Saturday, October 6, 2018

Here's What I Know About My Worth

TW: talk of rape, child sexual abuse, some semi-graphic descriptions of my assaults

Here's what I know about my worth: 

Men's and boys reputations always mattered more than me as a human person. It mattered more when I was 11 and sexually abused by a family friend, it mattered more when I was 14 and raped by three kids who went to my school and spent the next four years making my life a living hell and making shit up about me to excuse their fucking unforgiveable acts, but the second I tried to name them and what they did, I was the asshole and clearly lying. A man's reputation mattered more when I had to sit in my principal's office and listen to him tell me that I seemed to be a pathological liar because I ratted out my drama teacher (who was the most sexist, racist teacher I ever had) for calling me the R word and telling my entire class that I was "crazy" because I started to cry in class when a student, a male student who was a favorite of his, wouldn't stop snapping my bra.

It mattered more than me when I was 19 and a guy tried to drag me into the bushes on my college campus but I managed to fight him off because he was drunk. He had followed me from a payphone and onto an elevator and no matter how much I ignored him, or told him to stop he kept on touching me and following me. I called the cops that time but they said there was not much I could do since I didn't know the guy's name and he was long gone. Attempted rape and there was not much they could do. Imagine my not shock five years later when my close friend told me she had been raped by a cop and it turned out to be the best friend of the cop who said that to me.

It didn't matter when I was in my first "real" relationship and he liked to humiliate me in public by picking fights and telling me that I was trash. Then, he liked to follow me (after he told me to leave) and act like I was being silly for walking away. Once, I tripped and hurt my ankle and he got really angry with me because apparently I was too clumsy and this was a character flaw that needed to be corrected by making me feel ashamed and scared. His reputation always mattered more even when he liked to do things that he knew caused me to panic, like knocking on the windows at night when I thought I was alone. Or driving fast to terrify me and almost getting us killed because he needed to make me tough. Unlike the men who had raped me, he was trying to help me so I'd stop being a "victim". He wasn't like those other men who hurt me, he claimed. His friends saw him do these things and would privately tell me "Well, he's just a dick", but when I finally left, after he backed me into a corner and trapped me, punching the walls around me until he finally hit me, no one believed me. Or maybe they did, but they just didn't care because unlike his reputation, my humanity was an acceptable loss. Even when my sister came to help me get my things, she was annoyed with me. She listened to him complain about how hard it is to live with someone like me and sympathized with him. When I told her he hit me, she thought I was making it up so people would feel sorry for me. He was always nice around her and I did have the habit of you know, being autistic at everyone around me which is apparently unforgiveable.

I remember that before I left, maybe a month before... I was thinking about it. I walked to the payphone. We only had his cell phone at home and unless I wanted him to listen in on my conversations and start yelling at me for either having too much fun talking to that person, swearing too much, or complaining too much, I had to walk about a mile to the closest payphone. I was upset about the way I was treated and not even paying attention when a group of men drove by and yelled at me. I flipped them off. They came back to find me ten minutes later and threw a bag of piss at me. It hit me in the leg and exploded all over my shoes. I am literally a human toilet. I went back home and figured, there is no point. I've put up with so much shit for so long from so many men, I probably didn't deserve any better anyway.

I was homeless for about a year and a half after that. I slept on couches and stayed with friends. I woke up one night to a "friend" trying to drag me out of bed and pull my clothes off. I kicked him in the crotch. The next day, our mutual friends were upset with me because "you just don't hit a guy there!". I stayed with another friend. Her daughter's father woke me up one night by putting his hand down my pants. I panicked. I pretended to be asleep but he wouldn't stop, so I punched him and he left. The next day, I told my friend and she was worried about her daughter, so I never brought it up again.

I once dated a man who cheated on me and lied to me constantly. He liked to get drunk and propose marriage, but at least I knew he was full of shit and was not someone I wanted to ever be married to. But, he was my friend and other than that, he would never hit me or insult me or force me to do anything I didn't want to. He's a good guy, I thought! That's how low the bar is.

I went to a concert, back when I was still drinking and managed my anxiety and PTSD by just getting shitfaced all the time. I wanted to go up front but a guy grabbed me and put his hand so far down the back of my pants that I thought he was going to try to stick it inside of me and I still think he might have but a friend of my husband's saw him and started to yell at him. It freaked me out a lot but I was afraid to act like it. I tried to laugh about it instead and everyone else laughed too so it was just a joke after all. I'm great at being a punchline.

I get yelled at all the time from passing cars. I can't drive due to my disabilities, so I walk and take public transportation a lot. Men feel very brave to yell at you all of their true feelings from their cars when you are so vulnerable. Depending on the day, I might hear that a man wants rape me or maybe just kill or beat me for daring to exist while unattractive. Men have grabbed me while I was walking down the street, they have hit me or followed me and intimidated me and humiliated me so many times, for so many years that I don't know if I will ever not feel like human trash.

And I know a lot of good men. My husband, his father, my father, my nephews, friends I've made, the son I've raised. But every good man I know can't make me stop feeling afraid of the rest of them. I've never not been scared. What must it be like to live your life without this kind of fear? What would it be like to matter? I can't even imagine.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

What is Autism Acceptance?: The “You Keep Using That Word. I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means” Edition

I have talked before about the differences between “autism awareness” and “autism acceptance” but I will give you the (somewhat) shorter version real quick:

“Awareness” is lazy.  It requires no action.  It is rooted in ableism and done for non autistic people at our expense.  “Awareness” is self narrating zoo exhibits and violations of privacy and dignity.  “Awareness” is never and has never been for autistic people. “Autism Awareness” hurts.  

In 2011, autistic writer and advocate Paula Durbin Westby started Autism Acceptance Day and Month as a direct response to the harm that was caused by “awareness” initiatives.  Autism Acceptance Day and Month is a celebration of autistic people and autistic culture. It also speaks about ways to create a better world for all autistic people. It is about taking action to change the conversation about autism in our homes and communities.

And in the last few years, I have noticed that more and more people are using the word “acceptance” while still rehashing the same tired, ableist and offensive “awareness”.  Like so many allistics before, they are capitalizing on the ideas of autistic people and changing it to suit their needs. And calling your shitty thing something that isn’t shitty but still actively being shitty is not autism acceptance.  

Here’s the thing, I can call myself a tall person but that doesn’t stop making me be 5’2.   

And words mean things.  

You cannot call yourself an advocate for autism acceptance while speaking over and for autistic people.  If you use “acceptance” while promoting things that harm us such as ABA and other compliance based therapies, posting humiliating and private information about an autistic child or adult without their consent, while using functioning labels and having zero understanding of  or even willingness to learn about the neurodiversity paradigm, then you are not actually advocating acceptance. You are making as much sense as 5’2 me trying to convince you that I am very tall. And you’re still hurting us.

There are many, many misconceptions about what autism acceptance means and who it is for.   And part of that is because of people using words that actually don’t mean what they say.

Acceptance is:

  • Listening to and making autistic voices a priority in any conversation about autism
  • Not insisting that those voices use spoken language
  • Listening to autistic people even when it challenges what you think you know about autism
  • Knowing that functioning labels are useless, ableist and harmful & refusing to use them
  • Understanding that autistic kids grow up and become autistic adults and we don’t stop being autistic and needing support and accommodations
  • Presuming competence
  • Not making assumptions about the challenges and abilities of an autistic adult because they don’t act exactly like a five year old autistic child you know.
  • Advocating for  inclusion in schools, communities, places of employment and beyond
  • Respecting the privacy and dignity of autistic people, including autistic children
  • Amplifying autistic voices, taking a back seat and passing the mic
  • Knowing that being proud of who we are and celebrating autistic people and autistic culture is not the same as ignoring our disabilities and challenges.  It is in fact vital to challenging injustices
  • Recognizing ableism in all it's forms and then confronting it
  • Take all of this, learn from it and use your voice to challenge others and to fight for change

If you are not doing these things, then you are not practicing autism acceptance.

Because acceptance is not passive.  

If you say that you are advocating for acceptance, then you need you to show up and do the work. Create a safer and more inclusive world for all of us. Advocate for our rights. Treat us with respect and dignity.  Do not tokenize or use us to further your agenda. Work with us instead of against us. We need more people who actually want to do the work and if you’re not ready to show up, then stop pretending that you are.  

image is two cartoon narhwals on a dark teal background. 
The top left is a green narwhal with a frowning face. 
The bottom right is a purple narwhal with a happy face. 

Text next to the frowning face narwhal reads: 

"Autism acceptance is NOT: 

no help or support

only for some autistic people but not for others
ABA/Compliance based therapies
using functioning labels
just something that you say"

Text next to the happy face narwhal reads: 

"Autism acceptance IS:

recognizing that autism and disability are part of human diversity

understanding that autistic ways of being are okay
finding supports and accommodations that help me be the best autistic person I can be 
working with me instead of trying to "fix" me
celebrating and being proud of who we are as autistic people
something that you do

Thursday, February 15, 2018

I Don't Think They Really Love Me

This is a hard thing to write. 

But I don't think that many people really love me.

They claim that they do.  They tell me I am great and they love my sense of humor, or my artistic abilities or my way with words.

But when it really comes down to it, they don't really love me.

I see how they blame "mental illness" and disabilities like mine for violent acts.  They will make me a scapegoat with zero facts to back it up and not even care that it's  just not true.

I hear them talking about a "mental health crisis"  and wondering what to do about all these crazy folks!  I hear how they let their friends who say hurtful and ableist things slide.  They don't want to take sides, but they already have.

And they know I am one of those crazy people.   I am not shy about it.  I claim my neurodivergence!  Some even say I do it too loudly.   I have multiple psychiatric and developmental disabilities.  I have some of the "scary" ones.  Dissociative disorder!  I shouldn't be able to own a gun.  Not that I want a gun, but people like me are dangerous.  So they say.  They don't care about the violence done to me by the supposedly sane people around me because I don't conform and I don't comply.  That's not violence because it's for my own good.

They talk about "overcoming" disability or neurodivergence.  When I say that you don't overcome who you are, I am being negative.  I am letting my "mental illness" win!   Because being happy with who I am, that's unheard of for someone like me.

I see how they love my spouse, all the parts of him.  He's "normal".  I see the things they don't think I see.  Lamenting that he has to put up with someone like me.  He couldn't possibly love those uncomfortable and messy parts of me, could he?  I see how they feel sorry for us that my child has inherited some of my disabilities.  They don't think I should have had children. 

They say that our son is great.  He's funny and brilliant and beautiful and amazing.  They like that, but they don't like the parts of him that don't fit into a box.   And I see this.  I know this.  So does he.  He feels it all the time.  It hurts.

He hears them saying that they love him, but he feels that love has so many conditions.   It's something I have felt my whole life too.

I hate that he knows this feeling.   He does not deserve their half assed "love".   Neither do I.

So, I don't think they love me.  Not when they are talking about "treatments" and "cures" and bringing back institutions (which, by the way,  have never left.  Pay attention.)

I don't think they can love me if they want to debate my rights.   This is my life.  This is not something to "agree to disagree" about. 

I don't think they can love me if they want me to "overcome" the things that make me who I am.  The things that are hard for me?  I did not cause them.  I did not make them happen.  My brain wasn't built for this world but I am spending the time I have trying to fix that for my son and for all the people who come after me.   I will change this world, even if it's just a little bit.   But I can't do it alone and I can't do it when everyone keeps insisting that who we are is broken, is less than.  We are not problems to be solved in order to earn your love and acceptance. 

If you loved me, if you loved him, you would believe that too.  You would know this.

They sometimes say "Oh, I'm not talking about you, I'm talking about THOSE people."

I am those people.  Those are MY people.  We are the same.

I really don't think that I am asking for too much.  If you think I am, then you don't really love me. And it hurts the same, even if I've known this all along.