When activists fail to see the irony

no-one-sees-the-irony

 

I’ve been seeing a lot of this in response to the women’s march.  I kinda want to respond with a giant middle finger.

The controversy is that a majority of white women that voted (not a majority of white women total, BTW) voted for Trump.  On top of that, within the feminist movement we often silence women of color or bring our own concerns to the forefront while ignoring the concerns of people who–because of their intersecting marginalized groups–have a much bigger concern.

I know I’ve seen it in activist scenarios.  Women of color have a very tough time.  They often get silenced.  When they bring up ways that the movement is not including them, the white women will sort of hand wave it away.

And it’s terrible and unfair to them.  Women of color are sexually assaulted WAAAAAAAY more often than white women.    Women of color fear the police in a way that white women simply do not have to.  Women of color have to be even more careful than white women because we tend to act like they are promiscuous no matter what they do.  Women of color can’t “Lean in” the way that we instruct white women to because women of color rightly fear being labeled “uppity” or “pushy” or “angry.”  I’ve seen people do it.  A person of color has to be twice as calm and rational to be listened to, and even then they’ll likely be labeled angry and irrational and dismissed.

Racism is real, and white women can be remarkably oblivious to it.

How many of you spotted the irony here?  Seriously.  Look.  I’ll give you a second.

Still not found it?

This “inclusive” list that everyone looks at to show how horrible white women are for ignoring the plight of intersectional members of their movement completely failed to even MENTION one group that I know for a fucking fact was marching.

Disabled women.  Yes.  women of color are more likely to be sexually assaulted than white women.  The group with the worst sexual assault rate is Native women — 1 in 2, and almost none of the assaults are by native men–is appalling.

For women with disabilities that number is 4 out of 5.

If they’d even thought to include us the disabled portion of this would read:

I’m scared that I will die because I can’t find health insurance that will cover me for the way I was born.  I’m scared of being sexually assaulted and no one believing me.   I’m scared that I won’t be able to defend myself because people will think it’s okay to mock my disability instead of seeing me as a human being.  I’m scared that the police will be able to shoot me, and no one will care because I’m subhuman to our administration.  I’m scared that even the other marginalized groups will turn a blind eye to our suffering because even they don’t recognize that we are treated unfairly.

Surely women of color are nothing but inclusive, understanding of intersectionality, and defend us to the death!!!!

Not in my experience.

I’ve had women of color tell me that I needed to leave a feminist organization I was volunteering at because they “couldn’t afford” to have me screw up.  You know, because as a person with a mental disability I surely can’t offer competent help!

One woman of color gaslighted me and convinced me that everyone else in the organization was trying to keep me from getting hired because she wanted to use me to further her own agenda.  I’m pretty sure I was targeted because of my autism because she has autistic members of her family and she told me once how easy it was to fool us. Fortunately I found evidence that she was lying before I hurt people.  When what she did was found out, she was not punished and I was told I needed “better boundries.” The organization didn’t care that a disabled woman was discriminated against.

The organization that banned me from reading to small children because they were afraid my autistic ass was a danger to the kids?  That effort was lead by a woman of color who didn’t want me in her school because her students were all children of color and the school was dedicated to giving them a fair chance.  She didn’t have time to deal with a retard!  She was working of social justice!

I’ve never had to explain what sexism and racism is.  I’ve never had to explain what homophobia and transphobia are.

I CONSTANTLY have to define “Ablism” Even when I do, I often get polite smiles and nods–even from people in the activist community!

I actually had one woman say “But we can’t treat people with disabilities as equals!  They aren’t our equals!”

Or when they acknowledge that ableism is a thing, it surely can’t apply to me!  My disability isn’t visible!  Ablism is only against people in wheelchairs or blind people-or amputees!  Someone with a mental disability doesn’t count!

Forgetting the fact that we are much more likely to be sexually assaulted, and much more likely to have our disability used as a reason to dismiss what happened to us.  Also, we have the wonderful experience of working non stop to convince people that our disability is real and not just an excuse to be lazy!

Being oppressed doesn’t make us immune to being oppressors in turn.  We are all shitty people in that regard.  EVERY LAST ONE OF US.

This isn’t a struggle with just good guys and bad guys.  Every member of this movement is a fallible human being.  And each of us grew up in this toxic culture that encourages us to blame one another for our problems.  There are no “perfect victims.”

And I HATE, absolutely H-A-T-E when people in the disability movement point out that a lot of their bullying and the discrimination they’ve received has come from non-white people or homosexuals or women, then use that to say that these groups deserve everything they get.  It happens and it makes me sick.  It doesn’t take away from the discrimination that they’ve experienced, but it’s shitty behavior that hurts all of us.

I don’t care what you’ve suffered.

We don’t attack other oppressed communities!

Because the Powers That Be enjoy it waaaaaaay too much when we fight with one another. It’s tempting.  Fighting the actual oppressors is a whole lot harder than fighting a community that is slightly less marginalized than yours and sometimes unthinkingly joins forces with them.

In 2008, there was a huge backlash against African American voters because prop 8 was passed in California, and African American people showed up in record numbers to vote for Obama.  Black people were blamed.  There were a lot of homosexuals who were spouting some pretty racist rhetoric.

But that was ridiculous, racist, and unfair.  

And ultimately destructive, because statistically, this group was a lot more likely to vote for equal rights than other groups with the same cultural pressures (i.e. people who went to church on a regular basis.), but no personal experience with systematic oppression.  By acting like they were the cause of the injustice as opposed to a symptom of a sick system that pits marginalized groups against one another in order to maintain power over us all these activists were just fueling the system that keeps us all down.

They should have been reaching out to one another.

A majority of white women might have voted for trump, but blaming us is statistically unfair, and ignores the bigger picture.    Namely, that we were much less likely to vote for him than men, and that I sincerely doubt the majority of white women marching are among the Trump voters.

Hostility toward these women is unproductive.  It’s just feeding into the stupid system that encourages marginalized groups to attack one another as opposed to going after the actual sources of our oppression.

The truth is we are all bigoted assholes at times.  It sucks.  Living with oppression doesn’t make you immune to being a shitty human.

Not being a shitty person who oppresses other marginalized people is hard work!  It requires compassion, self-awareness, and humility.  It’s the work of a lifetime.

Yes.  It was shitty that those women voted for trump.

Just like it was shitty for all of those African American people to vote for prop 8.

And yes, when this stuff happens, it’s totally fair to point out the irony.

But when you do this WHILE ignoring a marginalized community that is also suffering, and in many ways suffering worse than you . . .  Well I have to work extra hard to not resent you.  You are being a giant hypocrite, and you really should know better.

But I try to forgive.  Because you are a human, and you are hurting.  And it’s natural to give more weight to your pain than the pain of people who are not a member of your community.  It doesn’t make it right, but it’s understandable.

Your pain is real, and the injustice you face is real.  Just because I feel like mine is worse doesn’t make yours invalid.  This isn’t a contest where only the person in the most shitty situation gets help.  All of us need help, and we won’t get it when we are focused on how we’ve wronged one another.

 

 

 

 

So. . . Thanksgiving is looking bleak.

If you are a liberal you are probably dreading the holidays.  Why?  Many of us have some conservative family members.   Many of us feel like our conservative family hates us or holds us in contempt.  We visit our family because we love them dearly, but it’s a damn near impossible situation because nothing we do is right.

Talking to people, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s a pretty universal experience.   I know it happens to me, and in every iteration of my family.  It’s not a specific branch, nor is it even just my biological family.

I’m awkward.  I don’t always know how to react in a situation, and everybody LOVES to interpret that as malice on my part.  Any social mistake is seen as a deliberate slight.  Also, any mistake I make is pounced upon by people who’ve wanted to yell at me for a long time because they disapprove of me personally, but are looking for the opportunity to do it and feel justified.  That or they are paying me back for a slight I don’t remember that I committed against a third family member.

I am usually tempted (very strongly) to yell back, but arguing doesn’t actually persuade people.  Even if you enjoy arguing, you are only making them more entrenched in their ideas.  Your engaging them is actually feeding the political ideas you hate.  Arguing with them is a selfish indulgence of your ego, and nothing more.  Also I hate it, am bad at it, and it makes me sick to my tummy.

You can ignore them, and refuse to rise to any arguments, but it’s like being covered in fleas, knowing you are being bitten, itching like hell, but making yourself endure it without reaction.  Many of us even have family members who know we disagree and enjoy taunting us, and trying to get us to engage.  Honestly, some dinners with extended family (both blood and in-laws) can give me PTSD flashbacks to high school because I feel like I’m being bullied and I’m once again in a position where I can’t defend myself without making it worse.  Even if it’s not being built up deliberately in order to goad you, but they assume you agree with them it can be really hard to hear racism, people joking about domestic violence, rape, etc, and not feeling like a coward for keeping your mouth shut.  Silence is often interpreted as complacence or even approval. You *don’t* approve, but making that clear without making it worse is very hard.

I know I go away from many gathering covered in welts from stress rashes.  Especially if I have kept my mouth shut the whole time.

We could avoid it entirely.  Over the years I’ve come to the conclusion that this is the choice with the least emotional fall out.  I mean, they are mad at me about it, but they’ll be mad at me if I go, and this way I don’t have rashes and/or panic attacks.

You can only do that for so long though, or they start to take offense.  And you *do* love them, even if you disagree.  Also sometimes you don’t have a choice.  Sometimes it’s a funeral, or a wedding, or there are family members you want to see so you have to put up with the ones you don’t want to see, or someone you love wants to go and you have to be there to support them.

There are some tactics I employ when I’m stuck in a place with people I love, but deeply, deeply disagree with.  Here’s a list of mine.  Feel free to add to them:

  1.  Read a book at family dinners and picnics.  No matter what you do, if you engage with people it will backfire.  If you have a book, you can tune out the horrible, the emotion, and the drama and retreat to a fantasy world when the real one is too overwhelming.  I survived many family visits with books as a child and teenager.  The downside is people will think that you think you are too good to talk to them.  The truth is more “I don’t trust my ability to talk to you without causing us both pain, and I don’t trust my ability to keep my mouth shut if I don’t have a book.” but no one ever believes that.  Still, it’s better than an all out screaming match.
  2. When they say something truly horrible and horrendous, pretend you don’t understand and try to make them explain the horrible thing to you.  Don’t act shocked.  I can only do this because I have the ability to actually convince myself that I didn’t understand them.  I mean, only a horrible monster would say something that horrible, and this is a real human being.  Therefore they would never think something that horrible, so I must have misunderstood.  People are a lot less likely to target you for harassment and inflammatory remarks if you respond to them with genuine confusion and they are a lot less able to claim something is a joke if they have to defend it to you.  Also, if they have to repeat how horrible what they just said is to a room full of people, there is a chance that someone else will also hear and voice their discontent.  When you make them spell out that they are apologizing for rape, or racism, a lot of people either feel bad about it, or at least realize that it’s less funny than they thought it was.  It doesn’t stop everyone, but it does stop the worst of the bullies and trolls at family gatherings.
  3. Pretend you agree with them, but take it to a ridiculous level.  Turn the entire conversation to a joke.  “Religion should be allowed in schools?  Hell yes I agree!  I think every elementary school should have classes in how Joss Whedon is our lord and master.  What?  I’m a Whedonite.  I worship the Hollywood Writer Joss Whedon.  Oh?  You meant *your* religion?  Well I still think that if you get to preach your religion I totes get to preach mine.  Have you heard the good news about Buffy?” or “I agree that the police should be able to shoot someone based on what they are wearing.  People who wear crocs with sandals should know they are acting suspicious and be prepared for the police to take appropriate action against them.”  When you start the ball rolling on jokes, it lightens the mood and they have to work hard to bring the conversation back to serious politics, and on top of that everyone sees them as a kill joy if they persist.  Now you get the reputation for being silly and possibly stupid, but that’s better than blowing up.
  4.  Build your relationship with the simple creatures in your family.  If your gathering has animals or children at the entertaining stage, find them.  Set up camp with them.  Hang out with them.  The kid’s table is the best place to survive family politics.  Usually we watch the same cartoons so we have something to talk about.   Cats and dogs are way better companions than most people, and if you are spending time with them, people are less likely to hassle you.  Adults are scary.  Children and animals are easy to get along with.
  5. When a person is being particularly irksome, turn them into a cat in your head.  I do this all the time.  I have a lot more patience with the person who is screaming at me, if I pretend they are an angry, badly trained cat, thus they are incapable of being aware of how their actions have consequences to people other than themselves.  You can’t explain it to them, or hold their rude, hurtful behavior against them.  They are literally not capable of comprehending that you have feelings and they are hurting you.  It lowers my expectations of them, and I can laugh at their antics instead of be hurt by them.
  6. When you feel overwhelmed because the gathering of people who disagree with you is particularly large, and the dysfunction is extremely overwhelming, pretend it’s a nature documentary and you are actually studying them.  I even have a British announcer narrating it in my head at times.  “And here we see the dominate male of the group challenged by a rival-”  talking or commenting on it is not a temptation because it would interfere with your ability to study this fascinating new culture, and thus understand it better.  It would completely contaminate your scientific objectivity!

This is how I survive holidays and other gatherings.  They might not be the most ideal methods, but they work for me.  What works for you?

Why a cure seems like a bad idea to me.

I saw this on my facebook feed.

tumbler Rogue

I think this perfectly encapsulates the controversy around cures for autism.

Some autistics are like Rogue.  They are in constant pain.  They are always angry and frustrated.  They can’t communicate with others.  They want a cure.

Some of us are like Storm.  Sure, our mutant status has been a pain in the ass.  It may have even been inconvenient for the people who love us.   But most of our problems come down to the way others react to and support us.  With patience, and good cooping mechanisms we are happy and contribute greatly to society.

The problem comes when someone other than the mutant (the autistic) is making that call.  Parents shouldn’t make this call for an infant.  The temptation will be to spare them a life of struggle by completely erasing their super powers.  Or to make the mutant (autistic) normal for purely their own convenience and then to pretend that they did it for their child’s benefit.

Of course we also don’t have people in this universe trying to insist Storm isn’t a *real* mutant.  Or that, of course they don’t mean *her*!  That would make it more closer to what autistics in the real world face.

Most people who want a cure forget the fact that their policies make no real distinction between Storm and Rogue so would have parents and doctors making these decisions without oversight or really any knowledge of the long term consequences well before knowing just what the mutant would be dealing with as an adult.

To carry this metaphor further, I’m neither Storm nor Rogue.  I’m Mystique.  My mutation allows me to blend in.  It’s constant work, though, and I can’t ever relax when I’m blending in.

I want to be myself–walk around wearing my bright blue skin and not be scared of being stoned to death.  I don’t think I’ll resort to villainy for the sake of that goal.  I’m not a fan of violence or control.  That’s where me and Mystique differ.

But don’t tell me I’m not a mutant just because I’m able to put on a false face for your comfort.

And most especially don’t tell me that “Everyone changes their appearance to make others comfortable!”  You put on clothes and makeup.  I put on a whole new skin and lie constantly so that most people don’t hate me.  It’s different.

And don’t pretend that you would be doing me a favor if you took away my shapeshifting when I was an infant and made me normal.  You’d kill me.  A normal child would be in my place.  Not me.  Not any of the good I do for the world, or any of the parts of me that those who love me cherish.

It might be arrogance, but I think the world would miss out.  I’m fabulous!

I’m all in favor of studying the mutants.  I’d like to know more about us.  And some people would probably benefit if they were offered a cure.  I just think we should proceed with extreme caution.  I’d much prefer it if we found a way to remove the more painful symptoms and gave us ways to live with it.  A cure should be for the few who want it, and it should be done only in cases like Rogue.  Where the decision is purely hers.

People like me should be able to move to Portland, soundproof our apartments, and marry engineers.

“Your poor husband.”

I am a militant feminist.

 

No Really.  

 

Burning my bra as I type this.

 

I’ve always been.  My mother was a strong feminist housewife. My big sister is the strongest most powerful person I’ve ever met.  Also, I’m not stupid.  It was pretty obvious to spot all the bizarre double standards and bullshit from an early age.  When I realized just how socially restricted my behavior was compared to my geeky male counterparts it was very easy to call shenanigans.

 

And I’ve never lost my feminism.  I donate money to planned parenthood.  I try to keep my vote as woman-friendly as possible–despite the fact that it’s not always easy to find a politician on either side who sees these issues clearly.  I do my best to call out sexist behavior and advocate for women.  I try to see every woman as a person–even when I feel the pressure from society to see them as competition.

 

I also volunteer with a domestic violence charity and I hope to get hired in the field some day.  

 

Oh.  That last bit.

 

Yeah.  I volunteer in the restraining order room of the courthouse.  I’ve also helped monitor advocacy youth-group.  For a while my couch was a good place to crash and I was a shoulder to cry on for friends looking to escape.

 

It’s a fascinating field.  There are real monsters in this world, and it’s nice to (in a tiny way) be able to help fight them.  I’ve never had to do the fighting myself, but I can give them a shoulder, a place to hide, a finger pointed in the direction of help if they ask.

The title of this post?  A direct quote from most people, upon hearing about my feminism and passion for helping survivors of Domestic Violence.   

 

Allow me to answer for all of you:  My feminism has made my marriage stronger.  And my strong, happy, healthy relationship has fueled my love of feminism.

 

I believe in good men.  I see one every day.  I believe that marriage should be based on mutual respect, even distribution of labor, and never EVER involve trying to control one another.  

 

This idea that a man needs to feel superior to you, or have power over you?  I know that’s nonsense.  My husband, while we are out in public and I’m being silly or outrageous, will suddenly look over at me and get a heart-stopping smile and say “I love you so much!”  When I accomplish something he can’t, I get a hug and a kiss.  Never a defensive put-down.  When I take dumb risks and get myself in trouble, I get a laugh, a head-shake and a “Need any help?  No?  Well good luck on your adventure!” When a coworker asked him what I do for a living (I’m a housewife) he said “My wife is a professional badass.”   

 

And this idea that men are fragile babies who can’t be trusted to handle their emotions?  I know it’s nonsense!  The Engineer is 100% heterosexual.  He’s also 100% uninterested in having sex with someone who isn’t as excited or more excited than he is.  In 16 years, the worst he’s ever done when he lost his temper?  He took his baseball cap off and threw it to the ground before walking away.  He’s never called me names or told me I was worthless.  

 

He’s an adult.  He uses his words!

 

More than that?  I look forward to being with him.  When something happens, he’s the first person I want to tell.  Good news, bad news, mediocre news.  I want his thoughts and opinions.  I enjoy our time together. I’m never afraid of him.

 

So yeah.  If you don’t have that, then why are you married?!  This kind of love exists!  Being alone forever, with the possibility that you may, one day, find this, is better than suffering the misery and slow death that happens when you are with someone who makes feel worthless.

 

And abuse?  No.  This is not just “how relationships are.” You deserve better!  Hell Fucking Yes, I’ll help you leave!!!!  My couch is yours!  How ‘bout we look for an apartment?  I know where you can find a good lawyer!

 

And working with these women (at first friends, then acquaintances, and then I started volunteering in an official capacity)  makes me really appreciate what I have at home more.  

 

I get up early every morning and make my husband’s breakfast and lunch because he’s got a sweet smile and I love to see it.  I will go the extra mile to make him happy.  Why?  Because he is always going the extra mile to make me happy!  I come home from my volunteer shifts and hug and kiss him.  

 

“Thank you for being you and not a monster!”

“Woohoo!  Lowest. Bar. Ever.  My wife is awesome!”

 

And when he makes me laugh like that, I must seduce him.

 

I don’t think he’s suffering.

Recovering from a blow to my self confidence.

What just happened to me wasn’t the greatest challenge anyone has ever gone through.  There are people who suffer worse every day.  I am aware of that.  It’s really not even the worst ableism that I’ve gone through in my life.

It was, however, a huge blow to my confidence and self-esteem.

With my sensory issues, I’m in pain and/or overwhelmed most of the time.  Also, there are early childhood training issues that I’m working to overcome.  I think a lot of adults (parents and educators) get frustrated by the communication issues, and just give up on teaching us how to figure things out on our own.  People who are unaware that we *can* be taught to be self sufficient settle for “scaring us into being well behaved.”

i.e. If you get hurt it’s your fault for calling attention to how different you are.  Anyone you talk to might be trying to take advantage of you, or worse might be tolerating you out of politeness so never trust a friendship.  Be suspicious of anyone who says they like you.  You will never figure out the reason for the rules, so just do what I say, when I say.

I understand.  They love us.  They want to protect us from getting hurt.

But getting hurt is how everyone learns.  And the way we were made means we will get hurt a whole lot more than your average kid.  

If we shrink from it, we never become independent.  We never contribute to anything.  We can’t ever find our own happiness.  

So come at me world!  I might need a break every now and again, but I will keep coming back for more.  You will be amazed at what I can accomplish.   And I will not let fear stop me.  The world might be full of pain, but there are so many beautiful people and things out there.  If I let my fear of them control me, then I never get to enjoy them.  

In other words, I’ve cultivated a positive attitude that would make Pollyanna roll her eyes and wretch.  There is a reason I sang “The Sun will come out, Tomorrow” so often as a small child.  If I don’t believe that, then everything keeping me running breaks.  A child I babysat made unflattering comparisons to Unikitty. . .

There is a bit of a trick getting myself from crying to nauseatingly cheerful.  I’ve cobbled together a system.  This is how it works:

Step one: Uncontrollable, incoherent sobbing.

So Yeah.  I got off the phone with (VOLUNTEER COORDINATOR’S BOSS) and cried.  And cried.  And cried.  I think I spent a good two hours crying.  I felt so helpless.  There was literally no way I could defend myself.  There was nothing I could do.   As I had nowhere to be and no urgent responsibilities, and I had the room.  I took the time to sob my eyes out.

  1. Binge eating.

Some people are fat because they are built that way.  Some people have a slow metabolism.  Some people are fat because of thyroid problems, or other such things.  I’m fat because when I get stressed, I make bad choices.  I’m trying to cut this stage out, but it’s not easy.  Exercise doesn’t work because I’m normally clumsy and prone to injuries.  When I’m upset I’m a millions times worse. The last time I tried exercising while I was upset I wound up in the emergency room.

  1. Angry writing and face booking.

Once I get myself under control enough, I start trying to write down my feelings so that I can sort them properly.  I also give the bare bones of why I’m upset on facebook.

My friends and family are great.  They usually have experience with things and can send me information that I might not have.  At the very least they can send me those two words that every woman wants to hear

“That. Sucks.”

Seriously.  That’s usually all I want.  You don’t have to wail, rend your clothes and gnash your teeth.  I am capable of finding my own damn solutions.  What I want is “Damn!  That’s really unfair!”

  1. Reassuring the concerned friends and family who are calling me because after stage three they are worried I’m having a psychotic break.

The majority of people who love me give me my two favorite words after I post something like that.  I do have a few friends and family (lets be real, they are all family) who are always worried that I’m inches away from a psychotic break.

I think it comes from the fact that they knew me as a child when I wasn’t diagnosed.  I had a lot of meltdowns, so they fear any stress is the sign of an impending meltdown and move to intercept.  

“It’s out of love that they do this.“ I tell myself, as I’m reassuring one of my female relatives that she doesn’t have to call the nice young men in the clean white coats.  

It’s gotten better.  At least now I no longer get calls where they order me to “Take down what you just wrote!  You are embarrassing yourself!”  or “Are you sure it happened the way you said it did?  Maybe they didn’t mean it!” or “Well, in their defense. . .”

Just a hint:

Nothing will make someone psychotic faster than telling them that they don’t have the right to feel or express pain.

This time it was sweet.  It was only three phone calls and they all took me at my word and we had a pleasant conversation.  I look forward to this stage now.  Explaining my anger to people helps me transition from the raw rage of stage three to the quiet cerebral anger of stage five.  

  1. Tranquil fury planning how I’m going to handle this.

Tranquil Fury.  It’s a beautiful wonderful phase that I learned to harness in high school.  It’s when you are so angry that you pass right beyond the visible signs and you look calmer than you’ve ever been in your life.

I have a high-pitched squeaky voice.  I’ve been told I sound like a small child countless times.  When I’m relaxed and happy it’s a twelve year old girl voice.  When I’m trying to sound like an adult, I manage to sound like a fifteen year old.  When I’m scared or sad I sound like a five year old.

When I’m under the influence tranquil fury, I sound like the creepy five year old girl in a horror movie.  My voice sort of loses all tone and inflection.

“Come play with me.  Forever and ever. . .”  

Oh, I’m enraged, but I’m also thinking clearly and logically.  I channel that rage into identifying how I’m going to move past this.

I wrote the letter.  I tracked down who I would send it to.  I also figured out what I would do now that I was at loose ends.  Clearly that program wasn’t an option.  How can I better spend my time?  I made some calls and I have some new plans in the works.

  1. Putting cartoon fight songs on repeat on my ipod and singing with them loudly and off key.

I hate most music.  Not all music, though.  If it’s a song I can understand, know well, and I associate with positive things, I freekin’ love it.

I can’t just let go of these feelings.  I can channel them in a positive direction.  I’ve burned out a lot of my rage in stage five, though, so all I need to do now is convert what’s left to steely resolve not to let anyone make me ashamed of what I am.

This time my mix tape consisted of “Stronger Than you.” From Steven Universe and “Neon Pegasus” from Parry Gripp.

Back to back.  On repeat.  Four a good five hours.  The Engineer came home while I was singing the chorus to stronger than you.  Without the music and the context, it sounded a bit like I was howling, I’m told.  Oh well.  He’s just jealous because I’m made of love, and it’s stronger than him!  Also, you can take my glitter, but you can’t take away my sparkle.

  1. Wash face, put on smile, and move on.

This part is hardest.  I gave myself until the next morning to let out my feelings.  They aren’t all spent, but I think I did a pretty good job of working through them.  I’m still a little scared of people.  I’ve spent the past few days mentally chastising myself every time I catch myself wondering when someone talks to me:

“Do they mean that? Or are they just trying to make you feel better?”

Heck, my boss at the place I volunteer at as a domestic violence advocate said “You are our best volunteer.  We really value you here.”

and I had to shut up that stupid voice in my head that told me “They are only saying that because they have to.”  

When I talk to people, I have to silence that little voice saying “Shut your mouth!  The longer you talk, the more likely people will figure out something is wrong.”

But I washed my face on Friday morning, and I put on my smile.  My eyes were too swollen to wear contacts, so I had to wear my hipster glasses.  My smile was a little watery, but steady.

Then I went to my volunteer shift at the courthouse, and helped survivors of domestic violence fill out paperwork.  And by the end of my shift, my smile was no longer watery.

Because the best thing my mother ever taught me was that if I feel depressed or miserable the easiest way to feel better is to do something nice for someone else.  I am not useless.  The lady who hugged me definitely felt like I helped.  My pain made me more determined to take everyone who spoke to me seriously.  So, in a way, my pain was good.  

When I got home I got another phone call from the people at (VOLUNTEER ORGANIZATION), but we’ll get to that next time.  

It was a bad day

I tried to join a volunteer organization that reads books to kids.  This is the letter I had to send to them.  

Dear (VOLUNTEER PROGRAM AND SCHOOL HOSTING IT);

I’ve just had a humiliating and painful experience while attempting to volunteer with your program.

Allow me to explain.  I am on the high functioning part of the Autism Spectrum.  Most people are unaware that I am autistic just from talking to me.

It’s always a silent debate in my head.  “Do I tell them and ask for help?”  or “Do I pretend I’m fine.  Almost no one notices that I’m struggling so it’s worth it to be in a little bit of pain.”

I have been telling people that I am autistic because I realize that life won’t get better for me or people like me unless I speak up.

The thing that made me high-functioning is reading.  I read voraciously as a child, and I do to this day.

I wasn’t diagnosed as a child, so I received no therapy.  Reading was my therapy.  Through reading I learned how to understand human interactions in a way that I couldn’t through real life.  I could escape from the sensory overload by opening a book.  I am really horrible at picking up information through auditory channels, but I discovered that by reading the book I could learn it faster than anyone else.  I was valedictorian of my high school because of this.

Reading is my solace and my salvation.

I started reading to my little sister when I was nine years old and she was four.  I would spend hours upon hours reading to her and all the children in my mother’s daycare.  As an adult she told me that my reading to her made her love reading, and by extension me.  I read to my nephews, my friend’s children, and really any kid who will sit still for it.

I do funny voices.  I find the books they like.  I consider it a victory if I find them reading on their own afterwards.  I infect them with my love of books.  It’s wonderful.

When the library mentioned your program to me, it seemed a perfect fit.  I was so excited.  I wanted desperately to read to more children and help them learn to love it.

It also occurred to me that there were probably a few children like me in your program.  High functioning autistics fly under the radar with distressing frequency.  Infecting one of these children with a love of reading is way more helpful than testing, though.  If you give them books, you give them the tools they need to cope with anything.

So I volunteered to read.  I also volunteered to take two shifts, which is where the confusion started.  I got an email stating that I would have two students, half an hour each, and it would be from one to two on both days.  There was a contradiction.

So when I showed up I asked for what my exact schedule was.  (VOLUNTEER PROGRAM MANAGER) started to go over how it was in the email.  I explained that the email was not clear.  That’s when I made my first mistake.  I assumed the problem was with me.  I informed the lady I was autistic.

Suddenly she was talking to me with an exaggerated slowness.  She also offered to “Send me the emails again!” as if they would help.  My problem was that the math in the emails didn’t add up.  I tried to explain that to her but I felt like she wasn’t listening to me.  I finally just smiled and nodded and agreed that sending them again would be a good idea.

I’ve dealt with people who are patronizing in this manner before and the more I argue the more stubborn they get.  They go out of their way to offer me help that I don’t need while refusing to give me the help that I ask for.  I don’t understand why they are this way, but I can only conclude that they think they understand my disability and needs better than I do.

Fortunately a young lady who works at (SCHOOL’s NAME) came up and explained it perfectly.  The misunderstanding was that I had four students, not two like the email said. The math added up.  She spoke to me at a normal speed, answered the questions I was asking–not what she thought I was saying–and was extremely helpful.  I was still going to get super patronizing “reminder” emails, but at least I knew I could ignore them.

During the lecture they said that they would be sitting at large tables.  I noticed that the room was full of open spaces.  I mentioned that the room was echoey.  Echoes do unpleasant things to my hearing aids and ability to sort sound.

Suddenly everyone got super defensive and told me no changes were possible.  I tried to explain that I was problem solving.  They calmed down, but eyed me suspiciously.

Then I asked about the dress code.

I have tactile sensitivity issues.  There are only certain cuts of clothing I can wear without extreme pain.  This means I wear a lot of extremely low cut clothing.  I know it’s not considered child-appropriate, though.  When in doubt I sacrifice my own comfort in order to make others happy, but I like having a clear line so I know I’m not sacrificing more comfort than necessary.  Most organizations and every school I’ve ever seen has a written dress code.  All I wanted was a copy of the written dress code.    Surely that wasn’t too much to ask.

The lady smiled and reassured me that what I had on was “Fine!” Once again, she was not answering the question I asked.

So I pulled my standard coping mechanism when people start to get patronizing and don’t answer my questions.  I told a self-deprecatory joke.

“You are asking me to use common sense.  I don’t have common sense. “  The room laughed and the lady promised me to write down some guidelines.  This seemed an unnecessary amount of work for her.  Then that saintly young woman from before came forward again with a copy of the school’s written dress code.

After class, I stood in line to talk to the principal to reassure her.  I found out later in the lecture that the room would be rearranged when we were reading.  That meant that it wouldn’t echo.  The amount of noise wasn’t a problem for me–children are loud.  I expect that. I helped run two after school programs through (OTHER VOLUNTEER ORGANIZATION).

I wanted to reassure the principal that I probably wouldn’t need accommodations, and if so I could provide them for myself.  I pride myself on being self-sufficient and not making others adapt to make me comfortable.

I was intercepted in line by VOLUNTEER COORDINATOR before I could speak to the principal.  There was no way to politely reassure the principal that it wasn’t as dramatic as VOLUNTEER COORDINATOR was making it out to be.  I tried to tell VOLUNTEER COORDINATOR that there were no problems that she needed to fix because they’d already been addressed and handled, but she wasn’t really listening to me.

I asked for help with three problems, and figured out solutions.  The only real problem I had left was VOLUNTEER COORDINATOR, and there was nothing I could do at that moment.

Ableism is an ugly thing.  It’s made all the more difficult by the fact that the worst offenders–like those with racism–are people who pride themselves in being open and tolerant, and don’t even seem to be aware of it when they exhibit it.  It’s not their fault.  They don’t understand about neurodiversity and that autism looks different in every individual who has it.  They are not bad people, merely people who need patience in order to educate–kind of like me.  The only way that I can show them that I am capable is to show up every day, do my best, and surprise them with my competence and intelligence.  Eventually they learn.

So when VOLUNTEER COORDINATOR’S BOSS called today and asked how training went yesterday I said

“Perfect.”

By this I meant  “As expected.”  I might have a long slog in convincing VOLUNTEER COORDINATOR that I’m not an idiot, but that’s every day for me.  It’s not out of the realm of expected behavior.  In many organizations when you complain about ableism they get defensive.  It’s just not a productive route.

This was promptly held up as proof that I didn’t get it because apparently both VOLUNTEER COORDINATOR and SCHOOL PRINCIPAL expressed concerns and the fact that I wasn’t upset was clearly a sign that I didn’t know what was going on.

Then I got a lecture that I’ve gotten time and time again about how it would be loud, chaotic, and overwhelming and that the coordinators didn’t have time to babysit me.  And that my lack of “common sense” was a real concern.

Did you know my other volunteer job–the one I spend most mornings doing– Involves helping people who usually have PTSD?

When 15 emotionally distressed people are packed into a ten by twenty room it gets loud.  It gets chaotic.  I have never been accused of being inappropriate with them.   My lack of “common sense” has never made more work for my peers or supervisors.  My boss says I’m the volunteer that needs the least amount of help and direction.  I get these people to trust me, then I help them find what they need.

When VOLUNTEER COORDINATOR’S BOSS started the passive aggressive tactic of asking me if I was “sure” I wanted to do it and going over the stresses and dangers–That’s when I realized that it wasn’t worth my time to try to volunteer for you.  I clearly wasn’t wanted, and the process of convincing them that I was competent would only make the people running the program hostile towards me.  No one would be served.  I was hurt, and sad to lose the opportunity, but I recognize a losing game when I see one.

I told VOLUNTEER COORDINATOR’s BOSS that I wouldn’t participate–as she was clearly asking me to while not actually saying it outright–and I composed this letter.

My friends told me I should sue.  I should inform the media and disability rights activists about this.

But I would be suing a group that reads to children.  I won’t do that.  I admire the work of your organizations and want it to continue unhindered.

I just wish that you could do your job while respecting the diversity of human abilities and experience.  Someday I hope you can.

—Diane Duncan

Former Volunteer.

I’ve withheld the names and some details about the organization because I don’t want to trash their reputation or the school’s.  I want to merely illustrate what life is like for those on the spectrum and why so many of us are hostile and afraid of people.  This hurt.  I cried for hours and hours after I got off the phone with them.  There was no way I could win.  I’ll go more into this and their response in my next post, but for now I’m taking a break.  

I just wanted to read to kids and do funny voices.  Instead I got a cruel reminder about how my weirdness makes me less than human in many people’s eyes.  

I am not a hipster. I experience joy.

The thing that I most loathe about hipsters is really a trait that exists in most of the human population.  

I really don’t care if you dress weird for the sake of it.  I don’t care if you are lazy.  I don’t care if you are benignly attention seeking.  I don’t care if you want the world to view you as a “special snowflake.”

I dress weird for reasons of comfort and lack of good taste, so the more hipsters out there attention seeking the more socially acceptable my natural behavior becomes.  I actively encourage it.  A life of being the standing nail that gets the hammer makes me LOVE being around nails that stand higher.  

If I condemned people for being lazy that would totes be the pot calling the kettle black.  I am the laziest person on the planet.  Particularly in winter when I don’t leave the house for weeks at a time.  

Attention seeking?  Define attention seeking?  Everyone wants to differentiate themselves from the crowd somehow.  As long as you aren’t causing pain to the people around you, then it’s really none of my business.  If everything you do is really all about flash with no substance then the worst thing I can do to you is ignore you.  Problem solved.

And the fact is that every single individual on the planet is a snowflake.  Perhaps not special, and but everyone is different.  Because I have so many bizarre needs, I tend to cut people a huge amount of slack when they insist that they are different.  If I suspect they are wrong, I act the same way that I do when someone tells me about their religion.  I smile, nod, and try to act like it’s all true while I talk to them.  I have my personal feelings and doubts, but for all I know I’m wrong.  As long as their differences never pass beyond a minor inconvenience, why not just give them the benefit of the doubt?

No.  My problem with hipsters is that they, as a group, seem to be completely incapable of experiencing unironic joy.

Cynicism is the most annoying trait in hipsterdom.  You can’t say “This makes me so happy!” without them finding a way to shit on it.  

It’s like they are so obsessed with being smarter than the average person, but they have so little intelligence that they have no idea what “smart” actually looks like.  

“I’m a vegetarian.”

“Well fine, if you are a vegetarian that means you kill more animals than everyone!” and then they go into a delightful lecture about the death toll of harvesting equipment on small animals.  

or

“Well if you drink milk and eat eggs then you are endorsing the death and living torture of millions of animals, so you are worse than a meat eater!”

or

“But if you aren’t eating organic then you are basically flipping mother earth the bird!”

While every reaction is different, it’s this attitude that I find so toxic to be around and so very VERY unhelpful.

It’s like they see a situation, look at ways that people are doing something positive in this world, then decide that the best course of action is to make the people who are doing something positive feel like shit.

I saw it with the bucket challenge last year.   People looked at it, and then rolled their eyes and said, I. SHIT.  YOU.  NOT. :

“Well only a few people die of ALS.  They really should be funding research to ________”  and they brought up every pet political or medical project of theirs.  You know, because there can only be one cause in the world.

or

“Am I supposed to be impressed that you are dumping water over your head?  You really should be volunteering your time, and donating money!  You are just doing this to feel important without actually doing anything!”  Which, of course, is why the person was criticizing the movement too, but let’s not get technical.

The fact is, that ALS is a miserable disease to have.  A lot of people participated in a fun silly thing, experienced the joy of feeling like they were contributing and it raised a large amount of money for these charities, and several research breakthroughs have been found since that I suspect would not have been without the ice bucket challenge.  In the future, less people will be in pain because of these armchair activists.  Good.

Ah, but it’s sooo much more important to feel good about being better than the “crowd.”

That’s not to say you can never criticize movements, political stances, or anything.  I am just sick of people whose main motivation (in my judgement) is to look deep without actually doing any thinking about the issue at hand.  

My hatred of Autism Speaks is a seething cauldron of rage that knows no limits.  But I hate them because of everything they stand for.  I did a lot of research before I arrived upon my hatred.  I feel like I, and people like me, suffer because of their ubiquitousness.  I try to not chime in often, and I try to chime in with better ways they could expend the exact same effort.    I often fail.

But I’ve thought of this long before I chime in.  I don’t just look at it and use it to try to make people feel foolish, and score points off of other people.  If someone else is making the point, I try to stay out of it.  I also try to limit my interventions to times when I hope the person in question will listen to me.

No the behavior I deplore that is so common in hipsters is that they see someone enjoying themselves, creating, doing something positive, trying to help people, and with a sort of sadistic glee think

“Oh!  A chance to make myself feel better by making them feel worse.”

I’ve seen it my whole life.  When I was in highschool, an online group shared a survey about whether you used the word “pop” or “soda.”  We were all having a BLAST, arguing the nonsense argument over which word was correct.  Then baby protohipster (in her defense, she was seventeen) shot off a mass email (Yes.  I am that old. Moving on)

“I can’t believe you are wasting time with this shallow discussion when there are people starving in third world countries!”

Because discussing language semantics is taking time away from that?  The two are completely unrelated!

Now, it made sense for her.  She was seventeen.  She was trying to find her own voice, and was frustrated by her relative lack of power.  It was still a dick move because the people could only respond in one of two ways.  They could either agree with her and feel shitty about having conversations that don’t involve human rights abuse, or they could completely dismiss her point, and develop a quite resentment of both her and the starving people in third world countries.  Judging by the response, everyone went with two.

Really, there is no excuse for this behavior when you are older than 25.  You have a fully developed prefrontal cortex, so theoretically you have the ability think before you make another person feel like shit.

That’s not to say I don’t do it.  I don’t exactly have the best impulse control.  At least, though, I have the decency to feel BAD about it afterwards.  Hipsters are PROUD!

This criticism–it’s a weapon.   

Sometimes it’s the flailing fist of the wounded.  Someone is in so much pain and is not being listened to that they lash out without thinking.  It’s not an ideal situation, but if I’m not the one in pain I try not to judge.  They can’t help it and really they shouldn’t be in pain in the first place.  

Best and most effective use, it is a surgeon’s tool.  It’s used very sparingly, and only with preparation.  It’s the last resort, because you know it will leave a scar.  Sometimes you have no choice and it’s best for all.

The way hipsters use it. . .  Well, they clutch it to them like a baseball bat, eagerly salivating at the chance to use it.  They don’t care about the damage they do.  All they want is to feel powerful and using this baseball bat makes them feel powerful.  

Hipsters aren’t the only group that uses it.  Honestly, I feel like every group greedily clutches the baseball bat these days.  Rednecks, the Elderly, The young, liberals, conservatives, hippies (oh God, don’t start me on superior hippies.  I have a hard time seeing the difference between them religious fundamentalists).

Everyone gets offended when the baseball bat is used against them, so uses the baseball bat in retaliation or to preemptively strike.  It’s very stressful because we wind up with a society where people are afraid to talk because saying something foolish comes with such extreme consequences.  

Give me a person who is unashamed to unabashedly embrace what gives them joy and allows you to do the same.  These people are few and far between, though, and I would classify none of them as hipsters.