Feminist Aspie

Autistic people need diagnosis, not denial

Autism-related support often requires paperwork, or at least some evidence of a formal diagnosis. I feel like neurotypical people forget this, particularly neurotypical parents, teachers and professionals when traits are picked up on in children.

“We don’t want to reduce them to a label” is a bad reason for withholding assessment and diagnosis. I’d still be autistic whether my diagnosis happened or not – but without it, I wouldn’t have been able to understand myself through that lens, and my self-esteem would probably be through the floor after years of expecting myself to conform exactly with my neurotypical peers. And besides, giving someone a label can only be said to “reduce” them if you don’t see that label as compatible with the rest of a person’s humanity, and that, folks, is ableism.

“But they get good grades” is a bad reason for eschewing formal procedures, because believe it or not, grades aren’t the only thing that matter. So many aspects of a child’s life aren’t measured by their grades.

“But they’re so high-functioning” is a bad reason for locking someone out of the system. I’ve written before about why functioning labels are unhelpful and ableist, but for these purposes, the important point is that how well someone can pass for neurotypical (and let’s face it, that’s what neurotypicals mean by “high-functioning”)  can and will change as the person’s life changes.

In particular, people who are deemed “high-functioning” at a young age often struggle much more with the increased demands of adult life. This isn’t something to be ashamed of – or at least it shouldn’t be. With the right support, we can still thrive.

With the right support.

But support requires paperwork.

And some adults in various positions block paperwork in the toxic push to distance children from their own neurology, whether by forcing them to pass for neurotypical or insisting on pretending that they are indeed neurotypical.

When these kids grow into adults, and find they need more support, they may engage with the formal procedures themselves and at long last get the paperwork they need. But a great many of them will be told “But you’ve gone this far without support, so you must not need it”.

Intentionally or not, when you try to distance autistic people from their autism, you’re setting them a trap.

Advertisements
12 Comments »

Why is fair and equal pay still up for debate?

Doing the rounds on Twitter this morning is this clip of a Polish MEP arguing that women should be paid less than men. To quote directly: “And of course women must earn less than men, because they are weaker, they are smaller, they are less intelligent.” …Yep. Really. If you’ve made it on to this blog, I’m going to assume you already know that these views are abhorrent, that equal work deserves equal pay regardless of any stereotypes attached to the worker, and these discriminatory stereotypes certainly can’t be used to justify further discrimination in pay, because that’s just an awful circular argument when instead we should be fighting to end discrimination in the first place. At this point, in 2017, it isn’t even up for debate in the minds of all but the most extreme misogynists. Incidentally, a quick scroll through Google and Wikipedia shows that Janusz Korwin-Mikke has daughters, but that evidently hasn’t even stopped him being actively sexist, never mind giving him a free pass to speak on behalf of all women on the basis that he happens to be a parent of girls.

Keep this in mind.

Doing the rounds on Twitter yesterday was a ~debate~ over whether or not disabled people should be “allowed” to work for less than the minimum wage. (I’m not 100% comfortable giving that article more clicks, so instead I’ll link to this great Twitter thread by Stavvers which does also link to the article if you’re interested.) This argument did not come from a disabled person who wants to be allowed to work for less than the minimum wage; it came from an abled person who happens to be a parent of a woman with Down’s Syndrome (whose opinion, as far as I can tell, has never even been asked for). She also happens to employ disabled people in her own business; she’s effectively saying she should be allowed to pay her own employees less.

To be fair, a lot of people seem to be seeing this for the awful retrogressive ableist argument that it is, but it turns out there’s also a worryingly high number of people who don’t – or at least, they’re saying it’s so hard and complex, because it’s better than nothing and it could be a stepping stone and you can’t just easily fix society, y’know?  Maybe this shouldn’t have shocked me, but it did, because equal pay should not still be up for debate. Honestly, this post should end here. But given that these arguments do still have a lot of traction, I think it’s worth going through some of them.

Because it apparently needs to be pointed out, paid work and volunteering are not the same thing. At this point I feel I should say that I now volunteer with an autism organisation myself – I won’t go into details for anonymity reasons, but I will say that I and the other autistic volunteers have been treated with nothing but respect from the start, it’s all about real autistic participation in shaping how they run and it’s an incredibly rewarding experience, and it’s absolutely NOT  the same as a paid job. It’s volunteering, as in voluntary, as in I actively want to be a part of this and I’m not being pushed into it by other constraints, and it’s something I do every so often on an irregular basis for a few hours at a time around the degree that I’m doing full-time. If I got a regular job with them or somewhere else in the sector, I would expect to be paid, as their autistic and neurodivergent employees are. Of course, there’s also the ongoing issue of lengthy unpaid internships that basically amount to unpaid work, but that can’t be used to justify “allowing” (read: coercing) disabled people into unpaid work either – one exploitation doesn’t justify another exploitation, they’re just both exploitative.

And let’s not make the patronising assumption that disabled people are somehow exempt from the system of money. Disabled people are people – we need to eat, and have somewhere to live, and clothes to wear, and all kinds of other needs just like everyone else. Not all disabled people live with their parents or even have the option of doing so (it’s almost as if disabled people aren’t just extensions of abled parents or something…) and even for those who do, not all families can so easily support the needs (disability-specific or otherwise) of that person with their existing funds, especially as the Tory government continues to decimate disability benefits. A “fulfilling and purposeful life” is nice, but we also need money. And besides, why is work necessary for a fulfilling and purposeful life? What does that say about how society views those disabled people who are unable to work?

Another argument that I keep seeing conflates accessibility and adaptation of jobs for disabled people with paying disabled people a lower wage for some reason. It’s this idea of it being the first rung on the ladder, the idea that if only disabled people were “allowed” to work for less than the minimum wage, employers would jump to make all the accommodations necessary and eventually provide a fair wage. Even if I set aside my scepticism as to whether that would actually happen (why would employers want to take experienced disabled people on at a fair wage if there were allowed to take them on at an exploitative wage?), this ignores the fact that employers shouldn’t need cookies for bearing the oh-so-tragic-burden of accommodating disabled people – employers should accommodate disabled employees because it is legally required.

The next response is usually something along the lines of “but changing society is hard, this is better than nothing in the meantime”. And this is something I find really infuriating. Some accommodations are as simple as clear directions, as simple as moving to a calmer area, as simple as understanding and acceptance, basically as simple as not actively being ableist. That’s not the case for all accommodations for all people, but it would be a huge step forward, and it’s easy – if only abled people would listen. Some accommodations are less straightforward and would take longer to implement, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t even try. The gender pay gap persists after years of campaigning, but that doesn’t mean we should give up and accept that that’s the way it is, even though ending the gender pay gap would involve huge changes to the current way work life is structured which disadvantages maternity. Society has undergone lots of major long-term changes over the years – this is just saying disabled people aren’t worth making the changes for. The “better than nothing” approach is essentially expecting disabled people to just give up, to accept our lot, to be grateful for scraps because abled people couldn’t be bothered to give us anything better. “In the meantime” says that we should just wait our turn until a magical day in the future when abled people can be bothered, even though conceding ground such as this will decrease what little political will there is to actually empower disabled people currently. Discrimination is an artificial problem – rather than just acting like it can’t be helped, we need to end it.

These kinds of arguments were used decades ago, and apparently even today, to block equal pay for women. We know, fundamentally, that equal pay for women is not up for debate. So why are we even entertaining the idea for disabled people?

8 Comments »

If the New Year sexual assaults were made up, it reveals ugly truths about what white men believe

(I’m not going to manage the usual Friday evening blog this week, so instead here’s a great analysis by Stavvers of how white men are trying to have their cake and eat it over the New Year mass sexual assaults. See you next week!)

Another angry woman

Content note: this post discusses sexual violence, rape apologism and racism

News has emerged that the New Year mass sexual assaults by Arab men may have been made up or colossally overstated. If this is true, it’s a rare occurrence of sexual assault allegations proving to be false, and it’s utterly disgusting and unhelpful to everyone.

Except white men. Remember the frothing glee with which white men seized upon similar attacks, a year before. Remember how Nigel Farage, practically hard, threatened that this was why Migration Is Bad. Remember how the police rounded up brown men, ostensibly for the safety of women. Remember the wild-eyed excitement from the right, literally saying “told you so“.

And compare and contrast this with the reaction when an allegation is made against a white man’s idol. Donald Trump, Roman Polanski, Julian Assange… the endless list of beloved white men…

View original post 408 more words

Leave a comment »

Tara Palmer-Tomkinson was autistic – so why is this being erased?

It seems like a tiny thing, I know, but it’s really bugging me.

The late Tara Palmer-Tomkinson, who died this week aged 45, was diagnosed as autistic in 2014. It did make news at the time, but apparently not as much as I thought, because in all the articles I read through about her death and describing her life, not a single one gave this as much as a passing reference. With all the coverage she’s had over the last few days, most people I’ve mentioned this to (including autistic people) didn’t even know.

And honestly, it feels a lot like erasure – of autistic adults, of autistic women, of late-diagnosed autistic people, of autistic people in general who don’t fit the rigid stereotypes. It feels strange that, alongside a couple of other autistic women I’ve seen on social media, I seem to be the only one who’s noticed.

Of course, a late autism diagnosis is hardly the most important thing about Palmer-Tomkinson’s life, and we can’t really know how she would have wanted it to be dealt with anyway. But leaving it out across the board is particularly interesting when we consider what the media have been more than happy to leave in.  More specifically, the meltdowns – here’s a more sensitive take on the Heathrow incident, written at the time by another autistic woman. Given that many of the obituaries eagerly discuss this and similar incidents in great detail, sometimes in a critical and almost mocking tone, it’s difficult to see why autism would be deemed irrelvant. And in prioritising this unwanted attention on a vulnerable moment in her life over the autism revelation given willingly in an interview, it’s incredibly difficult to frame this omission as a matter of respect. On a more positive note, several articles noted her charity work with autistic children – but still, despite the obvious relevance, leaving out the autistic adult in the picture.

In the interests of honesty, I had another quick Google before I started writing this up this morning, and I did find this clip from Good Morning Britain on the OK! website; Carrie Grant does note the autism diagnosis, and that quote is included in OK!’s write-up. It’s worth noting at this point that Grant has autistic children herself and is involved in campaigning around autism; it’s sad that this one mention has come from someone already in the wider “~autism community~” because nobody else seems to want to bring it up!

Representation matters – for combating stereotypes, and for ensuring everyone knows that they’re not alone, that there are others like them. Erasure prevents this. Stop erasing autistic people.

6 Comments »

A Law Student’s Guide To Free Speech (and what it isn’t)

Here are some of the main sources of the basic human right to freedom of expression:

Freedom of expression is formulated slightly differently in each of those documents so I’d encourage having a look for yourself, but basically, it means everyone has the right to hold and express opinions without interference from the state. This interference might include:

Freedom of expression means you are free to express your views in general, but it does not give you a right to specific private platforms or audiences. If I invited you into my room and you started yelling abuse at me, I could kick you out without violating your freedom of expression – you remain free to yell abuse everywhere else. Indeed, if I invited you into my room and you do nothing wrong but then I have to go to class, I could kick you out and end the conversation with me without violating your freedom of expression – you remain free to express yourself to everyone else. In fact, I don’t HAVE to invite you in at all – you can still hold and express opinions, you just have to do it outside or somewhere else. The same principle would apply if my space was virtual and my name was Twitter.

Here are some other things free speech does not include:

These are privileges; the majority of us won’t ever receive these privileges, but that doesn’t mean we’ve all lost our rights to free speech!

As noted above, the right to freedom of expression protects against interference from the state – it cannot be violated by private parties. Having said that, it’s true that some private actions might impede a person’s ability to express themselves freely even though this cannot amount to a legal violation of freedom of expression, for example:

Neither of those violate the right to freedom of expression (although they may violate other laws), but you could certainly argue they go against the general spirit of why freedom of speech is so important.

Which begs the question – why is freedom of speech so important? There are various reasons for this. Firstly, there’s the importance of self-expression for developing autonomy and self-fulfilment (although it’s probably worth mentioning at this point that media corporations are not human beings developing autonomy and self-fulfilment). Then there’s the argument based around democracy – in a democratic society, we should be able to hear a wide range of views in order to evaluate them ourselves as opposed to, say, far-right white men shouting everyone else down and creating an atmosphere hostile to other voices.

This is where those restrictions I mentioned earlier come in – at least at a UN and European level, a proportionate, legal restriction on freedom of speech is permitted where this is  necessary for a specific list of aims – both the ICCPR and ECHR include the rights of others in this list. A common example of a situation where this balancing is needed is the tension between freedom of the media and the right to privacy of the individual they are reporting on. However, some speech can also reinforce or increase existing damage to the rights of others; for example, trans people are already at high risk of sometimes fatal violence and are frequently denied healthcare, and high-profile transphobic speech (such as this high-profile transphobic speech…) perpetuates the belief that these human rights violations are acceptable. So transphobes may have a right to express their hatred, but this has to be balanced against the rights of trans people to, in many cases, literally continue to exist. I don’t imagine freedom of expression would prevail there.

 

Basically: All free speech really means is that an opinion is legally allowed to exist without state interference. And if the best defence of an opinion you can think of is “it’s legally allowed to exist”, perhaps it’s time to start looking around for some better opinions.

Leave a comment »

So I had a huge shutdown and now I have a lot of feelings…

(CONTENT NOTE: This post discusses an autistic shutdown and internalised ableism)

I won’t be around this Friday, so I’m being prepared for once and writing this on Tuesday night! I’ll publish now too, because apparently I’m more impatient than I thought. On the other hand, I’m afraid this is going to be one of those whining-about-my-life posts, because it’s safe to say the past few days have been a bit of a mess!

So: after I’d already had an intense couple of days, some (relatively new) friends from uni started planning to go to Women’s March and I decided to go with them too. This was a Very Obviously Bad Decision. I was overloaded and panicky the second the packed tube doors closed, ended up non-verbal and frozen stiff on the outskirts of the huge crowd, and ultimately found myself zoning in and out on a tube back home before any actual marching had even started. Everything had fallen apart.

Firstly, I know I’m not going to be the only one who’s had similar experiences, and even the fact that I could get there at all is a huge privilege in itself. There’s a lot to be said about inaccessibility in activism; about how some forms of activism are prioritised over others and seen as more “real”, to the detriment of the disabled people (and people in general) who carry out important activist work in other ways; about how instead of add-on tokenism so disabled people can feel included, we need to actually BE included and have our needs considered from the start of activist planning; the list goes on.

For now, though, I want to focus on the shutdown itself and the torrent of internalised ableism and self-loathing that followed. For the rest of the day all I could think about was how terrible and useless and silly I was – not because I couldn’t participate (like I said, inaccessiblity is a thing), but because I couldn’t participate and I tried anyway. If I’d stayed home in the first place I could have at least got on with uni work and perhaps been more vocal online, but instead I put myself through all that stress and ended up writing off the whole day (and, I think, reduced productivity for several days) only to ultimately contribute nothing. If anything, I’d contributed negatively, in that my friends (who were in this situation with me for the first time) were also held back while they tried to figure out what was going on and how to help.

Ultimately though, I think a lot of those feelings just boiled down to frustration. To put it bluntly: I came up against a huge barrier that would not have been there if I were neurotypical. Of course, in many ways you could argue that happens all the time, but, at least in my case, it’s rarely so blatant, so clear-cut, that the only thing standing between me and the goal was my brain. It makes me feel vulnerable; well, I guess it makes me aware of the vulnerability that’s always there.

The other reason I feel vulnerable is because I suddenly feel very visible; it didn’t help that I posted a lot about autism on my Facebook last week for reasons I can’t really go into here. As soon as I had the typing words, I was venting about what happened in practically every space I could think of, to the point that I was a little worried about this post in case parts are recognisably lifted from posts and comments under my own name. But immediately after doing so, I’d feel embarrassed, whiny, silly, looking for attention (why is that even a bad thing anyway?) and if I’m totally honest, I still feel a bit like this now as I write.

I got some really lovely messages on the day from the people I’d gone with, and they were all really nice about it when I saw them again in class, but it didn’t stop me feeling… weird. Weird: My go-to word for a feeling I haven’t quite identified yet. Self-conscious. Guilty. Ashamed. Yep, I felt ashamed that I’d shut down like that so obviously in front of them, even though I know on a logical level that I shouldn’t. Telling the whole story to others has also been…weird. Difficult. Misunderstood. I always forget until I have to talk about autism-related concepts like meltdowns and shutdowns that most people don’t really know what it means without you explaining it (which is something many people struggle with, including myself), and even then, they don’t necessarily get it. It’s not their fault at all, they just can’t relate, it’s not within the realm of experiences they have had. And it makes me feel so alien.

If today’s energy levels and executive function are anything to go by, I’m still not quite over it yet. (Okay, so I wrote a long blog post, but I’ve barely scratched the surface of what I actually had to do today!) I’m not sure if I have actually been more sensitive and less able to handle social situations over the past couple of days, but I’m definitely more consciously aware of other times when I might be visibly different, or other things I find difficult that “should” be easy, and it feels… y’know, weird. Again, frustration and vulnerability and shame and feeling bad for feeling bad, because I really know I shouldn’t.

Sometimes, the most useful contribution you can make is to take care of yourself, and that’s okay. Sometimes, you have to just accept yourself for who you are, and who you are is okay. I just wish I knew how to put that into practice.

11 Comments »

Everything is the worst – and we shouldn’t have to just put up with it

By the time this post goes up, Donald Trump will be President. Yep. Really. Remember how ridiculous and impossible that was three months ago? I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you why this is terrible and dangerous, but I do worry about how easy it is to normalise it, to buy into all the awful “marginalised groups provoked this by asking for basic human rights” rhetoric when it’s everywhere. So, for the record:

  • You don’t have to “just learn to live with” the fact that someone who openly admitted to sexual assault has been allowed to reach one of the most powerful positions in the world.
  • You don’t have to engage in “respectful debate” over the “controversial” views that climate change isn’t real or that vaccines cause autism. Those views aren’t controversial. They are objectively, scientifically, wrong.
  • You don’t have to “just get over” your healthcare, even your means of survival, being taken away.
  • It’s not “demonising” to point out that people in power think conversion therapy is okay and to point out that it really, really isn’t.
  • You don’t have to “get along with” people who think you and people like you are an acceptable target for open mockery.
  • And you DEFINITELY don’t have to “unite as a country” with people who support literally actually really building an actual fucking wall to keep you and people like you out. (Or with people who put their own economy at risk to keep you and people like you out, for that matter… and they say WE “want to stay in our own echo chambers”?)

The far-right and its supporters want you to think that it’s irrational, unreasonable or childish (cleverly playing on the insecurities of many millenials who haven’t had the same socio-economic opportunities to reach “adult” milestones as in the past) to stand up for yourself and your rights. It is NOT irrational, unreasonable or childish to stand up for yourself and your rights. It is NOT irrational, unreasonable or childish to resist.

 

Leave a comment »

Some Twitter threads on transphobia

CONTENT NOTE: This post discusses transphobia and conversion therapy, and also mentions anti-vaxxers. The first linked thread mentions transphobia, healthcare gatekeeping, ableism and sexism. The second linked thread mentions transphobia, healthcare gatekeeping, gaslighting, suicide and ableism.

Three weeks into the whole “new post every Friday at 7pm” thing, and I’m already messing it up – a lot’s happened this week and I have a few deadlines coming up, so here I am with an imminent Blog Time and virtually zero Blog Ability.

Instead I’m going to link to two Twitter threads by two autistic trans people, Harry Giles and @Scattermoon, broadly about the BBC’s decision to broadcast a documentary entertaining the idea that cis adults know what’s best for trans children better than trans children do, framing abuse of trans children as a ~~debate~~, and suggesting that autism is a valid reason to disregard gender identity, amongst other things.

You’d have thought media organisations would have learned lessons from the whole Andrew-Wakefield-claiming-MMR-causes-autism thing, but apparently not.

Leave a comment »

Uncertainty, risk, and consequences

(CONTENT NOTE: This post discusses autistic meltdowns)

Uncertainty doesn’t mean that something bad is going to happen.”

This is one of the main points I took away, word for word, from my uni counselling service sessions last year. I find it very helpful to remember because, well, it’s true. Sudden changes with no advance warning can be pretty awful in terms of sensory overload, but on the other hand, sudden changes with advance warning can lead to days of slow-burn, pit-of-the-stomach anxiety which, most of the time, turns out to be completely unfounded. I find it helpful to remind myself and to be reminded that, realistically, there’s a big chance that nothing bad is going to happen to me at all.

Having said that, there is a huge difference between reassurance and denial. A dismissive “stop worrying, it’ll be fine” or a laughing “you’re worried about THAT?” from neurotypical people, however well-meaning, is incredibly frustrating. The main reason for this is that these people don’t understand what I mean by “things going wrong”. They don’t understand the consequences of things going on. I’m not just worried about inconvenience, discomfort, general less-than-perfection. First and foremost, I’m worried about meltdown.

Autistic meltdowns are experienced differently by different people and in different situations. For me, meltdowns mostly involve a lot of crying, the intense feeling that nothing is going to be okay ever again, and a horrible all-consuming headache that makes me feel sick, makes it difficult to speak coherently (in a situation that may attract the attention of well-meaning people pressuring me to speak coherently so they can understand what’s going on) and means I can’t process more sensory input (in a situation that’s usually provoked in the first place by some ongoing source of sensory overload I can’t get away from). It can take days to fully recover from. These days, I experience true meltdowns rarely, so I know the risk is low, but the very fact that it could happen is terrifying. In addition, if I get into this state away from home, there’s really no guarantee that I’ll be able to make it home or to a place of safety myself, so the prospect of that happening when I’m on my own is very scary indeed.

“Why on earth are you so on edge about it? It’ll be fine!” always makes me think “Well it’s alright for you, you don’t have to deal with the consequences if, by chance, it’s NOT fine”. But articulating that in the moment is difficult, especially after years of it being mocked and dismissed as over-reacting even by people who really mean well.

Of course, in reality, it’s almost always fine. Uncertainty doesn’t mean something bad is going to happen. Uncertainty only means risk. But that risk is very real, that the severe effects should that risk actually occur are very real too. By all means, offer reassurance that it will probably be fine, but understand that it might not be fine, and that risk is not to be erased.

8 Comments »

Blogversary/The Annual Resolution To Post More

This blog is officially four years old! *raining confetti*

On a related note, this blog still exists. I kind of dropped the ball again, so this is my first post since Autistics Speaking Day on 1st November, and of course since then the world has gone even more to shit than it already was, which is maybe part of the reason I feel like the gap between posts is longer than it really is.

I feel like it’s usually around the same time of year when my blogging lapses, and I think that’s because for me autumn still means a new year at university (and this year, a new university!), so routines take time to change and the blog gets lost along the way. My other excuse this time round is that I’ve been focusing on my own Twitter rather than hiding away under the FeministAspie alias, which I guess is a good thing, but I think I still find the more anonymous space beneficial and I don’t intend to completely abandon it!

Evidently, my blogversary coincides almost exactly with New Year, which means I always end up making and re-making the same resolution: Post on FeministAspie once a week. To be fair, this usually lasts at least a couple of months, but this time I’ve had the idea of giving myself a weekly deadline so that a blogging routine is incorporated into my existing routine. So, from now on, I aim for posts to be scheduled for publication on Fridays at 7pm (UK time). This will be the official FeministAspie timeslot. We’ll see how long it lasts!

Finally, given that it’s also the end of 2016 (which sounds reassuring, until you remember that Brexit and Trump haven’t even really happened yet and 2016 was basically just laying the foundations for the awfulness to start…), here are my five most-viewed posts of the year:

2 Comments »

the silent wave

life through one female Asperger's lens

Living In Limbo

The rants, writing and ramblings of a queer, autistic, chronically ill young adult.

Little Bird, Dreaming

Welcome to the landscapes, mindscapes, and futurescapes of my geography journeys

Sacred Liminality

musings of a genderfluid Fae

the uninspirational

I'm not aspiring to inspire you

Elephants Remember

Living and working with autism in a non-autistic world

that Bloody Cat

Love and chaos deep in the Midwest

Just One Autistic Girl

Be As Younique as your own Fingerprint

drcable sTRANge notes

notes on the sTRANge

A Willful Woman...

Thoughts about books from a romance addict.

A Hell On Earth

Researching the history of the Huronia Regional Centre from a neurodiversity perspective.

searchingtounderstand

When I understand, I feel better. This condemns me to a lot of reading and thinking.

21andsensory

I'm Emily and I have Sensory Processing Disorder

Michy's Mess

The Mess of my Ups and Downs and All Arounds