Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Always a Girl, by Bridget Allen

By the third grade, I took changing schools for granted. I was on my eighth school placement. Some had lasted only a few weeks, some an enitre school year, but eventually I either wore out my welcome, or adults removed me for my own safety. In the third grade, we found a place that fit, so in fourth grade, for the first time in my life, I was returning to the same school I had attended the year before. The open environment and independent study allowed me enough room to carve a niche for myself. I had friends. I was accepted for myself, and even valued for gifts that were uniquely mine.

    One of the treasures that made my school special was Ms. P. She smiled warmly and often, and never raised her voice to a child. Her dark hair shined in the sun, and no matter how hard she tried, her short nails always had little stains on motor oil around the edges. On weekends, she was a drag racer, competing in classic cars she restored herself. Her desk was full of pictures of her past cars, since on a teacher's salary, she could only own one at a time. To me, she seemed as close to perfect as one could get.
[Visual: A single red rose. It is not entirely relevant to the story other than in a meta way. I want to give it to Bridget because how she is talking about Ms. P. and also because she is so loving and kind. OK back to the story. Love, Ib]

   Social studies with Ms. P was unique. Often, we would spend the whole class learning how one ordinary thing we took for granted, be it shoes or dinner or marriage, varied from culture to culture. Other times, we would spend a month or more studying one culture in depth. She was passionate that we understand that just because the United States was big, powerful, and familiar, did not make it normal and other cultures strange. She believed that was in no way too complex a concept for eight to ten year olds to grasp because she believed in us. About once a week, while reading our text book, Ms. P would come across something so condescending to other cultures she would lose herself and declare it "crap" then quickly say "pretend I didn't say that." Given the classrooms had no walls, I suspect her language slips were well known amongst her collegues. After years of watching the world from the outside because of all I could not do, Ms. P made me feel valued for what I could do.

    Though not quite ten years old, I had a wealth of experience as the outsider, and it pained me to see others left out. A few weeks into the new year, there was this new girl. In a tiny school, new kids stand out no matter how hard they try to blend in, and Tasha stood out more than most. Her family had abruptly immigrated from Eastern Europe. Her English was impressively passable, but painfully academic. It was enough to appear polite, but not enough to communicate the complexity of her thoughts. She was confused by American colloquialisms and customs. She was sad and scared, prone to tear up, and trying desperately to just fit in. In other words, for this transitory period of Tasha's life, she was like me.

    I would have gravitated towards Tasha had no one intervened, but Ms. P was not one to take chances. Much of our work was done in pairs or teams, and Ms. P knew my slow cadence and tendency to communicate by writing notes would help Tasha participate more. Tasha was clearly less intimidated interacting with me than with other classmates, but Tasha had a million questions, and none of them were about social studies. I did not have a million answers. She wanted advice on making friends. Tasha was used to being popular, and now she was dropped in a new place where she had no idea how to get that popularity back. My friendships were based around performing. I had band friends, USO friends, and community theater friends. Without a common activity, I was lost. Tasha's eyes glazed over at the thought of practices and rehersals. It bored her. All I could do was point out who was popular and suggest she watch and copy.

    By Tasha's third week of school, reality set in. She was never going home. She was never going to see her friends again. Tasha sat down on the playground and cried. Her parents wanted to act as if nothing was wrong, when, to Tasha, everything was wrong. We cried quiet tears together. Then, almost as abruptly as she had begun crying, she stood, dried her tears on her sleeve, grabbed my hand and began running. We ran so fast I would never have kept up had she not kept a grip on my hand. When we were out of breath, we plopped to the ground laughing, and Tasha was still holding my hand.

    I should tell her. She had remarked before about people not kissing hello here. I should tell her this was like that. Holding hands was for romantic moments or children crossing streets. I knew I should tell her, but I just could not bring myself to do it. If I told her, she would stop holding my hand. The words stuck in my mouth. Her fingers were tangled up with mine, and I felt that nervous sort of giddy like when you go too high on the swing and the chains buckle. I did not want it to end.

    I knew I should tell her, but the boys spotted us first. Older boys, most of whom I did not know began shouting "look! gay girls" and laughing. Tasha was confused, but stayed beside me, still holding my hand until the taunting got more specific. The moment she got the gist, she leapt away from me as if I was on fire. She tried to explain herself, but lacking enough English, she was stuck shouting "not me" and "it's different". By then, my friends, always protective, had intervened. A teacher marched the older boys to the principal. There were angry words and raised voices, but none of it was directed towards me. My friends walked me inside, but Tasha stayed behind. I had betrayed her, and she would never speak to me again.

    In the days that followed, I shut down. The bullying itself was trivial compared to past incidents. The taunts were nothing to me, but the well intentioned support that followed hurt like hell. My friends called the older boys names. Teachers admired how open and innocent I was. My parents got me two new stuffed animals for my collection, a brand new therapist, and insisted we need never speak of this again. Those boys may have been mean, but they were not, as others described them, sick or twisted. Their minds were not in the gutter. Those boys saw me for exactly who I was and called me out on it, so clearly I was the one who was sick and twisted. Except I didn't feel sick or bad or sinful. I felt like I had found another piece of my identity and, once again, it was a piece I needed to keep hidden as deep inside me as possible or no one would ever love me.

    I devoted myself to making sure I did not speak about the incident. Days went by, and the less I spoke, the less I interacted, the harder it became to interact at all. I could not make sense of how something that made me feel so comfortable and happy could be so bad unless deep in my core, I was bad. The fact that it was forbidden to speak about made it impossible not to obsess over. Ms. P tracked me down in the library and asked me to help her carry some books out to her car. My heart was in my throat. I was a rail thin, sickly child; the last person one would ask for help carrying heavy objects. I knew she was setting up a chance for us to talk in private. I was terrified that I had disappointed her as well. We put the books in her trunk, but before we went back inside, she stopped me and said "You know, some girls like to sit close to other girls and hold hands. It makes them happy. No big deal." She smiled. I smiled. I probably cried a little I was so happy. If someone as wonderful as Ms. P saw through me, and still liked me, maybe I was not so bad after all.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Look Both Ways! Vexed and Intersectional, by Ibby Grace

(Note: This post is pretty specific to a particular community and might not make the most sense if you are not in it. I would love to answer any questions if you are interested and I have written something that you want to hear more about. Just ask me in the comments. Love, Ib.)

[Visual above is a square version of the NQ button, on black field, multicolor infinity möbius strip words "neuro queer" in white block letters. I am adding this because of having been advised that the image below is wonky looking to some people with seizure disorders if they stare at it too long, so it is not a good idea to have as a thumbnail. Note: pic of crosswalk intersection coming up with many lines. Don't look at it for too long if it's going to be iffy for you.]

This is an intersectional blog. I have to say some more things about what that means because I think some people don't know. People who don't know are trying to protect me from myself and therefore protect my friends from themselves and I am not a big fan of that. As a matter of fact I find it vexing. Here is the thing: Zazzle cannot correctly tell us we are offending ourselves, and people cannot correctly tell us we are co-opting ourselves. We would notice if we offended and co-opted and hurt ourselves, because we are us.

NeuroQueer exists in the intersection of Neurodivergent and Queer.

[Visual is an aerial photograph of a busy crossroads in downtown Chicago where they are testing out a new pedestrian pattern. As a result, the zebra crosswalk markings are more complex than usual, going six ways instead of four, because you are allowed to walk diagonally. Click here for an article about it if you are interested. It is literally an intersection, and a good representation of intersectionality in practice because there are many people and they are all over the place and not all precisely within the lines, yet the pattern makes sense despite - or for me, in this context, because of - the complexity.]
So some people are saying that I cannot use the word Queer because apparently I am being too inclusive with it and I am using it to mean Everything There Is and thus somehow doing hurtful things to "queers" of which I am one. I think there is a huge difference between doing whatever this is meant to mean and asserting that asexual people count as queer and we should stop erasing them. This is something I will not back away from. The only asexual people who do not count as queer are the ones who do not want to count as queer, and the same goes for genderqueer, bisexual, pan- and trans* people, and while we're here, anyone who has been racialized or marginalized and erased in other ways I do not want my version of queer to perpetuate. Because I am a Total Homo™ I am the original poster-type of Queer Person and therefore can talk about the word without risk of cultural appropriation. If you are queer and you disagree with my stance on this, I can respect that, but there is no reason for saying I am not allowed to talk about and define the terms of my own personal identity as inclusively as I like. And if you are non-queer and telling me I am offending myself, please don't do that.

On to Neurodivergent. This blog came about because some Autistics and people on the autism spectrum have an issue with the notion that people who are not them or Autistic can also be neurodivergent. I needed a place to talk about that other than my other blog where it was not the kind of thing that would necessarily concern most of the readers. I thought the part of the gay community who identified as queer was a perfect example of one where, like my with own Autistic friends, more marginalized people were actively welcomed. I still think this is true. But I was surprised to find it was less universal than I had thought.

Lovaas, the inventor of Applied Behavior Analysis, had two targets: gays and Autistics.  Nowadays, straight-up gays are less erased than some other people like trans* folk and asexuals, and autism is less erased than say epilepsy in terms of accommodations and less mischaracterized and misunderstood than for example "psychosis" or whatever, even though we have a long way still to go (thanks, Autism $peaks [/sarcasm]).

People who live in the intersections have double trouble, but if we band together we have also got double power.

Monday, November 4, 2013

The definitive meaning of Queerness - there isn’t one. Guest post by Kylie Brooks

I do not entirely know if  I identify as NeuroQueer, but I wanted to go ahead and discuss the Queer part of NeuroQueer.

What does it mean to be Queer ? What is the purpose of Queerness ?
[Here is a picture of someone's hand signing the letter Q in ASL. Can't see the rest of the person.]

For me, I use the literal meaning of queer as in strange, odd.

Queerness is strangeness or oddness. Okay.

The meaning of Queerness as taken tends to mean not being heteronormative and not being cisnormative.

But doesn’t disability and race run up against heteronormativity and cisnormativity?

I am a Black bisexual trans woman. If I were to be a Black cis straight man, I am quite sure that heteronormativity and cisnormativity would be barriers for me anyway because of my learning disability, my severe to profound sensineural deafness and my cerebral palsy.

How does my short term memory issues and mild cognitive limitations conflict with the tenets of heteronormativity and cisnormativtiy?

How does my being Deaf conflict with the tenets of heteronormativity and cisnormativity?

How does my wheelchair using, non-ambulatory status conflict with the tenets of heteronormativity and cisnormativity?

How does my Blackness and the racialization of Black masculinity conflict with the white supremacist forms of cisheteronormativity?

Queer community, this is a discussion we need to have - a vital one - so that our intersectional complexity can show.

I personally define Queerness as not being cisheteronormative and/or who desire to resist the cisheteronormative society.

Even in the situation which I outlined just now, I believe that I can be straight and cis and queer because my life in my intersections is not supported by the cisheteronormative society with regard to my Deafness, my learning disability and my cerebral palsy.

I think that queer experiences that we have are all unique and situational and should be respected, recognized and acknowledged.

--Kylie Brooks

Friday, November 1, 2013

Autistics Speaking Day: I Speak To Thank

Today is Autistics Speaking Day, which has a rich and sort of unfortunate history.  I haven't got long to write, but what I have to say is big and cannot be unsaid on this day.

The rich unfortunate history has to do with people going About Us Without Us, and when some of our own tried to say something about it, these 'do-gooders' seemed to express, to put it charitably, irritation. What they did not seem to do was listen, at all, even though they said they were doing whatever they were doing for our own good. We are doing this for your own good lalala hushup you ingrates we can't hear you... 
[Visual is the red-circle-with-a-slash symbol of crossing-out, being itself crossed out by a bigger symbol of the same shape backwards done up over it in rainbow colors. Superimposed on this are the words "Autistics Speaking Day Nov 1 2013" in writing suggestive of how monks illuminate manuscript.]
But I know many people who not only listen but go so far as to seek us out and amplify, and they are basically in three communities, and I am hoping to introduce many of them to one another at TASH if I can, or get started here, and all of you, see how I switch pronouns here, but I do it on purpose for a change: all of you are beautiful, and I thank you.

You who listen and amplify are some of you parents whose children also are Autistic, and you wanted to find us, and you were not so busy trying to find ways we could not possibly be like your child that we should be invisible forever: so you sought and found us, and you are our beloved friends.

You who listen and amplify are some of you scholars, scholars with other disabilities, queer scholars and scholars of color, community scholar activists who did not just brilliantly theorize amongst yourselves about how we were not at the table: but you decided to get it started and do something about it, and you are our beloved friends.

You who listen and amplify are some of you people of practice, people whose life work is devoted quite literally to making sure the voices of some of the most vulnerable and invisible among us are able to be found and witnessed, and sometimes you are hardly seen, and sometimes you are mistreated and disrespected by bigots who call themselves greater and more acceptable things, but they are not. You are greater, and the greatest: you put yourself on the line for us and our voices, and you are our beloved friends.

When I first decided to write about this I was going to name your names, and I hope you are not sad that I did not, because for me the reason is so happy that tears of joy spill softly from my eyes now. In this small time of being myself in the open, and in community, I have met so many of you. The movement of Disability Justice even only when considered in the Autistic Community has so many true real Allies who are heart and brain and hands, and you who are reading this know you are my beloved friends and know who you are, that my babies would wake up and get hungry if I tried to list all your beautiful selves separately.

And anyway, we are not separate. We are joyously together.

Thank you, my friends, for caring that we speak.


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Are You Neuroqueer? (Part 2) by Ib Grace

Maybe you read This Post Here and could relate to it, or maybe you almost could, but not quite, because the situation is a little different.  Because there are a couple of important situations I did not quite cover. And I want to. Because you might be Neuroqueer too, and welcome.

[Visual is the word "Invisible?" written in all-caps alone with question mark in white the middle of a black field, as if by chalk on a chalkboard.]

For you it isn't that you have a stigma situation going on that you worry about, or not all the time. Maybe it's more like this: you struggled through school feeling different and stupid and when they finally put a couple names on it, it was like a breath of fresh air.  Dyslexia? ADHD? Specific LD of some kind, a developmental or intellectual or mental disability or brain injury, perhaps something causing chronic pain, but not the kind that is apparent to everyone, so it took them forever to figure it out? It was a kind of liberation. You have felt alone, and now you might finally have some solidarity, some peers, some people who understand.

You're proud to say you're disabled, proud to say you're queer: nothing to hide. But you have to keep explaining yourself all the time, or else nobody will see you. You try to make the kind of eye contact that's like a secret handshake and it never works. Sometimes, people misinterpret it and kind of glare at you.

That can be on either or both intersectional location(s). Maybe you're femme and people assume you're straight unless you claim your space; maybe analogously even your queer disabled friends who get that fact already still have no understanding what you might go through as a dyslexic when they blithely make it be a whole book a week in the book club. Oh, just listen to the audio. As if that were so easily equivalent. Have they tried it? And yet part of you is grateful they even remembered, unlike the rest of the everyone, who crushingly fails to see you.

Tired, it can make you tired, and lonely, and this can also happen for all the people I remembered to put into the other article I was talking about when I was talking about medical stigmas on mental stuff.  Your disability is invisible and you feel unseen.  This is something I heard and this is how I know. I saw and heard, and so did many others who are here and who care about you. There are also other ways of knowing.  Seeing and hearing are two modes of recognition among many; in some ways, they are metaphorical.

[Visual is a vintage coffee cup on a red and white flowered tablecloth. The coffee cup says "Here's looking at you."]

But we are here and if you want us to see you we will see you and welcome you. You might be Neuroqueer or you might be a kind of ally in one or another aspect who wants to come with us and we can all recognize each other because this is good.  We are not alone, we are not islands.  We are in community and solidarity and love conquers all.

I invite you to recognize us here, and introduce yourself, and note yourself one of us or our friends as you may prefer, so that we may recognize you, and I will also invite you to write on here.  Soon I will write a more specific call for material for this site, so please be thinking if you would enjoy being a contributor.


Monday, October 14, 2013

I call to the shamed

I call to the shamed and you think and you feel
You are alone and you think and you feel
You are not worthy you are broken
And you shame yourself for feeling shame
It’s a cycle and the world abuses you
Then the people who abuse people they abuse you
And you shame yourself for being abused
And sometimes someone like me comes along
Singing a happy song an ode to life
Singing I love you and what you are
Come play with me and be real be yourself
You are all you have to be
And the beauty of you
You are real and I call to you

And sometimes you hear all this
And you feel more alone and you feel you will never
You will never feel the way I feel you will never
Ever see you the way I see you or me
And hearing me say it is shaming you too
But how can you say this
When the people like me so obviously mean well
And you might even think we are right
But it cannot stop the way you feel
This is real and I call to you

The shame is not forever and
While I don’t think the content is true I know
That the feeling is real and valid and lasts as long as it will
And I even know what it means what it is like
And I’ve sung that song before and before the freedom came
I knew the fear that kept the shame and this is how I know
How to remember that sometimes even my love
Feels like a reason for shame and pain
And I see you and I know it and for all the hurt there is
My heart hurts too and I remember and I wish for you
For the knowing to overcome the pain and shame
For our beauty to outshine the harms of abjection
We are real and I call to you


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Elizabeth Hassler: as depression is a breakfastfood,

as depression is a breakfastfood,
ee cummings doesn't scan correctly.
sometimes she chokes
---not like christy brown;
more figuratively.
shit. citing grammar rebels and spastic poets
will send tremors through her body
of work.
hypomania for lunch, on weekdays,
and she has only recently stopped reading other
people's suicide notes
for de(s)sert. lately
she eats cake instead.
have new texture
on her teeth, but
even amidst all this self-discovery
she is still a really real depressed person
other unfortunate facts:
she didn't draw herself
childhood trauma
in art therapy.
she eats really real depression,
or sometimes cereal,
for breakfast.
isn't cereal tragic
when a spastic eats it? they
choke, you know.
a graphic on the internet told her
she has four of the ten
commonly associated with cerebral palsy
---that makes her real,
yes? really
medicalized. real and really
to be fixed.
the next day,
a declaration of rights
listed bipolar as cognitive impairment:
the whims of statistics, and
that makes her unreal.
people don't listen
unless she uses big words,
people use "brilliance"
as a bargaining chip,
so she eats the dictionary
at all square meals. she wants words
that don't exist.
she wants intimacies
unspoken. when she wants
to die, which is a sharp want
nestled among her desires some hours
(it signifies
a gap in her meals: sometimes
for months without a plan),
it isn't because
she's a crippled girl.
also, it isn't because she hates her depression
or thinks life is pain---body
aches and misfired nerves
mean more to her about aliveness
than desperation
---or is really going to kill herself
in actuality (she's not,
like, impulsive,
and even if her
inertia wasn't generally productive of stasis she has promised
to Live For The Cause).
she should probably
eat lamotrigine with breakfast
now, and again.
she's writing this
to clean up breakfast dishes.
she wants the kind of life
not predicated on awareness:
can you see her?
is it safe?
can you hold her here?
queerness is the safe place
for her body, her spasming skins.
when i say that i attempt
these love letters to her body,
i mean the verse-writing
form that wanted to die today
after breakfast and needs to live
just so long and long enough.
                      --Elizabeth Hassler

Monday, September 30, 2013

Diss Function/Dis Function

(With Thanks To Zach Richter for the muse-phrase "Diss Function")

[Visual is a mathematical explanation breaking down the notation of the function of x.]

Diss Function/Dis Function

Function function, what’s your function
I do diss function sometimes
And I have written why functioning labels are
Insulting and
Dangerous and I have written

A person is a person
A person is not a function
Some people get angry when I say these things

And others make assumptions
Like this: like it’s OK to break the law
Because we seem smart to them
Or because we're in a position where
It’s easy to misuse your workers
Despite the fact that goes against the stated culture
And it's just not right

But executive functioning is a real thing
Unlike functioning labels
Which are arbitrary and tools for tools

Reasonable accommodations cannot be lost
Whenever you see fit
Not if you want the world to work properly
Not if you are decent or have moral fiber

I can diss function
But you in all your powerful radiance
Of alleged normality
You don’t get to
You get to respect my
Dis Function
Because in my own Dis Function
I function fine
WITH those reasonable accommodations so
Pay attention
See the reality
Do the right thing
And act justly in word and deed

Please do this from now on.


Sunday, September 29, 2013

Elizabeth Hassler on queer, here, and what we are building

on queer, here, and what we are building

Here is a poem about queer space,
which I am writing instead of
going to tonight's Queer Student
Union meeting because I am sick.
In three-dimensional space I lost my voice
(my voice is ordinarily
my defining feature---more about speaking privilege,
and the terrors of Day of Silence,
in later poems),
so I will stay home and write myself a space
(in the context of a space
other people have written for me to write in)

This verse begins in a confession:
most of my friends
are queer. Most of
my friends are feminists; some of
the ones who aren't have very
purposely Quit the Movement
citing racism and other
complex intersections.
A lot of my friends
are disabled; a lot
of the ones who aren't
or who don't use that language for their experience
struggle in different ways
with projects of living
in their bodies and their minds.
A lot of my friends are white,
and I think that's a problem.
A lot of my friends are nerds
or geeks
or awkward.  Shit, none
of my friends are Republicans.

People who
are sure that makes me terribly closed-minded
and mean or man-hating or whatever
should go hang out on the opposite side of the couch
from the woman who
concern-trolled me about my “serious lesbian denial”
and hating my cripped-up body(???)
after my last n-q post.
Y'all, I am even nice to people who hurt me on purpose.
I just also
construct spaces very intentionally,
because it is hard

to do anything else. Like,
if people have meetings in their houses
with stairs,
my wheelchair-using body can't go.
And not just because
my sense of direction is . . . where?
I have gotten lost
in a house I lived in,
so obviously
I negotiate space
with careful planning only.
We talk about built environment
for the ADA, but not
for building communities.

Built environments:
at Crippled Children's Services
(which is not actually called that anymore),
therapy hurt.
I have been taught
not to value the knowledge
of my own discomfort,
bodily or otherwise.
I have sat in meetings and classes and spaces
that made me jump out of my skin
without saying anything
(you will remember that
my voice is ordinarily
my defining feature)
I have been taught
not to refuse.
This is the house compliance built (or
its opposite): well,

Rebuilding houses
with unmastered tools:  queer space,
for me,
is because even crippled girls
should probably be allowed boundaries.
Queer space
doesn't always have boundaries
(like with the ex
whom the “serious lesbian” hurting antagonist
insists was my girlfriend),
but it feels safe for my body
except when it is loud

or condescending. It is the house
and the home from which I might start my revolution.
Queer space is where
I can hold all of my acts
and collage my life a self:
come home. Neuro-queer
space is because home is my desire and my body,
and because that shi(f)t doesn't separate.
I have fumbled over this naming
lately, over this need
to have neuro-queer and the original NeuroQueer
and all subsequent iterations too
mean, you know, queer space. To have
queer, here, mean things about the lives of our bodies
and our patterns of relation,
not (just) about making the world strange.
It is because I don't want
my inconvenient body displaced
for other kinds of truth
(and maybe I shouldn't worry,
but I have been taught
I want to tell the world I love it;
I don't keep keys to the queerness gate
in my mouth
or police our gardens for unidentified plants,
but I like
the idea that there are borders
to our fertile places.

No, disability space is not enough
to keep my body mine.
There are complex lattices
and supported trellises
and queer flowerings of crippled desire involved
in making this here, hear, hirstory
[“hirstory” is a collaborative project
like history, but unfinished]
of a body known.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

How I Was A Toolbag Yesterday

Today I was going to try to write a Unifying Theme Of NeuroQueer (and I will; I seriously will) but something more important came up on the way. I found out I'd made this totally toolbag move.
[Visual is a photo of a toolbag. A bag full of tools. Yep. Toolbag.]

Fixing that takes precedence in terms of triage, of the doing-it-nowness.

Here's what it is.  I was trying to describe what a bad idea I thought it was to stigmatize people who need to take meds, and act like they should just, what, not take meds, and I used an analogy something like, yo, throw away your wheelchair, just walk why don't you.

What I meant for that to convey was ZOMG, nobody would EVER say ANYTHING remotely resembling that kind of remark, which is totally outré, beyond the pale, unrealistic, etc., haha good one Ib you are great at making up exaggerations, ad absurdum follies of delicious ah never mind.

But here is what I found out. PEOPLE REALLY SAY THAT KIND OF THING. In real life, yeah, and people who use wheelchairs are sometimes encouraged to believe that using the wheelchairs they need is "lazy" and stuff like that.  Hand to heart, I am telling you what was told to me by people who know the truth in ways I never knew it, because I was not there myself needing a wheelchair.  This is real life.  This is why we listen to people who know.  I am devastated to know it, and it gives me a new piece of knowledge I want to pass on to everyone there is.

So the analogy turned out to be sort of precise, and UNBELIEVABLY HORRIBLE at the same time.

Everybody in the world, I am sorry to have used such language construction, and now that I know the truth about it, you can bet I never will again.

I will probably speak foolishly and toolishly, but I can always be corrected.  Because while "You know what we should have Grace teach? SOCIAL SKILLS!" was said by the officers of no university ever I also hope they are also never going to say "Grace doesn't care."  I care.

Just as an aside, I must point out here that it is very silly and also inaccurate when people say, "Agh, 'political correctness' makes it so I can't say anything at all, woe is me," etc.  Because look, I say things all the time, and most of the time they are not this ass-tastic, but when they are, a friend will tell me (or sometimes a really hostile person will tell me, but hey, if they have better knowledge than me, they are still helping me, so thanks be to them) and voilà! Here I get to know more and learn to act like (and, I hope, turn into) a better person in one fell swoop.

So there it is.

Thank you for helping me, and thank you for listening again, and thanks for being you!


Monday, September 23, 2013

Guest Post from Michael: Being Asexual

Do you know what sexual attraction is? I had a really hard time figuring that out, but I think I finally know. I think it's getting some kind of sexual desire from looking at someone who's very attractive. I don't experience that. I think many people of many genders are very beautiful. I am physically attracted to people. But the feelings I get from seeing a beautiful person are quite similar to the feelings I get from seeing an amazing nature picture or beautiful artwork. They're feelings of admiration but not sexuality.

An asexual person (ace for short) is a person who does not experience sexual attraction. Some asexuals still have sex, some don't. Some experience other types of attraction such as romantic, aesthetic, sensual, physical, etc. and some don't.
[Visual image: a symbolic heart in the colors of the Asexual Pride Flag. Black stripe on top, then grey, then white, then magenta.]

I haven't always appeared to be asexual. In high school, I acted very sexual, but that was for other reasons. And eventually that changed. However, I still kept trying to be sexual to a certain extent because I thought something was wrong with me since I just wasn't feeling sexual desire. When I realized I wasn't straight, I thought maybe I was gay. And I still do identify as bi, gay, or queer in addition to asexual. But eventually I realized I really didn't feel sexual attraction towards people of any gender.

How can this work in a relationship? Of course it depends on the people involved. What works for one person won't work for everyone. I am very grateful to have an absolutely amazing husband who has been very accepting and supportive. I met him before realizing I was asexual. It was love at third time talking (or something like that)! We got married and are very happy together. He is not asexual and I am. But he has been my biggest supporter and encouraged me to be open about it (if I wanted to be) because he thinks it's great to raise awareness about asexuality. And when I was so upset over my asexuality, he was the one who encouraged me to accept myself. So it worked out perfectly! We just work it out together just like any other difference between partners in a committed relationship.
It took quite a while for me to be fine with my asexuality, but at some point, something inside shifted, and now I am super happy about it. I've learned that there's a bunch of other people like me. I've also been noticing a lot of benefits to being asexual. And now I really think it's an awesome way to be!


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Are You Neuroqueer? by E.J. (Ibby) Grace

So maybe you take Prozac or Lexapro and you don't know if you should add Abilify. It's on TV, so that's normal enough, right? But you can't tell anyone at work. And you've got your emergency panic attack pills in a Motrin tube, of course, because if people got the idea that you were crazy or unstable, you'd be finished. And it's not like you're some psycho, because then.... But listen.
[Visual image of a person's head mapped out from an old book. It says Fig. 3. Human Head.]

Sometimes you literally cannot get out of bed. You cannot. Get. Out of bed. You have tried a couple of times confidentially to explain to a couple of close, trusted friends that you are depressed. They do keep your secret, thank goodness, but they also incessantly tell you stuff they find online or hear on the radio. You should really get more exercise, you know, more sun? But you cannot get out of bed when you cannot get out of bed, so how are you supposed to get out of bed?

Just do it, man, we feel great when we go jogging in the morning, when we eat fake food or something, take expensive vitamins. As Dr. Oz says....No. Shut up. This is not like, I've got the blues, I'm bummed, right? Gah. OK. No.

I, the Autistic writer, do not have depression, but let me tell you this: I invite you to notice that there are many others such as myself who also think it is a giant injustice that you should have to face stigma for being who you are. Why should you have to fear what people think of you, on top of having to worry about how you are going to get out of bed? How much it costs for you to get the pills for you to be able to get out of bed?  Good grief.  They call depression a 'mental illness' label, but I call it a way to be Neuroqueer, and I warmly invite you into our culture.

Bipolar? Anxious? Schizophrenic? Epileptic? Autistic? Borderline? Perhaps... a little too... creative? All the ways our brains work, they use these against us.  I can proclaim I'm Autistic at work and unlike say twenty years ago, when I had to hide trembling in the shadows, right now I can make it sound kind of like I'm saying I'm a rock star.  There are people who think it's a perfectly fine idea to kill Autistic kids, though, at the precise same time in our human history. We are in flux.  So I need to tell more people what a rock star I am, what a great thing it was that I was left to live.  Sometimes this is terrifying.  The ones on our team need more reinforcements on the team at all times doing this.

Many of the people I know who have neurologies others call 'mental illness' cannot right now announce it and make it sound like they are a rock star.  People will blame everything on them, on that name, and they know it.  The news uses it to whip up ratings when they have no idea: none.  But I and my friends, the ones who think like I think, especially the Neuroqueer Autistics and others, we have your back, and we live and fight for the time you can be free to be yourself and bring the rest of everyone through the gates, up the ladder (and elevator, which is glass and awesome looking) with you.  Soon you can tell people out loud whatever you like and the stigma which will probably still be there will be balanced on the other side with political power.  This is how it has happened for many Autistics, and we on the edge want to open this social capital up to more people.

We welcome you to join us, as quietly or as loudly as you feel you can.  Be one of us: the requirements for membership are desire and relation.  Badassery is of course welcome as well, but you can work up to that.  ;)

[Visual image: Red fist on black background, over the word "Resist."]
When we are all freely who we are, we will stun the world by being the majority.


Friday, September 13, 2013

Kassiane A. Sibley's Open Letter to Identity Police (Part 1)

Dear Identity Police, I have had it with you. My whole life people have been defining me based on their own prejudices, preconceptions, assumptions, reliance on stereotypes and simplifications. I've been nice and put up with it to varying degrees my whole life, but not any longer. I am out of patience. Strangers, near strangers, you don't get to tell me who, what, how I am. That's backwards. I define me. You define you. Get it right.

[Visual image: many hands raised, all sorts, under a large caption, "get it right."]

I am biracial. Hapa. Hafu. Eurasian. Eastern European and East Asian. Mongolian, Romanian, Japanese, Croatian. Unacknowledged on a demographic form.

No more of this “but you look white!” My freckles and my eyelids do not define my heritage. I know that's what you're basing that assertion on, freckles and eyelids. The forests of Croatia and mountains of Transylvania are the landscape of my soul, but so are the steppes of Mongolia and coasts of Japan. I am the spitting image of all of my ancestors and none of them. I am of the horse people, of the fisherfolk, of the nobility, of the miners. My ancestors came here to keep their heritage for me and were interned or had to change their names or sign up for wars to prove their loyalty. I am equal parts “Croatian duke who torched his estate in support of the French revolution” and “clan called 'soul on fire'”. I have done gymnastics and I have learned the manly arts.

All of this is part of me, my history. You don't get to tell me that things are irrelevant because you find my eyes too wide, ignoring my grandfather's cheekbones beneath and my grandmother's hair above. Hard work, conviction, burning passion, that runs through my veins on all branches of my family tree. How dare anyone tell me half those branches don't count? Who are you to glance at me and erase half of my deep history based on stereotypes and ignorance?

You don't get to tell me who and what I am. I do. And my soul is on fire, my will is made of steel, I endure endure endure, and I will do big things for what is right. My heritage, my identity, are more than what you can discern from a glance.

You may not tell me where I come from, identity police. That is not your jurisdiction.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day.  Many people who have suicidal thoughts and/or feelings have them either because of their brain chemistry itself, or because of society's ways of responding to their neurological, sexual or otherwise NeuroQueer identities.  At times, there can be a mixture of these things, or they can exacerbate one another.

Suicidal thoughts and feelings can be--must be--where it stops. Suicide itself is one hundred percent preventable.  However, a giant barrier to suicide prevention is stigma.

I am saying that death by suicide happens largely because of needless social stigma.  Look: the International Association for Suicide Prevention is saying something similar:

[Visual image: poster from the International Association for Suicide Prevention bearing the seal of the World Health Organization. "World Suicide Prevention Day" is super-imposed in large letters over a map of the world, and above today's date, September 10, 2013, is the caption: "Stigma: A Major Barrier to Suicide Prevention."]

Reach out to others if you are ever feeling these feelings or thinking these thoughts, and if you are someone who is being entrusted with this kind of information, know that it took a lot of guts to get past the social stigma and come to you with this, and you are being honored.  Listen, and reach back with the strong hand of love.

If you're wondering how to decide whom to reach out to, think of someone you can trust. Also let me tell you in general, people in the NeuroQueer movement are pretty immune to social stigma. We're used to it. A lot of us are proud of it. Quite a few of us may have felt suicidal ourselves and know what we did to get through. We will hear you. We have a lot of strong hands of love to offer.

Everyone hear me now, and remember this always: YOU MATTER.


Monday, September 9, 2013

Thank You, The Feminist Wire

Sometimes things work out like happy endings in stories, or even better: unpredictably well, and better than you'd hoped.

One of the managing editors of The Feminist Wire has asked our own Alyssa Zisk of Yes, That Too to act as Co-Guest-Editor with Eddie Ndopu on the TFW Forum on Disabilities, Ableism, and Disability Studies.

Working together, they will be able to delve deeper into really helping one another understand what is meant by accessible language, and what is needed to make it happen.

This is wonderful news.  Both of these people are brilliant and dedicated.

[Visual: An old cartoon of Snoopy, Charles M. Schultz's beloved beagle, doing his happy dance, head thrown back in pure joy.]

Thank you, The Feminist Wire, and thank you to all who supported this magnificent partnership and helped make it happen.

Now I look forward to the forum with great joy, and know I will be able to gain access to my heart's delight, as will my friends and their friends. This is right and good.

Thanks again!


Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Feminist Wire, I'd Like A Word.

This is an essay that has to do with the social media crisis described here in this post on Yes, That Too.

By the time you get to this, you may already have read the above post, but to make a long story short, The Feminist Wire put forth a Call for Papers which on the face of it appeared to invite people with disabilities to the table to talk about disability issues with them in a forum.  Unfortunately, the call was written in such a way that many of us neurodivergent types had a great deal of trouble trying to work out what it actually said, or was asking for, or how, or anything much else about it.  Alyssa, who is the writer of Yes, That Too, and many others, asked them to rewrite it so we could access the information contained in the call.  (I also asked them something else very important and left unaddressed, but I think I'll put that problem as something to work on into the forum itself, if I can access it.)

They do seem to have tried to rewrite it, but not to much avail. It's almost the same as it was before.  But. The trouble really began when Alyssa received this:
Dear Alyssa,

We appreciate your feedback and comments.  We've discussed the concerns, and rather than rewriting the CFP again, or creating multiple versions, we invite you (and others) to share your own interpretation of the CFP with your communities.  This seems to us the most reasonable and helpful way to proceed.

Best wishes,
Editorial Collective
Dear The Feminist Wire, I was on your side in a sort of way, just a little tiny bit, before I heard this, and I'll tell you why and how in a minute, because what I think about that part still holds true.  But I really do have to address what is wrong with this picture.

Last night Layenie couldn't open this dang jump drive before I took my saw-toothed pocket knife to it, and we remembered the funniest thing, and she and I were telling her mother this thing and laughing ourselves silly.  Around Christmastime on our way out of The Container Store we saw this Ingenious Gadget! You know that hard, fused-together plastic form packaging that cannot be breached come hell or high water and you always hurt yourself trying?  Well, here was a device that sliced right through it.  Zip, like butter.  Packaged in that hard, fused-together plastic form packaging that cannot be breached come hell or high water and you always hurt yourself trying! Layenie recounted the part where she'd said to me at the time, "Genius thingy! How d'y'spose you'd get it outta there to use it?" and her Mum said: "Get another one!" and we fell all over ourselves laughing some more.

[Visual image: photograph of the ingenious "Open X" device in its triumph-of-irony impossible-to-open packaging, which depicts a woman trying to open such a thing with her teeth as the words STOP STRUGGLING fly over her head.]

Open the gate! I cannot get in!

Well, why don't you just come on in and tell me all about it.  Then we'll see about opening that gate for you.

See the problem?

You probably do, now, because I told you the story in a way that was likely cognitively accessible to you. But I really believe it is possible that you were unable to access the request properly before because you did not know what it meant, and perhaps do not know how to write plainly because it had been beaten out of you by the system.  I'll get back to that in a minute, because it relates to this: I'm also willing to believe that it could not possibly have occurred to you to say something like, "We have no idea how to do what you are saying, or even really what you are talking about," because the dominant culture of academia has bashed that out of you too; if academics were to go around saying things like this to who all ever, the structure would crumble.  It's not like there's jobs lying around, seriously.

Although I know there's a chance I am hurting your feelings with this, I promise that is not what I am trying to do.  I am trying to explain a problem that I don't think is well enough understood because it is difficult to locate where there could be a place to put yourself in a position to see it clearly.  If you have spent enough time in academia to be bashed into knowing (even if you have not taken the sociolinguistic turn such that you have self-reflective meta-knowledge about it) that you must use particular kinds of jargon to mark yourself as an insider with a place at the table, then there you are.  You are at that table and I guess you're stuck, from the sound of it.  Your voice has changed, and if you think about it out loud, it will hurt, which is well expressed by this guy here to whom I'm linking.  (Newtown may have forgotten him, but my town is delighted to have him!)

I'm going to get to the glorious solution of the I-Don't-Know in a minute.  I don't like to write about problems without at least having thought about some of the fixes.  I have been told I don't always have to fix things, and sometimes people just want to be heard, hehe, but since I'm the one talking now, I can feel free to do my characteristic fixating on fixes.

But first, one more important theoretical thing about why I'm kind of on your side, and also why you probably don't know what it means even to write in accessible language, let alone being able actually to accomplish it.

The ideals of academic jargon to which you have been enculturated were designed for gatekeeping against unspecified non-elites: you were trained to lock out those who didn't fit into the "meritocracy" of an aristocratic, leisured yar yar yar-- you actually know all this now that you are thinking about it so I'll move on.  It's a classist, elitist thing writ large, very large, without fine detail, and you yourselves individually probably do not believe you fit in to the elite so you worked your ass off to talk like that and sweat every single day how much you can keep up depending on where you are in the hierarchy.  The fact that this wall of language turns out also to be inaccessible to many neurodivergent types of disabled people is just a side effect, and I mean I don't even think it even rises to the level of being an afterthought.  So we came at you out of left field.  You don't even know what we're talking about.

But that would have been a really excellent response.

And you could have said, do you know anyone at all who can both gain access to what we have written and write in whatever you mean by accessible language? Because we do not know how to do it.  The reason we are not doing it is because we do not know how, or even really what you are talking about.  And you would have sounded very respectful, and what you said would not have been absurd and insulting.  And the response would have been wildly different.

Academia beats the possibility of this response out of us, just as it beats out of us our mother tongues.

But we can Occupy Academia; we can stand against oppression and when we find it in ourselves respond with the truth even if it is very risky.

I am saying "we" to you now.  Do you feel me?  You can still say other things that are not the things you said before, because lived life moves fluidly.  We are not only one of our enculturations.  We can choose.  We can choose to choose together if the gates are flung wide open.