Misogynableism

Content/trigger warning: misogynableism (of course), cisheterosexism, exorsexism, violent ableism, sexual assault, ableist slurs, cursing

A while ago, I wrote an entry on emotional sensitivity and neurotypicalism. It contained the following quote:

“Anyway, let me give an example. Well, an intersectional example. ‘Hysteria’ used to be a mental illness. Women were actually diagnosed as ‘hysterical’ for, well, having strong feelings. Specifically, these feelings included anxiety, irritability, and nervousness. Oh, and sexually forward behavior. The term ‘hysteria’ was used because those dishing out the diagnosis literally believed that having a uterus caused the ‘mental illness’, and hysterectomies were sometimes carried out as treatment. (I’m mostly referring to what was happening to women in England and the States during the industrial era.) In any case, to this day, women are referred to as ‘hysterical’ when we are upset in order to delegitimize our feelings. This is an example of misogynableism: the intersection between misogyny and ableism. The use of the insult ‘hysteria’ is meant to undercut a woman’s experiences by insinuating that she is mentally ill, therefore her experiences and feelings about them can be ignored.”

Of course, there are women without uteruses and people with uteruses who are not women, but the Victorian-era white English and Statesians didn’t know that, and I stand by the assessment that “hysterical” is a misogynableist term. And I decided to do an entry on misogynableism.

If you’ve ever heard the phrase “don’t stick your dick in crazy”—with all its cisheterosexist assumptions intact—you’ve been exposed to misogynableism. No one ever says—again, with the cisheterosexist assumptions—“don’t let crazy stick their dick in you”. No, the big, scary problem is that the woman might be mentally ill.

The cisheterosexism in that example is starting to make me feel ill, so let’s move on to another example: the “hot, sane, single” meme. I had the misfortune of having to Google “hot, sane, single” for this entry as research, and DAMN did I find some doozies. Quotes from the execrable Tucker Max’s books. Reddit threads (naturally). YouTube videos. More traditional meme images. The idea of “hot, sane, single” is…ah hell this one’s heterosexist too. Why does the world suck? (Rhetorical question.) Anyway, the idea of “hot, sane, single” is that, according to misogynableist straight men, there is a problem among women that they can only be two of that trifecta. So yes, this is misogynist as fuck, and the fact that “sane” is one of the desirable traits makes it misogynableist.

A third example is a nerdy one, so bear with me. I play World of Warcraft. There’s a character in WoW called Jaina Proudmoore, and she was one of the few leaders in the game who was a known peacemonger, despite her interpersonal relationships being something of a Trauma Conga Line. And then her home—her entire fucking island—was destroyed. Horribly. And she experienced severe trauma from the event to the degree that her previously blonde hair turned white. Understandably, she decided to renounce her peaceful ways. She performed several morally questionable (at best) actions that were obvious to me as stemming from untreated—and, sadly, because Blizzard can’t write WoW women, yes I went there—uncontrolled (as in the character herself seemed to be making no attempt to rein in destructive impulses) PTSD. Rage at the source (or perceived source) of trauma is a lesser known PTSD symptom, but boy fucking howdy is it a symptom. Not to mention any actual character development of Jaina’s is ignored in the writing, which focuses only on her rage at her enemies, i.e., her PTSD symptoms.

Anyway, one of the quest rewards one can get in WoW is a picture of Jaina Proudmoore with blonde hair, and the description of it is “before she went crazy”. First of all, Blizz, you were the ones who wrote Jaina’s behavior, so fuck you for insulting her acting the way you decided to portray her. The portrayal itself is pretty misogynableist; using a female character as a prop to make players of one faction believe that the other faction is bad, all while calling obvious PTSD a saneist slur. (Yes, other WoW players, I know I simplified Jaina’s story, but…come on, you know WoW lore. I had to.)

The next example is a terrifying and depressing one, so hold on to your asses. Disabled women are twice as likely to be abused—sexually and otherwise—than their abled counterparts. And while Disabled people overall are three times more likely than abled people to be sexually assaulted at least once, the rate at which Disabled women are sexually assaulted is 83%. You read that right. Eighty-three percent of Disabled women will experience at least one sexual assault in their lifetime. If you want a direct comparison between men and women (I know, I know, exorsexist, but I couldn’t find stats on sexual assault of Disabled nonbinary people), 80% of ID/DD women will experience one sexual assault in their lifetime, compared to 30% of ID/DD men. Oh, right, source.

I’m super low on fuel right now, but I also want to mention fetishization of mentally ill women. “Why are the hot ones always crazy?”. Weird and creepy bullshit about how maybe you’re not supposed to stick your dick in crazy, but the crazy girls are better in bed. Recent depictions of Harley Quinn, especially in Suicide Squad. I…uh…there are probably more. Can’t think of any right now, but the next time you see one, think about those sexual assault statistics.

Of course, none of this even touches the intersections with queerness, race, religion, class, and more, but I decided to write about–or at least, start with–two axes I was most familiar with. You bet your ass I could write about how being a queer woman intersects with ableism. And intersections really need to be discussed more, because there’s no dismantling ableism without dismantling white supremacy, heteronormativity, capitalism, etc. Perhaps more on that later; I’m hoping I can get some guest bloggers who experience oppression that I don’t to help me with that.

Oh, right, and I have a Patreon now! https://www.patreon.com/ARZinzani If you’re learning from my blog, please consider supporting me. You’ll even get to vote on what other entries I write or, at higher tiers, request topics for me to write about.

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.

Fire Theory

Content/trigger warning: abuse mention

Hey, guess what, everyone? I escaped domestic abuse! Yay! I’m free! I’m safe! I signed up to lead a Disability Day of Mourning vigil!

…I still have to put the apartment together and clean it, and find a new job!

But I also finally came up with an alternative to spoon theory. As useful as spoon theory can be, it can be somewhat cognitively inaccessible if you don’t know the story behind it. (The story can be found here.) So I wanted to come up with an alternative that is more of an extended metaphor for disability, and after months of reenacting Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “come on brain, think of things” vine, I think I finally have an idea: fire theory.

Imagine you’re a fire in a cozy fireplace in a cottage in the woods. Okay, the cottage in the woods isn’t necessary, but imagine you’re a fire. You need oxygen and firewood–fuel–to keep burning. Everything you do that day consumes some of your fuel. If you’re abled, then when you wake up in the morning, you’re a giant, roaring fire, and everything you do takes only a little fuel, so by the end of the day, you’re smaller, but maybe not totally diminished. If you’re Disabled, then maybe you start out as a smaller fire, and everything you do on a given day doesn’t take much fuel, but you have less to work with at the outset. Or maybe you start out as a giant, roaring fire, but certain tasks you have to perform take a lot more fuel than it would an abled person. Your exact fire situation will depend on what conditions are disabling you.

So far, fuel sounds pretty similar to spoons, right? They’re both measures of wherewithal, and abled people have more of those measures or use them differently from Disabled people. But something I’m not huge on with regard to spoon theory is that according to spoon theory, when you’re out of spoons, you’re done. You can’t do anything else for the day. But I have run out of spoons while hauling groceries on foot, and I couldn’t very well just collapse on the sidewalk, so I pressed on in violent denial of the reality of my condition and collapsed/had a meltdown/cried/all three after I got home and stuffed the perishables into the fridge. So I kind of broke spoon theory there.

Spoon theory also doesn’t really allow for replenishment of spoons—in its original iteration, anyway—whereas fire theory does. The key to running on empty or replenishing wherewithal with fire theory is the idea of the ember. When a fire has burned itself out, there might still be embers continuing to glow. Instead of “running on no spoons”, I’ve come to think of it as “down to an ember”. Embers can also be encouraged to become blazes again with more fuel; in the case of fire theory, you can be down to an ember but get back up to fire status with medication, rest, food, hydration, or whatever it is that replenishes you.

So, fire theory is fairly straightforward: fire is a metaphor for you, fuel is a metaphorical measurement of wherewithal (or ability to do things without being in too much pain, or energy, or whatever it is that fits you), and Disabled people metaphorically use fuel faster than abled people and/or have less to work with at the outset. Additionally, it is possible to still keep going while miserable or in pain or nonverbal or what have you, in which case the metaphor for this is being down to an ember. It is also possible to go from an ember to a blaze again if more metaphorical fuel can be provided.

Clear as mud?

Here are some suggestions for how to apply fire theory, or rather, fire theory equivalents of spoon theory vocabulary:

I’m a spoonie = I’m a fire elemental (I was really tempted to somehow make a reference to A Series of Unfortunate Events and VFD, and have people say “I’m a volunteer”)
That’s going to use a lot of spoons = That’s going to use a lot of fuel
I’m out of spoons/I don’t have the spoons = The fire’s out/I’m down to ash
I’m out of spoons but somehow soldiering on = I’m down to an ember
I recouped some spoons = I’m back up to a fire/I chopped some more firewood/I recouped some fuel

Now I have a horrible cold and am going back to sleep.

Hermeneutical Injustice

Content/trigger warning: discussion of ableism, cursing (these are probably true for most entries…), mention of Autism $peaks, eugenics, ABA

Internalized ableism is sadly common. I see it all the time, from Disabled people who choose to use terms like “person with a disability” and “the disabled” to those who are pro-eugenics. I’m also queer, and I see internalized ableism far more often than I see internalized queermisia. I’m also female, and I see internalized ableism far more often than I see internalized misogyny (in general; if we’re talking specifically about white women, that’s another story). I’ve often wondered why so many Disabled people so staunchly advocate against their own rights and don’t understand that their lives have as much value as those of abled people. As much as I want to boost the voices of other Disabled people, when Disabled people are advocating against disability justice…well, I struggle with that. I can’t say their voices don’t matter, but when another Autistic person says “figuring out the genetic causes of autism is important so people like me can be eugenically eliminated”, I sure as shit don’t want abled people hearing that and thinking that Autistic people universally want to stop existing.

I thought about how difficult it was for me to find information from Disabled self-advocates and how long it was after my various diagnoses that I started learning about disability justice. I started to wonder if so many Disabled people have such terrifying internalized ableism because they don’t have access to information about disability justice. Not only do they not have information about disability justice, what they do have is an omnipresent avalanche of ableist bullshit. I mean, hell, when a newly diagnosed Autistic person googles “autism”, they’ll probably find fucking Autism $peaks. (I’ve discussed before why that organization is a hate group). They’ll probably also find information on conversion therapy based on the mistaken idea that autism is a behavioral disability, not a cognitive one, and aimed at making Autistic people more palatable to the allistic people in our lives at the cost of our mental health and autonomy. (This “therapy” is called applied behavior analysis, or ABA, and I’ll do another entry on why it’s harmful later.) Ableist misinformation is everyfuckingwhere because ableism is built into society, and I started thinking that the fact that Disabled people internalize that misinformation is a manifestation of ableism.

As it turns out, I might be onto something. A philosopher named Miranda Fricker defined the term “hermeneutical injustice” as follows:

“In cases of hermeneutical injustice, we harm people by obscuring aspects of their own experience. Our dominant schemas–our assumptions, what we take as common ground–about a particular group can make it difficult for members of that group to understand or articulate their own experiences qua members of that group.”

That’s in academic-ese, so let me try to translate. Hermeneutical injustice is when society keeps important information about group X from the people in group X and instead feeds them bullshit, making it difficult or impossible for members of group X to understand or talk about being X. Doesn’t that sound like what I was talking about a few paragraphs ago?

So when I see Disabled people with deeply ingrained internalized ableism, I try to remember that they probably haven’t had the access to the resources I do, and I try to share my resources. I’m still working out how to discuss hermeneutical injustice with the people it affects. Nobody wants to be told “Your ideas are wrong because you’ve been fed bullshit”, even though that is frequently a logical response to statements like “I can’t be ableist; I have a disability!”.

How do we address hermeneutical injustice, then? I try to make disability justice resources more available, and I write this blog, but hermeneutical injustice comes from societal oppression. The best way to confront hermeneutical injustice is to dismantle the oppressive structures that perpetuate abled supremacy (and white supremacy, patriarchy, etc.; they’re all interrelated. Intersectionality may be an entry for another day…or multiple entries. Hmm. I’ll get back to you on that). Yeah, yeah, I know. Tall order. But the alternative is for Disabled people to continue believing our lives don’t matter. And that’s unacceptable.

Several Things…

Content/trigger warning: discussion of ableism, including common emotional abuse techniques, cursing (do I always warn for cursing? I should, seeing as I curse like I just discovered the words)

Hey! Guess who did NaNoWriMo and didn’t blog for a whole month because she was busy trying to hit 50k? This lady! (I did finish NaNo, though.)

To get back into the swing of things, this seemed like the perfect blog entry to talk about a few small things that don’t really need an entire standard Mara length blog entry to cover. This is going to be a list-heavy entry: I’m going to talk about common lines of advice that are actually ableist (and some are just dickweed things to say), laterally ableist behaviors that I often see, and why it’s ableist to mock “weird” triggers. (The last one will be a list because I’m going to share some of my more “weird” CPTSD triggers.) That said, let’s get started.

“Helpful” advice that’s ableist:

  • “You can overcome anything!” The whole idea of “overcoming” disability is ableist because it represents a fundamental misunderstanding of how disability works. If someone can do something that another Disabled person with the same condition can’t do, the first person didn’t “overcome” anything, they just experience the condition differently. Also, sometimes Disabled people can’t do things because of our disabilities. That’s why it’s called a DISability. Sometimes we can’t do shit. Deal with it. And by “deal with it” I mean “don’t tell us that we can do something we actually can’t, because that’s tremendously invalidating”.
  • “You HAVE to try yoga/dieting/exercise/acai suppositories/etc.” This one is rather conditional. Unsolicited advice is usually a No. Disability Etiquette 101: if a Disabled person is venting to you about debilitating symptoms, do not offer suggestions on how to fix the symptom unless asked, especially if you don’t know the person that well. You don’t know what the person has tried and if your potential solution is accessible to them. If someone is asking you what you did to address a particular symptom or if you have any ideas, go ahead and share away, but if someone is venting about their disability-related traits or symptoms, don’t try to fix them. Yes, even if XYZ thing worked on your same traits or symptoms. (If you really feel strongly about a suggestion, you can ask if the person talking to you is interested in hearing suggestions.)
  • “Don’t let it get to you.” This one is invalidating in general, but it’s especially shitty for neurodivergent people who are highly emotionally sensitive. Can people control how they react to feeling like shit? Sure, sometimes. But it’s a rare person indeed who can simply decide to not feel like shit in response to something that makes them feel like shit. Even if someone is ND and their condition makes them sensitive to something that makes them feel like shit that doesn’t make you feel like shit, that doesn’t mean that the ND person is doing feelings wrong or shouldn’t “let it get to them”. Asking people how you can help them feel better because you want them to feel better is great. Telling people to change their innate emotional responses, especially if those responses are due to neurodivergence, is an asshole move. Policing people’s more specific emotional symptoms (e.g. “it’s not that scary” in response to anxiety”) is also an asshole move.
  • “Be grateful it’s not worse.”/”You don’t have it that bad.” Unless you are the single most unlucky motherfucker in the world, someone will have it worse,  but suffering isn’t a contest. Telling someone to be grateful for their suffering not being worse is invalidating. Fuck this one. Don’t do it.

Common forms of lateral ableism that I’ve seen is up next. Some of these have been discussed on this blog before, but I wanted to compile them. The following are sucky things that shouldn’t happen:

  • Physically Disabled people insisting that their physical disability doesn’t mean they are ID/DD/LD and implying that there’s something wrong with being ID/DD/LD. If you want to clear up someone’s misconceptions about your disability, great! That’s fine! Just make sure you’re not implying that you’re a “good” Disabled person because you’re not like one of those other gross Disabled people with a condition you’re throwing under the bus.
  • Autistic people insisting that autism isn’t a mental illness and implying there’s something wrong with being mentally ill. Okay, yes, I will acknowledge that being mentally ill can be a towering goblet of suck, but again, this can fall into the acting like you’re a “good” Disabled person because you don’t have [insert other disability here].
  • Physically abled MI people describing their mental illnesses as “cr*ppling”. No, you don’t get to use a slur that isn’t yours to describe your brain’s bullshit. There are so many other words to describe brain bullshit. “Debilitating” is a good one.
  • Neurodivergent people saying that physically Disabled people don’t get gaslit about how their disabilities aren’t real, or don’t experience medical ableism, or generally have it better than neurodivergent people. NO. NO NO NO NO NO. Bad Oppression Olympics participant. Stop it.
  • People with mood disorders insisting they aren’t scary, dangerous, or likely to be violent like people with PDs or psychotic people. And we’re back to throwing other disabilities under the bus in order to make oneself look better.
  • People with abuse-related PTSD blaming their abusers’ harmful behavior on their abusers being mentally ill. Armchair diagnosing emotional abusers with cluster B disorders has become especially trendy these days, and abuse survivors have blamed their abusers’ behavior on addiction for ages now.
  • People with BPD acting like they’re the “good” cluster B illness that isn’t selfish or abusive or whatever. Man, throwing other disabilities under the bus is really popular on this list.

And finally, something a little different. It’s all too common to mock mental illness triggers, especially PTSD triggers, these days. PTSD is a constellation of symptoms that result from the brain dealing with trauma, and one of the things brains try to do in response to trauma is keep a person from experiencing trauma again. The devastating effects of flashbacks, hypervigilance, and other PTSD symptoms in response to triggers are the brain trying way too hard to tell the brain’s owner “SHIT SHIT SHIT YOU’RE IN DANGER RUN AWAY”. (This is all very scientific, I know.) Because of this, literally anything that was involved in the trauma may become a trigger. A smell, a sound, a word, anything. I was abused for over a decade, so my CPTSD has had plenty of opportunities to pick up triggers that some might think are silly but will grab me by the collar and fling me back in time to relive the abuse if I hear them. For example, here are some of my more “ridiculous” triggers:

  • The sound of heavy/running footfalls
  • British spellings
  • The phrases “this little [noun]”, “you’re too sensitive”, “black pit”, “I don’t believe you”, and “capitalist values”
  • The word “stroke”
  • The words “at all” being used at the end of a sentence
  • The song “Carousel” by SJ Tucker
  • The taste of hazelnut coffee creamer
  • My given name spoken out loud

Yep. My given name is a trigger. Last night someone called me by it and I couldn’t stop shaking for hours. Why yes, that is fucking annoying.

I think that’s all I have for now. Oh, right! I’m also working on setting up a Facebook page. I feel like I’m not all that well suited to Twitter. I’m going to stay on Twitter, but Mara Lee is also getting a Facebook page soon. I’ll share the link when it’s ready.

Lesser Known Autistic Traits

GODS DAMN it has been way too long since I’ve blogged. And my first entry after my long absence is on…a thing I have not mentioned in any of my previous lists of topics I want to tackle. Yay!

I talk about autism a lot, seeing as I’m Autistic as all fuck, but today I want to talk about some lesser known Autistic traits and tendencies. I’ve discussed a few well-known traits such as meltdowns, having special interests, difficulties with verbal communication, and poor executive function, but I want to list and describe some of the lesser known Autistic traits (and some commonly co-occurring disabilities) because, well, they’re lesser known and they shouldn’t be. The more information about autism is out there, the more diagnoses can be made. Oh, and many of these traits are more commonly missed by professionals when they’re seen in cis women. (HOWEVER, that does not mean that they are exclusive to cis women, or women in general. I’m merely remarking on the incompetence of people who are supposedly qualified to diagnose autism.)

I’m going to start by coining a term: chronagnosia. I will later mention prosopagnosia (face blindness), so I used the Greek root for “time” with “agnosia” (inability to interpret sensory information and as such recognize things) to get “chronagnosia”, or “time blindness”. Chronagnosia is, essentially, being shit with time. To put it slightly more eloquently, chronagnosia is inability to conceptualize time. My chronagnosia manifests as a near-complete inability to tell how long a particular event or activity has taken.

Some other “atypical autism” traits are:

  • Poor sense of self. Some Autistic people have personalities that shift, sometimes dramatically, depending on who they’re around. These people may also be highly susceptible to taking on personality traits of their friends and families. (Am I like that because I’m Autistic? Is it because of trauma? Is it because I’m borderline? Nobody knowwwwwwws!)
  • Strong or overdeveloped sense of justice. Uh…if you read my blog at all, you’ll probably have a sense for what this looks like. This also can manifest in a fiery, burning hatred for being misunderstood.
  • High emotional sensitivity. This can manifest by crying, yelling, or even having meltdowns over wounded feelings. No, this isn’t something you can just decide to not feel, and people who think you can simply turn this trait off need to be punched.
  • Being neurogender or gendervague. “Neurogender” refers to someone’s gender being powerfully affected or influenced by their neurodivergence; “gendervague” is a label used by people whose neurodivergence means that they can’t conceptualize gender.
  • Difficulty spending time on personal “grooming” tasks such as showering, combing hair, and changing into clean clothes. This is often due to poor executive function or sensory issues.
  • Extreme intellectual capability in some areas, but great difficulty with the social aspects of school. To put it another way, many Autistic people have tried college and couldn’t handle the non-academic aspects of it, and may have one or many partial degrees.
  • Preferring the company of animals to people. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0THbJgMW6NY
  • Awkwardness around people who are of romantic and/or sexual interest. Also, not knowing how to flirt or recognize flirting. (This one can sometimes change with age and experience.)
  • Difficulty enjoying sex due to sensory issues.
  • Being significantly better at socializing with small groups than large ones, but still with a tendency to shut down, withdraw, or cry when confronted with large groups. Alternatively, some Autistic people may have developed noteworthy acting skills as a survival mechanism and can appear at ease in social situations despite actually feeling stressed or uncomfortable. (This is me. This is me in spades.)
  • Often being perceived to be cold, withdrawn, or unfriendly, but with the tendency to become animated and almost joyful at the opportunity to talk about a special interest.

Commonly co-occurring disabilities:

  • Anxiety disorders. If not diagnosable GAD or other anxiety disorders, anxiety, fear, and paranoia are dominant emotions.
  • Depression or mood swings. If not diagnosable MDD or dysthymia, persistent sadness or muted/depressed mood is common in Autistic people. Probably because we’re constantly being bombarded with the message that we shouldn’t exist. That’d make anyone depressed.
  • Hyperlexia, which means learning to read early with accompanying difficulty using verbal language and/or with social interaction.
  • Prosopagnosia. Also called face blindness, this is the inability to recognize faces. I have a small degree of prosopagnosia; I can recognize people, but I commonly mix up people who look similar.
  • Expressive agnosia. This is the inability to recognize other people’s moods or read facial expressions.
  • Alexithymia. This is a term for the inability to understand or express emotions. To put it more bluntly, it’s being crap at knowing what you’re feeling.
  • Sensory sensitivities and/or sensory processing disorder (SPD). This is usually broadly defined as the sensory signals received by the brain are not processed into an appropriate response. For Autistic people, though, this usually means that certain sensory inputs are intolerable.
  • Auditory processing disorder (APD). This is similar to SPD, except the sensory signals that aren’t processed correctly are related to sound. A brief and common story about APD follows: “Hey, can you pass me the remote control?” “What?” “Can you pass me—“ “Here’s the remote.”
  • Difficulty understanding verbal instructions. This one is fairly self-explanatory (and can be related to the aforementioned APD).
  • ADHD and autism have a lot in common, but some traits that are more common with ADHD and less common autism include impulsivity, inability to sit still, distractibility, and forgetfulness. While one can be mistaken for the other, they also commonly co-occur.
  • PTSD, CPTSD, or other trauma-related disorders. We’re at high risk for being abused. We’re also often highly sensitive. Trauma-related disorders may result.
  • Gastrointestinal issues. I know, I know, there’s a lot of bullshit about how “bad bacteria” or “toxins” in the gut cause autism, and it truly is grade-A bullshit, but many Autistic people have irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers, acid reflux, etc.

I………………………………………..think that’s all for now? I have a feeling I’ll come back and add things to this after I post it.

How You Does Ally, Part II: Allyship With the Autistic Community

Content/tw: cursing, discussion of ableism, including eugenic abortion

As previously discussed, here are some good ways to support the Autistic community, especially during motherfucking April:

  1. Like I said in my last entry on metonymy, don’t get your knickers in a twist over metonymy. Metonymy is a figure of speech that uses thing X, which is associated with thing Y, to refer to thing Y; for example, the phrase “America is enacting racist policies” really means “the American government is enacting racist policies”. Similarly, “I fucking hate men” means “I fucking hate systemic misogyny and the fact that men act as oppressors due to systemic misogyny” and “allistic people suck” means “anti-Autistic ableism sucks and the fact that allistic people act as oppressors due to anti-Autistic also sucks”. If you’re allistic and hear an Autistic person complaining about allistic people, don’t get all pissy and offended. And if you do get pissy and offended, maybe think about about how much you really care about the rights of allistic people.
  2. Remove the R-slur and any ableist slurs relating to intelligence or ability to speak from your vocabulary. NEVER use “Autistic” as an insult.
  3. Do not donate to Autism $peaks or patronize any of their partners. Do not “light it up blue”. If you can find one (many of them are organized on Facebook), go to a protest of an A$ walk.
  4. Do your research. Read books and other materials by Autistic-run organizations like AWN or ASAN.Read work by Autistic people like Autistic Hoya (http://www.autistichoya.com/), Radical Neurodivergence Speaking (http://timetolisten.blogspot.com/), and Amy Sequenzia (https://ollibean.com/author/amy-sequenzia/). Check out the books Loud Hands by Julia Bascom and All the Weight of Our Dreams by The Autism Women’s Network and Lydia X. Z. Brown. Neurotribes by Steve Silberman is not by an Autistic person, but is pretty respectful.

    Oh, and there are some fantastic Autistic activists on Twitter, such as @EbThen, @painandcats, the aforementioned @AmySequenzia and @autistichoya, and @neurowonderful, who also has a brilliant YouTube series called Ask an Autistic (https://www.youtube.com/user/neurowonderful). If for some reason you want to follow me on Twitter, I’m @IMissCarrie.

    Also, I hate to say this, but Temple Grandin and John Elder Robison have made it clear that they are not invested in the Autistic community, so avoid their work. Internalized ableism: it is teh suck.
  5. Autistic voices (including ASL, AAC, writing, or any other form of communication a non-speaking Autistic person may use, as well as the sources listed above) are more important than allistic ones. Amplify those voices by sharing our work on social media or IRL when possible (as mentioned in my last allyship entry, this is called “pass the mic” activism).

    If someone directly asks you a question about anti-Autistic ableism like “How is Autism $peaks bad?” in person, try to use what you have learned from Autistic people when answering. If someone asks you such a question online, link the asker to a resource created by an Autistic person.
  6. Speaking of communication, don’t assume that a non-speaking Autistic person is not competent or doesn’t have thoughts, feelings, or needs. Be prepared to be flexible and discuss communication with Autistic people when interacting with them, both in and out of activist spaces.
  7. Circling back to the idea of Autistic voices being the ones that matter when addressing anti-Autistic ableism, understand that being Autistic makes you an expert on autism. This is especially important when trying to support Autistic people through charities; any autism-related “charity” that is not run by Autistic people is probably doing more harm than good. Tip: the shitty “charities” often use a puzzle piece as a symbol of the fact that autism is a mysterious puzzle in need of solving (gag me).
  8. Related to the last point, don’t be suckered in by any subspecies of paaaaaaaaaaaarent (martyr mommy, Autism ParentTM, etc.) who claim that autism is tragic, a disease, “stole their child”, a burden, etc. These paaaaaaaaaaaarents love to bitch and moan about how much they are suffering, and they make the fact that their child is Autistic all about them. They may say bullshit ableist things like “I love my child, but I hate their autism”. Autism is an inherent part of Autistic people; hating “their autism” is hating their child. They may also defend ABA and insist that Autistic activists are “high-functioning”, and that their “low-functioning” child should be “cured”.

    These people often cannot be swayed, but it is worth trying, especially because dealing with the kind of violent ableism these people are capable of can be harmful or traumatic for Autistic people, and we need our allies to point these people, many of whom have been poisoned by A$ and similar organizations, to resources by Autistic people. And don’t read their fucking books (To Siri With Love, etc.); in fact, you can help by leaving one-star reviews of that shit.
  9. Don’t use functioning labels. They’re arbitrary and dehumanizing. I talk a little about them in day 18 of the 30 Days of Autism Acceptance 2017 challenge, found here: https://thisisforyoucarrie.wordpress.com/2017/05/01/30-days-of-autism-acceptance/
  10. Default to identity-first language (“Autistic person”, not “person with autism”). If any specific Autistic person says that they prefer person-first, refer to them the way they like. Even if I want to smack the internalized ableism out of them.
  11. Focus on accommodation rather than “cure” or “fixing” Autistic people. Understand that a “cure” is eugenics, as you cannot make a person not Autistic without effectively killing the person that they are. Oppose development of potential prenatal tests for autism, as these will lead to eugenic abortion. Yeah, you heard me. Talk to the trisomy 21 community if you don’t believe me.

    Regarding accommodation, this can include accessible Web design and event planning, e.g. not typing in all caps, subtitling YouTube videos, not using autoplay, having a cool-down room to get away from overstimulation at IRL events, holding scent-free events, etc.
  12. If you live in the United States, DO NOT CALL THE POLICE ON AUTISTIC PEOPLE. They don’t know how to deal with us. They’ll probably just kill us. Okay? Okay. This goes double if the Autistic person in distress is a person of color. The only exception to this is if the person in distress requests that you call the police.
  13. Don’t support autsploitation media like Atypical or The Good Doctor that rely on 1) ableist and harmful stereotypes 2) non-Autistic actors “cripping up” (an actor without X disability playing a Disabled character with X disability).
  14. Don’t rely on stereotypes. Understand that most of them are bullshit. If you are a media creator making an Autistic character, do your research and get an Autistic sensitivity reader. Or maybe I’ll do an entry on writing Autistic characters later. (I have too fucking many ideas for this blog.)
  15. I may do an entry on this later…or I may not, because other people have done it better. But here’s some information on why ABA is abusive conversion therapy and why you should never support it. https://wetwareproblem.tumblr.com/post/156895911301/ducki3-knerdy-knitter-ducki3
  16. Never tell an Autistic person to stop stimming, make eye contact, or in any other way be less Autistic.

That’s all I can think of right now. Go forth and engage in allyship, not allyshit.

Disability Day of Mourning 2018

Content/trigger warning: murder of Disabled people by their caregivers, violent ableism, mention of sick pet

Today is March 1. Disability Day of Mourning. Why is it that I never have anything poignant and impactful to say on the days when I really, really should?

Oh, well. Here we go anyway.

For those who don’t know, Disability Day of Mourning is a candlelight vigil held by several disability self-advocacy groups, including ASAN (Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, which is the organization that actually keeps track of the data) and Not Dead Yet, at which the names of all the Disabled people who were murdered by their caregivers are read. Vigils are held all over the United States, and there is also a virtual vigil that happens online. Speeches are also given, and poems are read, at least during the virtual vigil. One year, I contributed a poem I wrote and a video of myself performing Delain’s song “We Are the Others”.

I can’t go. My job has shitty benefits, including not enough time off, and my pay will be docked if I miss work. I need the money for vet bills; my ESA needs surgery. (She should be okay.) It’s not that relevant, but I’m experiencing a ton of internalized ableism due to my inability to attend such an important event; I feel like I’m a bad activist. More relevant, though, is what I felt when I listened to the list of names: “There are so many”. And this year, over 100 cases of filicide of Disabled people by their caregivers were reported. That’s 550 murders since the inception of DDoM five years ago. One disabled person murdered by someone who was supposed to love and accept them every three days.

But so many abled people don’t find this as horrifying as I do. They think that the lives of Disabled people are not worth living. They pity and sympathize with our murderers. They insist that our disabilities must have made our lives so hellish that our murders are mercy killings. They wail and whinge about how hard it must be for a parent to have a child who is Disabled and they would have done the same thing. This is one of the most egregious forms of ableism I know of: our lives are seen as more tragic than our deaths.

“But Mara,” I can hear the abled fuckwads saying, “what about low-functioning Autistic people? Their lives are tragic!”

No Autistic life is tragic; abled people just don’t fucking understand us. They don’t understand that functioning labels are arbitrary and useless at best, dehumanizing at worst. I’ve played this game on this blog before, but let’s play again. It’s called A Tale of Two Autistic People.

Autistic Person Number One:
-Can’t keep a living space clean
-Can’t drive
-Doesn’t know when she’s thirsty
-Has no sense of time
-Has screaming, self-injurious meltdowns
-Can’t always speak
-Can’t handle personal finance
-Stims when distressed
-Is frightened by eye contact
-Has difficulties with executive function

Autistic Person Number Two:
-Has a master’s degree
-Is a member of MENSA
-Is able to care for a pet
-Works full-time
-Is capable of feeding themselves
-Has won awards for writing
-Has an excellent memory
-Is a skilled musician
-Holds a rank of third-degree black belt in a martial art
-Always looks put together

Which person is low-functioning and which person is high-functioning? Surprise: they’re both me. “Low-functioning” denies agency; “high-functioning” denies support. And regardless of what bullshit functioning label we get slapped with, all of our lives are worth living, even in this rancid ableist garbage fire of a society. And that doesn’t only apply to Autistic people. Disabled lives are worth living, and on Disability Day of Mourning, we honor those lives that ended too early because someone who should have accepted them for who they were didn’t understand that.

Anyway, I’m not here to debate the finer points of eugenics. I’m here to, as they say, “Mourn the dead. Fight like hell for the living.” I couldn’t go to the vigil. But I’ll try to keep fighting.

Oh, and in case anyone is interested, here’s my poem. It is specifically about how harmful messages from Autism $peaks like their go-fuck-yourself horrendous video “Autism Every Day” directly result in ableist filicide. It’s called “Anthem for April”, but I think it’s appropriate now.

Don’t reduce me to the puzzle piece you find ugly and malign
And the part of me your narrow typical mind can condone
The puzzle piece I find ugly is the ubiquitous blue design
Alex Spourdalakis’ and Katie McCarron’s mass-produced tombstone

From its azure knobs and corners drips blood only we can see
And I am not a mysterious conundrum or tragic riddle to be solved
Set fire to the bigoted texts written about children like me
And know we grow into adults with internalized bigotry unresolved

I am dismissed as if eye contact with danger didn’t fill me with dread
You think your degree gives you the right to decide my identity
Not that nor a family member nor a psych class puts you inside my head
How many letters must follow my name before you will listen to me?