On Wings of Fire and Broken Glass We Still Need to Rise: On the Inauguration and Disappointment

Picture from an ad from Amazon for Biden's "Made America Great Already" hats, fittingly showing a person covering their eyes preventing them from seeing reality.

Picture from an ad from Amazon for Biden’s “Made America Great Already” hats, fittingly showing a person covering their eyes preventing them from seeing reality.

“Protest songs
In response to military aggression
Protest songs
Try to stop the soldier’s gun
But the battle raged on”

White People for Peace, Against Me

4 years ago, I wrote On wings of fire and broken glass we shall rise: #DisruptJ20, a war call saying that we’d rise and destroy this system, going against Trump.

2 years ago, I wrote On Wings of Fire and Broken Glass We MUST Rise: #DisruptJ20 2 years later, in which I was…incredibly jaded because things weren’t happening, we weren’t rising against this system and we needed to.

Now we are on the first day of Biden’s winning and…I’m already disappointed with people.

Y’all.

I’ve spent the last few weeks dreading today for two reasons: one, I thought that Trump supporters were going to bring violence today because they lost their President, which thankfully didn’t happen; second, because I realized that all the revolutionary fervor, which thankfully there was last year (because white people were actually affected by the pandemic and couldn’t ignore it like all the other injustice), is going to be lost because the injustice level is going to be tolerable.

This country is fucked up, and Biden isn’t going to make that go away, because why would he want to tear down the system of oppression that makes rich straight white men like him privileged? I’m glad that Trump is gone, don’t get me wrong, but all the fascists that supported him are still here and still emboldened.

The issues of marginalized people that existed before Trump that festered until they made it so Trump could rise are still going to be there under Biden, but…that’s ok, right?

The issue that large swaths of America had with Trump wasn’t that he was oppressive. It’s that he made people see it. His ideology was not new or creative, it’s written into the fabric of this country. He was pure fascism, actually saying the things that large amounts of Americans actually believe, which is why he got more votes this election, to the point where it was so close that it’s obvious that the only reason we didn’t have another 4 years of him was the pandemic. Many marginalized people were completely unsurprised that he won because all he was was an evolution of the policies and ideologies that have been keeping us down forever.

He’s gone, even being impeached (…which is honestly the most bitter of victories because he’s done so much horrible stuff, but again, the Capitol was something that white people couldn’t ignore), and people are buying hats like in the picture to claim that voting Trump out made America great and now we have nothing to worry about, largely because they don’t have anything to worry about. Biden won, and now oppression will go back to its baseline that the country can accept.

I remember one person saying that they voted for Biden because they were sick of the division. Paraphrasing my point in You’re Not As Important As You Think: on “Being Divisive”, there is no new division. Bigots didn’t crop up with Trump. These divisions have always been there, the oppressor and oppressed have always been separate, the oppressors were showing themselves to be who they actually are. They might end up slinking back into the shadows, but they are still the same horrible people and you should still be holding them accountable even if they aren’t as vocal, and also should be fighting against all the constant microaggressions that they will still use against us. There will always be division and, if you aren’t forced to see that every day because you have to constantly deal with people oppressing and having power over you, force yourself to open your eyes and see what we constantly deal with and help us fight because it is so tiring to constantly have our fights ignored until some dude comes into power and makes it so people are more inclined to hurt us to the point where y’all can’t pretend they aren’t doing it.

I am so much more tired and jaded than I was four years ago, so this is what I expect. I chose this song quote because the song is about (white, as the title says) people singing songs, going to a protest, and then considering their job done when they haven’t done anything to actually make any lasting change. The battle will rage on whether you keep caring about oppression or not now that Biden is in charge. Don’t claim that you care about marginalized people if you aren’t going to keep fighting against systemic oppression.

Change will take work, and the change we really need is never going to be found in the voting booth, but in united action against the system that keeps us down. Keep fighting, don’t lose the revolutionary spirit that grew in you when you were forced to confront oppression by Trump now that he’s no longer in power.

Or have socially distanced brunch now that you’re lucky enough to be able to ignore how the American system ruins lives again, the last 4 years…hells, the last two months have taught me that’s what I should expect.

Ally’s Guide for Autism Acceptance Month

Next month is what most people term “Autism Awareness Month” but what autistic activists alternatively call “Autism Acceptance Month” or “hell month.” It’s a month where people light it up blue globally  for Autism $peaks (in 2017 basically every landmark in over 150 countries lit it up blue according to their website which I’m not giving traffic), the hate group I have written about 5 times and made this toolkit with a lot of different resources and talking points to help people fight their supporters including those articles.

Last year on my page An Articulate Autistic I made a guide with stuff to help allies help us and after a lot of edits as those months went on it became really clunky so I’m remaking it here.

For myself and a lot of autistics next month is hell. It’s when the whole world joins together to support an organization that is incredibly harmful to us and has fueled and fed off of stigma against us for the past 13 years. It makes me want to hide in a hole and not come out until May 1st, last year I spent the whole month gaming to get my mind off of the hatred represented in the blue lights and puzzle pieces (a symbol for autism that has a long history of being horrible before AS). A lot of businesses will be making partnerships for the month for portions of any profit or of a certain product going to them (in addition to these 12 different sponsors that gave a total of $5,100,000 last year) along with the infinite well-intentioned people who are going to be lighting it up blue intending to be supportive of us unknowingly reinforcing our oppression.

While my articles on allies are…often my most incendiary, we need you next month because the more activist-oriented an autistic is, the more the utter futility of standing against this behemoth is rubbed in. It’s always there though I can usually ignore it but April focuses it like a laser into my brain so it’s impossible to not feel the lurking despair.

If you want to help us, you can start now. The Autistic Self Advocacy Network, our main autistic-run policy organization, made this flyer (edit: I converted it to a picture on Facebook here to distribute it that way) last year with their budgeting (they spend 1.6% on family services and a total of 58% on lobbying, advertising, and fundraising, 36 times as much), key facts, and alternative organizations to donate to (although if you want to donate directly to an autistic activist who has been struggling with getting employment that isn’t incredibly overloading here’s my PayPal…while activism is important, it doesn’t pay and this alone has taken a few hours). I would recommend printing them and giving them to places that supported AS last year, they’re in color but shouldn’t be affected if printed grayscale. Also please boycott places that are supporting them for the month, it’s not that long and they don’t need the help.

My usual tactic when talking to people (I talk about this…a lot in person) is drawing attention to their vile ad campaigns. First and most horrid is “Autism Every Day” (transcript here), which was so terrible it had me breaking down crying wondering why they hated us so much. In particular, I mention the mom talking about wanting to drive her autistic daughter off of a bridge, with said daughter in her lap, and the only thing stopping her was having an allistic (non-autistic) daughter. Second is “I Am Autism” (transcript here) which had a creepy stalker voice saying that autism ruins marriages, is faster than pediatric AIDS diabetes and cancer combined, and makes it so you can’t go into public without struggle, embarrassment, or pain…I’m linking the transcripts instead of the videos because I’m only willing to put myself through so much suffering to write this and can’t handle actually seeing and hearing them.

Most (regrettably not all) people have issues with Nazis which is why I mention to people that they almost had the Soldiers of Odin, a very obviously named Neonazi group, at one of their fundraisers until people pointed out who they were, more info in the aptly named Autism Speaks: How Long Does It Take to Look into It?

The last point I make (after the others because it…might be taken skeptically on its own) is that no autistic activist was surprised by them having Nazis at their fundraiser because they’re eugenicist as well. A bold claim but…still accurate. They spend the second-most money on research to find the cause and a cure (with the death of their founder they found a thesaurus and use “solution” now) for autism. Another organization that is trying to find the cause and cure of something they think is horrible, the American Cancer Society, is looking for the cause so they can prevent it from existing in the first place. When trying to do that for a neurology instead of a disease that is eugenics.

So, there’s a lot of stuff for what not to do, there are however multiple ways to do things that do actually support us. Instead of lighting it up blue for them, try lighting it up gold or do #RedInstead (I wrote both a nice and a pissed-off article for that). Instead of a puzzle piece, try the rainbow infinity symbol of the neurodiversity movement. If you want to suggest organizations to donate to my top two picks are the aforementioned Autistic Self-Advocacy Network and Autistic Women and Nonbinary Network (both links go to donation pages). If you want to get our voices heard instead of theirs here’s a list of a lot of great pages and blogs from my friends. Instead of calling for awareness call for acceptance instead (you’re already aware of our existence, now we need a world that accepts us as equal humans. Also, awareness months are for horrible things, as this list shows April is also STD and IBS awareness month). Last but not least, check in on your autistic friends next month, it’s really hard and your support will matter quite a bit.

-Laoch Onórach

On Wings of Fire and Broken Glass We MUST Rise: #DisruptJ20 2 years later

Burning limo from the #DisruptJ20 protests, has "WE THE PEOPLE" and the Anarchy symbol spray painted on it

Burning limo from the #DisruptJ20 protests, has “WE THE PEOPLE” and the Anarchy symbol spray painted on it

“So here and now, in our rotting nation
the blood, it pours, it’s all on our hands now
we live, in fear, of our own potential
to win, to lose, it’s all on our hands now

And I have an American Dream,
but it involves black masks and gasoline”

Black Masks and Gasoline, Rise Against

Two years ago on this day I wrote On wings of fire and broken glass we shall rise: #DisruptJ20.

It was a war call, a challenge to this regime, in which I said:

On wings of fire and broken glass we shall rise from the ashes of our despair. You can arrest us, beat us, even kill us, but you won’t make us admit defeat and surrender. You may have expected us to just take whatever you throw at us, but if that’s the case you thought wrong. If the hateful will tell us that we shouldn’t exist we shall take pride in what they despise, become living symbols of defiance. We will make our voices heard, make it so people know what you’re doing to us, we will agitate to make it so people never accept your reign and hate.

Here we are, halfway through this hellish regime, and I’m looking at the world and this nation and am thinking that I might have been far too hopeful.

I thought things were dark then and believed that people wouldn’t take it, that as a nation we might feel that was too much. Now, I’m wishing that I was still as innocent thinking that that was bad and that people wouldn’t take it. We live in an era of the deepest inhumanity, with children in concentration camps and an unknown number of them simply lost, a 12 year climate doomsday clock (and no amount of changing how many showers you take or ableist straw bans will do anything when 71% of the pollution comes from 100 companies with no financial interest in changing and the EPA working with climate change deniers), and are in the midst of the longest government shutdown which is leading to vandalism of national parks (some of which won’t recover for decades), harming indigenous people, and having effects on food stamps and WIC because of our President’s obsession with xenophobia and his border wall which won’t even work, meaning that if this does go on for “months or even years” the most vulnerable of us, including babies, will literally starve because they don’t have money to get food.

And my question to this whole nation is:

What the fuck more does it take?

These are the worst of times and they aren’t getting better. I do not know how people can actually just keep going on without feeling like this system is a problem that we need to rise against.

This isn’t something that any type of reform or working within the system will address. We can’t elect away the capitalist system that is built to support and grow the corporations that are destroying this planet and all the people in power on the backs of the oppressed, not with centuries molding it into what it is today. It’s not broken in need of fixing.

It’s working exactly as it’s supposed to and truly breaking it is really the only option we have at this point.

As I’ve already stated in Redefining Revolution: Fighting as a Marginalized Person in a Trump Presidency, I don’t consider the revolution to be some future bloody battle but something happening now (specifically said “It’s not something to be solely fought with guns but also speeches and blogs and thrown bricks and counterprotests and food drives and any action done in the spirit of seeking to bring change to the many intersecting injustices that have harmed people for so long”), but it takes people deciding to actually try to take part. Apathy is not a moral option at this point if it ever has been. Do something even if it’s just using your words to say you won’t take this, get involved with movements around you, get angry because anything else is honestly screwed up.

I used to say that I believe that this time will be in history books and what we do now will be read about for future generations so we need to think about how we want this chapter to read, either of a people who responded to a tyrant with inaction or defiance. Now I’m just wondering how many future generations there will actually be if we don’t address what’s going on now.

Our actions, specifically our inaction, are the cause of all of this being allowed, but we might still have a chance if we decide to actually take it. But we can not keep going the same way we have been if we want hope of actually surviving in our rotting nation, it’s truly in our hands now and we need to decide what we’re going to do about it.

Wake up and fight while there’s still something to actually fight for.

-Laoch Onórach

Autistic Meltdowns vs Tantrums vs Shutdowns

red background with gold writing that reads "When Your Loved One is Experiencing a Meltdown or Shutdown, They Can Hear You! Don't yell Don't reason Just keep them SAFE"

To begin this article, I’d like to establish the difference between a meltdown and a tantrum. A tantrum is a fit which stems from bad behavior, while a meltdown is an emotional response to being overwhelmed. A tantrum is usually a method for a person to get their way, while a meltdown is a way of showing that the person is overwhelmed with their situation or surroundings.

A meltdown occurs when an autistic person loses behavioral control and it is an expression of such. Causes of this loss can range from a sensory overload to something as “small” as a change in routine. I put “small” in quotes because it seems small to an outsider, but is a big deal to the autistic individual.

Meltdowns are terrifying and exhausting for the individual going through them. They seem horrifying and strange to an outsider watching, but it’s even scarier being the one experiencing them. Just like many other parts of ASD, they can manifest in many different ways such as crying/screaming, hitting, throwing things, stimming, kicking, or biting. These are just examples and not every person will show all of these. For example, when I have a meltdown I cry and scream, hit myself, and rock back and forth. Another autistic person may space out and stim and bite themself. It all depends on the individual. Learn what your loved one does and needs during a meltdown personally.

There are many approaches to resolving a meltdown. The golden rule is to approach the person calmly and only use simple phrases and commands. Telling them something generic like “Calm down” can only induce further anxiety, and if you get upset as well, it will make the situation escalate. The best thing is to ask them what they need first. If they can’t tell you, offer them cold water, their stim items, and help them calm themself through breathing exercises. Having a meltdown is often not something an individual can pull themself out of.

Be aware that they are likely terrified and feel terrible and they need assistance to get away from that. Respecting that and their boundaries is the best and most helpful thing you can do for them.

Moving on, tantrums are often caused by the person not getting their way or not receiving the attention they wish for. The best way to deal with these is to address it, step away, and then fix it. Giving in immediately only teaches them that they can throw a tantrum to get their way and will only harm them and you.

So say your child wants a toy at the store and you say no. She may lie on the floor and scream and kick to get her way. The best way to handle this is to tell her, “I see you’re upset, and I’m sorry you’re upset. When you calm down, we can talk about it.” and then step away. Of course, if you’re in public this would mean just stepping back, but at home you could even go into another room. Fixing it only happens when the child talks about their feelings and why they feel that way. This can end in them getting their way, but it has to happen after the process of resolution has occurred.

The third type of emotional response common in autistic people is called a shutdown. Think of it like your computer shutting down from too many programs running. When an autistic person gets overstimulated, their brain has a harder time processing it than an allistic (non-autistic) person. They are similar to meltdowns in the sense that they are caused by over-stimulation. They differ from a meltdown in the sense that they are more quiet. Shutdowns are much less noticeable than meltdowns, and are often taken as just being antisocial.

Shutdowns are commonly presented by the person completely shutting themselves away (either mentally or physically) from the outside world. They most likely could become unresponsive (nonverbal) and withdraw themselves from any physical contact. They may experience dissociation, but not all autistics will. It’s very difficult to pinpoint exactly what a shutdown looks like because it’s so personal.

The best way you can help someone experiencing a shutdown is to help them find a quiet, calm, safe space and avoid overwhelming them with too many questions or comments. Oftentimes these questions/comments can worsen the shutdown because of the sensory processing it takes to listen and respond to them. You should ask them what kind of things they need during a shutdown, as well, before they have one. This can go for meltdowns as well. Being mindful and helping your autistic loved one stay safe is the most important thing.

Here is a wonderful video on shutdowns: https://youtu.be/3WIiL8vBjq0

And one on meltdowns: https://youtu.be/FhUDyarzqXE

 

External Ableism Fueling Internalized Ableism

I am a multiply neurodivergent individual. I am Autistic, I have ADHD, I had numerous epileptic and photogenic seizures as a teenager, and I experience structuralized dissociation via Dissociative Identity Disorder. The largest source of stress out of all of these, is the executive dysfunction that permeates ADHD. Executive Functioning, I like to say, is the CEO of your brain. It prioritizes information, regulates emotions and inhibition, prompts you to begin and complete tasks, and involves your working memory.

If you’ve ever played the game “The Sims”, you’ll know that you queue tasks for your simulated person to complete. Your working memory is that queue, and if it doesn’t work properly, the queue keeps deleting before you can complete the tasks. This is a very basic definition of executive functioning. (In later versions of the game, you could give your simulated person a trait which made them forgetful, and the queue would actually delete, I found comfort in this feature. Seeing my disability represented made me feel more whole).

That said, I thought about how I felt like I was walking on eggshells around an ex friend of mine. Then I had a mini flashback to a memory where they reacted in a surprising manner to my idea of placing cards in each room of my house, detailing precisely how to maintain the respective rooms. They said folks would see these cards when they visited, and would think bad things about me. I left the conversation with the impression that they agreed it was pathetic for me to need this tool. This memory came to me nearly a year later, while I considered setting phone alarms, very thorough alarms, to guide me into establishing a routine. I thought about the implications of needing such extensive reminders to prompt me to complete “basic tasks”.

I did end up making cards for each room. But I couldn’t bring myself to use them. Each time I looked at them, I felt the crushing weight of years of ableism that told me I was less than a person because my working memory doesn’t hold information. I can’t prioritize the steps involved in tasks. I enter a room and stare, unsure of where to begin, panic rising to the surface. “Other people don’t need to google how to clean a toilet, every time they clean a toilet”, I say to myself as I google how to clean a toilet for the millionth time. I eventually took the cards down, too ashamed to even use the tool I’d spent hours creating for each room of my house.

I grew up surrounded by messages, both overt and implicit, that there’s something wrong with me for struggling with “basic tasks”. Folks were incredulous that I was smart in some respects, yet so painfully lacking in others. I was told I am ret*rded, that I’d never graduate high school, would never keep a job, would never attend college, and would end up on the streets if I didn’t end up burdening someone else. They couldn’t understand why I was capable of teaching myself foreign languages yet couldn’t bathe unless reminded. I could absorb stories about Greek Mythology but sarcasm and jokes went over my head. Alas, an imbalance of “intelligence” is a hallmark of autism.

Sometimes I stop to consider that in some ways, I’m incompetent. I desperately fight to retrain my brain to see worth as separate from ability, nevertheless, I cannot un-know that our society largely views and treats this incompetence with disdain. I cannot escape someone else’s perception of my humanity. I can however, keep trying.

When my spouse first suggested that I try to do certain tasks every single day so it becomes routine, I had little confidence in this endeavor. I was held back by my own internalized ableism.

And yet I think about how I’m trying to instill a sense of risk taking in my perfectionist child, who sometimes will not begin a task out of fear of failure, a word which here means: less than perfect. Am I not a hypocrite if I don’t even try? At the very least I might ingrain a routine that comprises of a small number of the tasks I have set out to do. Doing something is an improvement from nothing, it might very well be a non linear path to the end goal of a establishing a complete routine. Complete meaning: every task I’ve set out to do is done.

Again, I did ultimately establish a schedule via alarms. It includes reminders for things outside of chores, like contacting loved ones in a more consistent manner. I feel a particular type of shame about needing this. I consciously understand I cannot control that my brain “deletes” things, and that to judge myself for something I cannot change does nothing to improve the situation. I feel that because I care enough to set alarms to ensure I’m keeping in touch with them, it is evident that I’m willing to go to any measure to demonstrate my care for them. I eventually told these friends that I have to set alarms to remind me to contact them, and sure enough, not one of them felt it was a bad thing. Because they are good, kind people.

To return to the memory of my ex friend, I felt I was being judged for my disability. Their comments about folks seeing my visual aids and deciding I’m incompetent carries the implication that there will be further consequences beyond the opinion that I can’t care for myself or my space. Folks might also believe I’m not capable of caring for my children. These external sources of ableism inevitably become internalized, the idea that needing accommodations makes one less than, quickly becomes a message that others no longer need to push, because I tell it to myself.

It doesn’t have to be this way though. Maybe it’s naive, but I believe through our collective activism, disabled people can illustrate that needing accommodations doesn’t decrease our humanity. I want to believe that folks will be reasonable enough to recognize that I am worthy of personhood, worthy of being a parent, simply because I take necessary measures to make sure I can function.

I’m a Taurus, I am stubborn. I may encounter pitfalls where I momentarily believe that I’m better off dead because I can’t operate the same way neurotypicals can. Ultimately I return to the surface and dig my heels in, adamant that my personhood, my worth, is intrinsic. My worth is independent of externals, it doesn’t hinge on what I can, or cannot, do. We are more than a collection of deficits.

For Further Reading
Executive Dysfunction:

7 Executive Function Deficits Tied to ADHD


Internalized Ableism:
https://www.didistutter.org/blog/internalized-ableism-or-why-do-i-still-hate-myself

-Tornado of Souls

Nonverbal Communication

  • Nonverbal: not using spoken language
  • Stimming: repetition of physical movements, sounds, or words, or movement of objects

Nonverbal communication is extremely important to anyone with autism, anxiety, or a panic disorder. It can range from texting and writing, to sign language or actual handheld signs. For some nonverbal people, it’s a constant need, and for some, it’s only during anxiety, anger or depression. Though for all, it’s a must.

From personal experience, I know going nonverbal and being forced to verbalize my emotions and what I’m thinking is one of the most anxiety inducing things in the world. With accommodations, I’m able to avoid that anxiety and often calm myself through stimming and calming exercises.

For example, if my fiance and I text, even if we are on call, that’s how he accommodates me. The accommodation allows my brain to not be further over stimulated by me talking and him talking. Sometimes we also just sit there comfortably, or he’ll even read to me if I ask him to.

A big part of nonverbal communication is having preset ideas, boundaries, or organization when the person is verbal or by writing them down.

For children, this is an even bigger issue because as adults and teens we learn to handle our emotions better from years of studying others and practicing, but as a child things are so much more surreal. They can be devastating, even if it’s something that seems as small as a routine change. Having open communication and various ways of communicating can change a whole child’s perspective of themselves and their going nonverbal. It can make it much easier to cope with and easier to help them get through.

For teenagers and adults, it can be extremely frustrating still because many non-autistic or allistic people have the idea that autism only affects children, so often we are called immature or told that we’re old enough to use our words, which can make the anxiety or anger worse that we’re already experiencing. The same goes for us as does children: accommodations = less stress = quicker coordinating and resolving.

Here are some ways you can help your nonverbal friend!

  • Ask them what they need!
    • Asking them and offering them a notepad and pen can be the most helpful thing you can do!
  • Offer them things
    • Offer them water, a blanket, their stim things, any comfort objects, etc. Anything that you know makes them feel better!
  • Only ask yes and no questions
    • This is so they can nod and shake their head. The first thing you should ask is “Are you nonverbal?” and then “Is it okay for me to talk?” Often times, being forced to listen to others speak can be overwhelming as well!
  • Realize that we are likely frustrated with ourselves and getting angry only hurts us.
    • I often get angry with myself about being unable to talk, and when someone gets angry at me, it makes me feel stupid and like a bother.
  • Do not treat us like we aren’t there/can’t hear. We can.
    • Often we get treated like we’re not actually present, when most of us can hear everything you’re saying and see everything you’re doing. It can be very hurtful to have a loved one and/or caregiver talk disrespectfully about us when we’re struggling the most.

So to recap, going nonverbal is a big part of many anxiety disorders and autism. It can be very stressful for the nonverbal person, regardless of age or reason. Having pre-organized forms of communication that don’t require talking is the best way you can help your nonverbal loved one!

 

I’m Not Your Good Minority: On Unconditional Acceptance

“Hear me out now

You’re gonna listen to me like it or not, right now”

Faint, Linkin Park

There are two types of lack of acceptance.

The first is the obvious one, bigotry that leads to blatant harm, the type that society claims to condemn (but systemically enforces).

The second form that is societally accepted and much more insidious, the acceptance based on qualifiers, based on our making ourselves comfortable and easy to accept.

The autistic who always makes eye contact. The trans person that perfectly passes as their gender. The gay person who doesn’t make such a big deal about it.

Accepting us as long as we make every effort to hide the way that we are actually different, accepting us as long as we hide anything that might make it hard to accept us.

I refuse.

I refuse to pretend that I’m one of you, to hide myself, just so you can pretend that you actually care about who I am without needing to make any effort.

I read an journal article with a quote from everyone’s (least) favorite trans icon Caitlyn Jenner that ended with:

If you’re out there and, to be honest with you, if you look like a man in a dress, it makes people uncomfortable.

Along with an article where Bernie Sanders is quoted saying “I am not a great fan of being rude or disrupting activities.”

Acceptance should not be conditional on not being “rude or disrupting” or making people “uncomfortable”.

Acceptance is not conditional whatsoever, if there is anything that an oppressed person needs to change before you accept them you are not accepting them whatsoever.

Acceptance means accepting the totality of someone’s humanity not just the parts that are like you. Support of someone as long as they package and hide the parts that make them different from you isn’t support at all as it requires a drain of resources to force ourselves to pretend we are the same.

We are not you. By our very nature we are different. Requiring any effort from us to make that difference less obvious in order to pretend to give a damn about who we are as people is almost worse than not pretending at all because forcing us to make that effort is more of a drain than you just admitting to yourself and us that what is actually important is your comfort not our lives.

We can not, will not, and should not have to pretend to be the same as you no matter the damage to ourselves to get anywhere in your society, just because if we do you’ll give us your support for our performance.

I’m pissed off and you should be too. I refute your calls for respectability or civility as a minority activist, refuse to take effort from fighting these inhumanities to simultaneously hide parts of myself to please you and make you feel like I’m enough like you to deserve your acceptance. If you think that you’re worth it, as I made clear in my favorite article you’re really not as important as you think.

I’m not your good minority, I will not fall in line with your demands for you to recognize my humanity, will not change myself (which causes me great harm as my post on passing makes clear) to be just like you because you can’t actually accept anyone who is totally different than you.

You should accept all marginalized people for exactly what we are. I’ll accept nothing less.

-Laoch Onórach

What Is Autism To Me?

 

Google definition of autism that reads “a mental condition, present from early childhood, characterized by difficulty in communicating and forming relationships with other people and in using language and abstract concepts.”

The Google definition of autism is as follows (paraphrased): “A mental condition characterized by difficulty in communicating, and forming relationships, and in using abstract language and concepts.” This is true, but it’s very basic. For me, autism goes much deeper because it’s a large part of my identity that affects me daily.

Autism has many characteristics that are left out in this definition such as: repetition of behaviors and echolalia (repetition of another person’s words) and sensitivity to stimuli. Autism manifests differently for different people and means different things to different people.

The ways it affects me* vary day-to-day, depending on if I’ve had my medicine* or how my mood is. Things that don’t change, though, include the following: stimming, sensitivity to lights and sounds, having an adverse response to physical affection, social awkwardness, and difficulty with abstract concepts.Some of them are worsened on bad days, but they are always present for me, personally.  The main thing that affects me is my poor diet.

If I’ve had my medicine and have had a good day, I stim and am usually nonverbal. I’ll also definitely be talking about my special interests and spouting random facts about them. I find that I have a hard time remaining seated, and I can be very clumsy due to my excited nature when I’m happy. One major thing for me that can affect the type of mood I’m in is if my routine is disrupted. Having both ASD and OCD, routine is an important part of my life, regardless of if it’s personal or for school.

For bad days, I tend to have meltdown(s) or shutdown(s), which I’ll write an article about next to explain the difference. My sensitivity is often magnified, so most of the time I end up wearing a hoodie and sunglasses indoors, along with headphones, to calm it down. The headphones help cancel out noises. During these days, I’m semi-verbal. This means that I don’t speak much and often prefer avoiding it altogether. Being touched without being asked on these days can push me into a sensory overload and can cause a tantrum. These tantrums can include self-injurious behavior such as hitting, pinching, and/or hair pulling. I find myself having an odd attachment to my stim objects, needing specific ones for different situations. Outside stimuli affects which one I need, though, I usually go for a puff-ball I have. 

Those are examples of how I experience autism, but what it means to me is that I just think differently. I simply function in a different way than other people and have different needs. I don’t always understand or perceive things the way non-autistics (allistics) do.

Someone once asked me,  “If you could change anything about your autism, would you, and what would it be?” My answer to that is nothing. If I absolutely had to choose something, I would like to be better at making friends, but even so, I can work on that. I understand that I am far from what is considered neurotypical and that I struggle because of that, but it will only help me grow as a human being, and it will also help me be more compassionate towards other human beings. I accept my autism, and I accept myself how I am.

*This is only how it affects me. Like I mentioned, autism affects and manifests differently for different persons.

*There are no medicines specifically for autism as of now, but I take adderall which helps with my focus and helps me be calmer. Autism is not something that can or should be “cured,” and wanting it to be is an ableist concept that is harmful to autistic people.

 

Against Romanticizing Autism and Privilege

To the average person who has never met an autistic individual in their lives, there are two prevailing stereotypes about autism. The first is that of an unhinged, howling animal, stimming, headbanging, unable to communicate with others or even to take care of themselves. This vision of autism is one frequently pushed by curists and eugenicist (referring to ideologies which seek to eliminate “unfavorable” traits via genetics or population control) groups such as Autism Speaks, and is obviously nefarious and false in all but the most extreme circumstances (and even then, the stereotype is a gross demonization).

 

However, the second stereotype is far more prevalent in media, and, therefore, in the subconscious of the uninitiated: the insufferable genius, the talented asshole, the savant extraordinaire who is either uninterested in ever having a relationship, romantic or otherwise, or simply incapable of forming it. The social aspects of autism are a curse, chains meant to restrain what otherwise would be unquestionably an intellectual ubermensch (superior version of a human). This second autistic is not even an earnest attempt at realistic or sympathetic portrayal of autistic individuals (some who may fit that stereotype) but, rather, the remodeling of the old romantic ideal of the educated noble or the superfluous man a la Eugene Oneguin (main character in a play of the same name that inspired the concept of the “superfluous man”, a talented character who doesn’t fit social norms often born into privilege), whose social mishaps are a part and parcel of their expanded genius and deeper understanding of the world around them. But this stereotype, too, is harmful for a different reason: it both romanticizes autism and excuses genuinely anti-social behavior borne of profound privilege. The latter reason would be the subject of another essay, but the first is worth exploring. Inspiration porn (media that fetishizes disability for the benefit of an abled audience who is inspired by their triumph specifically because of the characters’ disability) is something that has plagued the disabled community at large, but romanticization and fetishization is a different beast entirely to tackle, and, in some ways, it is more nefarious. Rather than simply presenting the disability as a roadblock for an otherwise exceptional person to overcome in their hero’s journey, the disability is seen as a talent, something to be desired. On some level, we all wish to be Sherlock Holmes or Rick Sanchez. But rather than wishing to be them, we should be condemning them.

 

But it has never been explicitly stated that Sherlock Holmes is autistic, one might point out. His creators have even outright stated that Sherlock isn’t autistic. In fact, he himself identifies himself in the BBC series as “a high functioning sociopath.” Putting aside the patent and unusually out of character inaccuracy of Sherlock’s self diagnosis (which could itself be the subject of an essay), even if this were the case, this does not preclude him from having the observable symptoms of autism. He is portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch as someone who very well could have what was once known as Asperger’s Syndrome whether or not the creators intended this (as is likely by having so many uniquely identifiable symptoms of autism, although the topic of “unwitting coding” by creators is also worth exploring). Identified by Doctor Hans Asperger in 1944 at a specialized school in Vienna and, according to some theorists, possessed by the doctor himself, the hallmarks of Asperger’s Syndrome (which is majorly over-represented in media portrayals of autism, especially those that romanticize autism) are avoidance of eye contact, formalistic speech, rigid thinking, highly focused interests coupled with a general disinterest for anything that doesn’t directly relate to them, inability or difficulty reading social cues, and a higher than average IQ. Hans Asperger famously referred to such children as “little professors.”

 

Even a cursory glance at Cumberbatch’s performance as Sherlock Holmes would be an exercise in Asperger’s bingo, and every part of what would, in real life, be looked at as a disability is celebrated. Sherlock is callously uncaring or unaware of social norms (best exemplified by his insensitive deduction of Molly’s feelings for him after tearing apart her appearance in a Christmas episode and his insistence on keeping frozen heads in the fridge shared with Watson), and we enjoy watching him being rude to people we think deserve it, such as Donovan. Never mind the fact that most autistic individuals have no idea that what they are saying or doing is rude and, when we learn of this fact, we are often mortified. Never mind the unbearable anxiety that so many of us experience walking on eggshells. Sherlock is an ubermensch, a super-man. Sherlock doesn’t care. Allistic (non-autistic) audiences enjoy and celebrate what even we admit is a handicap because, deep down, they too want to tell the simpletons in their lives that they “lower the collective IQ of the entire room when [they] open [their] mouths” (an ableist sentiment few autistic individuals would ever echo).

 

Sherlock also has very limited interests and little knowledge of things outside those interests. Rather than being a confusing and frustrating experience for him, as it is for many autistics, it is the source of his power; without his crippling overspecialization, he wouldn’t be the greatest detective in the world after all. We envy his expertise and knowledge, as well as his dedication. Never mind the fact that Sherlock’s ability to be single minded in his pursuit of his career and interests is only something that he benefits from due to his privileged status (indeed, were Sherlock poor or not white, he may never have been a detective or had the opportunities to use his talents in London, and he would only have the adverse aspects of Asperger’s to deal with day to day). One envies Sherlock’s drive and focus. In fact, were he not to have those traits, how could he solve crimes and keep England safe from Professor Moriarty?

 

Sherlock has formalistic speech patterns; rather than a source of alienation from his peers, it is instead a source of power; it serves to say “Sherlock is smarter than you and he knows it and wants you to know it.” It is the cornerstone of his ethos. And, of course, Sherlock has an undeniably superior IQ that few autistic individuals, even few individuals with “Asperger’s Syndrome” possess. He is truly a savant extraordinaire, a trait so few autistic individuals, regardless of any other positive traits, such as deep caring and altruism, possess. But those other traits are irrelevant and, indeed, if he had them, we wouldn’t care to watch him. No, Sherlock is a genius first and a “good guy” second, and it is his genius and its usefulness to society that matters, not the content of his character. I’m certain that the ableist implications of this are lost on nobody.

 

Consider, then, the similarities of his character to that of the two most famous “aspies”, Rick and Morty’s Rick Sanchez and The Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon Cooper. Only Rick has been canonically confirmed, but, as with Sherlock, one can reasonably assume Sheldon is an “aspie” too due to Jim Parsons’ autistic-coded performance. Once again, both are highly intelligent, but, also, white, male, and shameless misogynists for whom the autism seems to be at worst a minor inconvenience and, in the case of Sheldon Cooper, his means to power. This is a rather convenient way to ignore the fact that Sheldon’s privilege as a petit-bourgeois (upper-middle class) intellectual is enviable even by other white males in the United States and is likely the source of his success. Once again, their autism is, at best, a minor annoyance, and the primary feature is not their inabilty to relate to allistic individuals or their shunning by society, but, rather, their overwhelming conventional intelligence, which is realistically more the result of their socioeconomic status and the lack of educational barriers afforded due to their whiteness than it is of their condition (while Rick’s last name is Sanchez, he is at the very least white passing and doesn’t seem to suffer from any sort of racial discrimination). If anything, their “autism” is a good thing: because they do not concern themselves with social rituals and the feelings of others, they can focus on their relentless pursuit of science and have the lack of moral scruples needed to operate as they do. However, this opens up a new, unfortunate implication: that people with autism are inherently immoral and anti-social, and, therefore, are potentially a menace to society. One is lucky that Sherlock and Rick and Sheldon are “good guys” and, as one officer points out to Watson, “What happens when he gets bored of solving crimes and starts committing them?”

 

It is in that final phrase that we arrive at the crucial evil of this particular portrayal: it is that the positive aspects being glorified actually have little, if anything, to do with autism, but that the negative aspects are unmistakably autistic. The depiction of autism as the genius asshole is more nefarious than the animal autistic specifically because it is, also, a negative and savage portrayal, disguised as glorification. What is being celebrated in these men (and note that every single one of these characters is a man; where is the insufferable genius among women in media?) is not their autism at all, for better or for worse, but the traits of the old Romantic portrayal of nobility. Their privilege gives them time to be studious and cultured, fussy and exact, and shields them from the negative consequences of their patently anti-social behavior.

 

Consider, also, the overwhelming whiteness and masculinity of this archetype: were a black or Middle Eastern man to start blithely insulting people around them and ignoring instructions given by authorities deemed irrelevant, they would be considered hostile and a threat. Were a woman to behave in a similar way, they would be considered “bitchy” or they may be ignored and not have their “genius” recognized in the first place. Rather than examining these issues, we celebrate them. We applaud Eugene Onegin as a Romantic Russian hero, complex and sexy in his troubled, manipulative ways borne of boredom, when, in reality, most would simply view someone like Onegin as a rather awful person. So too is the case with the three examples. They exemplify this Romantic ideal, Sherlock more so than the others, with his flowing coat, dark looks, and neat but expensive taste in clothing coupled with his elitist behavior. Many celebrate their condescending, distinctly man-splainey attitude towards life and, in the case of many allistic fans of Sherlock and Rick Sanchez, try to emulate it.

 

Putting aside the immediate issues with the appropriation of autistic behavior and mannerisms by those that aren’t autistic in order to excuse their own poor behavior or justify their chauvinism, imagine, then, that this is the general public’s experience with “Aspies,” what would one logically conclude? That those with “Asperger’s” are either geniuses or assholes, and if they are not geniuses, then they are dangerous assholes. One would conclude that they are to be watched, perhaps even eradicated, before they take a page from Elliot Rodger’s (the only autistic school shooter and intellectual Godfather of the incel movement) book. How long, they wonder, before autistics decide that the supposedly intellectually inferior allistics aren’t worth having around anymore? Even a seemingly positive portrayal of autism becomes one of autism as a threat. Any sympathy that could perhaps be afforded to them for their social mishaps is vanished behind the laugh track and the shock humor of their lack of consideration for society, something which does not exist in real life.

 

Not all autistic individuals are male, white, privileged, and as chauvinistic yet brilliant as these three men. But, with these three men, among others, representing what large swaths of the populace think about when they think about autism, specifically what is problematically called “high functioning autism,” this is irrelevant. No other portrayal could have been reached under the current entertainment status quo: save for Dan Harmon, Rick Sanchez’ writer, not a single one of the creators of these shows or any show depicting autistic individuals is themselves autistic or has taken the time to research autistics and portray them realistically and empathetically, and it shows. With no truly accurate or positive examples of explicit autism in media and with unrealistic expectations of privilege being thrust upon them, all autistics who do not conform, who aren’t irascible geniuses, can do is sit and count before someone makes the inevitable comparison, or says those dreaded words “You’re not that autistic” or “But you’re nothing like that!” And, when, inevitably, our protests fall on deaf ears, we brace ourselves for the suspicion, for the feelings of betrayal and, eventually, fear. We must brace ourselves to be approached with fear, to be #walkedup to in case we are not “one of the good guys.”

 

But this cannot stand. In the name of the autistic community everywhere, autistic writers, directors, producers, and media makers as a whole, must unite to condemn and boycott and sabotage in any way possible this veiled anti-autistic, pro-bourgeois propaganda, to unite with a common goal of creating the new representation of autism, something not animalistic nor romanticized, something human.

 

For that is all that we are, and all that we seek to be seen as.

 

No autistic characters without autistic writers! Full representation in media now!

-Peter Rekavin

Dissociative Disorders – What Are They?

Link to my tumblr post on dissociation: https://gay-osdd-kid.tumblr.com/post/169372760108/what-is-dissociation-and-what-are-dissociative

In this, I’ll be writing about the four main types of dissociative disorders and the required criteria to have a diagnosis. If you feel you have one of these, please talk to someone. Holding this in could be harmful to yourself, and getting needed help, if available, is always a good choice.

Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID): DID is a psychobiological response to traumas suffered in the time window of about 5 to 11 years of age; it’s a complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and a dissociative disorder, but not a personality disorder. DID was previously classified as Multiple Personality Disorder until 1994 when the DSM-4 was released. It isn’t as rare as it once was believed to be, as it affects 1-3% of the population. Most with DID, have a mixture of dissociative, post-traumatic stress, and non-trauma related symptoms. DID amnesia can occur at any time whether it be for an everyday event like taking medicine, or something big like trauma.

The criteria for a valid DID diagnosis is: a disruption of identity, classified by specifically two or more distinct personalities; a break in responsiveness to outside stimuli, behavior, memory, perception, and cognition; recurring gaps in memory (regardless of the importance of the events); and the previous symptoms causing major distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of daily function. The diagnosis can only be sound if the symptoms aren’t caused by substance abuse, another medical condition, or cultural practice.

Dissociative Amnesia: This is the most common of dissociative disorders. It is classified by amnesia not caused by physical brain trauma, but rather psychological trauma, and is usually comorbid with other mental disorders.

There are three types of dissociative amnesia. Localized is a failure to recall events during a specific period of time. Selective is remembering some, but not all events during a space of time. (i.e. only parts of a traumatic may be recalled.) Generalized is complete amnesia of one’s life and history.

The criteria for dissociative amnesia is: an inability to recall important personal information, usually of a traumatic/stressful nature inconsistent with normal forgetting; These symptoms have to cause significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, and other important areas of function; not be attributable to drug abuse or another medical condition or neurological syndrome. It must also not be better explained by DID, PTSD, acute stress disorder, or major or mild neurocognitive disorder.

Depersonalization/Derealization: these two are caused usually by emotional abuse/neglect, but also could be attributed to witnessing domestic violence, being raised by a mentally unstable parent, or the sudden loss of a relative/loved one. They can also be temporarily caused by recreational drug use, but the diagnosis is only viable if it persists after the drug has worn off.

The criteria for a depersonalization diagnosis is: unreality, detachment, and feeling like an “outsider” to one’s own thoughts, feelings, sensations, body, and/or actions. Derealization is the same, but with regards to surroundings and outside stimuli. During an occurence of depersonalization/derealization, reality testing remains unimpaired. These symptoms have to cause significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, and other important areas of function. They also must not be caused by physiological effects of a drug or another medical condition or mental illness.

Other Specified Dissociative Disorder (OSDD): condition in which there are dissociative symptoms, not meeting any other dissociative disorder’s criteria. This disorder’s symptoms apply ONLY to symptom characteristics that do not meet the full criteria. It replaced DDNOS in 2013, and is caused typically by psychological trauma.

The symptoms include: chronic and recurrent syndromes of mixed symptoms- including identity disturbance with lesser noticeable gaps in sense of self, alterations of identity, or episodes of “possession” with no amnesia; acute dissociative reactions to stress, and going into a dissociative trance. A dissociative trance is an acute narrowing or complete loss of awareness of immediate surroundings that manifests as intensive unresponsiveness or insensitivity to stimuli.

OSDD can be caused by environmental factors such as brainwashing, thought reform, indoctrination while in captivity, torture, recruitments by sects and/or cults, etc.

SOURCES:

Dissociative Identity Disorder. Retrieved Jan 4, 2018 from http://traumadissociation.com/dissociativeidentitydisorder.html

Dissociative Amnesia & Fugue. Retrieved Jan 4, 2018 from http://traumadissociation.com/dissociativeamnesia.html

Depersonalization/Derealization Disorder. Retrieved Jan 4, 2018 from http://traumadissociation.com/depersonalization.html

Other Specified Dissociative Disorder. Retrieved Jan 4, 2018 from http://traumadissociation.com/osdd.html

http://freeminds.org/psych/thought_reform.htm

(Google dictionary/thesaurus was also used)