Posted in Advocacy, intersectionality

Single-use Straws, Asthma Inhalers, and Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

Autistic/Disabled Twitter has been talking about plastic, single-use straws lately.

You know, the kind you get at, say, McDonald’s, and throw away?  Apparently they’re bad for the environment.  I guess that makes sense.

But you know what they’re good for?  Helping some Disabled people be able to drink, period.  Apparently the plastic provides enough support to make it much easier to drink.

Yesterday, I saw they went ahead and banned them at one chain and more will likely follow.  Because, the planet.

Continue reading “Single-use Straws, Asthma Inhalers, and Why We Can’t Have Nice Things”

Posted in Advocacy, Autistic Identity, Identity, intersectionality

Dear Late Diagnosed Person

To the Late-Diagnosed Person–

I hate that term, Diagnosis, since it sounds like someone had to validate your very existence.

I prefer the term “awareness” or “validation.”

Awareness is when you knew your brain operated differently.

Validation is when someone said, “Hey, your brain works differently” and they didn’t mean it as an insult.  It just was a fact.

How do we ever know what it’s like in our heads, as compared to someone else’s?

I think one of the interesting things about finding out that we’re Autistic in particular, though this really goes for any Neurodivergent quality, is we get to actually think about what other people see inside their heads, and then we encounter a whole lot of interesting information when we realize that everyone is not doing what we’re doing.

Continue reading “Dear Late Diagnosed Person”

Posted in Advocacy, Autistic Identity, intersectionality, leadership, Teaching

The Rest of Us Just Live Here: Accepting That I’m Not a Superhero

The thing about being Autistic, I think, that can be really detrimental to living a functioning adult life, is that we believe a lot of what we’ve been taught.

Think back to all those posters on the walls at your schools.  Think about all those heroes they made us read about, so that we could learn to cultivate all those virtues “they” wanted us to all have.  We were supposed to be honest, hardworking, and compassionate.  We were supposed to save the world!

But, as we Autistics have found, we aren’t really supposed to be too honest.  Being too honest doesn’t work out so well for us.

A lot of people can hang out at the water cooler (literally and metaphorically) all day long, and yet they seem to get ahead at work.

And when you give so much that it hurts, all that happens is you’re hurt.  There is no reward.

And yes, it’s all possible for all this suffering we go through on this earth to be rewarded in the afterlife, but we see so many people flagrantly ignoring the rules we were overtly taught and internalized, and they do, in fact, get ahead on this earth.

If they meant that honesty, diligence, and compassion would mean not a danged thing now, but might or might not in the afterlife (if it exists), why the heck didn’t they just say that?

Continue reading “The Rest of Us Just Live Here: Accepting That I’m Not a Superhero”

Posted in Books, intersectionality

Read this Book: Kat and Meg Conquer the World

For your reading consideration, I have another great YA title.

[Image: Cover of the book. Kat and Meg Conquer the World is in bubble letters with “Kat,” “Meg” and “World” in very big letters, “conquer” in slightly smaller bubble letters and “and” and “the” in the smallest letters. “Kat” and “Conquer” are in white, “Meg” in yellow and “World” in orange while “and” and “the” are in shades of blue. They are on a blue pixelated background (tiny squares of various shades of blue) with tiny golden coins dropping on the title. There’s a puffy red pixelated heart to the side of the title and a sword next to Meg’s name. At the bottom is a large orange skateboard. In the upper right corner, it says “Separately, they’re a mess. Together, they just might be awesome.” There are what look to be test tubes with lightning in them on the sides of the title, coming up from the bottom of the book. A LOT is clearly going on here. At the bottom is the author’s name, in blue bubble-type letters: Anna Priemaza.]

Kat and Meg Conquer the World by Anna Priemaza, is about two girls who meet and have a remarkable friendship.  Kat is new in town since they have moved to help grandpa downsize.  She’s got to start high school all over again since in her last province (yup, Canadian book) they start high school in grade 9, but in this place, it’s grade 10 so she feels like she has to do an unnecessary stint as freshman all over again.  Kat is very intelligent and her grades typically reflect this.  She also has anxiety, and it’s pretty intense.  Her therapist has never been much help except when she taught her how to count to slow her breathing to calm down to prevent a panic attack.  She’ll be counting a lot in this book.  Where she does feel pretty good is the world of her online game, and watching videos from her favorite YouTuber.

Meanwhile, Meg is local, but can’t seem to keep any friends.  Though every bit as intelligent as Kat, she struggles in school grade-wise. She’s bubbly and energetic, always running everywhere.  She’s between friends when she and Kat get partnered by default for a long-term science project.  Meg has ADHD with hyperactivity and therefore she struggles to focus on things she doesn’t have interest in, and she also struggles to make and keep friends since she’s missing some social cues.  She’s always swapping friendship groups, though people do seem to like her in general.  She is intensely in love with the same YouTuber Kat is.  She is also very annoyed with her stepdad, who she called dad since her own dad died when she was little.  He attempted to get custody of her younger siblings (his natural children), but not her, and she’s brooding over the whole thing.  Meg is also Black, and much is made of her hair style, her little sister’s hairstyle, skin tone is mentioned and the occasional racial sensitivity nod, but I’m not sure how much she “feels” Black and hope Black reviewers will help here to see if this depiction rings true.  More on that later.

Continue reading “Read this Book: Kat and Meg Conquer the World”

Posted in Advocacy, Autistic Identity, intersectionality

Disappointing John Warriner: Why it’s Hard for Me to Change

Autistic people like to be right.

We have a saying in my house, “technically correct is the best kind of correct.”  It’s what my husband and I say to each other about ourselves or about our son when we realize we’re arguing in circles and all of us are convinced we’re right.  Because I was more able to see the point of view of other people than my husband was, inevitably I’d say something that was right in terms of, if you looked at lived experiences, and my husband would say something that he’d internalized as a rule.  Once upon a time, I’d said, “Well, you’re technically correct…” at which point he replied, “Well, that’s the best kind of correct.”  Ever since we make that the family joke.

And it really does give you a handle on why we Autistics can be difficult to change.

One of the things I learned from going to public schools myself, is that embarrassment is the worst thing in the world.  See, if you do something embarrassing two things happen 1) people can randomly bring it up in the future and use it to color their future opinions of you and 2) your mind has this irritating habit of doing this thing where, if you’re sitting there, enjoying the day, it will decide to bring you down a peg or two and replay an incident that was horrifyingly embarrassing.  Objectively, I know now that brains playing bad memories over again is a typical thing.  In fact, I seem to remember learning it in high school when I read a Dave Barry column and he mentioned his brain doing that as if it’s what brains do all the time (thanks, Dave!  You really helped me out with that!), but at the same time, I still think I react more strongly to that embarrassment than the typical neurotypical.

Female Autistics in particular have a hard time being recognized because we tend to do this thing where we’re aware of how we’re perceived and can even (often) sense other people’s emotions and what they are thinking.  We’ve learned this from years of playing detective and trying to fit in, which we might have managed in elementary years, but when things start getting too intense around middle school, we often can’t make it anymore and just get lost at the “fitting in” game.  But some of us can still sense what other people are thinking and feeling, but we can’t do anything about it so we’re ostracized for being different.

That’s not, clearly, ideal.

Continue reading “Disappointing John Warriner: Why it’s Hard for Me to Change”

Posted in Advocacy, intersectionality

It seems no one cares…#BoycottToSiri

It’s very difficult to watch the BoycottToSiri protest that I mentioned last week go, effectively, nowhere.

Autistic Twitter is a pretty darned intersectional place.  We talk about race, gender, sexuality, and the larger group of disability.  We rarely talk much about religion, but people haven’t gotten all upset with me because I do, and someone probably should address religion, so I and a few others fill the quieter space for that.  We fight with each other sometimes, because it’s hard to unlearn a lot of old stereotypes we learned before we realized we used to fight back against them before we were taught the social rule of “you must do x or you are a bad person.”

Anyway, my point is, other than some fabulous parents of Autistics who are truly interested in hearing our voices (by the way, thanks for this, parents!), I maybe only saw one Disabled activist who wasn’t Autistic talking about it (there probably were many more, but some of the people on my own Twitter list seemed strangely silent, and it didn’t come up in the intersectional spaces I’d imagine it ought to have.

Because, remember, we’re talking about forced sterilization of a Disabled person without his consent.

Unfortunately, all this was going on at the same time the U.S. government was passing this huge taxbill which is, well, not good.  And, unfortunately, a lot of people only had so many spoons and it was overwhelming.

I get that.

I also get the reality that Disabled people in general are used to the idea that people talking about their bodies and what to do about them is status quo.  It’s still wrong, but it’s so very much a part of their everyday existence that it’s like when Black people ignore a race-based protest.  To them, it’s another Wednesday or whatever, but us privileged folk (and so often, Disabled twitter writers can pass as Neurotypical) are incensed because we see this as unusual.  That’s another reason why, I think, the bigger Disability community didn’t get upset with us.

There’s another double-edged sword here.  I am still waiting to hear back from an agent about representation, and she did mention she does look for people who won’t go offending a huge audience.  This is the reality of life as we live it: gatekeepers want people who don’t get upset when another author publishes her work, or at least, we can get angry if and only if everyone else is angry, too.  A huge Trump protest?  Fine…you’ve got numbers.  This sort of thing?  What am I trying to do, piss off one of the big six publishers?

So, there’s that, too.  And that’s also why I didn’t volunteer that I had this blog and Twitter account.

But I’m Autistic and I was never really good at the social rule that said you shut up when you see or hear about oppression.  It may have taken me years to get awoken to all the oppression around me (and I’m still learning and still making mistakes), but once I knew it was oppression, there I was, speaking up.

It hurts me too much not to speak up.

And this is what the lived reality is about being an Autistic, in general.

There are a few of us who are ridiculously nice; they do a better job at passing in intersectional places.  There are tokens in every community, and I guess I shouldn’t criticize them.

But this hurts.  The people who have the privilege of standing with us haven’t come.

Is it because their spoon drawers are depleted?  Is it because they don’t know or don’t care?

Or is it they believe we should, in fact, be treated in this way?

 

Posted in Advocacy, intersectionality

Stay in Your Lane: How to Feel Empowered, Not Insulted If You Are Given This Invitation

The expression, “stay in your lane,” is getting increasingly common among Disability activists.

The term is a reference to driving, and if you veer all over the road, you’ll end up hurting the other drivers.  In addition, it points out that you don’t own the whole road; others have a right to use the road as much as you do.

Often, we say it to parent activists and other busybodies who can only speak about their personal experiences, and suddenly, they’re swerving over to talk about the Autistic experience or the experiences of another Disabled person.  It’s also used in issues of race or class or religion.  Basically, anything that is deeply personal, about which only someone who has lived the experience, can really testify about.

If someone witnesses you talking about a life experience that you do not actually live for yourself, it’s possible an activist will tell you to “stay in your lane.”

When you hear that, you might get offended.  You might try to respond that you have as much rights as anyone else to speak your truth.  You’ve seen Muslim people, Autistic people, Disabled people, Black people, whatever you’re talking about, and so somehow you know the experience.

Seeing something and even living beside someone does not guarantee that you know the experience.  Sure, you might understand things a little better than someone who has never lived with a Disabled person (etc.), but that doesn’t mean you belong in their lane, so to speak.

But that’s okay.

Let me tell you about something that will help you feel a little better if someone tells you to, “stay in your lane.”

Continue reading “Stay in Your Lane: How to Feel Empowered, Not Insulted If You Are Given This Invitation”

Posted in Autistic Identity, Identity, intersectionality, Parenting

I Can’t vs. I Don’t Want to: How the Expectations of Being Female Smother Autistic Women

In Western culture, as women, we are expected to do it all.  We are expected to work outside the home full-time because if we don’t, we’ve betrayed the feminist cause.  We’re also supposed to be perfect mothers, raising our children in perfectly clean homes being fed perfectly balanced meals or we’re a bad mother.  When we get tired about all this and ignore our husbands, we’re bad wives.

The rules also tell us we really ought to be going onto school to get a degree, then an advanced one.  This will not only empower us, but we will advance in our careers.

But if we advance in our careers, who will care for our homes, children, and husbands?

In this way, women in general are overwhelmed in our culture.

[Image: a white, middle-aged woman sits with her head in her hands. She wears a red shirt, and has brown hair. She looks overwhelmed.]
But let’s add Autism into the mix.

As an Autistic mother of an Autistic child, I had a lot of problems when I dragged my kid in public because that’s what you do.

I worried that he’d run around.  I worried he’d run away.  I’d worry people were judging me because of my kid and whatever it would be that he’d do.

And I’d get insanely pissed off at things like how the library has all these self-checkouts which are supposed to be “helpful” but unless you have a kid who wants to help you check out books, you cannot both mind a child AND do your own checking out.

Unless you let watching the child go.

That seems to be the path neurotypicals around me were taking.  They just figured, they were kids and they’d do what they did.

Of course, their kids running around doing whatever they want annoyed me, giving me sensory overload, while I was trying to manage my own son’s sensory overload because of their kids running around causing all the drama.

But for some reason they didn’t ever seem to worry about what people thought about their kids running around like little monsters.

They didn’t seem to, or have to, worry that someone might come to their home to take their child away because their child was being raised by a Disabled parent.

That is a thing, you know.  In some states simply being Disabled is enough for child welfare to take your kids from you.

And they could move on after the wretched experience at the library and not obsess over it, thinking and planning about how it would be better the next time if I only…

See, one of the gifts-that-can-be-a-curse about Autism in women is we’re super-empathetic.  Many of us can literally sense all the feelings around us and we cannot shut them out.  You know all the old people at the library by which I mean all of the adults who do not have kids with them?  They’re all judging you because you’re not minding your kids and letting them run around.

We feel that; neurotypicals shut it out.

Unfortunately we also obsess over things: we plan conversations for hours before we have them, and we mull over things that happen to us over and over again, trying to figure out what it was that we did wrong.

Because we learned a long time ago, that WE did wrong.  It’s always us.

Continue reading “I Can’t vs. I Don’t Want to: How the Expectations of Being Female Smother Autistic Women”

Posted in Autistic Identity, higher education, intersectionality

Practically Theoretical, Theoretically Practical: Ableism in Higher Education

Lydia X. Z. Brown , also known as Autistic Hoya, tweeted this recently: “It is absolutely, indisputably a privilege to get to higher education.  But for the marginalized who do get there, it’s so intensely violent.”

I retweeted and added to it that when I was at public university, this was incredibly true.  In Catholic circles, however, which are still every bit as racist, sexist, ableist, classist (etc.), they are at least, by and large, open to learning they are being ableist, racist, sexist, classist (etc.) and learning from that.  There are exceptions, such as the ones who think our current Pope is not actually our Pope due to a complicated story that basically consists of saying “I hate Vatican II and you all suck.”

I’d like to tell you it’s more complicated than hating one council, but it isn’t really.

For those who don’t know, this is the council where we stopped being so “out of the world” and talked more to people in the world (ie. not Catholic) and stopped doing a bunch of racist, ableist, sexist, and classist stuff (yes, we still do those things, but we try not to now).

Let’s just say I don’t have a lot of patience for that group.

HOWEVER, most Catholics I’ve worked with in academia are not that group.  Instead, Catholic academia is an environment that is less like the shark tank of the public academe and more like a family that consists of a whole lot of weird uncles and aunts who do stuff you don’t like, but you put up with them anyway because after all, they’re family.  A few people who hate Vatican II can typically be offset by a bunch of hippie-type Catholics so, by and large, you all manage together.

In other words, it’s not perfect, but no family is, right?

Anyway, this is my long way of going around to reintroduce the blog I wrote called “Practically Theoretical” about why I struggled (and still do) in Academia.  It’s got more editing than usual since it was an early blog piece and I’ve learned a lot more since then, but here it is!

Continue reading “Practically Theoretical, Theoretically Practical: Ableism in Higher Education”