Friday, September 12, 2014

Sins Invalid Statement on Police Violence

It is our honor to repost the following statement with permission. In solidarity:

Originally posted on September 4th, 2014

Sins Invalid is a disability justice-based performance project centering disabled artists of color and queer / gender non-conforming disabled artists. Our work celebrates the embodied humanity of disabled people, and we understand all bodies live in a multitude of very real social, political, economic and cultural contexts.

As an organization led by disabled people of color and queer / gender non-conforming people with disabilities, we live with high rates of state violence, from forced institutionalization, to ongoing police brutality and the murder of Black and brown disabled people.

We witness the horror of a deadly chokehold placed on Eric Garner, a Black man with multiple disabilities, by the NYPD.  We hear the cries of Ezell Ford’s mother when she realized that her son with mental health disability was shot by LAPD while walking home.  We stand with Lashonn White, a Deaf queer Black woman who was running toward police for safety, and instead tased by police and jailed for three days without access to an interpreter.  We feel rage with the family of Kajieme Powell, a Black man with a mental health impairment, who was shot by St. Louis police within seconds of their arrival, for stealing two sodas and a package of pastries.

We know that modern day police forces are direct descendants of the “slave patrols” employed to police and control the bodies and labor of enslaved African people and violently repress their resistance to slavery. We recognize that Black and brown people with disabilities are pipelined from “special education” to incarceration of one form or another.

We acknowledge that disabled people who are Autistic, who are Deaf, who live with mental health impairments, or cognitive impairments, epilepsy or movement disorders, are at highest risk of being assaulted by police, and that this is deeply compounded when we are further marginalized by homelessness, transphobia, and white supremacy.

We do not see training as a viable solution, since it leaves intact the fundamental belief of the police that their purpose is to “control the situation.”  As people with disabilities, our bodies and minds are not controllable and cannot always comply — this must be understood.  Our bodies and minds are not criminal.  We are unique and we celebrate our complexities.

We strongly oppose Urban Shield and all programs that seek to militarize police departments through paramilitary training and military equipment, as they serve to further dehumanize communities of color and poor and working class communities as “domestic enemies.”  Increased militarization of the police leads directly to increased police violence, particularly against disabled people of color.

We grieve that people with disabilities have largely been ignored and dismissed as key leaders in resistance to state violence by the US Left, perpetuating the silencing of our stories and maintaining barriers to a united front.

It is within the context of disability justice that WE SUPPORT JUSTICE FOR MICHAEL BROWN of Ferguson, Missouri.  It is within the context of disability justice that WE OPPOSE URBAN SHIELD.  It is within the context of disability justice that we hold true that ALL COMMUNITIES ARE VALUABLE.

[Image description: In the drawing, the foreground image is of two women in different environments. The woman in the left of the drawing appears to be African-American. She is wearing an orange prison uniform and she sits in a manual wheelchair. The background behind her is prison bars. The woman on the right of the drawing appears to be Arab. She wears a white pants, a long sleeve white tunic that includes a head covering. Her left arm is amputated below the elbow. The women reach out their hand to each other and clasp them at the wrists. The background behind her is a thick wall with a window showing a tree through it. The text reads: DISABILITY JUSTICE means resisting together from solitary cells to open-air prisons. To Exist is To Resist. The drawing was made by Micah Bazant and Sins Invalid.]

Original location: Thanks to Corbett OToole for image description and Lateef McLeod for idea.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Closets, by Jess Glenny

Last year I was diagnosed with autism by a ground-breaking psychologist who is also a foremost advocate for and supporter of autistic women and girls. In parting, she warned me that many people harbour misapprehensions about those of us with autism. She suggested that rather than use the A-word, I could explain, ‘I’m the kind of person who … gets overwhelmed in social situations / functions poorly in bright lights and noisy places / needs a lot of time to process their experiences …’

Well, I’m the kind of person who likes to call a spade a spade, so I went straight to facebook to publish my new status. I also updated my professional website, identifying myself as autistic and welcoming other people on the spectrum to the different opportunities I offer to move, feel and witness. I’m the kind of person who occupies her own territory. So far, I haven’t experienced any sort of adverse reaction. I’m fortunate in the circles I move in and the kind of work I do.

As a queer woman, I was already well acquainted with the issues pertaining to closets, the ins and the outs and the intermediate positions. It’s a dance of complex, improvised choreography, in which we are always on the back foot coming forward. We are the torn out pages in the dominant narrative. ‘Everyone’ is straight, aren’t they? Just as ‘everyone’ is neurotypical, and the onus is on the rest of us to stand up and declare ourselves.

I’ve never had any time for closets. They’re too damn small and claustrophobic. I want to inhabit the full expanse of myself in the world, andI want you to see me doing it. In my view, if I tell you I am queer or I am autistic, and you have a problem with this, you have a problem.

But some closets feel more insidious and more difficult to emerge from, like the one constructed around my relationship with eating, which, from the time I started school up to now has run the gamut of pretty much every form of disorder other than bulimia, and that wasn’t through want of trying. Over the years, the extremes have gradually worn themselves out, along with the consuming guilt and the operatic drama. I know too much to want or to beable to sustain anorexia as a position or to find myself eating white flour and water at two in the morning when all the shops are closed. I used to feel a lot of shame about my crazy, disorderly eating, and now I really don’t any more. But still, I can’t claim even now – even by the fuckaroo standards of the culture I live in – to have a simple, untroubled relationship with food.

Until I started reading women’s first-hand accounts of what it’s like to be autistic, and the penny clattered to the floor, I was always puzzled by the violence and persistence of my eating behaviour. It seemed to be impervious to insight, therapy, mindfulness, moving, drawing, writing, processwork … According to some recent research and to anecdotal evidence, around two-thirds of women and girls diagnosed with an eating disorder also meet the criteria for autism. The driving need I feel alternately to establish control and to smash it apart now feels characteristic of autism and therefore rooted to a large extent in neurology rather than the presumed psychological dysfunction that I have spent so much time and energy trying to identify and resolve.

I don’t have much sense of physical containment. This seems to be the product of both autism and Ehlers Danlos / Hypermobility Syndrome (which affects many, but not all, autistic people), in which there is a deficit of proprioceptive feedback, so it’s hard to feel where I end, to formulate myself into a discrete, impermeable whole and hold all my pieces together. Controlling myself provides a means of encompassing myself and my experience, which often feels overwhelming in amount and intensity. Unleashing chaos offers a way of piercing the tension when it becomes unbearable. This may be a given; it may not be susceptible to change.

Above all I desire to be truly known. At the same time, by virtue of what I do for a living, I’m aware that I am often the recipient of a variety of wide-of-the-mark projections from clients and students who want to believe that a yoga or movement practice is going to beam them up out of the steaming shit heap of their own life. If you are one of those people, I have to tell you frankly that in my experience, practice is more like the fan in the axiom. What actually happens is the shit hits and you get to be more intimately acquainted than you ever thought possible with what comes out of your own arsehole. And this is the thing of beauty, this its very self.

What has tended to happen for me, what offers some loosening and breathing space, is that I have become quite a bit less reactive to my own shit. Because what’s the big deal anyway? We all shit, don’t we? It’s really very human. I haven’t stopped shitting, or being queer or autistic, or being perplexed by my other than shiny-magazine-paper relationship with food. But I feel that in some much bigger picture all of this is OK, just OK.

Since I have written publicly about being autistic, several people in my practice communities have confided privately that they too have a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder. I feel sad and dismayed that autism still carries such stigma that the majority of them are unwilling to be openly autistic. So if being an out autistic weren’t vital to me because it’s the way I can be truly myself and clearly seen as who I am, it would still be very, very important because if we each own and speak ourselves, as honestly as we can, in all our dimensions – and especially those of us who are teachers, facilitators and therapists – together we become a body of living, breathing practice that others can be received into. No one has to become more perfect than they already are, and healing can be what I think it mostly is, an expanding sense of acceptance, rather than a surreptitious self-improvement project.

Note: since I wrote this piece, last year, I have been for four months a sober eating disorderly.


Description of Photo and Bio
Ibby asked me to write a bit about myself for this post, so here it is … I’m 51 years old and have changed my sexual identity more times than I’ve had hot dinners. At the moment I’m identifying as an omniverous queer femme. ‘Omniverous’ because I’m attracted to everybody; ‘queer’ because it’s big enough to encompass all my shifting sexual and gender expressions and always seems to fit; ‘femme’ because I’m currently having a bit of feminine renaissance. I was officially identified (I don’t like the D word) as autistic just over a year ago. I’m a moving body teacher, facilitator and therapist based in south-east London. You can read more of my writing at and find out about my movement work at