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)

 

In Pursuit of Genocide

A war is being waged on the autistic community. This war is, like any war, not existing outside of the realm of politics and not existing within a vacuum, but rather is one informed by politics and affecting politics. The war on the autistic community is but one front of the larger scale cultural conflict between the white supremacist, cis-hetero, capitalist paradigm against all that do not conform or, otherwise, let their non-conformity be commodified and exploited. The primary difference between the war on the developmentally disabled, however, and the war on other such groups is in the tone of the propaganda insofar as the vitriol towards the developmentally disabled is wrapped in a false pity and a performative pretense of caring for their well being. The goal of the belligerents is not to kill or displace those with autism, but, rather to “cure” them (such euphemistic language is popular among eugenicists and authoritarians of all stripes). But what, one might ask, is so wrong with searching for a cure? A great many things, the bulk of which will comprise the body of this essay.

 

First, to understand the wolf in sheep’s clothing that is the cure advocacy community, one must examine the context of cures. Cures, generally speaking, are an anathema to disease. One seeks cures for cancer, influenza, polio, chicken pox. Disease is broadly defined as a condition of the body that is not externally caused which impairs normal functioning. Initially, one could be forgiven for assuming based on this definition that autism is a disease: after all, what of those autists who can’t use the restroom without assistance and who have meltdowns at any sound of a firetruck? Surely that can’t be normal functioning.

 

However, this logic falls apart when one examines whether these variables are part of normal existence. Lions do not drive fire trucks, nor does one normally observe the latrine in nature. These are all social additions by civilization. Were the “severely autistic”  individual to have been born in nature, free of any civilized influence, one could scarcely even notice that they are autistic. No normal functioning of the body is impaired in the case of “severe autism” (the phrase is in quotation marks, as autism is not a binary spectrum and viewing those with more autistic traits as having “severe autism” is problematic for a number of reasons that would make up their own essay; however, I use it as this is the language of the uninitiated and of the enemy) as is the case with polio or chicken pox. If one contracts chicken pox and it is not cured, one will almost certainly not survive in nature. However, one cannot transmit autism nor die of it. Furthermore, those that qualify as “severely autistic” are a statistically small percentage of the autistic community. The rest may not even have those impairments listed as examples, or, if so, may be capable of coping with them in ways considered to be normal. The average autistic person may simply be bad at social communication (something humans are uniquely advanced in) but otherwise perfectly well functioning bodily, or may stim to relieve stress and avoid eye contact but otherwise perfectly healthy. Is this, then, a disease? Is the inability to make eye contact or the necessity of stimming for some individuals a transmittable symptom worthy of eradication? Certainly the verbose but sometimes poorly worded and somewhat insensitive rant is a menace to society, one that requires immediate attention. Against even the slightest intellectual scrutiny, the notion that autism is a disease and, therefore, necessitates a cure falls apart.

 

So what, then, is autism classifiable as? This much is a hazy subject. Compelling arguments can be made for autism as a social disorder and for autism as a variation of naturally occuring neurotypes, but this is the subject of another essay. I am personally of the opinion that autism is a naturally occuring divergence in typical neurocognitive development and behavior with recurring interests and shared experiences and, that, consequently, it is more useful to view autism as a sort of neurological cultural group than as a social disorder or a disability. Nonetheless, the generally accepted opinion regarding autism is that it is a developmental disability that is genetically transmitted. Even if one makes the argument that, in the natural world, an autistic individual would have similar survivability to a non-autistic individual, the existence of a society that autistic individuals react to negatively and vice versa grants them a disability on a material level (this too deserves its own essay). However, even when viewed as a disability, one sees in autism recurring patterns of interest, of ways of speaking or otherwise communicating, of thinking. Ask a room full of autistic individuals who among them has at one point had an obsession with one of the following: dinosaurs, trains, fantasy or science fiction, politics, history, bridges, or botany. See how many hands shoot up into the air. Consider the language with which autistic individuals use to describe themselves and their autism, with such jargon as “stimming,” “neurotypical,” “special interest,” and the adoption of spoon theory from the larger disabled culture. Consider ways of thinking, even, common tendencies within those with autism to feel uncomfortable lying or tendency towards prescriptivism and our proclivity for categorizing and compiling information compulsively. In other words, one sees in autism a culture. Regardless, one should note, then, that, generally speaking, one doesn’t seeks cures for disabilities and for those with genetic disorders and for cultures not native to one’s land, but, rather, accommodations. So who searches for a cure for those disabled by genetics? Who advocates for the purging of culture?

 

And here, we encounter the question of eugenics, or the engineering of human genetics by eliminating “undesirable” traits from the genetic structures of people or simply by preventing individuals with certain traits from being born. Why do we speak of eugenics in an essay about curing autism, one might ask. The immediate answer is simple: as the only way to “cure” autism presently available is to prevent autistic individuals from being born, any talk of curing autism will inevitably turn towards eugenics. The very act of preventing the birth of an autistic child on account of their autism and their autism alone is a form of manipulation of the human gene pool at large, and, therefore, eugenics. Much cure research is focused on isolating “the autistic gene” and eliminating it, a more blatant form of eugenics. What’s wrong with eugenics, one asks? Simply that the very act of picking and choosing which of the human genome to include and modify in an unborn baby, in addition to being unnatural, also will inevitably lead to selection of certain arbitrary traits and the elimination of traits deemed societally unfavorable. If we view autism as a culture, as I pointed out may be apt, and accept the premise that autism is not viewed favorably by society (and no other premise can be accepted by those who examine such pesky things as facts), then this entails, in essence, the elimination of a whole subset of the population. If the elimination of entire populations of people known as undesirable doesn’t immediately set off claxons in one’s head, I advise them to reread any history book on the events of the early 20th century and the actors in such events, namely fascists.

 

But certainly fascistic eugenics is not the position of cure advocacy groups like Autism Speaks, one might retort. How could groups purportedly representing the best interests of the autistic community be fascists? To this, I’d point out that they don’t need to be fascists to be dangerous nor to advance the rhetoric or ideas of fascists. Even the introduction of the ideas of eugenics into the conversation surrounding autism is a victory for the far-right, and this conversation, if allowed to be influenced further, will affect individuals that aren’t autistic as well. But beyond the realm of conversation, more concerning and telling of Autism Speaks’ and other cure advocacy groups’ true allegiances is the former’s willingness to allow a chapter of the Soldiers of Odin, a known white supremacist and anti-immigrant biker gang, to march with them. When called on it, Autism Speaks dragged their feet on “researching” the Soldiers of Odin and eventually uninviting them. Consider also that the President, who as we know is at the very least friendly towards the fascist right, has publically suggested the latest in dangerous autism cures in a speech: drinking turpentine. Consider that, according to donation statements released to the public, donations to Autism Speaks from Trump’s party (which after 2016 has become openly far-right in policy) spiked dramatically, even setting new records (https://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/totals.php?id=D000047522&cycle=A). To call these combined facts a coincidence would be to insist that one is crying wolf when the wolf is already gnawing at one’s leg. These are merely examples available on public record; digging into the bowels of reddit forums for “autism parents”, fascists, or cure advocacy will find a disturbing amount of overlap and even a burgeoning shared community that shares misinformation and hate speech towards autistic individuals. The fault lies not just in large organizations, however, but even in individuals. The neurotypical author of To Siri With Love, Judith Newman, publicly admitted in an interview that, as soon as her son turns 18, she plans on securing legal rights to give him a vasectomy without his consent. Putting aside the blatant abuse of both the child and his civil rights, this is a clearly eugenically motivated statement. In other words, cure advocacy, even if one gives their intentions the greatest possible benefit of a doubt, necessarily make common cause with eugenicists, and, consequently, fascists.  

 

The unfortunate existing connection between cure advocacy and eugenicists aside, surely one can’t enjoy being autistic, one might say. Surely it is difficult being autistic. If one could take a pill to stop being autistic, wouldn’t they? Putting aside that a pill to cure autism doesn’t exist and likely never will, consider the following: do those “afflicted” with autism want a cure for themselves if they are in such great suffering? According to one study and countless blog posts from the autistic community on Tumblr, overwhelmingly not. But the opponents of a cure are “high functioning,” one might retort, they don’t represent the interests of those truly suffering. Once again, one is wrong; in one post, a “low functioning” individual, speaking on behalf of her fellow low functioning comrades, stated:

 

“When you claim I need to be “cured”, I do not call you out and say mean things about you because being confrontational hurts me, not because you are right. You are not speaking for me in my silence, you are speaking over me…..The “high functioning” autistics that argue for rights for me DO speak for me…..You, who are not autistic, do not stand for me.”

 

And why should the autistic community wish for a “cure?” Autism is all we have ever known. It is an integral part of our identity, if not the majority of what one might call an identity. Putting aside my previous arguments for autism as a culture, autism has shaped every aspect of the autistic community’s experience. Autism colors our thoughts with particular ways of thinking, interests, cognitive inflexibility. Autism may color our actions as well and our reactions to the environment certainly. To wish for a cure is to wish for an annihilation of everything we have ever known. For many individuals with autism, their autism is not a matter of suffering either, nor even a barrier to success, as evidenced by Dan Harmon, Daryl Hannah, Albert Einstein, and the other long list of massively successful and influential individuals who either are confirmed as having autism or suspected of it.

 

What about the parents, who know their child best and who struggle with their upbringing? I won’t even merit this narcissism on the part of privileged able-bodied autism parents with an extended response (note: I use the term autism parent not to describe all parents of autistic children as a whole, but specifically those who pontificate over their suffering and center their struggle with their child as a central part of their public identity). Other parents manage to struggle with their autistic children without wishing to “cure” them or to prevent them from reproducing as is the case with Judith Newman. There isn’t even a consensus among parents on the issue of a cure, and, even if there were, the very fact that their children have made it overwhelmingly clear that they neither want nor in some cases need a cure would mean that choosing a parent’s right to “cure” their child means superseding the child’s right to self determination and autonomy. In polite society, these are called oppression and violations of civil rights. If there is a legitimate material inability to provide for the child, this is an issue of the parent and, depending on context, the lack of comprehensiveness and liberality of disability legislation and benefits, not the child. Any parent not prepared to do anything for an able bodied child (or even a child with a different disability) and love them unconditionally is called a bad parent, and one that wishes the elimination of certain aspects of a child’s identity that the child has no control over is called, depending on the nature of their behaviors, either hateful or even downright abusive. Why then do we not apply the same logic to autism parents? Why aren’t the rhetoric of eugenics and the breathless confessions of parents on message boards to wishing they could kill their autistic child treated as hate speech? Simply because, in the view of able bodied and minded society, the autistic community is not worthy of the same respect as neurotypical individuals.

 

So, suppose one were to violate the civil liberties of 1 in 59 members of the United States and mandate a cure in the interest of public safety, or, more likely, suppose that such a cure would become commercially available and prescribed by doctors or sold over the counter. What would a cure mean then? Assuming that a pill were invented to cure autism in those already living, it would, at the very least, mean the death of the individual as their acquaintances have come to know them. The individual would still be alive functionally, but the rest of what one might call their essence or personality would be either gone or irreparably changed. Charitably speaking, a pill would lead to confusion as a neurodivergent individual tries to adjust to being neurotypical for the first time in their lives and tries to reconcile memories of another way of life and thinking and interests with the current living. More likely, however, all unique aspects of the autistic person’s social personality (in other words, all areas autism actually affects and is observable through behaviors) would be gone, leaving, in essence, a social automaton, remembering only the niceties. But such conjecture is useless because such a pill does not and will not exist. Autism is discovered to be a genetic disorder, so to cure autism is to prevent an autistic child from being born in the first place. In other words, a cure for autism, realistically, is not only socially, but also functionally inseparable from eugenics, and, thus, genocide.

 

But surely an exception can be made in this case, or, at the very least, given the facts, the option for a cure should at least be made available, one might say if somehow the violation of civil liberties and the inherent moral repugnance of genocide was not enough to convince the uninitiated. To this I ask, what facts? What crisis is being prevented by the effective genocide of autistic individuals? Is it school shootings? Only one of the shooters was diagnosed or could be diagnosed with autism, Elliot Rodger, and, on average, people with disabilities including autism are three times more likely to be the victims of crime than those without disabilities. Is it crime? No statistical correlation between autism and crime has been established by any reputable studies and the studies that exist on correlation between autism and crime only show variations on the nature of crime, not the rate of crime (although autistic individuals are more likely to be arrested and charged with a crime regardless of actual innocence than neurotypical individuals). Autism is, as mentioned, not transmittable either, so autism is no pandemic, and nobody with any level of intellectual honesty would give any merit to the argument that autism is caused by vaccines (even studies funded by and conducted by those trying to make a connection between autistic individuals and vaccines showed no correlation, making this a uniquely unanimous conclusion to those who put any weight in such things as facts; this is without getting into the chemistry of thimerosal [a variant of harmless ethylmercury that used to be in vaccines but was removed from all but a variety of the flu vaccine that people said causes autism] or the utter nonsense that is the justification for the conspiracy of vaccines). It follows, then, that the crisis of autism is an entirely fabricated one, and its need to get eradicated stems not from any genuine concern for society, but from hatred and distrust on the part of the neurotypicals.

 

In summary, a cure for autism is not a cure for anything other than autistic individuals, and, thus, advocating for their extermination from society. The opposing side has made their commitment to this clear, with the overwhelming majority of both government and NGO funding towards autism related research being directed towards a cure and with even groups purporting to be advocates like Autism Speaks including the search for that cure in their mission statements and their budget statements (only 3% of money raised by Autism Speaks went to autistic families; 63% went towards advertising, fundraising, and lobbying and 32% towards cure related research).

 

This is not a matter of benevolence: the cure advocacy groups have made their focus on curism, and, thus, their commitment to the impossibility of societal acceptance and lack of regard for autistic individuals and their safety known. This is not a matter of medicine: there is no cure but prevention. This is not a matter of necessity: no need exists for a cure for autism. This is not a matter of choice: most autistic individuals overwhelmingly don’t want a cure and those that would “cure” them would do so without their legal consent anyhow as demonstrated with the author of To Siri With Love. This is not an apolitical issue: curists often are sympathetic towards other arguments for eugenics and, thus, have some fascistic leanings, and, as mentioned earlier, Autism Speaks has made common cause with Neo-Nazis before. The question of curing autism is not really a question of curing autism, but a question of whether or not one believes autistic individuals have a right to exist or not. Either you support that right, or you don’t. Either you are in favor of eugenics, or you are in favor of the civil and human rights of autistic individuals. There is no in between. The path forward is not that of a cure, but that of acceptance by society and, consequently, that of the vanquishing of those opposed to that acceptance. This path mustn’t be taken because there are many great individuals who had autism who may not have existed had a cure been known: the rights of autistic folks to their existence should not be dependant on their ability to prove themselves exploitable. What justification must there be to oppose genocide and eugenics, to oppose fascists and to defend the victims of fascism? This path towards acceptance, and, necessarily, the path to war against those who oppose it, must be undertaken simply because it is the right thing to do.

 

Death to all eugenicists! Down with Autism Speaks and other curists! Victory to autistic folks!

-Peter Rekavin

What Is Dissociation?

Here are a few definitions you’ll need while reading this:

  1. maladaptive – not providing appropriate adjustment to the environment or situation
  2. adaptive – conforming, conversion
  3. trauma – a deeply distressing or disturbing experience
  4. dysregulation – abnormality or impairment in the regulation of a metabolic, physiological, or psychological process
  5. amnesia – recurrent memory problems, often described as “losing time”, these gaps in memory can vary from several minutes to years

The medical and official definition of dissociation is “a word that is used to describe the disconnection or lack of connection between things usually associated with each other.” In this sense, it could mean a disconnect from reality, identity, emotions, or even actions. This is also my personal definition/view on dissociation.

Dissociative disorders are caused only by some form of trauma, usually repetitive sexual or physical abuse, but emotional abuse is definitely a cause (depending on the disorder) . With that frame of reference in mind, childhood dissociation can be considered adaptive to help the child deal with the stressful situation, but when it continues into adulthood or if there is no longer any abuse, it becomes maladaptive. People with maladaptive dissociation tend to space out randomly, even when there isn’t any danger, or in a situation without immediate danger. This can cause the sufferer to end up in places they don’t remember going to, doing things they don’t remember, and saying things they wouldn’t usually because of how the conscious brain “shuts down” temporarily.

People with these symptoms are often misdiagnosed as schizophrenic due to similarities in the criteria. This can cause incorrect medicines to be prescribed and the wrong therapy techniques to be used.

There are four main types of dissociative disorders: DID, OSDD, Depersonalization/Derealization, and Dissociative Amnesia. I have a post written on this as well. Here’s the tumblr link: https://gay-osdd-kid.tumblr.com/post/169372801868/dissociative-disorders

So, what is it like to dissociate? It differs for everyone, but for me personally, it’s like being out of my own body. I’ll look at my hands or my feet and I don’t even realize they’re mine. I disconnect from my environment and disconnect from both my physical and mental self. It’s almost as if my brain has turned off. Sometimes, this trance-like state lasts for minutes, hours, or even days. I have lots of days where I don’t remember what I ate for breakfast or I’ll find myself in a room I don’t remember walking into.

Dissociation is a scary thing, and it’s something to take seriously. If you experience this, please talk to someone you trust, and a therapist that you have access to.

Free Speech vs Free Will

rulingsword

Drawing from my ex-co-blogger of an image that I created on the computer, shows my core values of love, unity, truth, knowledge, and free will

I already wrote my opinion on this issue in No, you don’t have the right to your opinion: on tolerance for bigotry as “free speech”, and its reactions were…argumentative as I desired (a friend taught me that the best way to provoke people was to say that they don’t have the right to do something, and my goal was to provoke conversations and opinions).

But we can write article after article on opinions for or against “freedom of speech”, but it doesn’t get to what the essence of this conflict for those like myself actually is.

In my view, this fight is between two concepts: free speech and free will.

My problem with my opponents is that they believe that people should be able to say anything no matter the consequences of their words, but don’t think about what that actually means and the effects it has. It’s a conflict of priorities: the right for the oppressor to spread fear, hatred, and stigma vs the right of the oppressed not to be stigmatized, hated, or live in fear.

The instance that inspired this article happened today in an argument with a classmate in class regarding Milo not being allowed to speak at Berkeley by the protesters, an incident which I touched on briefly in the introduction in my article on the ableist notion of slacktivism. She stuck to her guns even as I mentioned how he was planning on outing undocumented students on a live stream, saying that they could file lawsuits…against a rich celebrity guy that would probably fail while being afraid for their lives and at risk of harm or worse because their names were released to people who have already shown that they’re more likely to harm undocumented people in the wake of Trump’s increasing anti-latinx rhetoric.

Our conflict essentially comes down to this: which is more important:

Milo’s right to say whatever he wants?

Or the right of the people he targets not to be hurt or afraid for their lives?

In my article Tell Me I’m Exaggerating where I called Nazis Nazis, I described how someone told me that autistics are horror shows will be aborted in the future and my friend was told by someone who he thought was interested in him and her friends on a phone call that the world is too good for us autistic fucks to live in.

Which is more important, their rights to tell us that the world is literally not meant for us to exist in or my friend to not be driven to the edge of suicide by that 45 dehumanizing hate speech?

People will claim “well, the first amendment,” but…personally, the words on a paper written hundreds of years ago by racist sexist rich white men, many of them slave owners, are less important to me than the safety of my fellow humans today.

I believe that humans deserve to be free of hatred, fear, and stigma based on things intrinsic to their nature like orientation/disability/gender/mental illness/etc, and that we should be protected and protect others from degradation and dehumanization.

I believe it is right and just to protect people from harm from those who seek to cause them harm.

I believe that we should choose the freedom of the oppressed over believing in free speech of their oppressors, enabling them to incite violence and fear.

When given the choice between first amendment rights and something that I consider a basic human right, I’m choosing the latter, and honestly feel like the morals of those who choose to love the hateful and enable them in their tyranny instead of caring about those they hate and seek to bring harm to are fucked up. My morals aren’t based on the Constitution (which really only protects people from the government not from the court of public opinion) but on the belief that humans deserve to be happy and free from hatred. I refuse the notion that I should consider speech that hurts my fellow Outcast sacred and deserving of my defense just because old dead people said so. I seek to unite those who are fighting against that oppression in The Outcast Army Facebook group because I see so many who are determined to enable those who hate us to cause us harm. The choice between the oppressor and the oppressed should be an easy one, but to people I honestly consider immoral in their defense of hatred, it somehow is. To them all I can say is that we see you, and know who we can trust.

-Laoch Onórach