Tuesday, January 28, 2014

ESCAPE!: An Elegaic Meditation on Neuroqueer Nomadism - by Zach Richter

  1. I. Jarring-Slamming





    I've shut the door. I find myself running, running running.

    into the forest, yeah, I don't exactly know where I am going

    but some of the things said to me are rattling along in my skull

    I sit, on a rock.

    I am surrounded by trees.

    I stare down into icy water.

    This is one of a handful of times when I've left the warmth of my family's house or the house of my friends because something got to me, one of a handful of times where I deliberately chose to feel and experience the cold winter air because I refused to allow myself to be coerced into a false sense of warmth.

    I will say controversially that a defining aspect of neuroqueerness is escapism. My reasons for believing this come from two places: both people on the autism spectrum and people who are queer are known to wander.

    One should be reminded that the Neuro- modifier in neuroqueer is not meant strictly to refer to autistic people, but autistic people as well as other developmentally, learning, psychiatrically and mentally disabled people do fit under the broader theme of neuroqueer and the concept of neuroqueerness has been an addition mainly formed as a collaboration between autistic queer and mad queer scholars and activists.

    Before other voices step in and tell me that wandering is often not a choice made by either group, but is a reaction to inhospitable environments, I will say that the experiences of madness and alternative sexuality force a questioning of normative structures of community and kinship.

    Part of said questioning is implicit to the way that many individuals of alternative sexualities and neurologies are present in such forms of community and kinship. The social rituals of small talk, for instance, are inacessible to those whose bodies and minds thrive on excitements derived from super-concentration. Indeed, the normal back and forth of short comments prevents socialization about depths and details of certain phenomenon and experiences. Similarly, references to family which  are typically the ways in which an individual introduces themselves and presents their connection to broader social groups are incredibly off-putting to individuals of alternative sexualities whose alternative desires create shattered pasts and alien futures.

    These series of disambiguities follow us. They follow us from one interaction to another. They follow us to dinner, to the classroom, to social events and to job interviews.

    When we are not running,
    our flesh wavers,
     We lilt to
    and fro
    we glance and side-line,
    and run and wander
    and even when we are here
    a part of us
    is running.

    II. Routes of Escape

    I plunge
    into page
    I mage away
    with sacred texts
    of oft-forgotten sage(s)

    turn, turn, turn
    away from the main-hall
    away from the bar-brawl
    away from the pain of the bricks
    that fall

    I would like to find some neuroqueer agency in the definitional confusion associated with the word ESCAPE.

    The word escape is bipolar. It is a term located between the socio-linguistic frequencies of affirmative liberation and negative failure of boundaries.

    A neuroqueer notion of escapism or nomadism embraces this unsureness, because it describes the multiplicity of meanings contained within our flight.

    I would like to once more clarify that escape is not to be taken literally as simply running, bur that one also has consciousness-escapes.

    We escape the cruelties of a concrete world when we dwell in philosophical and theoretical realms. Art is an escape. Poetry is an escape.

    Many of us also find negative holes in the world, lines of flight that eat us alive, that devour our skin.

    Some of these holes can be addictions, harmful relationships, exploitative employment situations.

    In response to critics that might note that such forms of flight and escape are not unique to the neuroqueer consituency, I will offer the yet-unproved thesis that forced and unforced escape largely defines neurodivergent and queer radical movements and that such alienations and the directions that they send our bodies in are a core aspect of such concepts of politics.

    This blog post is elegaic because it is enframed by frustration: frustration with the loudness, the overwhelmingness of main, neuronormative events. Frustration with parts of identities left unsaid. With fear of out-presence that persists even to this day for many people with alternative sexualities.

    This is a sad story, but is a story of movement. Though it is sad, its conclusion is not-known.

    As this post ends, the neuroqueer runs out of the room.

    dreams of fleshes forbidden
    dreams of space
    on the edge
    where bleeding shall happen

    where drenching in the sacrilege of the underground
    upside-down wine glasses
    shattered fingers
    ashes spread

    Amidst white-sheets
    where I'd dine tired and hap-hap-happily-hap-
    hazardly sleep
    where I'd leak
    from the outer-edges of fleshly creep
    where the wrapping
    of minds
    peel and shriek

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Always a Girl, Part 2, By Bridget Allen

Three completely unrelated facts:
I am autistic.
I am queer.
I was consistently misgendered as a child.

Growing up, these three facts were treated as one pathological whole. Girls are soft and warm. They communicate with others. They show affection easily. If only they could make me more feminine, the rest would fall into place. Meltdowns were viewed as acts of aggression; violent masculine behavior. Surely if they could not curtail the masculine behavior it would irrepairably damage my development.

In my heart, I always knew I was a girl. I liked being a girl, but I also knew my gender was yet another thing I could not effectively communicate to the world at large. My family flushed with anger and embarrassment every time a stranger mis-gendered me. I knew I was supposed to feel shame along with them, but I could not muster it up. Not for this. I was already too busy juggling the shame
of all the schools I had been tossed from,
of the words that I strained to pull from my brain to my tongue only to trickle out as a babbling stammer,
of the tears that came unbidden while I screamed and thrashed about on the floor unable to stop,
of the suppressed immune system and multiple illnesses that disrupted work schedules, bank accounts, and career ladders.
I was already full up with shame and guilt. So much so that my analyst kept explaining that my shame and guilt were why I could not talk properly. If only I would try harder to be less shameful, I would surely be fully verbal. Even if this assesment had not been laughably erroneous, I was still only seven, and could not begin to fathom what I could do with this information other than feel more guilt.

People mistaking me for a boy just did not seem worth getting upset about, but there was a peril. Adults viewed this not as a minor issue, but as a big problem to be fixed. My every action was slotted into a binary of masculine and feminine. Teachers, therapists, and family combined efforts to cultivate that which was deemed feminine and extinguish that which was deemed masculine.

Some of these efforts were laughable, like the collection of baby dolls I never asked for, from which I removed the arms and legs to line the collective limbs up from smallest to largest. To tidy up, I put the extraneous heads and torsos in the toy refrigerator that was part of the kitchen playset I never used. Baby sitters never returned for a second visit.

The stigma tainted times that should have been filled with pride. When I was ten, I took it upon myself to audition for a large scale community theater musical. I got a ride from the mother of another girl auditioning. While my speech was near unintelligible due to a severe stutter, I knew I could read aloud, perform scripted words, and sing without issue. Looking at the script, I knew I could nail a supporting character, an obnoxious little boy. I beat dozens of boys, some with professional experience, for the part. My parents did not forbid me from performing, but they managed to miss all four performances.

Other times, the efforts led to abuse. When I was six, the nun teaching me felt all my stimming was not only unfeminine, but also unnatural work of the devil. Along with other stringent rules, I was forbidden to play with or speak to boys. That year of hateful words and corporal punishment in the name of God, damaged me for years to follow.

[Visual of Birth Control pills in a circular calendar dial pack. Some are blue, some white, some green. The plastic container is a shade of pink-tan that only occurs in med gear.]
At eleven, medical intervention began in the form of off label prescribing of birth control pills as a form of hormone replacement therapy. I argued it was unnecessary. I lost. When results were not evident, the dosages were increased, and then increased again. Eventually, I accepted that the vomiting, soreness, and constant bleeding were just a part of life. I ceased to think I had any power to say no. In spite of a growth spurt at nineteen that ended any misgendering, I was nearly twenty when I realized I was an adult with control over my own care.

I was an adult.
I was still autistic,
I was still queer, and
I felt no more or less a woman for all my new found curves than I did before.
Because being a woman is something that is inside of me, not something that is defined by others perceptions.