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May. 22nd, 2015

Shoulds

You should do.

          I won't do.

You should do.

          I am I, not you.

          I want to. Not should.

          You should; but I want.

          I can, or could, or might--or I won't.
          My choice.

You should.

          You should; but I won't.

Your shoulds are I wants.

          I still won't.

          I won't should. I want, could, might--or I won't.
          I choose.

...You could.

          I can.
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May. 21st, 2015

Taking marriage for granted

I can’t help but think how nasty it was of us to deny gay people the formal commitment and legal acknowledgement that straight people have enjoyed for so long.

I’m not surprised that the fight for gay marriage has made straight people think about the value of marriage, too; we took it for granted for so long, until we realized what it was like not to be able to marry at all, whether you wanted to or not. I think gay marriage will probably strengthen the institution of marriage, overall.

Humans, psychologically, pair-bond. We just do. We want to find another person and take on life together. Some of us don't want sex, some of us don't want romance, some of us prefer a person of the same gender; some of us want more than one person at once. A few aren't into the pair-bonding thing, and while that's unusual, there's nothing particularly wrong with it. But the point is--we bond with each other, naturally, and we see it as a good thing.

When all those love hormones are overwhelming your senses and you're "in love", it's easy to stay bonded. You just can't live without each other. Your cognitive abilities are measurably diminished. But that can't, and shouldn't, last forever, and that's where social bonds come in. As a relationship matures, people become friends as well as lovers; they rely on each other, learn to compromise, even learn to argue without hurting each other. Such a relationship takes work to maintain. Commitment.

There are benefits to a formal marriage. You've made your commitment publicly. You've made a legal contract and, if you're religious, you've also made a promise to each other before God. You're agreed that you're in it for the long haul. Legally, things change; you're taxed together, expected to both be responsible for children, and not expected to testify against each other. You can make medical decisions for each other when one is incapacitated. You inherit each others' property and can adopt each others' children.

And all of this is something we've taken for granted for a long time--until gay people reminded us how precious it is to be able to formally, publicly, and legally commit to another person, and how much pain can come from being refused that right.

I grew up with a mom who married some not-so-nice men. I didn't have that much respect for marriage in general. I think I would've been happier with a single mom. And yet all of this is forcing me to think about the value that marriage does have to people who are in love and want to spend their lives together, and how much they lose when they're not allowed to marry. I still don't want to marry, myself; I've never had a romantic relationship. If I did marry, it would be a platonic partner, probably for simple companionship, or to foster children together. I'm not even sure what gender I would prefer; gender is more or less irrelevant to me right now. But all the same, I'm just a tiny bit more open to the possibility of eventually finding that close friend, that love that would mean I would always have both someone to depend on and someone who depended on me. Maybe I'm a loner; maybe I'm not very romantic; but like many people, I've been taking marriage for granted--until I realized how much it matters to people for whom it's not an option.

Apr. 29th, 2015

In the News: Adopted Pit Bull Helps Autistic Teenager Hug and Kiss His Mom For the First Time

Adopted Pit Bull Helps Autistic Teenager Hug And Kiss His Mom For The First Time

It's not uncommon for autistic people to learn things from animals when humans are too complex to understand. Learning to cuddle with a dog is just so much less complicated than learning how, when, and when it's appropriate to hug a human. I can't help but wonder whether Aspie kid now enjoys hugging his mom, or does it because he knows Mom likes it. Personally, I learned how to back off and stop being annoying from my cat, who would just glare and hiss. People don't glare and hiss, they're too polite to do that, so we don't get clued in!

But there's something about this article that seems a little skeevy to me. It's like... the dog is some kind of miracle, a dog with a saintly halo who helped this poor Aspie kid to do things he never would've otherwise. But plenty of people, autistic or not, learn things from their pets. Dogs are very demonstrative creatures, with such obvious emotions; why shouldn't it be easier to learn to hug a dog than a human?

What gets me about it, I suppose, is mostly that it's taken as extraordinary that this kid learned how to hug Mom without it being overwhelming. I guess he must have been very touch-sensitive, or something of that sort; and I guess the dog was easier because a dog doesn't get mad and sad and disappointed if you don't want to hug it. Still, it's not unusual for us autistics to learn new things, from a dog or from a human or from reading a book or watching someone do it or just figuring things out ourselves. And I'm pretty tired of newspapers that act like it's an unusual thing for us to learn something new, or to grow out of ultra-sensitivity that makes hugs painful, or to learn to ration our energy so we can hug someone who really wants a hug from us.

Because it's not unusual at all. It's the way things go. You grow up, you learn things. A boy and a dog become friends and both of them are the better for it. All I see is a very human, everyday situation.
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Apr. 21st, 2015

In the News: Kennedy Apologizes for "Holocaust" Comment

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. apologizes for "holocaust" comment in vaccine debate

In one fell swoop, he's managed to insult both autistics and Holocaust survivors. Quite a feat. A tip, Kennedy: The Holocaust was genocide. It was horrible. It was evil. We never want it to happen again. Autism, on the other hand, is a developmental disorder that doesn't shorten one's lifetime nor take away the same chance at happiness that any human being has, and autistic people and our families are really, really tired of being cast as "catastrophic tragedies".
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Mar. 29th, 2015

You're Not Like My Child... My Child is Severely Disabled.

I get this sometimes. People look at me; they see I can talk, I can take care of myself, I live on my own with no more than a case manager checking in weekly (thank goodness, by the way; it was long overdue and I'm very pleased to finally be able to depend on someone to help me figure out the little unexpected bits of daily life)...

And they say, "You're not like my child. My child is severely disabled. He can't go to college. He can't talk. He won't live on his own. He can't..."

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Mar. 9th, 2015

I've changed my mind.

Over the past few days I've been working on a new database--the Memorial Annex, which as you might guess is an annex to the autism memorial. Rather that proper memorials, it's a simple list of identifying information for disabled homicide victims, to help other people doing research on other disabilities (or all disabilities), and to get a more comprehensive list for next year's Day of Mourning.

During my research for this site, I've come across a lot of killers who were given the death penalty for their crimes, and I've been doing some thinking. Growing up, and until quite recently, I supported the death penalty for premeditated murder--for killers who wanted to kill someone and deliberately did so. My reasoning was pretty simple: If you take someone else's life, you forfeit your own. And I still believe that.

But I've changed my mind about the death penalty. I no longer support it.

I haven't changed my mind about the morality of the death penalty, not quite. I would still disagree with the statement that "Even a premeditated murderer should not be deliberately killed," because I still think that paying with your own life for taking someone else's is just. However, I've come to realize it's not as simple as that.

The world isn't an abstract philosophy textbook. Those premeditated murderers are full-fledged people, in a messy culture full of racial prejudice, fallible legal systems, and human error. And the death penalty is just too permanent. What if we made a mistake?

And we have. Some innocent people have been executed. Some people who are guilty are executed, while others who are guilty of very similar crimes receive life sentences or even less than that. Race plays into it, and culture, and even what state they committed their crime in. Sometimes the ability to convince the jury that they're sorry makes the difference between life and death.

I still don't think the death penalty is unjust. I simply don't trust fallible human beings to carry it out fairly. We can't trust ourselves to take each others' lives into our hands that way. I wouldn't trust myself to impose a death sentence, nor do I trust anyone else.

For premeditated murder, when we know (or think we know) someone has killed before and is perfectly capable of killing again, I think we should put them in prison for life. It's still a harsh sentence, but it's not permanent, like the death penalty is. If we made a mistake, at least we wouldn't have killed someone over it. And the effect on society is the same: The killer is out of circulation, whether they're dead or permanently imprisoned. The death sentence doesn't seem to have too much of a deterrent effect because most premeditated murderers willingly risk their own lives simply committing the murder (they risk that the victim will fight back and kill them, or that they will be shot by police trying to arrest them), and so the extra risk of a death sentence afterward isn't really adding anything.

So whatever my philosophical thoughts on the death penalty, I think that in a practical sense, it doesn't make sense to keep it on the books. Theory collides with practice, with human fallibility, and with the real world, and we have to take into account how things actually play out rather than focusing just on how we wish they would.
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Mar. 1st, 2015

Day of Mourning 2015: Murder of the Disabled Q&A

Today I'll be joining an online vigil for the 2015 Day of Mourning. The point of the vigil is to commemorate people with disabilities who were murdered by their families and caretakers--killed by the people who were supposed to protect them.

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Feb. 15th, 2015

Yes, I'm okay.

A few days ago, someone posted on my journal that they were worried because I haven't posted for two months. I appreciate the concern--I really do; it makes me feel connected to the rest of the world that someone would notice that I haven't managed to post for so long. I want to reassure you all that I am indeed okay; I've just been having some trouble lately that's been taking up all of my attention.

I thought about it and I realized that maybe it would help to explain things to the anonymous Internet; isn't that the point of a blog? Well--this blog has been more like a series of essays than chatty talk about everyday happenings. It's final drafts instead of rough drafts, with each essay organized and edited. Maybe that ought to change. If there's anything I'm good at, it's lecturing about random things.

But here's the basic problem: I need more help than I'm getting, and I have a lack of medical records because I wasn't diagnosed when I was a little girl. The reason for that lack of diagnosis is rather simple: Deliberate medical neglect.

Trigger warning for abuse.Collapse )

Dec. 19th, 2014

After the Happy Ending

This entry contains spoilers for Disney's Tangled.

So what happens to Rapunzel after she gets her happy ending? She's out of the tower where she's spent her whole life. Mother Gothel is long-overdue dead and dusted. She finally gets to meet people. She gets to have her birth family. She finds out she's royalty. The guy she loves just proved how much he loved her. What could be better? Roll credits.... right?

But things aren't so rosy for the princess, are they? She's a sheltered child who's just been thrust into the monarchy. Her entire life, she's had parenting based around guilt and fear from a foster mother nearly as isolated as she was. Oh, sure, she's charismatic enough to talk an inn full of rogues into not killing her escort, but is she going to survive being the "lost princess" that everyone longed for? She's lost her specialness; the hair that heals people has been cut. Sure, her boyfriend cut it off to keep Mother Gothel from taking her away and, presumably, keeping her captive for the rest of her life; it's not like she was going to be able to heal anyone with it to begin with. But she still has to live with the fact that she's no longer a special, magical creature; she can't solve the pain of the world by wrapping it with her hair and singing a song. For Rapunzel, the world suddenly got a lot more complicated--and all the skills she learned to deal with her captivity are suddenly useless.

What now?

I couldn't help thinking about how very much this story is like my own, and like that of many people who have survived trying times. I survived an abusive childhood, a stint in a cult, two hospitalizations; I've been expelled from school, fired from my job, and been without a home to call my own. I too had a childhood built around guilt and fear, and I too have lost my specialness, which for me came from being a precocious, gifted child, now that I'm a thirty-one-year-old still trying to get a college degree. And even though I'm free now, with a new haircut, all the skills I learned growing up were skills that help a person survive captivity.

I took it for granted that I wouldn't be allowed to make my own decisions. Now that I'm free, I don't know how. I thought of "fun" only as something you snuck when your keepers weren't looking; now that I'm free, I can't enjoy myself without guilt. What I ate, when I slept, when I did chores, were all prescribed for me; now that I'm free, it's a full-time job just to remember to do all of those things. I learned how to pretend I wasn't disabled; now I don't know how to use the help I'm finally getting. I escaped bitterness as I learned how to care about others, but I never learned how to care about myself. I survived captivity, but can I survive freedom?

This happens to a lot of people--people who come out of institutions, out of prison, out of cults; people who get out of poverty or grow out of an abusive childhood. When you're trying to help people in captivity, it's not enough to just get them out of their respective jails. To really become free, a person has to learn how to live in freedom. It's a difficult lesson, one I haven't yet fully learned.

Nov. 29th, 2014

We're All a Little Autistic

NT toddlers flap their hands.
NT teenagers love roller coasters.
NT adults are shy.
NTs are late talkers.
NTs misread each others' intentions.
NTs find perfume, loud music, or wool sweaters to be unbearable.
NTs stutter, fidget, and get burned out.
NTs can even have meltdowns.

So is it true that "we're all a little autistic", even the most neurotypical of us? Yes and no.

People with an autism diagnosis have one for a reason. Usually it's because, in some or all environments, throughout some or all of their lifetime, they have had trouble doing things that are expected of the average neurotypical. Their traits are severe enough to cause disability. If they weren't disabled, they wouldn't need a diagnosis.

Still, autism is not an alien thing, however much it's stereotyped that way. The statements at the beginning of this article are all true. NTs can have autistic traits. They can have experiences that are very much like those we have.

Some autism parents get mad when we make statements like that. They say, "My child is autistic! He is nothing like your non-autistic child! He is nothing like you pretend autistics, with your talking and grown-upness and ability to tell me I'm wrong!"

Genetic research has turned up hundreds of genes that can contribute to autism, all of them only a tiny fraction of the cause. And yet autism is highly genetic. It's a disorder that you get when you have enough of those genes, in the right combination, in the right person. And yet all of those genes are floating around in the general population, in people who aren't autistic.

Is it so hard to understand that neurotypicals can have autistic traits--that we can "all be a little autistic"--and still understand that autism is a disability, a significant one? Are people so desperate to distance themselves from the idea of disability that this is a threatening concept?

When we say that typical people share experiences with disabled people, we aren't trivializing disability. We're saying that disability itself is a part of the human experience, not a world apart.

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