Cripping Up 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. 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 cripping up 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.

Online Activism Is Real Activism

Hey, everyone. This is going to be a short entry. I guess maybe I shouldn’t put options in polls unless I’m prepared to write about them, but this is what my Patreon supporters chose. I should do more polls so my Patreon supporters are getting something for their $5 pledge, so I should get used to writing things I’m not really prepared or inspired to write. This is an apropos entry for the times, though, since activism you can do while safe indoors from the fucking global plague currently happening…yeah, apropos, right?

Okay, enough stalling. Online activism. Often called being a “keyboard warrior” or a type of “slacktivism.” Also called being an “antivist” by the band Bring Me the Horizon, who have a song called such containing a lyric “If you really believe the things that you preach/Get off of your screens and into the streets.” Well, respectfully, BMtH, fuck you.

Okay, not just fuck you. Fuck you, and also understand that being a “keyboard warrior” is an important job, people who engage in online activism aren’t “slacktivists,” and we certainly aren’t “antivists” (which sounds like an unholy portmanteau of “activist” and “antis”–you know, the pro-censorship teeny-boppers with no sense of nuance who are too young to remember the LJ Strikethrough). “Get off your screens and into the streets” is a bullshit thing to say for several reasons, the first of which being that the streets aren’t accessible for everyone. Yeah, I protested Autism $peaks, but that was a fairly small protest of an organized walk, and even then I was barely able to handle it from a sensory perspective. If I went to a BLM protest, the crowd and people-noise would push me into a meltdown, and then I would be a liability instead of a help.

Granted, sometimes inaccessibility of “the streets” isn’t a barrier, depending on the situation–at the Capitol Crawl in 1990, the activists were protesting inaccessibility and the fact that they had to crawl was the point–but online activism is the only activism accessible to a lot of Disabled people. Someone who is just going to have a meltdown or is bedbound or is weak from chemo or is in too much pain to walk can’t get out there and march.

So in-person activism isn’t always accessible, which is why saying online activism isn’t real activism is ableist. Also, saying online activism doesn’t have an impact is just false. Most people think of online activism as people spewing half-formed thoughts on Twitter. However, Twitter lends itself pretty well to activism. Twitter threads often divide complex social justice concepts into easily digestible chunks, which is not only useful, it’s accessible for a lot of people, including ID/DD/LD people who may have trouble reading information in longer forms. I personally have learned a ton from Disability Twitter, particularly @Rose_TCA, @autistichoya, @VilissaThompson, @ebthen, @coffeespoonie, @mattbc, @dominickevans, and probably others that I’m forgetting. Fat Twitter seems to be pretty great too, except for the asswipe who told me that my eating disorder precluded me from being anti-fatmisia. (One of my protector alters came out and screamed about asswipery and social justice praxis. That was a fun day.) Jwitter is fantastic too, as is Black Twitter. I could do a whole blog entry on activists I suggest following on Twitter. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I feel like I should mention Facebook. You might think that Facebook is a terrible place for sharing information about social justice causes, and I wouldn’t disagree. But it does seem like an excellent place for getting into arguments about social justice issues with your shittier family members. Unfortunately, this is a thing that needs to happen in activist lives. We need to advocate for ourselves and causes that we’re passionate about (even if they don’t directly affect us, e.g., my white ass helping my QP debate a family member about Black Lives Matter). Facebook, for better or for worse, is where this often happens. It hurts. It’s ugly. But it has to be done.

There are other methods of online activism besides disseminating information on Twitter or Facebook. There’s also Tumblr, which I’m not going to touch with a 39.5-foot pole, even though it was instrumental in teaching me about disability justice, cultural appropriation, and trans rights, because there is just too much bullshit on there. There’s also YouTube. I mention this because video has been instrumental in reality checking people who don’t believe that, say, police murder innocent Black people. Posting links to YouTube or news sites with embedded video on social media has been an effective way to raise awareness of police violence and other issues like abuse in insular cults.

Oh, right, I was going to talk about other methods of online activism besides disseminating information, not just mention other social networks. I believe in giving money directly to marginalized people. This happens a lot on Twitter to the point that many different marginalized communities joke about members passing around the same $20. Sharing and signing fundraisers is also a way to perform activism online. I’m kinda broke right now thanks to vet bills (https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-b039elanna-beat-lung-cancer), but I’ve donated to the Marsha P. Johnson Institute and a few bail funds. Signing petitions is another way to perform activism online (although you shouldn’t donate to change.org after signing a petition; just sign and donate to whatever cause directly). Yet another method of online activism is contacting policymakers via email or online forms; this is especially useful for people to whom phones aren’t accessible.

I’m also always surprised when people say that online activism isn’t real activism because SO MANY PEOPLE ARE ONLINE. Yeah, I could print this blog as a physical zine and distribute it around the city where I live, but I have a much higher chance of reaching people if I post it online. And there’s also a lot of bullshit online. I don’t think “Google is free!” is a very good response to social justice questions asked in good faith (unless the answer is very basic) because there is just so much fucking bullshit out there on the Internet. If there’s going to be multitudes of bigoted right-wing radioactive trash out on the Internet, I feel like there damn well better be correct information out there to combat it. When your conservative great-aunt posts some bullshit on FB, you can be there with a link to an infographic about how she’s wrong.

I think that’s all I have for now. Tl;dr not only is online activism valid and effective, but saying that online activism isn’t ~real activism is ableist. 

Thanks so much to my Patreon supporters: Ace, Hannah, Emily, Karina, Mackenzie, Rose, and Sean! To become as cool as them, or to see my blog entries 2 days early and get a thank-you in every blog entry, you can support me for $1 a month on Patreon: patreon.com/arzinzani

Self-Diagnosis Is Valid, Godsdammit

Content/trigger warning: COVID-19, sick pet, murder, violent ableism, discussion of several axes of marginalization, cursing

I’m tired.

I’m tired of seeing the most vulnerable people in American society die of COVID-19 in terrifying numbers.

I’m tired of worrying about my emotional support cat, who has a thoracic mass pressing on her heart in addition to a diagnosis of mammary cancer. (I need help with transportation to and from the only vet in the metropolitan area willing to do a surgical biopsy and help with the surgery itself. Please share if you can’t donate: https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-b039elanna-beat-lung-cancer).

I’m tired of learning that yet another Autistic person has been murdered by their carer and thinking “that could have been me” (may Alejandro Ripley’s memory be a blessing).So you’d think that being tired of seeing ableist bullshit on Twitter wouldn’t be what I’m writing about, but it’s relevant, I promise. Not only is the topic I’m covering today currently a popular point of contention on Twitter, but it’s relevant because non-essential healthcare providers’ appointments aren’t happening due to the pandemic. So new professional diagnoses aren’t happening. It seems like a good time to talk about self-diagnosing with disabling conditions and how self-diagnosis is valid.

Let’s get one important thing out of the way first: being anti–self-diagnosis is ableist. Let’s get a second, even more important thing out of the way: anti–self-diagnosis is not only ableist, it’s classist, sexist, racist, transmisic, and probably other -isms/-misias that I’m forgetting. Where am I going with this?

Barriers to access.

Being professionally diagnosed is a privilege. In order to be professionally diagnosed, the following needs to happen:

  • You have parents who support your pursuit of a diagnosis or are in a position to be diagnosed without your parents’ involvement
  • There needs to be enough money for diagnostic procedures (and for a neuropsych eval, that was over $2k out of pocket when I paid for mine in 2014)
  • A healthcare professional willing to perform the diagnostic procedure(s) has to be available
  • Either the healthcare professional needs to not be biased toward misdiagnosis/denying diagnosis on the basis of gender, assigned sex at birth, transness, race, ethnicity, previous diagnosis/diagnoses, and probably other conditions that I’m forgetting or you need to be a white zedcishet male with no previous diagnoses and probably other privileges that I’m forgetting

So not only does it require a fuckton of privilege to obtain a professional diagnosis, there can be advantages to being professionally diagnosed. I’ve already talked about “scary” mental illnesses here (https://thisisforyoucarrie.blog/2017/06/24/scary-mental-illnesses/), and while being professionally diagnosed can be a path to access, accommodations, treatment, etc., being professionally diagnosed with a “scary” mental illness can also present barriers. I’ve had multiple psych professionals refuse to see me because my issues were too “severe” and/or because cluster B disorders like BPD are sometimes seen as untreatable. (Don’t @ me about DBT; I said sometimes.) Also, there are likely disadvantages to being diagnosed with conditions I don’t experience that I don’t know about. So it is a legitimate choice to not seek out professional diagnosis even if self-diagnosis has been made.

I’ve also noticed this misconception that self-diagnosis is shallow and ignorant, for example, seeing a meme about being disorganized and self-diagnosing with ADHD. I’ve also seen the misconception that self-diagnosis is minimizing disabling conditions, for example, enjoying cleaning and referring to oneself as being “lol so OCD.” The latter is not self-diagnosis and the former is highly unlikely (although seeing relatable memes can make one realize that they should research further). Self-diagnosis usually involves a lot of research, soul-searching, and engaging with community (I love Autistic Twitter, as can be inferred by my last entry). Speaking of Twitter, it was Disabled Twitter that gave me the aphorism “Don’t confuse an hour-long lecture with my lived experience” in response to some #DoctorsAreDickheads (thanks to @crippledscholar for that hashtag) blubbering about how baaaaaaaaad self-diagnosis is. Look, I’ve been through doctorate-level biomedical classes. They’re hard. I respect passing them. But I agree wholeheartedly with “Don’t confuse an hour-long lecture with my lived experience.” Self-diagnosis based on lived experience and autodidactic study is valid…yes, even if what someone learned in a one-hour lecture (or longer classes/labs, or whatever; the ultimate experts on disability are Disabled people themselves) says differently.

There’s also the matter of self-diagnosis often being necessary for professional diagnosis, i.e., that people don’t seek out professional diagnosis unless they believe they have a condition that warrants professional diagnosis. This is often touted as a reason why self-diagnosis is valid, but I feel like that’s sort of missing the point. Self-diagnosis is valid because…well, because of all the reasons I listed above, not because it’s a step on the way to professional diagnosis. That would imply that professional diagnosis has ultimate validity, which isn’t true.

Lastly, people who have been professionally diagnosed need to stop being assholes about self-diagnosis. We’ve been through that violent, oppressive gauntlet; why can’t we have sympathy for those who, for whatever reason, can’t endure that gauntlet? Not to mention the idea that self-diagnosis delegitimizes professional diagnosis is nonsensical bullshit and I haven’t the faintest idea why anyone would think that. I don’t even know how to argue with that point. It’s like trying to argue with someone who thinks the existence of the Main Asteroid Belt makes the sun dimmer. It’s so obviously not true I’m just gobsmacked.

That’s all I have for now. Stay safe. And wear a fucking mask.

Many thanks to my Patreon supporters: Ace, Hannah, Emily, Kael, Karina, Mackenzie, Rose, and Sean! If you want to be as awesome as them (and see my entries two days early, among other perks), consider supporting me on Patreon: patreon.com/arzinzani

The Ableist Response to COVID-19

Content/trigger warning: COVID-19 (Coronavirus), ableism, eugenics, cursing, sick pet

Stop me if this sounds familiar.

You’re on Facebook, checking up on the latest from ASAN in preparation for Autism Hell Month and soothing your soul with kitten videos (or, well, that’s what you’re doing if you’re me) and you see a post that says something like this:

“DON’T WORRY ABOUT THE CORONAVIRUS! It’s only going to kill the elderly and the immunocompromised 🙂 You’ll be safe :)”

So…are elderly people and immunocompromised people…not people, then? Or don’t matter? Or don’t use social media? What exactly are you trying to say here?

Oh, right. You’re trying to say that you’re an ableist piece of shit.

This sentiment is also ableist because young, abled people who aren’t at high risk for infection and/or complications can be asymptomatic carriers. If you’re not worried about suffering from the virus yourself, you should be concerned about infecting your elderly grandparents, or your friend who’s on chemo, or maybe even a stranger on the train you take to work. 

In other words, I don’t know how to explain to you that you should care about other people.

But if you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you know that ableism is deeply entrenched. Abled people are conditioned to think of disabled people as subhuman and Disabled people are conditioned to think of ourselves as subhuman. While it’s beyond wrong to see Disabled lives as disposable in light of a pandemic, I can’t say I’m surprised.

Speaking of seeing Disabled lives as disposable, I’ve even seen worse outlooks on the COVID-19 pandemic. Eugenic outlooks, such as armchair epidemiologists saying that a certain number of susceptible people have to die before we achieve herd immunity for The Greater Good of Humanity. I’ve seen takes that outright claim (as opposed to implying, like the example I gave above) that no one who matters will be affected by the virus.

Now, a ton of people are at risk of being affected by the virus.

Here is a list of conditions that the CDC reports may be at increased risk for severe COVID-19 infection:

  • Blood disorders (e.g., sickle cell disease or on blood thinners)
  • Chronic kidney disease as defined by your doctor. Patient has been told to avoid or reduce the dose of medications because kidney disease, or is under treatment for kidney disease, including receiving dialysis
  • Chronic liver disease as defined by your doctor. (e.g., cirrhosis, chronic hepatitis) Patient has been told to avoid or reduce the dose of medications because liver disease or is under treatment for liver disease.
  • Compromised immune system (immunosuppression) (e.g., seeing a doctor for cancer and treatment such as chemotherapy or radiation, received an organ or bone marrow transplant, taking high doses of corticosteroids or other immunosuppressant medications, HIV or AIDS)
  • Current or recent pregnancy in the last two weeks
  • Endocrine disorders (e.g., diabetes mellitus)
  • Metabolic disorders (such as inherited metabolic disorders and mitochondrial disorders)
  • Heart disease (such as congenital heart disease, congestive heart failure and coronary artery disease)
  • Lung disease including asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (chronic bronchitis or emphysema) or other chronic conditions associated with impaired lung function or that require home oxygen
  • Neurological and neurologic and neurodevelopment conditions (including disorders of the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerve, and muscle such as cerebral palsy, epilepsy (seizure disorders), stroke, intellectual disability, moderate to severe developmental delay, muscular dystrophy, or spinal cord injury)

(Note: I have no idea if the CDC is including Autisticness under “developmental delay,” so I’m freaked. Not that healthcare providers take Autistic people’s health concerns seriously anyway.) So apparently, according to some abled fuckheads, anyone with any of those conditions is inconsequential. Their lives don’t matter.

I also want to bring up the intersection between classism and ableism in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many low-income workers do not have paid sick leave, sufficient sick days, etc. and there have been goddamn senators blocking initiatives to mandate employers to change these policies during the pandemic. (As I’m writing this, Pelosi’s COVID-19 bill to pay sick workers to stay home has been fucked with by Republicans who demanded that employers with over 500 workers be exempt and Democrats caved.) This affects Disabled people because many of us were not able to complete higher education due to the intensely ableist violence inherent in academia and only have the option to work low-income jobs.

Speaking of work, many workplaces that can go to mandatory working from home are doing so. I have to work from home this coming week. Also, many universities/colleges are now holding classes remotely. Why is this ableist? It’s not; remote work and classes are more accessible than in-person work and classes. What’s ableist is that these workplaces and schools previously refused to allow remote participation for Disabled people’s accommodations. This demonstrates that the limp excuses about cost, practicality, etc. of remote work/class were all bullshit and rooted in ableism. Accessibility is only provided for abled people because Disabled people’s needs aren’t seen as legitimate.

Zipporah Arielle, also known as @coffeespoonie, has done a better job writing about this than I ever could, so if you’re interested in anything I’ve said here, I suggest reading her piece on being immunocompromised during the COVID-19 pandemic: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/disabled-immunocompromised-people-coronavirus_n_5e6a6acfc5b6dda30fc51c2f

That’s all I have for now. Stay safe, wash your hands for 20 seconds, and use hand sanitizer that’s at least 90% alcohol.

EDIT: Okay, I do have something else to say. As I type, #PanicShopping is trending on Twitter. That seems a strange way to say “hoarding months’ worth of items like bottled water and masks that Disabled people need more than you” to me, but I suppose what I just typed doesn’t make a pithy hashtag.

Many thanks to my Patreon supporters: Ace, Hannah, Emily, Kael, Karina, Mackenzie, Rose, and Sean! If you want to be as awesome as them (and see my entries two days early, among other perks), consider supporting me on Patreon: patreon.com/arzinzani

In other terrible disease-related news, my cat has an abdominal tumor that has a 90% chance of being cancer. It is scheduled for removal in two days and I’m still fundraising to pay for the surgery. Please donate and/or share widely if you can: https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-b039elanna-beat-mammary-cancer

Ableism in the Workplace

Content/trigger warning: discussion of ableism, ableist slurs (censored), cursing

Hello, dear readers! As I probably forgot to tell all of you, I’m working full time now as a medical editor. And if you have to sell your body, soul, and labor to a bastion of late-stage capitalism to survive–which you pretty much do have to do if you live in the United States–I’ve found a pretty good place to do that. My workplace has a group called DiversiTeam, founded and led by two women of color, aimed at increasing diversity, inclusion, and justice in our workplace. And one of the things I offered to do with DiversiTeam (along with checking our agency style guide for cissexist, heterosexist, and intersexist language) was a presentation on ableism in the workplace.

I work 50-hour weeks, so I’m not keen on doing too much other work outside of that, and since I’m already making this presentation, I thought I would do a blog entry on the same topic: ableism in the workplace. (Note: since this entry came originally from a presentation I’m writing for my workplace, which is an ad agency, this entry is going to be mostly geared toward offices. I could write an entirely different entry on ableism in laboratory environments and, knowing me, probably will at some point.)

I’m going to start with ableist barriers to entering a workplace. I know, not the same thing as ableism in the workplace, but it’s related. There are a couple of common barriers to workplace entry that I see, so I’m just going to list them:

  • Ability to lift 40 lbs
  • Bachelor’s degree
  • Ability to stand for long periods of time
  • Driver’s license
  • Inaccessible applications (such as ones that require you to type out your entire fucking resume even though they also are asking for your resume, what in the chicken-fried fuck whyyyyyyyy)

Note: I’m talking about jobs that have nothing to do with lifting, standing, etc, requiring these things. Obviously, if you’re going to do a job that involves driving, it makes sense to require a driver’s license.

Other ableist policies I see that exclude Disabled people from a workplace are:

  • Poor sick day policies
  • Disallowing working from home
  • Timing bathroom breaks or disallowing long bathroom breaks

I actually worked at a place that timed how long you took in the bathroom. Yes, really. And how long it took you to get up and get coffee or a snack. It was fucking ridiculous.

Other ways to make a workplace inaccessible include:

  • Not having accessible bathrooms, elevators, desks, or a cool-down room
  • Allowing people to wear scents or use scent diffusers
  • Clapping during meetings
  • Having only non-plastic straws available
  • Not having hypoallergenic food options at work parties

I’m going to explain a few of these. The not having accessible bathrooms, elevators, or desks is pretty obvious, but it may be less obvious why not having a cool-down room is inaccessible. There are many Disabled people with sensory issues or who could go into sensory overload, and workplaces can get very hectic and overstimulating, and it may not always be feasible to go hide in the bathroom when overstimulated. Also, an overstimulated person shouldn’t have to hide in the bathroom. There should be a space where they can go to cool down and get their bearings.

Next topic: scents. Scents can be migraine or allergy triggers. I love olfactory stimming, but I also support workplaces not allowing perfume, scented beauty products, or essential oil diffusers for accessibility reasons.

Straws. We’ve been here before.

Food. Lots of people have food allergies or illnesses that prevent them from eating certain ingredients. If you’re organizing a work function where there will be food, make sure you ask everyone’s food restrictions. And no, I’m not just talking about people on shitty fad diets. Celiac disease exists.

The rest of my presentation on casual ableism in the workplace is about ableist language, and I give an overview of ableist language in general and offer alternatives. You know, like I did here: https://thisisforyoucarrie.blog/2018/01/07/less-well-known-ableist-language/. Well, more like Autistic Hoya did here: https://www.autistichoya.com/p/ableist-words-and-terms-to-avoid.html.I will also say that one thing I’ve noticed about ableist language in the workplace is that saneist language is frequently used to describe how busy people are. “It’s a m*dhouse,” “I’m cr*zy busy,” etc. My coworkers also frequently use saneist terms and expressions to discuss their reactions to work, i.e., “that job gave me PTSD,” “I need a Xanax after this week,” “this client is driving me ins*ne,” etc.

I think that’s all I have for now. Many thanks to my wonderful Patreon supporters: Ace, Emily, Hannah, Kael, Karina, Mackenzie, Rose, and Sean. Reminder that if you support me on Patreon, you get to see my blog entries early!