Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Betrayal of Divergent: an open letter to Veronica Roth

Alyssa over at Yes That Too has written and is writing a fair bit on the topic of how Divergent could have been empowering for our community and instead it was a betrayal. A presentation I did brought it back up to the top of my mind, so here is my contribution to the Disability Discussion on Divergent.

 Dear Ms Roth,

It has taken me years to write this to you & now I'm doing it almost on impulse all in one sitting. There's things you're probably tired of hearing that I couldn't figure out how to avoid doing, so I'm not going to avoid doing them. Instead, I am going to speak sincerely, from my heart, about the impact your work had on me and the impact it could have had.

The first thing I couldn't figure out how to do, Ms Roth, is how to not compare Divergent to Hunger Games. I'm tired of hearing people fabricate similarities beyond the obvious (both driven by strong teenage girl protagonists?) so I can't imagine how tired you are of it. But I can't, because part of explaining what Divergent could have been for me is by comparing it to what Hunger Games was.

If we are being brutally honest, I'm mostly a Katniss. Katniss in the books looks like me. Uncannily like me. We have similar physical abilities. We figured out how to survive because we had to. We are both, if I may flatter myself, accidental revolutionaries and unintentional symbols rather than people to an unfortunately large number of people. I'm not overthrowing any governments, but I do find myself saying "who are all these people and why are they behind me?" more than once a decade. And I'm introverted, socially awkward, and good with a bow.

But Tris isn't not relateable, nor, if I am being honest, is Four. Like Tris I have multiple aptitudes (and Amity isn't one of them). Like Tris I'm an adrenaline junkie. Like Tris I'm bravest when it's for someone else. And like Four it's not so much that I'm naturally brave as that the monster under the bed lived in my home and controlled me until I could get away. (Incidentally, touching on abusive parents who are well regarded by the community was incredibly important for me. Everything shies away from that. You confronted it. That mattered to me.)

The Dauntless manifesto didn't just speak to me, Ms Roth. It sang to my soul. The saint I was named for said "I hate silence when it is a time for speaking," and the Dauntless manifesto took that and spread it out like a secular profession of faith. I believe that the cowardice of good people is what lets injustice prevail. I believe that it is my duty to shout when the person next to me can only shake. I believe to the core of my being in ordinary acts of bravery, in action, in walking what you talk. I believe that silence is assent and that it is better to die on your feet than live on your knees.

I thought I was going to be getting lines tattooed on my body, because the words you wrote are my moral core made poetry.

At least that's what I thought until the end of the second book.

Let's go back to the title a moment. Divergent. To differ from what is expected. I've been using Neurodivergent as a self identifier since I was Tris's age. That's a long time. I am Autistic. I am epileptic. I have C-PTSD (Four and I have that in common). And when you are neurodivergent, you learn to hide--just like in the world you built, the Divergent must hide.

But then we got to the end of the second book.

I can't put this nicely, Ms Roth: you used a word that my community is quite attached to and used it to sell us eugenics.

That's right, I said it. But so did you, though not in those words.

In the world you created, I wouldn't exist. I have genetic conditions that certainly would have been engineered away before personality traits that people don't like (as a biologist, I can tell you that would be impossible anyway, but I'm not here to lecture your science. I'm here to express betrayal that you started off so well and then gave me eugenics).

In the world we live in right this minute, Ms Roth, Nazis are on the rise. Eugenics never went away in the US. I know you aren't aware of disability issues at all, but forcible sterilization still happens to disabled people every day. People are given worst case scenarios about pregnancies that might have a disability, to encourage people who otherwise want that child to try for one that isn't defective. There's places where it is illegal for disabled people to have sex. People murder their disabled children with near impunity. People deprive disabled people of sex ed and of opportunity to develop romantic relationships if they so choose. The barriers to parenting while disabled are enormous. People make sure you know that a child like you is the least responsible thing you could possibly create.

Nazis are literally marching in the street. I am not being hyperbolic; they are carrying swastikas.

And you handed us a pretty blonde girl who is the pinnacle of perfect genes, hidden in a wholesomely gritty young adult post apocalyptic speculative fiction trilogy. That's some really unfortunate implications.

The betrayal, Ms Roth, the betrayal. It cuts. This isn't a simulation. This is real. And the reality is that your popular series undermines my right to exist. That's wrong. I matter.

I believe in bold deeds. I believe in bold words. And I believe that ignoring the eugenics propoganda buried in a popular story for my comfort is an ugly, cowardly lie.


Neurodivergent K.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Lies We Need to Stop Telling Our Kids.

There's another post I was supposed to be writing, but things happened and I ended up writing this one instead. Oops. The general ideas of this one have been percolating for a while; a conversation with Chavisory of Chavisory's Notebook helped me finally crystallize it into words instead of free floating irritation at the state of things.

There are a couple lies we tell autistic kids. Kids with disabilities in general. All kids, to an extent. One of them seems to be aimed more at kids who we presume are girls, whereas the other one we hold onto a lot longer with disabled people than with abled people. And we have to stop.

First things first.

Folks, we have got to stop telling girls, women, disabled people, marginalized people that if they follow the right script they will be safe. I saw a white autistic man at a conference I just went to flogging his solution to police violence. Buddy my dude, the Latina obviously neurodivergent little girl you are talking to is not going to be safe from the police if she does what you say. That's not how this works.

So many 'social skills programs' seek to be the cheat codes to a safe life. If you do what this guy says, you won't get shot by the police (not necessarily true). If you use exactly the right words, no one will bully you. This set of words is protective against medical mistreatment. That set of words will protect you from racial aggressions. If you do this little dance just right, you are safe from racism.

I mean, hell, look at peoples' responses to survivors of sexual violence. The first thing they do is ask "well what did they do to deserve it? Did they give the perpetrator the wrong idea?". That's the first response, regardless of disability of the victim. As a society we have bought into this bullshit idea that if you perform The Safety Dance correctly, if you do all the right things, say all the right things, you're safe. You're safe from bigots. You're safe from predators. You're safe from people running the stop sign.

And that's a lie we have got to stop telling people.

And then there's the second lie, which ties into the first in that it prevents people from responding when casting the circle of protection doesn't work.

Stop telling your children and your clients that 'appropriate' is a steady state. Appropriateness is situational. There are very few things you can do that are always appropriate or always inappropriate.

"I don't like that" and "that is inappropriate" are different things, okay? But the people who are tasked with teaching us to navigate the world don't want to deal with situationals. Rather than say "that's annoying" or "I don't like that" or "sometimes that's ok but sometimes it is not" they tell us it's inappropriate.

Hilariously enough, oftentimes the cry of "inappropriate" is used once the abled person in the situation has failed to convey that something is actually inappropriate. An example that you're all sick of but I am going to keep using until people stop making it so available:

A neurodivergent man traps neurodivergent, and sometimes abled, women and people he thinks are women. He wants a girlfriend. For some reason no one has told him that you can't just corner people and try to touch them and whine at them until they agree to be your girlfriend (this is always inappropriate. There is no people or species that courts like this). People have told him nicely to cut the shit, and have been told it's inappropriate to use that language. People have screamed tonelessly to make him go away, and been told it's inappropriate. Someone finally knees him in the fork, and is castigated for how inappropriate that is too.

There's only 2 people being inappropriate in this story: the man who thinks he can whine someone who said no into dating him, and the almost certainly neurotypical person who is lecturing people on doing what it takes to extract themselves. There are, in fact, situations where kneeing someone in the fork is the most appropriate way to go.

Even in less extreme (though this isn't extreme; find a disabled woman or person read as a woman who has been to disability events and they have stories just like this) circumstance, marginalized people are taught from day 1 that resisting awful things is 'inappropriate'. Racialized children, queer children, disabled children, on and on and on. Defending ourselves is 'inappropriate'. What's actually inappropriate in these situations is how the people who wave that stamp around don't even care until they take matters into their own hands.

Words mean things. Inappropriate isn't a blanket category for a thing. Yelling is always loud. It is not always inappropriate.

Say what you mean.

Stop lying to people to get out of uncomfortable situations for yourself.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

"No one will be here for my child when I die"...well why is that?

If you want to lecture me on notallparents this is not the time or place. Yes, every parent who was sending my friend unsolicited PMs that were really vile. Yes, every parent who knew about that but elected to yell at autistic people instead. Yes, every parent who is friends with parents who behave these ways. Yes, every parent who buys into these ideas. If you feel attacked that's a you problem, for you to solve. Taking out your bad feels on me proves my point better than any words I can use do. So don't live down to expectations, just this once.

We're going to talk about a justification parents give today for basically every awful and questionable thing they do to their child, and to those around their child:

"No one will be here for my child when I die."

That is not an unfounded fear. You're probably right. No one will. Or very few people will.

Now you're going to get uncomfortable folks. We're going to talk about why that is. Spoiler: it's largely your fault. You engage every day in actions and attitudes and behaviors that are going to fuck over your child years down the line.

Let's start with the ButtServices!!! argument. Y'all say and do all sorts of things, many of them cruel, and blame your lack of services. You fight for services "for families". Ultimately, the fight is constantly for services that benefit the parent, that make their lives easier. Don't look at me like that. You're the ones saying that you don't get services or that families need more services. You are the ones centering yourselves in the fight for services.

So what that means is? Your child turns 18 or 21 and no longer has services! Because they were all about you! This whole time they were all about you! Adults are well and truly fucked in the developmental disability system because everything is geared at making the lives of the Real People around us easier. Disabled adults don't get much at all. Too much is parent centered. There are agencies that allegedly provide services through the lifespan that will only interface with parents. It's true!

So that's a thing to be proud of I guess. You've built a self fulfilling prophecy where services are concerned. Your child won't be able to access them without you, you're absolutely right, because that's how you & your cohort want it. That's how you fight for it. You don't get to tell me that's not what you want until you start fighting for disabled people, not "families touched by disability", to get services.

I'm not holding my breath on that one. I can't get most of you to understand that we grow up.

(A moment here for a shoutout for those of you who sincerely told me that we're all someone's child with autism  & our parents always fight for us. And by shoutout I mean 'fuck you'. My parents never fought for me. They fought with me. Physically. To injury. So fuck you again!)

Then there's how you take the responsibility of modeling how people should interact with your child when they are an adult. People who aren't autistic and don't have autistic family members (and can't conceive of having autistic friends) are looking at you, yes you, for how to treat your child when they grow up.

They're looking at how you treat us, adults who are currently autistic.

Think real hard about how you treat autistic adults. Really hard. I've gotten death threats from parents. This isn't uncommon. Many of us get missives telling us explicitly to kill ourselves, again from parents. When we tell you about this, you go on to lecture us about 'judging you' (I'm getting back to this in a few paragraphs) and ignore that your cohort, yes yours, they are in fact your responsibility, treat us this way.

Y'all can claim to love your kid all day long but if this is how you want them to be treated, I question that claim. If this is not how you want them to be treated, why the blazing fuck do you treat us that way?

Out of one corner of the mouth "How dare you distrust me because of what your parents are like" and out of the other "here, let's see if I can break you in ways your parents didn't get to before you left". That's y'all.

Precious few neurotypical people are going to be there for your kid because not only did you center yourself in services, but also you demonstrated that you want Real People (TM) to treat your child like utter shit. "Do as I say not as I do" isn't a solid teaching strategy and you don't even  bother to pretend you don't want us constantly abused by you and yours.

Then there's us. Autistic people. Autistic people provide most of the day to day support for other Autistic people, since as already discussed no one else does it. Services are for parents, and our parents make it very clear that we can be scraped off the bottom of your shoe and discarded.

We try to talk to you. You see, we're largely pretty fucked up. We don't have to be fucked up. But we are, between the compliance training and the bullying and the decades of misunderstanding. We want better for your children, & we see you making the same errors. Maybe you aren't making an error on purpose?


Ok maybe you are making that error on purpose. See, that's a very you-centered perspective to take. (I have another post percolating on judging, since the high horse of nonjudgement has led to y'all being complacent in multiple murders, but since autism is all about you it's clear that isn't your priority).

We try to help you. We try and try. You send us missives encouraging us to kill ourselves. You threaten me in truly creative ways. Imagine if you spent half that creative energy on figuring out how to not treat people like shit! But I digress.

We try and try, but we are not impervious to your abuse. We want nothing to do with you. Our circles don't overlap. You scare off, beat off, torment off every autistic person and autistic friendly person in your orbit, until when you die your child is surrounded by people who hate them.

You're right! No one will be there for your child! You've isolated them from their subculture, you've taught every neurotypical to treat them like shit because that's what autistic adults are for, and you've made sure all services are accessible only by you, not by your child.

So you're not wrong in the words but you are wrong in every thing that matters. Only you can fix this, you've made very certain no one gives a shit what autistic adults say.

But that would involve decentering yourself, & you'd probably rather whine about your child's future than actually allow them to have one.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Where's your compassion for us?

Folks, do not do this:

If an autistic adult, in autistic space, says that something happened that was painful, don't diminish that. To take an example completely at random, say that I, on a friends only facebook post, from an airplane, say "I recognize children have a right to fly but the one behind me is kicking and screaming RIP me", there is literally no need to say "but what if that child has autism?"

What about what if that child has autism? Does that mean I no longer have Ehlers-Danlos and my back won't be fucked up for days? Does that mean I am no longer sound sensitive? Does that mean lack of sleep no longer triggers seizures? Because autistic children exist?

Every autistic adult you encounter knows damn well that autistic children exist. We are, generally, in the habit of compassion for children having a hard time in public.

The thing is though? "That kid causing you pain may have theoretically been neurodivergent so shut your hole about the very definite, documented pain and harm done to you"? That's not serving anyone. You're saying that only autistic toddlers have needs. You're fucking over your own children, if you're a parent (it is usually parents who decide to cape for Schrodinger's Autistic). They won't be toddlers forever.

We generally do have compassion for kids who are having a hard time. The thing is, you have none for us. If we cover our ears you all throw an utter fit. How dare we? We are not allowed to be in pain. If we melted down the way that the pain Precious BeighBee is putting us in makes likely? We'd get shot. That is a way for us to die, being autistic in public. But you can't muster an ounce of compassion for us, can you? Because how dare we remind you that autistic adults exist.

Our pain is real. Our pain matters. Acknowledging it isn't going to hurt you or anyone else. Promoting this idea that only toddlers are autistic, and no one else has access needs or sensory pain or anything else? That is bigoted and it is unacceptable. Your children are going to suffer for it.

But hey that child whose parents brought no toys on the plane, and who was using language patterns autistic toddlers tend to not use? You sure defended him against attacks that weren't even happening.

Your contempt for autistic adults is showing. Might wanna see to that.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Parents wore out my good faith. You brought it on yourselves.

People always concern troll me, assuming that I'm thinking the worst of parents and thus holding them at a distance, being curt, charging them for my time, refusing to engage at all, engaging in a tone they don't like.

You know what? You're mostly right.

Do you know why?

It's because of what happens every time I try to engage with you people in good faith. When I try to be "nice" instead of just laying it all out there for you in words that come naturally to me. When I try to coddle your feelings a bit.

It's never enough for you. Ever. You don't want our help. You want your ass kissed. Let me tell you some stories. Recent ones. We're not talking when I was a pigtailed teenager. We're talking things that have happened in my thirties.

Scenario one:

We're talking about the Disability Day of Mourning. Allistic mommy is upset that it's not in April "for Awareness". Allistic mommy also opines that maybe those parents are autistic and that's why they killed their kids.

That's a horrible thing to say. It's also false.

I mention that I met one of those moms, long ago before she became a fucking murderer, and also I've met the surviving dads of 2 kids killed. The only autistics in the matter were the non murdering parents. In all cases in my small data set, the murdering parent was allistic.

She decided to declare that I said that all allistic parents kill their children. I said NO such thing but she wanted to yell at me and misrepresent me and verbally abuse me, so I said what she wanted me to have said to justify that.

This woman holds a high position in a state autism society.

She has yet to apologize.

I engaged in good faith; she did not.

Or let's talk about today.

I gave a parent the benefit of the doubt. She was talking like no one in the conversation had any difficulties beyond being vaguely autistic. This is not true.

I told her to stop assuming she knew anything about people on the internet beyond that they can type and have internet access.

She continued to do this, after a vaguely but not really productive bit of conversation. So, because I was trying this "good faith" thing, I said that I knew she didn't mean to come off like she's not going to listen to us because we aren't Like HerChild(TM) but that she is and that's a dangerous assumption in addition to being off putting.

Holy hell. You'd think I asked her something really egregious, like to exfoliate her heels one cell at a time. No. I did not. I engaged in good faith and told her what she was conveying that she didn't mean to convey, just for her reference, and that her assumptions were wrong.

Holy. Hell.

She started with "you don't know me". No shit I don't but I know patterns. I thought you were trying to avoid this one.

She was not.

So now she's threatening to abuse her child and blog about it to spite us, she's laughing at causing people seizures and flashbacks, she's trying to gaslight multiple people, she's claiming sarcasm when she's called out on saying straight up abusive things, she came down with schrodingers autism and schrodinger's epilepsy.

And while this one is doing more, to this second, and pushing more immediately, this is what happens every fucking time.

Every. Time.

Yes, I do know you. The second you get all puffy and say that to me, I know exactly how this is going to go. Every time I engage anything like on your terms, this is how it goes.

You try to hurt me. You hurt my friends. You threaten your kid because I didn't kiss your ass enough for your taste.

Every. Time.

You won't pay for my time but you want your ass kissed, you want to be told that nothing you're doing is wrong, nothing you do could be wrong, you want to be told your special, and you want NT word patterns.

And you don't get that? You respond with psychological violence. Every time. You're so transparent about thinking we're subhuman. We aren't people to you, we're resources to use and abuse as you see fit. You're not special; the vast majority of you are like this.

So parents? You want my goodwill back? Fucking act like it. 

NB: complaining #notallparents in my comments isn't acting like it. It's a step away from "I'm going to abuse my kid because I don't like you". So don't fucking do it.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

FAQ: PFL Edition

Inspired by parents, professionals, and other abled people who think that they have a right to tell us how to refer to ourselves and then get snotty when told that's inappropriate.

Q: May I humbly request you change to using person first language?

 A. No.

Q. I demand that you use person first language.

A. No. What happened to humbly requesting? 

Q. Let me tell you all about it! You must be unaware!

A. You may not. I am quite aware.

Q. But it puts the person first! It's more respectful!

A. It is not. I actively selected identity first language. Telling me how to talk about myself is disrespectful.

Q. But I need it to remind myself that my child is a person.

A. Woah there. "I can't think of my kid as a person" is really very much your problem. Why would you think that would win me over? It makes me very worried for your child.

Q. Person first language is correct.

A. No, it is not. Stop trying to tell me what to do.

Q. There is no need to be so rude!

A. Okay so you come into my space and demand I talk about myself in the way you want because otherwise you cannot remember I am a person and that isn't rude?!?

Q. I'm trying to help you by pretending I think you're a person. This is why you don't have allies! 

A. You acknowledge not thinking I'm a person and come into my space to tell me how to talk about myself. You're no ally.

Q. How will I learn anything if you don't use person first language?

 A. If you need to be reminded every other word that I'm a person, you're not quite up to the level of this blog. This is not a Disability Rights for Beginners blog.

Q. You're so rude!

A. But telling me how to talk about myself is not rude. Ohkay.

Q. You have poor social skills because you have autism.

A. I am not the one struggling with social skills here in this situation. You should be embarrassed at your behavior. I'm getting second hand embarrassment for you.

Q. So you'll be changing to person first language?

A. Piss off and don't piss back on again.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Dear PSU, it IS partly your fault: an open letter

Dear Mr Wiewel and the entire PSU board,

I am sitting at home by my computer instead of attending class today, in light of the terror attack on the MAX on Friday. Sure, possibly Micah Fletcher is attending class, but I suspect he is braver than me, better than me, less likely to die from relatively mild injuries than me, and less likely to be targeted than me. So don't try to use another student against me. That's disrespectful to him.

This letter is about you and the choices you have made, or failed to make, that are why attending class is currently not a thing I feel safe doing.

It's funny, the emails you send the school, Wim. Out of one side of your mouth, you're declaring Portland State a sanctuary campus. Out of the other? You're saying we can't prevent Nazis from using our campus as a platform. They're entitled to air their views, you say.

We've all heard their views, Wim. Their views are that a large proportion of the campus population doesn't deserve to live, much less be on campus. I'm certainly not supposed to be, between my gender and my disabilities and my race. Nor are many other students, those you allege to want on campus. But not enough to stand for them.

Remember back before the election, Wim? Remember the students parading about shouting anti-Latinx slurs, anti Black slurs (you've never pretended to care about ableist slurs so I'm not getting into that, we call that Tuesday at PSU, but that's another letter), pretending to build a wall? They were harassing students. They were making students feel unsafe. But "they have a right to free speech".

People have had knives and guns pulled on them on campus, Wim. By the same folks who were parading about. From folks who video and doxx people who attend PSUSU and other progressive groups' events. This is not free speech, Wim, this is threats. This is inciting violence, though one could argue it is already violence. We have a right to privacy. We have a right to not be harassed for our very existence.

But you, members of the board, who refuse to have an open meeting where students can hear and see what's happening, you support these men in harrassing students. You won't stop them, you see, not even from threatening folks with weapons, because "freedom of speech". Freedom to brandish weapons on campus isn't in the first amendment, bro, but apparently you missed that.

And now, Wim, people are dead. People are dead because this city has a Nazi problem that you allow to breed on campus. You won't find a marginalized student who hasn't been made to feel unsafe by Nazi symbology, slurs, posturing, or transparent threats, but you have to support the freedom of speech of the poor oppressed white men quoting Hitler.

Now people are dead. The man who killed two and seriously injured a third was targeting teens of color, Wim. Three men stepped in, but what if they didn't? They'd still be alive. The girls would likely be dead.

Do you know what the man said? He said he stabbed the men because criticizing him, telling him to stop, violated his freedom of speech. He said killing people for telling him "you won't do that here" was patriotism. He said killing them was his right because he wasn't allowed to spew whatever venom he wanted unchallenged.

Does that feel uncomfortably like what you've been saying in your emails? It should, Wim. Because you're coddling men like the terrorist, you're saying that it's their right on campus to spew whatever hate they want, to back it up however they want. You're not drawing a line, Wim.

You're going to have to take a stand. The powers that be at PSU are going to need to choose: is this Nazi territory, or is it going to be on the right side of history? Right now you chose the former, and now people are dead. You currently support an environment of white supremacist recruitment and action.

Pick a side, Wim. And be honest about it. I can't be the only person afraid to go to school. If you want me and people more marginalized than me on campus, show us. Take a stand.

class of 2018