trigger warning: ableism

An Open Letter to John Elder Robison

Dear Mr. Robison,

We have a couple of mutual friends, or so I am reliably informed, and we share the same neurology. While I dislike the tendency of NT society to turn to you almost as a default when they need an autistic person to speak on something, that is not your fault. I’ve even read Look Me In The Eye and found lessons and stories in it that I’ve been able to apply to my own life, for which I am grateful. You write extremely well.

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Apparently I Actually Have To Say This

I just received a comment from someone calling himself Jerry, who defended Nicholas Richett’s father – the person who murdered Nicholas. He told me several intimate details of Nicholas’s life, many of which I have absolutely no business knowing about, and stated that “[t]here are no homes that will take an autistic child with Nickys degree of autism.” How do you know, sir? And if you’re so concerned, why didn’t you?

He also said that “If you have a strong opinion of what happened to Nicky don’t run your mouth adopt an extremely autistic child.”

[Image description: A stone cross planted in the ground, surrounded by light green plants and grass. Another grave marker is in the back left of the photo, almost totally overgrown by weeds, possibly kudzu.]

[Image description: A stone cross planted in the ground, surrounded by light green plants and grass. Another grave marker is in the back left of the photo, almost totally overgrown by weeds, possibly kudzu.]

(1) You bet your ass I have a “strong opinion” of “what happened to Nicky.” Namely that he had the right to live regardless of what his father thought. I have sympathy for people suffering from depression and anxiety; I truly feel for those who are tormented by so much fear and sadness. That does not give them the right to take someone else’s life. Nothing does. If you can’t understand that, I despair of you as a human being.

(2) Nicholas Richett was in his twenties when he was murdered. That’s not a child; that’s a man. Don’t infantilize us.

(3) Michigan as a state has an absolutely appalling record on the human rights of disabled people. It spawned the woman for whom expletives are too mild. It has bought into the push for medical marijuana to curb autistic “behaviors” (which is not inherently a bad thing, but the insistence on curing behaviors rather than finding out why behaviors happen is infuriating). It has almost no protocols regarding restraint and seclusion of students, which is barbaric. Multiple stories exist about autistic kids being all but pushed out of the school system due to ignorance and unwillingness to accommodate, even though it is mandated by law that they do so.

(4) I now have a “strong opinion” of you, Jerry; first, that you don’t do your research – I’m autistic too, sweetheart – and second, that you have a problem with someone speaking up for a murder victim.

Think about that for a second.

To my audience at large, I’m really hoping I don’t have to say this, but I will anyway: If you are going to comment defending a murderer or attempted murderer of an autistic person, do not waste your time. You will be deleted, and I will rip you a new one for your bigotry. 

We are not burdens. We are not tragedies. We are not collateral damage in someone’s depression. We have the right to live regardless of how scared you are that we’re going to be ~burdens.~ Respect our autonomy and agency. We are people, just like you. If you can’t do that, I don’t want to be in the same zip code as you. I’m astonished I got through this with as little profanity as I managed, because the sheer stubbornness these people display in seeing autistics as less than human is both infuriating and terrifying.

A Very Short Manifesto

No time to do much today, but this needed to be said.

I’ve been getting told lately that I need an “attitude adjustment.” As if I were a second grader. That the problem I have is that I’m “hostile” and I “need to be nicer.”

You want to know why I’m “hostile”?

  • I’m “hostile” and “angry” because the team behind a blog called “A Year in the life of Autism” (who is Autism? Does zie pay rent?) tried to start a campaign called the “Silent Selfie” (google it, they’re not getting hits from me) where allistic paaaarents took pictures with their hands over their mouths to signify that autistic people have no voice. When in reality, the only time our community doesn’t have a voice is when people like these assholes censor it! And then, instead of apologizing and listening to autistic people on how to do better, they – as all good martyr mommas do – doubled down and said “well, we didn’t mean to offend” instead of actually listening to us. The Facebook thread is one for the ages, including multiple people telling us to “grow up” and “get over it” instead of opening a fucking ear. It’s endemic of how we are always treated, and I will not take it lying down any longer.
  • I’m “hostile and angry” because my best friend in the world, my almost-sister, has a chronic illness, that she has had since age 14, and nobody has done anything to fix it. It’s a “woman’s disease,” chronically under-researched, chronically under-treated, and misunderstood. It causes severe chronic pain, fatigue, and the works, but on days it gets so bad she has to go to the ER, she gets treated like a drug-seeker, shamed and ignored. Apparently it’s fine to make people suffer if they’re female and aren’t any use as, or have no interest in being, a baby incubator. I’m angry because chronic pain preys on your mental health, and sometimes the pain and rage and frustration can’t be contained, and because I’d rather cut off a limb than watch her suffer more. (NB: She has given me permission to talk about it in general terms, so I’m not violating her privacy by discussing it.)
  • I’m “hostile and angry” because our neighbor keeps bad-mouthing us to our landlady, giving vague and inchoate complaints about how our cat box smells but not giving details. We may get evicted because of this.
  • I’m “hostile and angry” because I worked my ass off in school, got sterling grades, went to a great university, went to law school, and no one will fucking hire me. I’m brilliant, not to toot my own horn, but I don’t interview well and I don’t have much patience for fake networking bullshit, but I need a roof over my head. It’s not fair.
  • I’m “hostile and angry” because Donald fucking Trump is the Republican front runner and frankly, I’m afraid.
  • I’m “hostile and angry” because my mother has cancer and even though it’s a somewhat treatable kind, I’m terrified because she’s my mama and she needs to be okay.

Unless you can fix any of those things, you don’t get to tell me to be nicer. You do not get to take my anger. I have a goddamn right to it. It’s all that keeps me going some days. Without it I’d probably have done something harmful to myself a long time ago.

And I Am Telling You

I was going to try and be really highfalutin’ with this post. I was going to ask my roommate the English major about Lacanian theory and semiotics, and explain that. Then I’d make some allusion to the fact that we all perceive words differently, and it can sometimes mess up discourse on a fundamental level. Then I would tie it back to the fact that the word ‘disability’ is routinely interpreted as something hugely dire by the non-disabled, and explain that ‘disability’ is in fact a social construct. Then, to close, I’d make some quasi-profound point about how we could all do a bit better at understanding that we all have different perceptions.

But today is the Disability Day of Mourning, and I’m not going to do that.

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A Defense Against Libel

I know it’s been a while since I posted. The reasons are about evenly split between life happening, and being threatened with doxxing over my Stapleton post. My life has calmed down somewhat since, but I still had to debate posting this. Eventually I decided in favor of posting it, because frankly, it needs to be said.

London McCabe was a six year old boy living in Oregon. His mother murdered him last week by throwing him off a bridge. After the murder, NBC reached out to “autism experts.” They found Dee Shepherd-Look, who is a professor of psychology at Cal State Northridge. She had this to say. (Very triggering, be warned.)

““I’m frankly surprised this doesn’t happen more often. These children are really unable to be in a reciprocal relationship and the moms don’t really experience the love that comes back from a child — the bonding is mitigated … That is one of the most difficult things for mothers.””

I and most of the autistic community was appalled. This is the e-mail I sent to her. -cec

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Sometimes, The Law Is Not Enough

NB. Any news media links contained herein come with a massive trigger warning for ableism and dehumanization of autistics. I provide them in the context of attempting to be thorough, but I do not endorse any of the content therein. They’re fairly disgusting, to be honest.

NB #2. In the interests of full disclosure, a few edits have been made upon receiving new information.

NB #3. G-d help you if you try to defend Kelli Stapleton on my blog. I mean it. 

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A Self-Evident Truth

I worried when I last posted (Housekeeping post notwithstanding) that I was getting too stuck into righteous anger. That I was becoming one of those people, who finds offense in everything. And I’ve tried to surround myself with joy more often, if only for my mental health. There is a lot of joy in the world.

Also, it’s possible to have an opinion on something without being offended. You can be sad. Scared. Disappointed. Worried. Lately, I’ve been all four, and the straw that broke the camel’s back was the response in the aftermath of an appalling Washington Post article. Only one question came to mind.

Do people really need constant reassurance that autistic people are in fact human beings?

It really, really seems like they do.

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