Our Tools, Your Toys: An Autistic with ADHD perspective on the Fidget Spinner Debate

Fidget Spinners

Multiple fidget spinners in different colors

Something…interesting has been happening recently, a phenomenon that shows the effects of when something that is ordinarily meant to be a tool for people of my neurologies becomes a mainstream toy.

But while it’s interesting to someone like myself who likes analyzing cultural changes, it has also become incredibly harmful to my kin, hence writing an article hoping to give some understanding of what these are to us, what the effects of mainstreaming it have been, the pushback against it, and who this actually hurts.

Obviously, I’m talking about fidget spinners.

First off, what exactly are fidgets to us? Fidgets, like the spinner or the fidget cube I have which also has become rather popular but hasn’t seen such an attack, help us focus, as well as providing something to stim with (stimming refers to the things we do to deal with overload and focus [read A Cognitive Defense of Stimming for a more scientific defense for why we should be allowed to do so and the effects that stopping us from doing it have] and also just feels good, all of us have different stims, and everyone does it not just us, things like pencil chewing or doodling in class are the same exact thing…it only becomes a problem when we’re autistic). As you can see, that’s rather important. It’s a multifunction tool that helps us cope with the world, focus on class, and just makes everything easier for both us and the people around us (because it is better for everyone if we can focus and deal with everything better not just us).

We’ve always had stim toys, sometimes just things we pick up (I like messing with a shoelace between my fingers) or more speciality items, like stuff found on Stimtastic. Because they are designed for us specifically, they are much more limited in selection, harder to find, and often more expensive because they can be, and often can only be found online because there isn’t exactly an autistic store chain.

However, fidget spinners changed all of that, and this has had both positive and negative effects.

The positive one is that, much like how the gluten-free fad helped people with celiac disease find food that they could eat easier because suddenly every brand of food capitalized on the fad instead of being a speciality item sold by few, fidget spinners can be bought everywhere in different colors and shapes and prices, which is cool to be able to do.

The negative one is that, much like people with celiac disease ended up being lumped in with people who bought into the fad (the dangers of which can be found in this article), we have been lumped in with those who use it as a toy, and that’s what has caused the huge pushback.

There’s something that is…darkly humorous about something that helps you becoming the center of a nationwide controversy. Reading articles calling it dumb but also a metaphor for 2017, called cigarettes for kids and saying that “it encourages the abdication of thought…at a historical moment when the President has proved himself to be pathologically prone to distraction and incapable of formulating a coherent idea” (imagine having a tool for you called encouraging selfishness and…comparing it to Trump when the neurology the tool was made for is a pre-existing condition under the AHCA…I don’t know whether to get angry or laugh), and seeing Forbes advertise metal ones as the office toy for 2017 when all you really want is society letting you use something that helps you is…unique. But beyond the endless thinkpieces, schools are banning them because they are becoming a distraction to people who aren’t autistic/have ADHD, with some students throwing them and doing other stuff. It doesn’t help that the overall tone of every article completely makes the fact that it extremely helps us just a quick aside before they address how what matters is that it’s actually a huge problem and a passing fad, to where this CNN article just says special needs, a term that, while problematic in itself, in context completely removes who it actually helps from the conversation by being vague instead of specifically mentioning us.

So what’s the net result, who is really getting hurt, and what should we do? Personally, the net result of good and bad isn’t at all easy, as those two aspects of them becoming mainstream are both important from my side. However, it is really hurting us, as bringing them out in any situation even ones that they would help a lot seems like we’re just messing around, and the idea of them being a kid’s toy makes it so it might have a negative effect on adults who use them. I can understand the effects on teachers from neurotypical students using them (before I wrote this article someone asked me what I thought about gatekeeping and saying that only neurodivergent kids should be able to use them ever. To be completely honest, my first snarky thought was, “Well, we’re the only ones who use them right”), but an outright ban seriously stops us from being able to focus as well (what I said before as snark may in reality be the solution in school situations, allowing only us to be able to use them in class settings because we won’t be using them as a distractor), which makes us worse students. I really don’t feel I’m demanding much when I say that our focus should be less dystopian Trump metaphor more helping humans function in a world that is difficult for them based on their neurology, and saying that schools could be a bit less reactionary and more considering of the needs of their students when it comes to these tools. I also have no idea what will happen to the accessibility and availability of these tools if the “fad dies out,” as this is something which has caused such positive and negative effects and I have no idea what the consequences both societal and material would be if the focus goes away.

I have seen the total joy when a friend gets one of these and talking about how much they help them, and my only goal here is to make it so our voices can become part of this conversation, because what everyone considers a toy is actually a tool for us and I don’t think I’m being too selfish when I say I wish that our ability to function was a priority.

 

A Defense of Identity: On Invalidation of One’s Right to their Humanity

[image description: a diagonally-oriented rendition of the blue, pink, and white transgender flag. Layered on top in the center is the rainbow infinity symbol of neurodiversity]

[image description: a diagonally-oriented rendition of the blue, pink, and white transgender flag. Layered on top in the center is the rainbow infinity symbol of neurodiversity]

“To a predetermined fate are we condemned?
Or maybe we’re a book without an end?
We’re not stories, we’re not actors
We’re awake and in control
And this is not a dream

So can we break this mold
And set in motion something new
Forgetting what we know
An evolution overdue
Fight the current
Pull the ripcord
Get away!”

The Violence, Rise Against

(Like usual, there is an article I’m partway through, this time on discourse being dangerous which I have mentioned to people, but just like I came out as ace in Why I Write: National Coming Out Day-later on my old blog I’m coming out as nonbinary in an article too, potentially gendervague, I dunno gender is confusing as all hell)

So, ages ago I wrote You Know Your Mind: A Diagnosed Autistic’s View On Self-Diagnosis. Since then the right to one’s identity has become a cornerstone of my activism, leading me to create the Self-diagnosis validation club (SDVC), and since today coming out/realizing I’m nonbinary, making me broken out of any mold regarding gender, neurology, or orientation, I felt like this article has become even more relevant.

People know who they are. When you’ve lived your life for multiple years, become an adult, you know your experience of your world.

And the fact that there are people who deny this reality fucking pisses me off.

When someone goes by a different gender identity than what they were assigned, has an orientation far from your perception of what is possible, or realizes that their neurotype isn’t the norm, it’s a discovery of what represents our identities, a name to our experiences. Simultaneously I’m finding something new about myself and my identity and having something click for the experiences I’ve had in my life.

From the stories I’ve heard from self-diagnosed autistics it’s the same, and realizing I was panromantic last year was similar. Reveling in confusion and revelation as things that never had a reason finally make sense, things which we might have thought made us wrong or broken given a reason and a name.

These pronouns and labels and new words (I love how some people use the argument that these are “made up” words and thus not valid…what words aren’t? New language is created to provide words to explain and fit our reality. I’m writing a blog on a laptop, which you might be reading on your smartphone and if you are confused by some words in this article you might Google them. Every single word I italicized are words that have only existed for a few decades that have now saturated our language, “made up” to give an identifier to important aspects of our reality. If you’re going to stand against new made-up words at least be consistent. If you have issues with our identities but not those, you aren’t anti-new words you’re transphobic) aren’t just words but experiences that our language has expanded to be able to give names to. Infinite words to cover infinite identities, human experiences finally given names…and when you consistently and deliberately refuse to use these words or labels, you are denying all the experiences that they represent based on some sense of false superiority that you think allows you to do so, some belief that you have the right to define reality for others when these things don’t affect you whatsoever.

It is true that more people are coming out as these things, but it’s not “transtrending” being made cool by Tumblr. What’s happening is that, thanks to the internet’s power to allow people to spread knowledge worldwide and a more conscious acceptance of this potential, and yes, social networks like Tumblr encouraging worldwide interaction and the ability to express and present yourself how you actually are rather than how you appear physically (useful I’m sure for trans people who have dysphoria with their appearance, also Tumblr does give the most customization to match what you are), people are able to connect with others who have these experiences who know the term for it or read the stories of people who have gone through the same experiences and thus realize they aren’t alone and there is an actual word for this part of their identity. This is something totally awesome that people roll their eyes at. No matter how far how they identify from how you identify, what makes your identity true and right and theirs a lie and wrong? If yours is more common than theirs, does that necessarily make yours more valid than theirs? Being common and usual doesn’t make something more right than something that is incredibly uncommon and unusual, divergence should be celebrated not condemned just because it’s different from your arbitrary standards (and yes, the gender binary, heteronormativity, and requiring costly tests based on heavily flawed diagnostic criteria not at all based on the actual experiences of the people they are being used to diagnose but on outside views of how people appear to others before you believe someone knows who they actually are are all arbitrary, no matter how you’ve been taught to accept them by society [they are social constructs, a term which doesn’t mean that they should be treated as nonexistent but acknowledges they are concepts that have come to be part of the fabric of our culture. It’s also arbitrary that we put high value on green pieces of paper with numbers and dead people on them, but just because money is a social construct doesn’t mean it’s fake. These are concepts that we have given meaning, they exist but just because we have accepted them as things that exist and treat them as common doesn’t mean that they are truly right or make them any less irrational]).

The song quote is how I’m feeling about all of this right now.

Breaking out of any sort of mold and claiming a new path…and I would argue that as a society we should. For so long we’ve accepted these standards and now more and more people are realizing how unimportant they are to cleave to personally and how much they don’t fit but even for those who aren’t divergent from these standards accepting these molds is limiting to your way of presenting yourself. These concepts aren’t going away and I wouldn’t really argue that they should, as people still connect their identities to them and that’s not bad, arguing we should completely do away with the gender binary for instance invalidates trans people who do identify with one.

But acknowledging their existence doesn’t mean we need to consider them the right way and everything outside of them wrong.

We aren’t condemned to accepting them, we’re in control of our perceptions of what is right and should choose to stop accepting standards that invalidate so many of our fellow humans as moral.

We can find an evolution overdue and fight the current of what society has taught us to accept and in the face of a system that is aiming to be even more oppressive we should be pushing back even harder against the norms it’s trying to enforce and allow legal discrimination against people who break them.

At the very least embrace us and recognize our humanity and our right to say what that means. We actually do know better than you do, and how that is up for debate is something that everyone should realize is wrong.

Pick a side

picture of a wooden post sticking out of water, up above in white text it says "This is a "non-political" post. You're welcome." with the post having a speech bubble that says "My refusal to engage with politics is in itself a political position, and one that inherently supports injustice!" (the original version of the picture lacked the quotation marks and the bubble just having the post and the caption, however someone edited it to show the problems with that position)

picture of a wooden post sticking out of water, up above in white text it says “This is a “non-political” post. You’re welcome.” with the post having a speech bubble that says “My refusal to engage with politics is in itself a political position, and one that inherently supports injustice!” (the original version of the picture lacked the quotation marks and the bubble just having the post and the caption, however someone edited it to show the problems with that position)

“You can turn your back, but it won’t go away

And you don’t look scared, but you should be afraid

You can shut your mouth, but you still have a say

And you just don’t care, for tomorrow, today”

Turn Your Back, Billy Talent (feat. Anti-Flag)

Yesterday the American Health Care Act, informally known as Trumpcare, passed the House of Representatives. If this law passes the Senate, anyone who has the conditions in this list has a rather likely chance of death if their premiums rise to the point where they can’t pay for them.

My feed on Facebook has had multiple friends tallying the amount of conditions they have on that list (which this article has more of), one of them is autism meaning that my whole community no matter what else we have is fucked over (bipolar is there too, they’re missing ADHD to complete my neurological trifecta). It’s also going to majorly affect trans people, mentally ill people, and people with cancer.

It is literally low key genocide and they literally want us (us, because as I’m autistic and bipolar #IAmAPreexistingCondition) to die.
I can see you rolling your eyes through the screen considering this hyperbolic and an appeal to emotion, but while I’m not going to lie and say I don’t want to make people feel, I don’t lie and it’s simple logic.
They were cheering as it passed the House. If it passes the Senate, it’s going to kill us because a lot of us are poor. They want something that will kill us if they happens, they want us to die.
Now, genocide, huge word, but…this is a program they know is bad, which is why they made it so they keep the protections we lose (the article links to an article that says that loophole will be closed, but the linked article was updated to say that’s a lie). Anyone who has one of those pre-existing conditions is likely to have their insurance spike and if they are poor they will not be able to pay and will die, and considering that systemic prejudice against POC, LGBT people, and disabled people makes it so we’re a lot less likely to be rich, and thus are more likely to die as a result than those who aren’t minorities.
According to the dictionary genocide is the deliberate killing of a group…which is what that is. You can’t say that they don’t know that this is going to kill people because they deliberately made it so they kept those protections, they’re keeping themselves safe and killing us.

Under the spectre of looming death I’m…more angry than usual, and then I saw this tweet when a friend posted it on Facebook:

When I Googled it I found article after article after article saying not to shame the poor Trump supporters.

This pushed me even farther to the left because this is bullshit (to be fair most of the replies were disagreeing but the 1,215 hearts still say a lot).

No, I don’t feel bad for them, because the people they are hateful to are…people like myself.

They chose this. The only thing that Trump clearly articulated was his hatred. He said he would do this, he had the goal, they chose everything happening.

We knew how bad he was before he was elected, we saw the effects that I described in Wait and see? Really? in the very first days after the election (I’m hoping all the people who told us that are enjoying the effects now that everyone can see that we were right all along, actually worse than we thought possible…if only the results weren’t likely to kill us then I could be happy to say I told you so).

They might not be a bigot, talk about sexual assault being fine, or anything else that he does personally…but they looked at someone who believed all of that, who articulated his hatred of us, and decided that he should be in power (also, stop using the “but the white working class” stuff it’s nonsense).

They chose this, and they deserve to be held responsible for their actions.

It’s time to pick a side.

Us or them.

You definitely know someone who is going to be screwed over by the AHCA, for two reasons: one the list is so long that I find it impossible that you wouldn’t know someone personally who has at least one and, well…you’re reading the words of one of them.

You can not simultaneously love us and feel sorry for the people who voted for the person who caused this thing that will kill us if it happens, who promised to do it.

That doublethink isn’t possible. You can turn your back on the issue, on us, but this isn’t going away, and by doing so you are choosing their side, letting them continue instead of challenging them.

For simple self-interest alone you should be afraid because you or someone you know might end up getting one of these things.

If you shut your mouth and don’t act (which is as easy as sending texts to this bot, text RESIST to 50409 and it will help you), you are saying that you are fine with this happening.

And if you care about the people who are doing this to us, you don’t care about the Outcast, because you can’t actually simultaneously support the hateful and those they hate.

You need to choose a side, and as the picture says not choosing and being “apolitical” is choosing them. Lives are on the line because they chose the person who pledged to act this way. A person who considers me subhuman and whose plan is going to cause massive death.

There’s no neutrality in situations like this. You might think otherwise, that you can stay out of it, agree to disagree, but they literally chose something that is possibly going to kill us and if you don’t think that’s a bad thing that you should stand against, something that is literally threatening our lives, what does that say about how much you care about our continued existence?

It says that our lives aren’t important enough to you to stand against things that threaten us, that you think views and actions that threaten our lives are good and should be allowed to continue unopposed.

Our lives should be more important to you, important enough to fight for, speak out for, and if we aren’t, no matter what you claim, we know who you have chosen.

The Revolution Needs All Kinds of Minds: on Slacktivism and Ableism

photoshopped blue and white disabled sign with a facebook anger react and a Russian hat as its head with the hammer and sickle on its chest and spoons in its hand

Delightful picture from Bobby Whittenberg, the spoons come from Spoon Theory (communism is my political ideology but not necessarily any other writers that may come on here, a good friend made the picture)

(As I am punning off of her The World Needs All Types of Minds speech, I would feel remiss if I didn’t also call attention to the issues with her, especially when most people think she’s an excellent authority…the articles here, here, and here cover that in detail. If you are a disability activist and want to fight back I’d recommend Resisting Fascism While Autistic, Disabled, Housebound, or Otherwise Human)

A couple of days ago something truly beautiful happened.

On the campus of UC Berkeley, people rose up against Milo Yiannopoulos, a gay Nazi (I call him a flaming Nazi, he’s a terrible human being) who, when allowed to come to a campus in Milwaukee outed and shamed a trans student.

The students said never again, rose up and took the streets (watch the beautiful live video here and an on the ground account here), rose on wings of fire and broken glass to defy the hatred that Milo represents (and by doing so apparently saved undocumented immigrants from being outed).

This was marvelous, but I know for a fact that I wouldn’t be there. I would not be anywhere near the protests. I honestly would probably be inside with my headphones on, covering my ears while watching the tv or on my computer.

Why is this? I’m autistic with sensory overload issues, and despite the fact that the protest was important, being outside with that hell would probably leave me in meltdown. In fact, I can’t handle phone calls either, both of which are considered traditional activism.

In fact, most of what I actually can do is what is called slacktivism. I can text, share articles, press the like button, and hopefully write, but I’m unable to do traditional activism without severe mental stress.

That doesn’t make my convictions or actions less valid, however.

While my I will not fade article was specifically about my journey, it does represent a current trend. The disability community is rallying against Trump, and it’s been a beauty to behold as my community rises against the regime, standing for our kin under this new threat.

However, the issue remains that our ways and abilities are vastly different from our activist peers. There’s an honest fear that the ways we can act aren’t going to be considered as valid because they don’t fall into the set mold of True Activism™.

However, the revolution needs all kinds of minds. The playing field has changed, and will change even more. We need people of all different skills and abilities, and if those abilities are different than the norm or we don’t have the ability to do the norm, that’s not a bad thing. What would be wrong is shutting us down if we end up acting in a way that’s different from you. We’re extremely diverse in our capabilities and we’re doing the best we can…our lives are on the line, after all. Just because you’re capable of other things doesn’t make what we can do less valid.

Refuting Respectability: The Amorality and Tyranny of Respectability Politics

“Our futures burn in red horizons
Ashes scattered in winds of change
Casualty numbers are rising
Now it’s time to raise the stakes
We’re meant for something more
Than living just to put food on our plates
I can’t help but wonder
Why should we participate?”

The First Drop, Rise Against

In both By our side or out of our way and A Red Rage #RedInstead I mentioned allies, how I refuse conditional ones and don’t want the ones who I can alienate.

However, this concept goes far beyond just me and deserves its own article, as it’s a concept forced upon all Outcast activists, that we’re all supposed to fight while simultaneously not being offensive in any way, shape, or form. We need to be respectable and act with dignity and are shamed if we don’t. The term in the title is for when our communities internalize this and police ourselves within this norm.

This isn’t just an attitude that is told by allies but also is the narrative our society and the media use. We’re told to accept small gains and not push too hard, told that we’re hurting our cause, and quite often (especially to POC activists) a strawman of MLK is used as a paragon of unobjectionable nonviolence, ignoring his thoughts on capitalism, riots, and the white moderates who are misquoting him.

The level of pressure to be respectable is compounded by racism and sexism, experiences that I have the privilege to not have to handle in my day to day life.

First off, as I mentioned in On wings of fire and broken glass we shall rise: #DisruptJ20, thanks to our capitalist system which values property over people, the only way that the media has ever paid attention to a protest is if some destruction happens, forcing people to break something to make society care about their lost lives, a situation which MLK much more eloquently spoke about in the quote that “a riot is the language of the unheard” comes from (in which he says one of the things unheard is “that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.” He also called riots and looting understandable. The reason that I’m going on about this is that, as a minority activist himself, I find it bitterly ironic and wrong that a man who repeatedly called out white society and white moderates for creating an environment that makes this sort of violence just and necessary is being used by white moderates to shame the people he fought for.)

But secondly, these causes, autistics fighting for acceptance, black activists fighting against a system that allows cops to kill them with barely any consequences, and any other Outcast fighting to be recognized as equal and deserving to be treated as valid and human, are us fighting fights that shouldn’t have to be fought against grave injustices that are embedded in our society and should be joined by all regardless of how we present ourselves to you or cater to you.

It’s amoral to actually tell people, “Yes, we know your people are being killed and dehumanized, but in order for us to care you need to make us feel good about it.”

It’s tyrannical to enforce a system that won’t even pretend to give a fuck about our deaths and suffering until we present ourselves in a way that is deemed deserving of respect.

It’s dehumanizing in itself because the people who do this are literally expecting us to value their comfort over our lives, which is telling us that you value our humanity so little that you need us to cater to what makes you feel good in order to recognize that just maybe it’s worth fighting for.

When it comes to us who are fighting to be treated as human, as equal to all, to not be dehumanized or killed or be hated or oppressed for what we are by this unjust society, we should not have to use a certain tone, dress a certain way (this goes for trans people as well, they should not be forced to pass as their gender in order for you to recognize them for who they are), behave in a certain manner, be polite or academic or anything, the fact that we’re your fellow human beings and don’t deserve to be going through this hell should be enough for you to stand by our side.

And, if it isn’t, if you seriously need more than that, if these grave injustices aren’t enough for you to stand by our side against them, that says a lot more about your morality than it says anything about us.

Especially now, in this new regime.

We are being more attacked by this system than ever before, and we need to fight back so much harder. Frankly, Outcast or not this system should be enough for you to stand up and fight back, considering that the threats that this new era bring affect so much more than minorities. But if you aren’t, at least be a decent human being and stand by our side in our fight. I will not fade into respectability and accept all the hells I mentioned in A Red Rage with a smile on my face and a polite tone. We’re fighting back because we don’t have the choice to do otherwise, and you should think that these injustices deserve to be warred against without politeness or respectability of any sort. And if your moral convictions are so weak that you can’t see beyond your own comfort to realize that just maybe you should fight by our side, if you’re content to let oppression happen if we don’t make sure to make you happy in our fight against it, your inaction supports the system that needs to be fought against and you’re choosing the oppressors over us. By our side or out of our way, pick one, don’t claim to support us or be an ally if you can’t stand against injustice without us holding your hand. There is nothing helpful about you if our tone can stop you from caring about whether or not we should be treated like humans. If you are willing to say, “Yes I’ll care about your oppression but only if you’re nice to me,” you have picked your side, and it’s not ours.

A Red Rage #RedInstead

“We are the rust upon your gears
We are the insects in your ears
We crawl, we crawl all over you
We sow seeds to see us through
Our days are precious and so few
We all reap what we are due
Under this sky no longer blue
We bring the dawn long overdue
We crawl, we crawl, we crawl all over you”

Re-Education (Through Labor), Rise Against

(Most articles linked in this piece are extremely brutal first-hand stories from autistics, pointing out horrors that are happening today. If you really believe that we don’t have the right to be angry and that we should accept all of this, read them. If you can read tales of child abuse and sympathy for murderers and still actually think that this doesn’t deserve your opposition, something is wrong with you.)

Last year, I wrote You Have the Choice. It was a couple of days before this month and it started out talking about dreading April.

But now, there is no dread in my heart, only pure rage.

For twelve years, people have been supporting a hate group that seeks to eradicate us from the planet. A group which perpetuates and profits off of stigma against people like myself. As my friend and comrade Neurodivergent K points out in I’m aware of your hate, this is a constant echo in our minds year-round, but this month it’s brought into focus, 30 days of blue lights and puzzle pieces.

This hate and the hell we face goes beyond Autism $peaks. It’s shown by how anytime one of our kin is murdered by their parents the news and society finds sympathy for the murderer not the victim, and is why the main “therapy” for autism is a torment designed to force us into becoming Indistinguishable From Peers (ABA, read stories of the horror from both someone who suffered through it and who once did it, and about its lifelong effects).

People consider us damaged by vaccines (or doctor-inflicted as our Fascist in Chief calls us) and seek to cure us by forcing us to drink bleach or turpentine.

Disabled people are over half of the people shot by police and 60-80% of the incarcerated population (an issue where racism and ableism greatly intersect).

…and we’re supposed to accept this and be nice while it is happening?

Especially now, when the President of the United States hates us and thinks we’re broken?

I refuse to do that any longer.

I ended You Have The Choice with asking people to choose acceptance.

But to quote another song by Rise Against, “I’m done asking, I demand.

Because acceptance of our humanity shouldn’t be something we request, but is a moral obligation.

I can no longer, will no longer be articulate so you don’t have to listen.

To get allies we should not have to be acceptable when the situation is so utterly reprehensible and unacceptable.

We should not have to be kind and nice when we’re being tortured, imprisoned, and killed.

We should not have to change to accommodate the world and what it’s doing to us, people should stand by our side to make the world accommodate us and not be torturing and killing us.

We deserve to be angry, we deserve to hurt, and we deserve to be able to express this rage and pain without being told that we’ll alienate people.

And if and when we do?

Frankly, I’m glad, because the people who can be alienated from assisting us even when all of this horror is happening to us wouldn’t be able to be trusted when we need it the most.

People should stand by us and fight, to erode and break down the gears that keep this system of hatred going until this month is no longer blue, until acceptance of our humanity is something that is commonplace not something that we need to fight constantly for.

I shall keep my anger and fight for a dawn long overdue when this hatred based on how we were born is no longer, because not being angry and not pushing back hard against oppression no matter who I might “alienate” is something that is morally wrong, not just through this hell of a month but onwards.

Will you?


If you want your money to go to an organization that actually supports us, please donate to the Autistic Self Advocacy Network here or the Autism Women’s Network here. Please spread knowledge of how terrible A$ is, we need it.

Rebellious Joy: On Pride Movements

(Dedicated to the trans women of color who made it so Pride month is possible and who are fighting to this day.)

While the article is the same as the one from April, I'm changing the picture to Philly's new pride flag with the black and brown stripes which I feel (though it was unintended) do something to acknowledge the trans women of color who made this month of Pride for queer and trans people possible

While the article is the same as the one from April, I’m changing the picture to Philly’s new pride flag with the black and brown stripes which I feel (though it was unintended) do something to acknowledge the trans women of color who made this month of Pride for queer and trans people possible

The key thing that makes minority pride different from majority pride is that society tells minorities that they should be ashamed of being such. For instance, this month is what many people consider Autism Awareness Month, where people are donating and corporations are going to make partnerships with an organization which had an ad which depicted my neurology as a sinister force that breaks up marriages, bankrupts our families, robs families and children of their dreams, and many other fucked up things (back when I wrote autism stuff I wrote this article on autism acceptance, our movement this month). Autism $peaks controls the narrative of autism, even Trump will be lighting the White House up blue (though nobody is surprised considering that he also thinks we’re broken).

A$ wants us down, to be ashamed and feel like we should be cured. Being proud of being autistic in the face of that narrative which is a constant bombardment year round but becomes the focus this month is total defiance.

For minorities, being out and proud of ourselves can actually be extremely dangerous as well. Yesterday was Trans Day of Visibility, but many of my trans friends talked about how being visible is a privilege, a fact that the murder rates of trans people show. In a much lesser effect I was personally targeted by someone for my internet activism with a video (much much much lesser, the video was utterly ineffectual as were the two after it which had screenshots of my page, but it did make me realize that if he had a larger audience or I had more personal information I would be fucked).

And of course, being proud and open about who we are always gets people running to shut us down and tell us to stop. There’s always someone there to ask why not straight pride, why not white or men’s history month (as someone who studies ancient cultures and some historical stuff, I can tell you that most history is about and written by white men so having 30 days where we put some effort in recognizing the history of people who aren’t that is hardly much to ask). These people are coming to in effect silence our voices, not allowing us to speak and be proud of ourselves by asking when we do it (and only when we do it, it’s always a refutation never starting it themselves, making it obvious that their point isn’t to have pride in themselves but to silence us) why can’t they do it as well.

But if you’re having pride in being the majority, it doesn’t have those aspects. Being proud of being white or straight and making movements of such doesn’t have any rebellion in it, any defiance, but is taking pride in your privilege in this system. It’s taking pride in that which gives you power over us based on how this structure of oppression works, and that’s what makes it so much of a problem. We’re doing it as an act of defiance claiming what makes us devalued by the system and rebelling against that which tries to keep us down, while those who take pride in being the majority are celebrating the power they have by doing so.

Right now, standing up is hard. Being proud in the face of such oppressive forces that would rather us be gone is making trying to exist a challenge. But I feel like now it’s more important than ever to stand and be ourselves, be defiant in the face of oppression if we can, especially because there are so many who can’t safely. The need to call for acceptance and to make people accept us by being impossible to ignore is ever greater the harder it is, and I don’t have any easy answers on how to do that or how to manage the pushback. To all my fellow Outcast, all I can really say is that I stand by your side. I wish there was more.

Want to actually help autistics? Please donate to The Autistic Self Advocacy Network here

Call to Action for Californians to support the disabled and elderly

State Capitol building

Wednesday of last week I went down to a budget hearing for In-home Supportive Services (IHSS). This is the program that provides elderly and disabled people care in their homes and it’s currently facing a $623 million cut. The article following is one written by myself and another Outcast Shelby Munsch for the organization that we work with and that I went down to the capitol with here in Sonoma County that covers what happened at the hearing, however the most important thing you can do is contact the members of the budget subcommittee here (link goes to a list of each member and allows you to contact each of them) and Governor Jerry Brown here asking them to oppose the $623 million cut on IHSS. They will be meeting again, it used to be next Wednesday but is unknown at the moment, if you’re in Sonoma County and would like to come down with them next time, would like more information, or would like to volunteer with a wonderful organization that is working to make change in many ways for people in this county, please email me at valothoros@gmail.com, it would be greatly appreciated.

(Another issue currently facing disabled people not just in the State but nationally is a bill that threatens the ADA, a law that forces businesses to provide ramps for wheelchairs and other things to make businesses accessible to disabled people. Please click this link to contact your representatives and tell them to stop this bill from setting us back even farther.)

Before public comment two panels of speakers presented. The first panel from the Department of Finance claimed that the $623 million dollars was not a “cut,” and that no recipient would see any difference in their care. However, every other speaker from people who would actually be harmed by the cut, both the public comment and panelists, gave a very different story about how much of a disaster it represented.
Matt Cate from the California State Association of Counties said all counties believe the CCI was good, helped people and saved money, and that they’re concerned with the $623 million shift, that it would be a devastating hit on counties which aren’t doing as well (Silicon Valley and Southern CA experienced growth, but the rest of the state did not and that it would be a devastating hit on counties which aren’t doing as well (Silicon Valley and Southern CA experienced growth, but the rest of the state did not). Program growth, from more people needing IHSS, would cause the costs to as much as triple. The counties are not prepared to handle the program cost growth. As a final note, he also said the unions should bargain with the state as a whole rather than with each county.
Other panelists, including Frank Mecca, the Executive Director of the County Welfare Directors Association and Karen Keeslar of the California Association of Public Authorities spoke out about how the cut would not only adversely affect IHSS but also other vital county programs like child welfare and mental health. Tia Orr, the Government Relations Director with SEIU, stated that “the government’s actions will cause holes in our system we’ll never be able to overcome.”
When public comment came multiple speakers from the organization I went with spoke about how the program affected them and also mentioned how if the state can manage to give $48 million in tax breaks a year and give Lockheed Martin and Disney a total combined amount of $696 million in subsidies, they can probably handle the $623 million to support the elderly and disabled people in this state. Personally, the choice between supporting the disabled or Disney is an easy one, but apparently to some it’s complex.

I personally spoke as a disability activist telling them that, “The situation for disabled people in the United States is incredibly bleak, not only with the Affordable Care Act that many disabled people, including many of my friends, rely on to survive under threat but also with Sessions and DeVos both being against the IDEA, the law which provides us our accommodations in school. While you can’t do anything to change that on the national level, what you can do to help disabled people is to oppose this cut that affects the lives of many disabled people in the state.”
In addition to our representatives, a range of members from other organizations spoke. Representatives from almost every county spoke against being forced to come up with the funding. A representative from Congress of California, Senios, said that bankrupting the counties would be shortsighted. Multiple representatives from unions called for the collective bargaining program to be expanded statewide, instead of being entirely removed. Several IHSS workers and recipients also spoke about how important the program has been to their lives.
After all speeches from the public, the panelists got up to speak again, and the Assembly members questioned them. They asked about the Department of Finance’s plan for handling the negative effect on the counties. The Department of Finance director reinforced that this “is not a cut,” and that they’re “willing to work with counties to mitigate the costs.” He said, “The boards have basically had a half billion dollars of ‘good times’” to which many audience members scoffed. Assembly member Blanca E. Rubio (D from Baldwin Park) asked how they would do this, and if they had times scheduled to meet with the county representatives. He said they would be coordinating with them soon. She criticized him multiple times for not answering the questions in an upfront way, and emphasized that they’re dealing with real people’s’ lives. The other guy said, “Right now, there’s no potential solution from the administration.” She thanked him for at least being honest.
Devon J. Mathis, a Republican from Visalia, said the counties should be “entitled to another two weeks to mull it over,” and “that they should be able to know that their families are taken care of without fear.”
Joaquin Arambula, the chair of the committee, said, “I agree with all of the testimony given today. I find it unconscionable to cut the whole safety net. There are many hard working IHSS workers helping our communities. I thank you for coming and adding your testimony. We are in troubling times in the government today…We are going to have many hurdles to take… I have concerns, which is why our staff has done so much work on this…” He said he couldn’t call a vote because they didn’t have enough committee members and they would reconvene to vote on this topic on March 22nd (since has been changed to some future date unknown at this time). He asked us (i.e. the audience) to come back at that time.

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.

I will not fade

neurodiv-antifa

Credit to Cassandra Oakdown. You can also look at her Redbubble shop here. (Neurodiv stands for Neurodivergent). If you want to buy products with the logo check here (available products shows the range of items)

 

The reactions to my On wings of fire and broken glass we shall rise: #DisruptJ20 article were diverse. I inspired some as was my goal, but there were some people who responded with the dangerous call for peace.

Now, I could tell you that You Are Not The Target Audience of the protests, or how it’s a total myth. On my Facebook I made post after post about the systematic reasons for why the system makes it so literally the only way to get attention by the media is to smash a window.I also linked to this article about how MLK was a disruptor because people love to misquote him to shame protesters.

And that explains the logic but not why I’m so actively mentioning it and happy to see my fellow Outcast doing it.

Disabled activism has always been in the background, despite us being the largest minority. The only time autism is ever mentioned in the media it’s after a white person does a shooting and then it’s offered as a throwaway reason for why he may have done it. Even in this election when autism and vaccines were part of Trump’s, Clinton’s, and Stein’s platforms, it was still pushed to the side.

I accepted it, even though it made everything seem futile. We weren’t actively being legislated against based on our disability, our fight was always a narrative, one which I aimed to debunk every claim I could think of in my article We Are Not.

I was academic, aiming towards my readers’ minds and was nice, aiming to inform and be as uncontroversial as possible.

Now, it’s war, and I’m no longer accepting it.

The threats to my kin involve Nazis and the President, who is thinking about creating an anti-vaxxer committee on us and whose picks for the heading the Department of Education and the Attorney General are both against the laws that protect disabled students, in addition to signing an executive order saying he seeks a swift repeal to the ACA that is keeping many disabled people, including the guy I love, alive.

He’s also literally a fascist.

Most recently his spokesperson created the Orwellian term “alternative facts”, which all of us should be recognizing as simply lies.

To paraphrase a poem, I refuse to go gently into the good night but shall rage, rage against the dying of the light.

I shall do what I can to fight and be visible and will stand by my fellow Outcast in their actions to do the same, because we didn’t create the system that values broken windows over broken lives.

We shall fight tooth and nail to survive this dark era, and I and other disability activists aren’t going to fade away with our lives under threat. We shall not seek peace with our oppressors, and those who expect us to be peaceful and fade enable those who would seek us gone. Fascists have never been defeated by kind words, and this time will be no different. We’re standing up and fighting back, whether that means smashing windows or punching Nazis (as the link says, we can always punch Nazis). By our side or out of our way, it matters not. We’re pushing forward no matter what. We can do nothing else.

-Laoch Onórach