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!