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!

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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.

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

Misogynableism and Greta Thunberg

Content/trigger warning: discussion of ableism, misogyny, and misogynableism; cursing

As with most of the things I blog about, I’m sure someone else has done a better job writing about this, but I’m going to try anyway.

I’m going to preface this entry by saying that Greta Thunberg, while she’s awesome, is not the only young climate activist we need to be paying attention to. Others include Autumn Peltier, Helena Gualinga, Tekanang, Penny Tovar, Lamboginny, Sarah-Anna Awad, Bertine Lakjohn, Liza Zhytkova, Veer Qumar Mattabadul, and Daniel Gbujie recently participated in the first UN Youth Climate Summit. They hail from all over the world and many of them are teenagers. Greta shouldn’t be getting all the attention because she’s white.

But we do need to talk about the misogynableism against her. Greta—who, for those who don’t know, is a sixteen-year-old Swedish climate change activist who recently testified about climate change at the UN—is Autistic, and unapologetic about it; she says being neurodivergent is a “superpower” for her. (I personally don’t like the supercrip narrative, but she’s sixteen and the narratives about Autisticness are different in Sweden compared to the US; give her a break.) Fox News recently called her mentally ill because she is Autistic, intending it as an insult and misunderstanding that Autisticness is not a mental illness but a neurodevelopmental disability. (Note: if you’re reading this blog, you damn well know that calling someone mentally ill shouldn’t be an insult. But Fox intended it as an insult because they’re saneist.) When Greta was preparing to speak in public a few weeks ago, she uttered the phrase “Sorry, my brain isn’t working properly.” Keep in mind that many Autistic people struggle with speaking and that English is not Greta’s first language. But Twitter took this and ran with it, with scores of people retweeting the video and calling Greta any number of ableist insults.

I saw at least one article calling the bullshit Greta was receiving misogyny. Do I think that Greta would be receiving less bullshit if she were male? Absolutely. Do I think that “misogyny” fully encapsulates the bullshit Greta is receiving? Absolutely not. This is especially evident in the way people insult her facial expressions. Greta has been described by the Autistic community as having “resting Autistic face”. While allistic people often make the effort to contort their faces into pleasant expressions with fake smiles in order to appear more…I don’t know, approachable? I don’t really get it…Autistic people often don’t bother with that (or if we do, we’re aware we’re only doing it to fulfill some bullshit allistic social contact). Greta doesn’t bother with that. She’s talking about serious issues and she looks serious while doing it. So she gets a lot of the misogynist “she’d be prettier/have more success/be more personable if she smiled more” and a lot of the ableist “look at her affect, she’s clearly [ableist insult of choice]”. The misogynist bullshit and ableist bullshit inform each other, resulting in misogynableist bullshit.

Much to my chagrin, it isn’t only misogynableist cockwaffles that are giving Greta bullshit. Some of the Autistic community is writing her off too. Why? Because in the United States, most of the Autistic community looks down on Aspie supremacy, and most of the Disabled community looks down on the supercrip narrative. For those who don’t know, Aspie supremacy is an attitude that some Autistic people who were diagnosed with Asperger’s have toward the rest of the Autistic community. This attitude can be described as “Oh, we’re not like ~*~those~*~ Autistic people who are low-functioning; we’re brilliant and gifted and better”. The supercrip narrative is a common ableist trope depicting Disabled people as “making up for” their disability (ugh) by doing things like climbing Mount Everest or making groundbreaking scientific discoveries. Obviously there’s nothing wrong with Disabled people doing those things; it’s when abled people start blubbering about how “they overcame their disabilities” and then expecting other Disabled people to just not be Disabled because “if xyz Disabled person can do abc, then clearly you don’t need your mobility device/accommodations/etc.” that it becomes a harmful supercrip narrative.

So yes, okay, some of what Greta Thunberg said could be interpreted as buying into the Aspie supremacy and/or supercrip narratives. I get it. But she also isn’t USian; my understanding is that Aspie supremacy isn’t really a concept that is discussed in the Swedish Autistic community. She also isn’t speaking her first language when she’s talking about Asperger’s being a superpower. Most importantly, she is fucking sixteen. I wonder if all of the grown ass Autistic people pooh-poohing Greta for not being intimately familiar with harmful ableist narratives knew about those narratives themselves at sixteen.

Tl;dr Greta Thunberg is a badass and shitting on her for being female and Disabled is terrible and bigoted, but shitting on her for not being perfect about Autisticness-related social justice concepts through a USian lens is also bad. Also, listen to young climate activists of color too, because many of them paved the way for Greta and they’re still out there kicking ass.

BAD ME I have not been listing my Patreon supporters at the end of blog entries. Many thanks to Ace, Emily, Hannah, Kael, Karina, and Sean! To be as cool as these people, visit Patreon.com/arzinzani to pledge. Even a dollar a month is massively helpful!

Goddammit, Sesame Street!

Content/trigger warning: discussion of virulent ableism including filicide, Autism $peaks, cursing

UUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUGH.

Why am I even doing this? Sara Luterman already wrote an article for Slate about this. I haven’t read it because I’m afraid I would just copy what she said for this blog entry…but if I did that, it’d probably be better than whatever I’m about to spit out.

ANYWAY. Some background.

Sesame Street has just partnered with the organization Autism Speaks, so I’ll give a little background on Sesame Street’s Autistic character, Julia, as well as some background on Autism Speaks. Julia was introduced to Sesame Street in 2015 as part of an initiative called “See Amazing in All Children”. One of the aims of Julia’s character was to introduce young allistic children to the idea of accepting Autistic people for who we are, even if we seem strange and unusual at first. (I would hope that the aim was also to allow Autistic children to see themselves represented, but I’m not that optimistic.) For example, “The Amazing Song” was used to demonstrate that Autistic people can feel, and Julia wore ear defenders when she was featured in the Macy’s Day Parade, normalizing Autistic people needing sensory protection. Julia even stims; her puppet has a special pair of arms that allow her to flap her hands.

Now for some background on Autism $peaks. If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that Autism $peaks is a pseudoscience- and fearmongering-peddling hate group that would love to see Autistic people eugenically eliminated. If you haven’t been reading my blog, now you know that. For more information on why A$ is a hate group, I wrote a blog entry about it: https://thisisforyoucarrie.blog/2018/04/03/autism-speaks-is-a-hate-group/

I believe that Autism $peaks, much to the chagrin of Autistic people, was involved from the get-go. To be frank, I’m not positive about that, and I don’t know exactly what hand A$ had in Julia’s creation or if they influenced Julia’s portrayal before now. I had trouble researching this because, like many Autistic people, I find reading about A$ triggering. (Also, Googling “Sesame Street Autism Speaks” seems to only bring up recent entries.) I do know that ASAN, the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, an Autistic-run org, was also involved in Julia’s creation. This was crucial because we hardly ever get to be the arbiters of our own representation. So what has changed? Well, Sesame Street is partnering with A$ to—I swear to fuck I’m not making this up—push a “kit” that is supposed to help parents of a newly diagnosed Autistic kid to process the diagnosis as if their child were dead.

Again, I’m not bullshitting. I wish I were.

The 100-Day Kit, as it’s called, has a section outlining the five stages of grief. This is unbelievably harmful because it buys into the narrative that when a child is diagnosed as Autistic, any child that the parent/s could have wanted is dead and a new incomprehensible monster has taken their place. It paints Autisticness as a tragedy. Fucking excuse me but my brain is not a tragedy, thanks very much.

There are other problems with the 100 Day Kit, such as A$’s usual pseudoscience-pushing with a “cure” diet backed by precisely zero reproducible scientific research, but I don’t think I have to belabor the point. The 100-Day Kit promotes the idea that Autisticness is a tragedy and that parents should mourn for the precious allistic child they didn’t get when their child is diagnosed as Autistic. I mean, how the fuck do you think an Autistic child is going to feel when they see this shit? They’ll think their parents wish they were an entirely different person, or that their parents don’t love them. How is that seeing the amazing in every child, Sesame Street!? Not to mention the autism-as-tragedy narrative contributes to filicide, as I mentioned in the previously linked blog entry.

This decision is incontrovertibly harmful to children who see themselves in Julia, Sesame Street. This is why ASAN severed ties with you. This is why the Autistic community is begging you to reconsider your partnership with a hate group that would rather people like Julia—like me—not exist.

I have to stop now. This is too fucking upsetting. I’ll conclude with a quote from Jim Sinclair about why messages like A$’ are so harmful: “This is what we know, when you tell us of your fondest hopes and dreams for us: that your greatest wish is that one day we will cease to be, and strangers you can love will move in behind our faces.”

I Did an Activism for Autism Hell Month

Content/trigger warning: filicide, Autism $peaks mention, fucking April

I fucking hate April.

April drains the Autistic community. I keep hearing stories of burnout, depression, more frequent meltdowns and shutdowns, and completely shot executive function.

I feel that. I’ve been pretty damn useless this month.

But I did do something for April as a middle finger to Autism $peaks. I went to an open mic and sang a song in Katie McCarron’s memory, prefacing it with the story of her murder. My amazing fiancee—she proposed after my performance, and yes, I’m incandescently happy about that, and of course I said yes—filmed it. So here it is, with a transcript. Before the filming started, I introduced myself with my stage name, Valkyrja, which is Old Norse for “valkyrie”. Even before that, I asked if I could take the mic off the stand; the MC jokingly gave me a hard time and my Autistic ass thought he was being serious. Anyway, here’s the video and the transcript.

Transcript:

…and you can call me Valkyrie if you can’t flip the “r”, or if you aren’t interested in Old Norse, or whatever. And the song I have chosen to perform tonight is actually…[sigh] in memoriam, so I’d like to give a little context before I start, if that’s okay. I cannot see jack with these lights; I don’t know if I’m getting a nod, so I’m just going to go ahead.

Okay, I need you all to imagine something for me. I need you to imagine that you have a condition that causes you to perceive and interact with the world differently from most people. And yes, it’s certainly a disability, but it’s mostly so because of the way society treats you. Got that so far? Okay. Now, I need you to imagine that a MASSIVE charity—supposedly—gets the director of the third Harry Potter movie to make a short film about what it’s like to live with this condition…and they don’t get anyone with the condition to be involved. What the fuck, right? They got the director of The Prisoner of fucking Azkaban to direct the thing and couldn’t get anyone with the condition to even be interviewed? What the hell, right?

Now…this is where it starts getting fucked up. Trigger warning for ableism and murder. So, I want you to imagine that a board member on the charity who does not have the condition says in front of her daughter who does, in this film, she wishes she could kill her daughter and then herself.

[Crowd “oooh”s]

But she can’t, because she has a normal child to take care of. Stay with me.

[Someone in crowd says “all right”]

Now imagine this film premieres. A woman who doesn’t have the condition but has a child who does sees it. Three days later, this woman murders her young daughter who has the condition. You’d make some connections in your head about this series of events, wouldn’t you?

THEY HAPPENED. The “charity” is Autism Speaks. The film is Autism Every Day, which premiered in 2006, and yes, they got Alfonso Cuaron, the director of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban to direct, and yes, his name is fucking mud in the Autistic community right now. We hate that guy. And if you couldn’t tell by the way I couldn’t tell he [indicates MC, who was being an asshole earlier] was being an asshole, I’m Autistic as fuck.

So the young woman who was unfortunately murdered. Her name was Katie McCarron, and I would like to dedicate this performance of “We Are the Others” by Delain to her, may she rest in power.

[sigh] Okay, if I’m not gonna cry, I’m ready to sing.

I’m walking with Katie tonight,
She lives in the air that I breathe;
I can’t get it out of my mind
How you were left to bleed
Was it how you stim?
Or how you act?
I can’t believe
How she could act so violently,
Without regret,
But we will not forget

We are the others,
We are the cast outs,
We’re the outsiders
But you can’t hide us,
We are the others,
Black-eyed and battered,
You’re not out there on your own
If you feel mistreated,
Torn and cheated,
You’re not alone,
We are the others (we are the others)

As simple as air in your lungs
As simple as words on your lips
And no one should take that away
No one should argue this
Now with our heads up high
We’ll carry on,
And carry out,
And we won’t let them get us down,
Wear us out,
‘Cause we are not alone

We are the others,
We are the cast outs,
We’re the outsiders
But you can’t hide us,
We are the others,
Black-eyed and battered,
You’re not out there on your own
If you feel mistreated,
Torn and cheated,
You’re not alone,
We are the others (we are the others)

Normal is not the norm,
It’s just a uniform
(We are the others)
Forget about the norm,
(We’re the outsiders)
Take off your uniform,
(We are the others)
We are all beautiful,
(We are the others)

We are the others,
We are the cast outs,
We’re the outsiders
But you can’t hide us,
We are the others,
Black-eyed and battered,
You’re not out there on your own
If you feel mistreated,
Torn and cheated,
You’re not alone,
We are the others (we are the others)
We are the others (we are the others)
We are the others

 

Many thanks to my sole patron, Karina! If you would like to be as awesome as Karina, enjoy my work, and would like to support me, please consider becoming a patron of mine on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/ARZinzani

Disability Day of Mourning 2019

Content/trigger warning: filicide, abuse mention

We’ve established that I’m not the most eloquent person out there. There are other members of Disabled Twitter and Disabled YouTube who have expressed what Day of Mourning is about better than I could. (Alice Wong, Lydia Brown, and Amythest Schaber in particular have said important and poignant things this DDoM.) But I try.

For those of you who are new to this blog, Disability Day of Mourning is a yearly vigil where members of the Disabled community gather to remember those Disabled people who were murdered by their carers. ASAN, the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, spearheaded the organization of these vigils. Other organizations like Not Dead Yet are often involved; the vigil I attended was set up by Autistics Against Curing Autism (AACA) and Quirky Citizens Alliance. At the vigils, opening remarks are read, and then the names of those lost to filicide are read. ASAN distributes an anti-filicide toolkit (found here) that includes other pieces that are often read at DDoM vigils. The point of DDoM is not only to mourn the dead, but also to acknowledge the role that ableism plays in filicide, particularly the ableist way the news media portrays the murderers who kill Disabled people as sympathetic.

I signed up to be a site coordinator for this year’s DDoM. After my escape from my abusive household, I was a ball of hypervigilance, flashbacks, and nightmares for the next month. I had to hand off the role of organizing my city’s DDoM to AACA. However, AACA was gracious enough to allow me to read opening remarks.

Below is the original piece that I read.

Changelings – Remarks for Disability Day of Mourning 2019

Good evening, everyone. My name is Amaranthe Rae Zinzani, and this is the first Disability Day of Mourning I have been able to attend in person. This is because I recently escaped from an abusive household. Said household contained people who rejected the idea that I was Autistic and also rejected the idea that I currently have PTSD from—among other things—their attempts to make me seem “normal”. Despite how badly I wanted to be here, it’s still extremely painful for me to think of why we are gathered here today, and I would like to extend my warmest thanks to all Disabled attendees for braving the horrible reality of the fact that we are here to remember people who were murdered for being like us; murdered by those who should have protected them, no less. To any abled attendees, I encourage you to listen with compassion and with a mind open to learning how to help the Disabled community make the changes to the world that will hopefully, one day, decrease the number of new names read at Day of Mourning to zero.

I haven’t given a speech like this before, so I decided to start with something familiar to me. I enjoy fantasy stories, so I would like to start by talking about changelings. There are days when I still am disappointed with myself for not realizing until well into my third decade of life that legends about changelings were about Disabled children and other children with socially unacceptable differences that could be blamed on the otherworldly. For those of you who are unfamiliar with changeling legends, the idea of the changeling is found in the folklore of several places in Europe, including the British Isles, Germany, Spain, and Scandinavia. In folklore, a changeling is a fairy or other eldritch creature left in place of a human child. In many of these stories, the method for forcing a changeling to return to their own people and bringing back the human child is killing the changeling.

So these stories are about justifying the murder of Disabled and other “undesirable” children, right? Why did that take me so long to understand? Internalized ableism is powerful and convincing, I know, but you see, there is a book that I read as a child so many times that the spine fell apart that should have clued me in. The book was The Moorchild by Eloise McGraw, published in 1996, picked up by me in 2000, and read again and again until at least 2008. The book The Moorchild is about a half-human, half-fairy called Moql who is forced to replace a human child because her human genetics mean she represents a threat to her people. Moql is literally a changeling, according to the legends: a fairy child left in place of a human child. So why should this literal interpretation of a changeling story have informed me of the true nature of changeling legends? The answer is relatively simple: the book was dedicated to me.

Well, the book was not dedicated to Amaranthe Rae Zinzani, but the dedication did make part of my brain jump up and down shouting with joy: the dedication read, “To all children who have ever felt different.” I still remember that the word “different” was set in italics. I would imagine that many other people here today would have identified with that dedication, too.

I read the book for the first time only a few years before I first began to suspect that I was Autistic, and it was about 13 years after I first read The Moorchild that I paid $2,000 out of pocket for someone with a few letters after their last name to confirm that yes, according to the insurance cookbook—sorry, I mean the DSM—I am Autistic. (If my word choice and tone of voice aren’t making it clear, I am deriding the fact that formal diagnosis is often seen as the only legitimate way to diagnose disabling conditions.) And it was still another few years after that, years after I wept tears of relief at the knowledge that the reason I had felt so “different”—in italics—was because I was Autistic, that it took a damn Tumblr post about the history of developmental disability to make me realize that changeling legends came about as a justification for filicide. Maybe it was because I didn’t want to believe that if my circumstances had been a little different, I would have been left to die of exposure or drowned…or thrown into a bonfire, the way the townsfolk threatened to do to Moql in The Moorchild.

While the year The Moorchild takes place is not explicitly stated, changelings are mentioned in historical records as early as the 1500s, with both Martin Luther and the brothers Grimm reporting what they claimed were real life changelings. In Ireland—where The Moorchild is implied to take place—there was at least one recorded killing of a non-speaking child, Michael Leahy, under the claim that the child was a changeling in 1826. This was approximately two hundred years ago.

There are days when it pains me more than I can express with mere words how little has changed. Abled people still fundamentally misunderstand us—they still see us as subhuman—but instead of blaming arcane creatures, they say it is our diagnoses that stole their real relatives and left inhuman nightmares in their stead. They still believe our lives are more tragic than our deaths. Only now they’re more direct about it. And their reprehensible actions are still met with sympathy. And their cries of “I had to do it” are amplified by the misinformation and pseudoscience and lies spread by organizations such as Autism Speaks.

Other carers of Disabled people see the outpouring of support received by those who commit filicide. They are bombarded by ableist ideas about how Disabled lives exist only as burdens on the carers, such as in the execrable play All in a Row, which premiered only last month. There are more deaths, more names mentioned only once or not at all, while their carers’ names trend on social media as other carers rush to defend them. The victims are forgotten by the news cycle…but not by their community. Reporters do not read the victims’ names, but the names will be read today. And we in the Disabled community will not rest until our lives are seen as worth what they truly are.

To paraphrase Mary Harris Jones, “Mourn the dead. Fight like hell for the living.”

Thank you.

Like I mentioned, this was the first DDoM I attended in person. It was a landmark moment for my internalized ableism. There are still times I feel like I’m not ~*~really~*~ Autistic. But last night, I felt like I was among my people. I wish it had been on a less…emotionally devastating occasion, but I’m glad I went. I hope I made my community proud with my reading.