my silence and yours

(This is an edited version of something I sent to a friend a week or two ago, when I was sad about disagreements/trouble with allies who expressed frustration, hurt, and anger when the people they were supposed to be allies to criticized them, or called them out. It wasn’t specifically about the “autism community” or parents or advocates–it was actually about a separate situation–but I spoke with both parts of my life in mind. So I thought it would be valuable to share here.)  

i know the perspective they come from. i know it. i know it i know it.

it’s the one where people who have tried to dedicate their lives to being supportive and helpful face marginalized people who simply cannot, and will not, hide their anger and hurt at being demeaned, erased, and abused.

and these people who feel like they’ve done everything they can to help, they think to themselves “how are we supposed to actually hear debate and work with each other when every time something awkward or controversial happens, these people express their feelings and their feelings make us feel bad?” except, the way they say it instead is “why won’t they let us talk! why are they saying all these bad lies about us?”

and like, when it’s from people who’s perspective i can understand…i do get it. “get it” in the sense that i can understand the context and cause of their feelings. and if they had said exactly what it was that they were saying, i.e. “how am i supposed to contribute and feel listened to if, whenever i talk, people get angry at me and say things that hurt my feelings?” i would consider their statement valid and constructive.

and i would want to tell them “i know it’s hard, but if you believe strongly enough in what you’re saying, it’ll be worth the hurt.” and i would know this is true, because marginalized people deal with silencing and painful words every. single. day. of. the. week. all. their. lives. and they deal with these words when they’re speaking up about even the most basic stuff, like “hey, i should be able to afford my medicine” or “hey, i should be able to be outside at night without being raped” or “hey, i should not be demeaned and abused because of the color of my skin.”

but the thing is, these helpful people don’t ever say what they mean. they say “why are you silencing us and attacking us.” because they’ve been taught that any feeling that isn’t in line with their own experiences must be a fiction, or a slanderous attack. and how the fuck am i supposed to agree with their expression of their feelings when to agree means accepting their feelings as the standard against which all discussion and reality must be tested.

and then i am angry, because they have made it impossible for me to show them that i believe their emotions are valid without simultaneously perpetuating the idea that their emotions are the same thing as “reality.” and i’m stuck. because if their emotions are the same thing as reality, i have to go back to assuming mine don’t exist, or don’t matter.

i want to say to them: it’s not that your experiences don’t exist, or don’t matter; it’s that you never call them experiences, you call them reality. and you get to call your experiences reality because people like you have spent generations treating people like me as if our experiences don’t exist.

but usually, i say nothing. neither silence nor speech ever keeps me safe, but at least silence is familiar.

Let’s take this figure of the feminist killjoy seriously. Does the feminist kill other people’s joy by pointing out moments of sexism? Or does she expose the bad feelings that get hidden, displaced, or negated under public signs of joy? Does bad feeling enter the room when somebody expresses anger about things, or could anger be the moment when the bad feelings that circulate through objects get brought to the surface in a certain way. Feminist subjects might bring others down not only by talking about unhappy topics such as sexism but by exposing how happiness is sustained by erasing the very signs of not getting along. Feminists do kill joy in a certain sense: they disturb the very fantasy that happiness can be found in certain places. To kill a fantasy can still kill a feeling. It is not just that feminists might not be happily affected by the objects that are supposed to cause happiness by that their failure to be happy is read as sabotaging the happiness of others…Feminist consciousness can thus be thought of as consciousness of the violence and power that are concealed under the languages of civility and love, rather than simply consciousness of gender as a site of restriction of possibility. We learn from this so much, too much. We learn to see what is concealed by signs of happiness. You can cause unhappiness merely by noticing something. And if it can cause unhappiness simply to notice something, you realize that the world you are in is not the world you thought you were in.
Sarah Ahmed, The Promise of Happiness, pp. 65-66, 86.

again

on the day of the sandy hook shooting, i was already having a complete meltdown. it was finals. the weekend before finals, specifically. i had run out of my medication, but the prescription i’d gotten in the mail from my parents had been filled wrong at the pharmacy. i was expected to write probably upwards of sixty pages. i had no idea what to do. at the end of that term, i was supposed to be flying to oxford to do a semester abroad there. i had basically been sobbing, alone, for the last twenty-four hours.

i should also mention that my college is probably no more than a two-hour drive from sandy hook.

i was waiting to meet with one of my professors, so i could basically go to pieces in her office. un-characteristically late, she breezed past me sometime after eleven, mentioning something about a phone call she needed to make, and slammed her office door closed behind her. i waited for about a half-hour. eventually she came out, and told me she had to go to a lunch meeting now. that she was sorry, but she didn’t have time to talk that day. she had been crying. (her younger child was a first grader that year; it was his birthday that weekend.)

i spent the rest of the day replaying the same song over and over on my ipod and staring at single spots on the floor until my vision started to do crazy shit. i didn’t really have anyone to talk to. nobody wants to go around complaining about how their brain-medications aren’t working on a day when someone their age, with their brain-labels, just committed mass murder less than one state away.

i don’t want to talk about aspergers, or autism, and violence right now. because i don’t consider that a very convincing argument, or statistical correlation. the only way that you come to the conclusion that there is some direct connection between autism and extreme violence is by pretending like 99% of all daily violence and killing does not happen.

wars. armed robberies. drunk drivers. police brutality. negligence. abuse. hate crimes.

please, ask yourself: are you upset because a violent act has taken place, or because the violent act in question doesn’t make sense to you.

if the latter is true, you should think about why so many other acts of violence do make sense to you.

my only other point is this: the overwhelming majority of “mass murderers” (i.e. people who kill lots of people personally, rather than telling other people to kill lots of people for them) are white men for a reason. they’re the only group of people who could reasonably assume that their problems could be solved if they just killed enough people. nobody else is messed-up enough to think that.

but mostly, i want to answer the unspoken question: “but don’t you think that there’s some connection between mental illness and violence?”

my answer is this: no. i don’t.

i think there’s a connection between “normal” people and violence that people think is “normal” and i think there’s a connection between “abnormal” people and violence that people think is “abnormal.”

if the only kind of violence you worry about is the “abnormal” kind, it’s high time you examine why.

Although we might argue that it would be impractical to write obituaries for all those people, or for all people, I think we have to ask, again and again, how the obituary functions as the instrument by which grievability is publicly distributed. It is the means by which a life becomes, or fails to become, a publicly grievable life, an icon for national self-recognition, the means by which a life becomes note-worthy. As a result, we have to consider the obituary as an act of nation-building. The matter is not a simple one, for, if a life is not grievable, it is not quite a life; it does not qualify as a life and is not worth a note. It is already the unburied, if not the unburiable. (Judith Butler, “Violence, Mourning, Politics” p. 34.)

awk

I’m nine. This is a deeply unfortunate haircut stage. I am wearing a blue fleece and grey cargo pants. My hair is short, and I can’t really describe it other than to inform you that I actually have like four cowlicks. For reals. 

 

busy and sad

i’ve been rather busy (in my sense of the word, not the normal person’s sense of the word) and haven’t quite had the energy to write lots of things. or, at least, to write things here. but i will try my best to keep writing things. i have an idea of something to write that i think is hella valuable, so we’ll see how that goes. for now, i’m mostly like, vacillating between being totally INTO something, and feeling isolated/mopey and sad. as per usual, honestly?

i think i’m starting to have people again. or finally. can never tell the difference. it’s difficult when you have yet to find friends somewhere who actually stick with you? because then, every time you get to know new people who could be your friends, you’re like “ah, fuck. i really hope this doesn’t end up like every other time ever.” and it makes one quite nervous, really.

it’s not that i’m someone who has difficulty getting ALONG with people; i don’t. i’ve been told i’m quite…”charismatic”? i hate that word, because it makes me feel like an appalachian snake-handler or something. but the issue is that i just really don’t have the executive functioning to keep up friendships with people who are really typically social–i.e. who want to “go out” and “do things” and expect me to engage in all the extra-curricular hoo-has that most people think of as necessary for a “real” “friendship.”

we start out just fine. i’m funny and helpful and smart. but then after a while, they realize that i really don’t like to go other places. that i really don’t leave the academic buildings much. that i’m actually twelve times more nerdy than they thought i was. that i don’t really open up about much. ever. that sometimes i just don’t talk. and i won’t want to go eat in the dining halls much, because they’re loud. that i don’t like changing/switching what i’m doing, or where i’m sitting. that when the number of people gets above like two or three, i stop being able to deal well with any social things. that i get stuck on single topics and talk and talk and just want to tell you about them because they’re so cool and i’m reading this book and like–etc. that my “funny, helpful, smart” self is conditional on my routines, my environment, and my special interests all remaining unchanged and reliable.

and suddenly they’re “concerned” about me. or they “miss” me. even though they always know exactly where i am, and choose to never come and see me. suddenly, their friendship becomes conditional on me giving up my routines, or me conforming to their habits and movements. because if i really “wanted to” see them, or if i really “cared” then i’d hang out with them wherever they were. this has happened multiple times. i think this time might be the time that it works out better. but then, i always think that, soooooo…

yeah.

0733227-R1-23-23

I’m eighteen, and this is back when I had long hair (which is in a ponytail). I’m sitting on a bench, wearing blue jeans, a blue scarf, a blue windbreaker, and a blue headband (anybody want to guess what my favorite color is?). My friend is sitting next to me (you can’t see her) and has decided to take a picture with the disposable camera really close to my face, and it’s flashing. So I’m like cringing away from the flash and making an unhappy face. I hate. HATE. camera flashes. Since infancy. I’m not exaggerating. 

emma and intense world theory (part two of two)

Emma, Intense World Theory, and Science Nerd Throwdown Action (here’s Part One)

My primary scientific issue with the theory is that the research behind it is all either procedurally/experimentally shaky or totally nonexistent. And I dislike that it takes attention and kudos away from better-researched, theoretically sound theories—most of which come from researchers that have done more than the Markrams ever will for the autistic community, and for scientific dialogue about autism. I’m thinking of scientists like Michelle Dawson (representtttt!), Laurent Mottron and Morton Ann Gernsbacher. If you don’t know them, or at least know of them, please look up their work. I would be happy to share articles, and I can’t say enough good things about the work Dawson, Mottron and their colleagues have done to put together their theories concerning “Enhanced Perceptual Function” and “Veridical Mapping” as models of autistic cognition.

Continue reading

emma and intense world theory (part one of two)

I’m about to become ratherrrrr unpopular. Maybe. But I can’t keep my feelings inside anymore guys! (Can you tell I’m still channeling songs from Frozen?) Here goes!

Ahem.

The “Intense World” theory of autism drives me up the wall. It annoys me. I consider it a pile of well-intentioned hooey.

I will clarify. I don’t have any issue with the whole “Hey, when you’re autistic, sometimes you experience things too intensely for you to process right then” deal. Like, yeah. That’s true. But “sometimes” is the operative term there, and that statement doesn’t even come close to explaining autistic experience. In this post, I’m going to talk about why I find the theory annoying conceptually/personally. And then Part Two will include my scientific critique of the theory, so that those of you who don’t want to wade through research jargon don’t have to.

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i’m (actually not) the last person to see frozen

i am watching it on ondemand right now because i got overstimulated and so i am in the dark trying to distract myself from a headache that won’t go away.

and i am going to die of laughter.

because i have figured out my response to this question: “i get that you think there are good parts to being autistic, but if it existed, wouldn’t you want a cure so you could be normal, and not have to deal with all the bad parts of autism?”

my answer, from now on, will be this video. no explanation. just the video.

EDIT: having finished the movie, all i have to say is “MY OWN PERSONAL FLURRY!?!?!?!”

accuracy.

autistic sports fan time

Tonight I’m going to a large, crowded, loud sporting event. Because I want to. And because I love sports and we got really good tickets. I actually find sporting events to be easier to deal with than regular crowds, concerts, plays/movies, etc. As long as my team is the home team–if I have to deal with unfriendly crowds the level of emotional contagion gets so intense that I panic and get really stressed. But other than that, sporting events are easier for me, because everyone gets their own personal space, is free to move around whenever they want, is free to make noise if they need to, and can leave whenever they want. It also helps that the noise is predictable and generally positive.

But I’m going to be making a variety of accommodations/planning ahead anyways.

  • I’m taking lots of layers so I don’t have to touch anything I don’t want to.
  • I’m agreeing with my dad on a spot outside the stands (i.e. where they sell food and stuff) where I will go during the game  if I need to take a break from the crowd and watch on a TV.
  • I’m bringing my cell phone fully charged, with headphones, and my stuffed animals, and maybe a book too.
  • I’m drinking a lot of caffeine so that I don’t get tired and meltdowny.
  • If I just can’t handle it, I’ve agreed with my dad that I’ll just leave and take the bus home on my own (the bus that takes me straight home has a stop just outside the stadium, and I’m 21, so I’ve taken public transportation on my own at night many times).
  • I get to come up with my own outfit in team colors and it matches and I am very pleased.
  • I have made clear that I require a hot dog or hamburger for dinner, and that I must purchase a tiny basketball at the game, and both of those conditions have been accepted as reasonable.

HERE GOES. RIP CITY MOTHAFUCKAS.

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My dad is wearing a red sweatshirt and a beige beanie and carrying me in a back-pack-style carrier. I am like less than a year old, and am wearing a white/beige bonnet and a red jacket. We are on a boat. The colors we are wearing in this photo are the appropriate team colors for the game we’re going to tonight. Also we match. This is normal.