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9:35am August 22, 2014

dendriforming:

Yes, lying to cognitively disabled people is SO innovative. I’m sure it’s never been done before.

10:01am August 20, 2014

 Shout-out to everyone whose childhood was hell.

theiredepartment:

chaos-under-construction:

youneedacat:

Shout out to everyone who can’t remember back to an idyllic childhood, because that time never existed for abused children.

Shout out to everyone for whom childhood was a never-ending hell with no refuge, anywhere, in sight.

Shout out to everyone who never experienced…

Thank you

Thank you for reminding us that we are better in spite of what we had as a childhood. We have no family and haven’t since we were five or six. We call ourselves street rats for a reason. Juvie and so-called foster care, orphan homes and dumpsters, backyard sheds we could sneak into and the occasional family that saw us, knew we had no place to go and let us stay hidden for short periods of time if we worked. Gaps where we honestly felt like we were transported and ended up in a different part of town with no memory of how we got there but no real change in how we lived.

Until the age of 15 when we found a real foster home for the first time and home school for real learning also for the first time. Does it make sense now to you why we don’t comment on families? Why we can’t comment on growing up and school?

This is why our goal is only to survive because this has been our goal for life since that age of 5 or 6. 

-NV

As well as those of us who weren’t taken away when we should have been, in “families” in which nobody outside wanted to intervene because the parents were considered “respectable” ie white, older, educated, middle class. You know how in schools they tell kids “If someone is abusing you tell an adult, and keep telling successive adults until someone believes you!” and then proceed to ignore it when kids come forward in the way that they’re told, with the bruises to prove it.

Just in general everyone who didn’t and sometimes still doesn’t understand why anyone would want a family when the concept of family was something horrific you tried to escape from, who couldn’t stand when school let out for the summer because you’d be trapped, stuck at home with your mother’s rages and no break to force her to cool off occasionally.

Who still faces every new event or process in life with dread because they spend most of their lives to date having to steady themselves for whatever new cruelties their family could dream up next. Who is ostracised by their extended family because they don’t let their abuser(s) take central place in their lives anymore or participate in (ruin) their occasions and who finds that this doesn’t surprise them all that much because if they refused to protect an abused three year old they’re sure as shit not gonna be on your side now.

Basically, people who have to learn how to live when they are already adults because all they know is how to duck and cover and survive

6:53am August 20, 2014

 Shout-out to everyone whose childhood was hell.

chaos-under-construction:

youneedacat:

Shout out to everyone who can’t remember back to an idyllic childhood, because that time never existed for abused children.

Shout out to everyone for whom childhood was a never-ending hell with no refuge, anywhere, in sight.

Shout out to everyone who never experienced…

Thank you

Thank you for reminding us that we are better in spite of what we had as a childhood. We have no family and haven’t since we were five or six. We call ourselves street rats for a reason. Juvie and so-called foster care, orphan homes and dumpsters, backyard sheds we could sneak into and the occasional family that saw us, knew we had no place to go and let us stay hidden for short periods of time if we worked. Gaps where we honestly felt like we were transported and ended up in a different part of town with no memory of how we got there but no real change in how we lived.

Until the age of 15 when we found a real foster home for the first time and home school for real learning also for the first time. Does it make sense now to you why we don’t comment on families? Why we can’t comment on growing up and school?

This is why our goal is only to survive because this has been our goal for life since that age of 5 or 6. 

-NV

2:49pm August 18, 2014

I am reading a good book.

It is called No You Don’t: Essays From an Unstrange Mind by Sparrow Rose Jones.

I used to know the author a little bit online, but it was before she wrote all these essays.  And we didn’t know each other well, we were just LiveJournal friends for awhile.

Apparently she wrote an essay that really pissed off some autism parents and they stalked and harassed her in horrible-but-familiar ways for a long time because of it.

And I feel horrible that this happened to her.  Really horrible.

But I am so glad that she wrote about it in her book.

Because I think people don’t believe that the stalking and harassment you get in the autism community can be as bad as it actually is.

And I’ve been stalked and harassed by both parents and autistic people in the autism community, and it’s horrible. It’s absolutely horrible.  It’s also very, very real.  And people need to know it’s real.  People need to know how much it hurts people.  People need to know how vicious and sneaky it can be:  My stalker has an M.O. where she stakes people out for awhile, figures out all their weak points, and then she finds ways to make it look like they are “imitating her”, and then she “retaliates” by stalking, harassment, death threats, etc., but claims to be this oh-so-innocent multiply-disabled woman who couldn’t hurt a fly, at the same exact time.  (She’s even bragged, at times, about being able to pull this off on people.)  People in the autistic community used to know all about her, but as the community grew and spread, people forgot, and she was able to come back and attack me and make it look credible.  And I lost friends, and I lost communities, and it wasn’t fair, and it wasn’t right.

So to read Sparrow writing about stalking in the autism community… it’s very important to me.  Because this kind of cyberbullying is horrible.  No matter who is doing it or why.  And often the bullies have a way of making themselves look like the victims.  

10:44am August 18, 2014

Things You Can do to Help Disabled People That Don’t Cost A Cent

neurodiversitysci:

  • Do not talk about an obviously disabled person in front of them as if they can’t hear or understand you.
  • Do not talk to a disabled person’s companion instead of them.  
  • Ask permission before touching people, or their wheelchairs/other equipment. Even if you want to help.
  • Ask disabled people about their lives and really listen to their answers.  (Within reason. Asking people personal questions about their sex lives, for example, is rude unless you are very close to them and they’ve communicated they’re OK with that).
  • Listen to what they say whether they are speaking, writing, typing, using text to speech, using a letterboard, using PECS, gesturing, using sign language, or using any other form of communication.  People who cannot speak can still communicate.
  • Stand up for people you see getting bullied.
  • Understand that disabled people don’t just need friends, they can be friends, too.
  • Every public place does not need to have loud, blaring music and TVs with flashing screens.  
  • If you blog, put bright, flashing images that can trigger seizures under a cut so that people with seizures can avoid looking at them.
  • If a job can possibly be done without a person driving, don’t require candidates to drive/have a driver’s license, and don’t interview candidates and then reject them because they don’t drive.
  • When talking to someone who has trouble speaking or stutters, and takes a long time to speak, wait for them to answer. Don’t keep repeating the question or pressuring them. Yes, if you’re like me and your mind is going really fast and you forget what people are saying if they take too long, it can be hard to be patient.  Do it anyway.
  • If you are talking to a deaf person, make it easier for them to lip-read by facing towards them while looking at them, and not covering your mouth with your hands.
  • If you are talking to someone with hearing impairment or auditory processing disorder, it is more helpful to slow down or rephrase what you’re saying than to just speak more loudly.  
  • Some disabled people have difficulty understanding nonliteral language such as metaphors and idioms (e.g., “a stitch in time saves nine”). If you’re talking to someone like this, try explaining what you mean by these figures of speech, or just not using them.
  • Recognize that failure to make eye contact does not mean someone is lying to you. It may be uncomfortable for them.
  • Recognize that unwillingness to go out to loud, crowded bars does not mean someone isn’t interested in socializing with you.
  • If people have difficulty spelling, or using the appropriate jargon/terminology for your social group, do not assume they’re stupid.  You may need to paraphrase some “jargon” for them.
  • Recognize that a person can need time alone and it doesn’t mean they don’t like you or want to be with you. It’s just something they need so they can function at their best.
  • If a person does not recognize you, do not assume they don’t care about you.  They may be face-blind.
  • If a person does not remember your birthday (or other major names, numbers, or dates) do not assume they don’t care about you. They may simply have a bad memory.
  • Understand that a disabled person’s talents, however esoteric, are real, not unimportant “splinter skills.”
  • Colorblindness affects more than just knowing what color something is.  To a colorblind person, colors that they can’t see will look the same if they have the same degree of lightness/darkness.  That means that to a red-green colorblind person, a red rose on a green background will blend in instead of contrast starkly, and the Chicago CTA El map will be difficult to understand.  Understand that something that stands out to you and seems obvious may literally not be visible to a colorblind person.
  • Accept stimming.
  • Don’t tell them “but you look so normal.” But, if they accomplish something you know they were working really hard to do, it’s great to compliment them on it.
  • Understand that a person can be working incredibly hard to do something and may still not perform as well as you’d like them to, as well as the average person would, or as well as the situation demands.
  • If someone has a major medical problem, disability, or chronic illness, then just eating some special healthy diet or exercising more isn’t going to cure it. It might help, it might hurt, it might do nothing, but they’ve probably heard it before, and it’s none of your business in any case.
  • A person with OCD knows that checking or counting or whatever compulsion they perform won’t really prevent disaster from happening, it’s just a compulsion. That doesn’t stop them from feeling the need to do it anyway.  A person with anxiety may know at least some of their fears are irrational or unlikely to occur. That doesn’t stop them from feeling anxious.  A person with trichotillomania may know it hurts them to pull out their hair or pick at their skin, but they have trouble stopping themselves anyway.  A depressed person may know they would feel better if they got out of their house and talked to people, but that doesn’t make them feel any more up to doing those things. A person who hallucinates may know the hallucinations aren’t real, but that doesn’t make them go away or feel less upsetting.  You see the pattern?  You can’t cure people with mental illnesses by telling them they’re being irrational or hurting themselves.  If it were that easy, they’d have cured themselves already.
  • Do not tell a person with ADHD or mental illness that they should not be taking medication.  This is a personal decision. Furthermore, since medications have wide-ranging effects on people’s bodies and minds and often unpleasant side effects, most people taking medications have thought through the issue, done a cost-benefit analysis, and decided that the ability to function better is worth it.  Their decision should be respected.
  • A disabled person with intellectual disability who has the academic or IQ abilities of, say, a seven year old does not actually have the mind of a seven year old. They have different life experiences, needs, stages of life, bodies, and so on.
  • If a disabled person is having a meltdown, they are not angry, they are terrified.  They’re not throwing a tantrum or being aggressive, they have gone into fight or flight. The best thing you can do is remain calm yourself and help them calm down. It may help to keep your distance, keep your voice low and calm, let them retreat to a safe place if they know to do that, or remind them to do so if they don’t.  Reasoning with them won’t work well because they’re unlikely to be able to hear and understand you.  The worst thing you can do is start yelling yourself, threatening them, be violent to them, cut off their escape route, or get right up in their personal space.  

Other ideas?  Please reblog and add more.  The more the merrier.

I’d add to this one:

  • Do not tell a person with ADHD or mental illness that they should not be taking medication.  This is a personal decision. Furthermore, since medications have wide-ranging effects on people’s bodies and minds and often unpleasant side effects, most people taking medications have thought through the issue, done a cost-benefit analysis, and decided that the ability to function better is worth it.  Their decision should be respected.

That’s what you have, but I’d make it more generic.  I wouldn’t say “Don’t tell someone that they should not be taking medication.”  I would say “Don’t tell someone whether or not they should be taking medication.”  Because most people not taking medications have also thought through the issue, done a cost-benefit analysis, and decided that the bad effects of taking the medication outweigh the good ones.  Or we have already tried taking medications, possibly tried taking more than 10 or 20 different varieties of medications at all different doses, and found that not only did they harm us, they didn’t help us, or didn’t help us enough to be worth the harm.

TW for psychiatric abuse:

I don’t like lists of this nature where the decision to take medication is always the one represented as the better one.  Because I’ve been a psych patient who does take meds, and one who doesn’t take meds.  And while you get shit from people either way, the shit I have gotten for not taking meds has always been far more dangerous than the shit I’ve gotten for taking meds.  And nobody ever acknowledges that.  They talk about the “stigma” of taking medications, but they don’t talk about refusing meds, being tied down, and having meds shot in your ass that then had life-threatening side-effects, that you literally weren’t allowed any reprieve from until you agreed to take a less dangerous (but still invasive and mostly useless to you) med.  Or the time a doctor told my parents to threaten to throw me out on the street if I didn’t take my meds.  Or the near a year I spent on more and more meds that actually were at twice the toxic level, giving me entirely new and nasty kinds of seizures, while nobody checked the med levels and everyone blamed me and gave me more and more meds the more symptoms the meds gave me because supposedly all those symptoms were ‘anxiety’ and would go away if I took more meds.  Or the many other violent and dangerous ways I was coerced into taking medications that did really bad things to my body and gave no actual benefit.

I actually do take psychiatric meds at this point, although nothing heavy-duty.  And I do understand that there are people out there who are really nasty to people who are on meds, and try to persuade you not to take them.  I still remember when I was on neuroleptics and had a friend who would dramatically look away from me every time I opened my med box, to show his disdain for the whole thing.  And things like that.  But none of the ‘stigma’ I’ve ever experienced for being a med-compliant psych patient has ever come even close to the level of utter horrors that I’ve experienced for being “noncompliant” with meds.  At which point it seemed like anything goes as long as it would force me to get meds into my system. 

And I don’t see a lot of people acknowledging that side of the coin.  I see a lot of people willing to acknowledge there’s a stigma to taking meds, but I don’t see a lot of people willing to acknowledge the price paid by people who don’t want to take meds.  Worse, a lot of the people who are so keen on ending the stigma of taking meds, are also quite keen on making it sound like people who are unwilling to take meds are doing something wrong, and that the things that are done to us to force or coerce us into taking them are for our own good.  Or that if we don’t want meds, we must not want to get better.  Or that it means we aren’t taking care of ourselves.  I’ve heard it all.

I have always been pro-choice when it comes to meds of any kind, even illegal drugs.  (Not that I think illegal drugs are usually good for people, but that I don’t think it does anyone any good to criminalize them or make people feel like shit for taking them.  And sometimes they are actually good for people, see medical marijuana for instance.  But that’s a whole different topic.)  So I think people can put into their body whatever they want to, and shouldn’t get crapped on for doing that.  But I also think people should have a choice not to take medication.  (And that if they want to be forced to take medication in any circumstance, they should draw up a psychiatric living will that states the circumstances where this is and isn’t okay with them.  These things exist.)  

And that’s where many of the people who are so big on ending the stigma of medication end up disagreeing with me.  Because many of them tell me straight out that people who won’t take medication are delusional, or are not to be trusted, or are not interested in taking care of themselves, or all these other things.  Some of them have no problem with forced drugging and have told me so.  (A lot of this ended my ability to attend events at local mental health clubhouse type places run by “consumers”, because it turned out that they were willing to have people involuntarily committed from their premises, and that they believed in forced drugging under those circumstances, and all sorts of other horrible stuff.  So this wasn’t just a thing on the Internet, this was “oh shit there goes the one place I could meet people who understood what I was going through”.  They treated us “non-compliant patients” as if we were “low functioning”.)

Anyway… I have to go burp my g-tube so I need to end this now, this may be over-explaining my case but I wanted to explain why I think that statements like that one should be neutral, as in it should go both ways, people have a right to make a decision about meds, whatever that decision is, and have it respected.

3:59am August 18, 2014

Like I wish…

madeofpatterns:

…if medical offices were going to routinely screen for depression, they’d *also* routinely screen for abuse.

My local hospital does screen for abuse, but not always in a way that will work.  They ask you if you feel safe in your home.   But if you are there with your abuser, you can’t easily tell them no.

One time I was in the hospital next to a husband and wife (they were my roommates), both drunk.  The husband had “fallen” and “hit his head on something when he fell” and was incoherent and very obviously disoriented and having neurological problems.  The wife told them the story about how he fell.  Then after the doctors and nurses left the room, she started screaming at him about what a worthless piece of crap he was.  When he showed any sign of understanding, he looked terrified of her.  And then she said “You’d better not tell them the truth, about how I hit you over the head with the telephone.”  

I was never so glad at any time that I type to communicate.  I gestured to my staff person and showed her the screen of my computer, and told her to tell everything we’d just heard to the nurse.  The nurse came in and started asking them a lot of pointed questions and the truth did come out.  At which point the wife stormed out of the room and said she wasn’t going to be there for him and went home.  Which… given that she’d just injured him really badly, I think he was better off without her being there.  But wow.  What a horrible way to end up in the ER.  I sure hope he was able to press charges or something, and that he didn’t have to keep lving with her.

6:45am August 17, 2014
I say that specifically because I don’t think people will infer ‘disabled’ from the mentally ill part. People expect me to just take pills, see a therapist, and then be able to go out in the world and get a job and do able people things.

Yeah, that.

It makes me enraged that mental illness is not treated as a disability, through the service system.

Lots of mental illnesses involve the same functional limitations that developmental disabilities impose on people.  As in, the exact same ones. In fact, some conditions exist in a strange area of overlap between mental illness and developmental disability.  These include things like:

  • ADHD
  • Autism
  • Tourette’s
  • (sometimes even) intellectual disability (given that it’s in the DSM)
  • Childhood bipolar
  • Childhood psychosis including schizophrenia and schizoaffective
  • Schizophrenia in general (which is, in some forms, now being thought of as a neurodevelopmental disorder with clear signs from early childhood long before it becomes “clinical”)
  • Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders
  • Schizotypal autism
  • Multi-complex developmental disorder (MCDD)
  • Epilepsy, especially temporal lobe epilepsy, but in the past all epilepsy

All of those things occupy a grey area between developmental disability and psychiatric disability, which illustrates that both categories are accidents of history, not genuinely scientific splits within some objective medical system.

Anyway.

If I had my way.

I would make it like this:

People go to a psychiatric program for people who want to live on their own.  They get assessed accurately for what their skills are.  This would be done the same as it is for developmental disabilities and physical disabilities, with some modifications depending on the nature of the disability.  The assessment of what a person needs, would matter more than their actual diagnosis, and they might not need an actual diagnosis to get services.

The assessment would basically involve two parts:

One would be formal and standardized to some degree.  There would be a pre-made list of areas a person might need help with.  The person and possibly their caregivers or family would be interviewed or asked to fill out forms, or both, detailing how much help the person needs on their worst days.  They would be specifically invited to talk about their worst days, being told, “If we don’t know how things are at their worst, then we’ll plan for the best days, and we won’t be giving you enough services to cover the worst days.  So we know you may be able to do better than this sometimes, but what we need is to know enough to be prepared for the worst.”  Possibly with a built-in apology for making people have to describe themselves at their worst, since that can feel quite degrading, but it can also be necessary to determine the help the person needs.

The second part would be much less formal.  The person (and caregivers and family) would be invited to have written things out beforehand, to describe the areas they have trouble in general.  The things that are important to them, whether or not they are also on the more formal assessment.  They would then be able to talk about all of these things, especially in case the assessment missed any major areas of difficulty they have functioning in the world.  Which any assessment is going to miss.  So this would take place after they already knew what was in the assessment, and had been through that, and maybe had already seen the results written out.

They would also be asked to correct anything written on the assessment that seemed to overestimate or underestimate their abilities (still understanding we’re talking about their worst days).

Then, they would work together towards a plan of how to help with these things.

This could include meds and therapy but wouldn’t have to, at all, and they would not get pressure in that direction regardless of how severely disabled they were.

But the biggest thing, like the biggest part of services for physically and developmentally disabled people?

Having staff person assigned to them for a certain amount of time a week, ranging from 24/7 roommate arrangements to someone coming in once a week for an hour to make sure they’ve got everything in their household running smoothly.  This person could:

  • Entirely do the task for them, without any input from them.
  • Do the task, but do the task under their direction.
  • Do the task under their partial direction.
  • Help them learn how to do the task themselves.
  • Help prompt them to do the task fully or partially themselves (prompting can be gestural, verbal, physical, handing someone something, and a whole lot of other things).

In whatever combination of those things, that the person preferred, for as long as they preferred it.

That’s the ideal of what physically and developmentally disabled people get today.  The only reason psychiatrically disabled people don’t ever get this help, even though they need it just as much, is basically that they’re looked down upon it’s seen as their fault, psychiatry tries to make it sound like if they took their meds and went to therapy then their functioning problems would disappear, and because psychiatry gives a lot of condescending and false explanations for people’s problems functioning (always stemming from one emotional conflict or another, somehow).  Psychiatry even sees it often as “enabling” someone (I hate that word, in most contexts, but especially that one) if you help a psychiatrically disabled person do what they can’t do.

So if a depressed person can’t get out of bed, then they are going to need someone to clean their house until and unless they become able to do it themselves.  It doesn’t matter if they ever become able to do so, or if they never become able to do so, they need that help so they should have it.

People need help with bathing.  People need help with cleaning the house.  People need help with money management (and if prone to mania, may want to make arrangements in advance for how to handle that situation without becoming patronizing).  People need help with doing household chores like laundry and the dishes and taking the trash out.  People need help taking care of their pets.  People need help paying their bills.  People need help going to work and getting through their workday (in the DD world we have job coaches specifically for this if people need the help).   People need help cooking.  People need help eating.  People need help with all kinds of things.

And psychiatric services in the community don’t cover any of those things.  If you can’t do them, they think you’re not motivated enough so they try to “motivate” people by starving them and letting them live in their own filth, hoping that one day they’ll just magically grow abilities they never had before.  In reality that almost always makes things worse.  People have more and more trouble functioning the more chaotic and messy their environment is.  Forcing people to live that way is both patronizing and degrading.

There are generally no medications that will help a person gain these skills, nor is there any form of therapy that will help either.  That’s for the same reason those things don’t make physically disabled people or developmentally disabled people function better.  Psychiatrically disabled people aren’t some weird magical group of people where you pop in a pill  or send them off to talk therapy and magically they function better.

And it makes me so very enraged that services don’t work this way.

The agency I get services from has three wings:

Developmental services.

Children and family services.

Mental health and substance abuse services.

It’s the same fucking agency and they still won’t give purely mentally ill people the same supports they give you if you have autism or an intellectual disability.  Even if you need the same supports, even if you need them for nearly the same reasons.

If I could do one thing for this so-called ‘mental health reform’ everyone is always talking about it would be to give all psychiatrically disabled people the option to receive services in their own homes, whatever they want that home to look like, designed in the same way that the best services are designed for physically or developmentally disabled people in our own homes.  None of this “hospital without walls” NAMI bullshit that’s all about making sure people take their meds, with force if need be.  Just the ability to live with the same dignity everyone else does, with supports that are controlled by the person who gets the services (to the extent they can, and with help controlling those supports if they have trouble).

This shouldn’t be so much to ask.

The fact that I have never, ever heard of it happening anywhere, scares me.

Because this is how disability services are supposed to work.  FFS.  Seriously, FFS.  Because right now all I see in mental health services anywhere is abuse masquerading as support.  I’ve never seen the kind of support people actually need.

6:53pm August 16, 2014

lichgem:

I’m still baffled that there are people who exist that can muster towering, lasting rage at other people for tiny, innocuous things like that

Like how about the guy who I was going to play a game with, then changed my mind, and he started ranting and raging at me to “take my pills” and “not be so selfish” and then after I blocked him, stalked me, and enlisted his friend to stalk me, too

Just because I thought about playing a game with him, then realized I didn’t have the energy for it.

People who know my stalkers, and know me, cannot understand why they have invested the amount of time, energy, and danger to their careers and reputations, that they have, in trying to bring me down.  Given that they haven’t seen me since I was 15, and haven’t talked to me in any form since I was 19, and I’m now 34.  The level of sustained interest in harming someone that takes, is outstanding and bizarre.

8:06pm August 15, 2014

clatterbane:

andromedalogic:

There has to be room to talk about how SJ ‘communities’ can be toxic and abusive, without the assumption that anyone who brings this up must be a whiny ally with no stake in the issues that people are being abusive and toxic about. You can have vested personal stake in the social justice things and object to the harsh, mean, reductive way that many people go about discussing the social justice things.

(tag from slashmarks: #if you care about abuse you have to accept the possibiltiy of it existing)

2:05am August 11, 2014

 Married Police Officers Charged With Killing Daughter’s Black Boyfriend

clatterbane:

jean-luc-gohard:

I didn’t hear about this until I saw Jules’ posts a minute ago. He was trying to introduce himself to her dad, and he shot dude dead. He apparently tried to kill his daughter too, but missed. He was willing to kill his own daughter, his own flesh and blood, because of her proximity to blackness. And her own mother, who carried her for nine months and birthed her, was an accessory to the crime. That’s how much they hate us.

"The youngest Kepler had just been kicked out of her house by her parents about a week ago, and met Lake at a homeless shelter."

Great people. :-|

Okla. Cop Charged in Her Daughter’s Boyfriend’s Death Released From Jail
http://www.theroot.com/articles/culture/2014/08/okla_cop_mom_charged_in_daughter_s_boyfriend_s_death_released_from_jail.html

1:42am August 11, 2014
Anonymous asked: what do you mean by wanting to viewed as a woman in a sociological context? i may have very much misunderstood

It’s not so much wanting to be viewed as a woman in a sociological context.  It’s that there are sociological contexts, where viewing me as a woman makes sense, even though my actual gender identity is genderless.

Like… most people have a gender identity.  I don’t.  So I’m genderless, and that’s how I see myself, and that’s how I’d prefer most people see me, when it comes to how I feel about myself.

But also, I was raised as a girl, I am frequently treated as a woman, and there are times when I don’t mind being socially included in the category of “woman” for purely sociological purposes.  I think it’s a purely personal choice, whether a person prefers to be viewed as a woman in this context, and it can be because you were raised female, it can be because your gender identity is female, it can be any of a number of reasons and they are all equally valid.  But like… I’m involved in the Autism Women’s Network and they have a deliberately broad definition of woman, so that people without a female gender identity (but who are treated as women in some contexts) can count, as well as people with a female gender identity (whether they are trans or cis) can also count, etc.  And I think it’s important to allow that flexibility, because I do face sexism regardless of the fact that I’m genderless, and to be counted as if I am a woman, in the context of facing sexism, does not bother me, even though I don’t have a “woman” gender identity.  (Meanwhile someone else who faces both sexism and transmisogyny should also be able to count as a woman in the exact same context.)

I’m not sure if I’m being very clear.  The problem with gender is that it’s a muddled concept and it’s always going to be a muddled concept, because it brings together so many different aspects of our identities:  our internal identity, the way we were raised, the way other people see us and treat us, our sociological status on multiple levels at once, the way we look to others, the way we look to ourselves, the kinds of sexism we face, and all kinds of other things.  So five different people, for sociological reasons, can find ourselves using the identity of “woman” for certain purposes, even though the purpose for each person is completely and totally different in origin, yet equally valid for each person.  It’s never going to totally make sense, because gender will never totally make sense.  Gender is too slippery a concept to ever make sense.

But at any rate, for me, it’s because I face sexism and misogyny despite not having the gender identity of female.  And that’s one of many valid reasons to provisionally accept the role of woman “sociologically” instead of as an identity.  I know I explained it better in another post a long time ago.  But it’s not about “being a woman” socially, it’s about sometimes when people say the word “women”, I don’t mind being included in that word, such as “Women with developmental disabilities are far more likely to experience sexual abuse than nondisabled women.”  In that sentence I don’t mind being a “woman with a developmental disability” even though I’m actually a genderless person with a developmental disability.  The sociological definition becomes more important than whether they got my internal (lack of) gender identity precisely accurate.  Because the people (yes, plural, many over time, which is pretty common for people with developmental disabilities who are victims of sexual abuse) who sexually abused me saw me simply as a woman with a developmental disability, they did not look inside me and see my gender identity or lack thereof, and my lack of gender identity did not protect me against their misogyny.  Does that make more sense?

1:09pm August 10, 2014

Nice Lady Therapists

realsocialskills:

Content warning: this post is about physical and emotional harm done to people (especially children) with disabilities by (mostly) female therapists. Proceed with caution.

  

This is a hard post to write. It’s about abuse. It’s about a kind of abuse I haven’t seen described much. I think abuse is the right word, even though a lot of abusers probably genuinely think they’re doing the right thing.

 

Anyway, here goes:

 

Many, many people with disabilities I know have been harmed or even outright abused by Nice Lady Therapists. (Usual caveat: not all therapists are abusive, and this post is not opposition to childhood therapy. I’m saying that therapists need to stop hurting kids and other vulnerable people, not that therapy is evil. Pointing out that therapy is often important and that many therapists are good is not an answer to what I am describing.)

 

Nice Lady Therapists tell us that, whatever they do to us is by definition nice, and good for us. And that we like it, and that they love us, and that they are rescuing us, and that we are grateful.

They have a brightly-decorated therapy room full of toys, and assure every adult they come across that ~their kids~ love therapy. They use a lot of praise and enthusiastic affect, and maybe positive reinforcement with stickers and prizes. They might call the things they have kids do games. Some of them really do play games.

And every interaction with them is degrading in a way that’s hard to pinpoint, and hard to recover from. They do all kinds of things to kids with disabilities that typically developing kids would never be expected to tolerate. And they do it with a smile, and expect the kids they’re doing it to to smile back.

Sometimes it hurts physically, sometimes it hurts emotionally. Sometimes it’s a matter of being 12 years old and expected to trace a picture for toddlers for the zillionth time. And being told “This is fun! I used to do this all the time when I was a kid!”.

Sometimes it’s a matter of being forced to do a frightening or physically painful exercise, and being forbidden to express pain or fear. It hurts their feelings if a kid is upset. Don’t we know how much she cares? Don’t we know that she’d never do anything to hurt us? Don’t we want to learn and grow up to be independent?

Sometimes it’s a matter of being expected to accept intensely bad advice as though it’s insight. For instance, getting sent to therapy because you’re not making friends. And being told “We are all friends in this school! You have to give the other kids a chance.” And, if you try to explain otherwise, she patiently and lovingly explains to you why your thinking is distorted and you’ll have lots of friends if you just let yourself try.

Sometimes it’s - crossing a physical line. Touching in a way they have no good reason to be touching. Or touching over the objections of the kid in a way that is in no way justified by therapy goals. Sometimes sexually, sometimes not. Sometimes in ways that are against ethical standards of practice, sometimes not. But intimately, invasively. And if you say no, she patiently, lovingly, explains that you have nothing to be afraid of and that everything is ok. And that if you just trust her, you will have fun and get better. And when her profession has professional training about boundaries and appropriate touch, she thinks or even says “women don’t do that.”

Some male therapists do many of these things too, but there’s a gendered version of it that usually comes from women. And that can cause a problem for people with disabilities who are recovering from this. Most things about trauma and abuse of power are about misogyny in some way. They’re about men hurting women, and taking advantage of power dynamics that favor men to do so. Those descriptions are important because that pattern is common. But it is not the only abuse pattern, and it is not the only gendered abuse pattern.

Female therapists are subjected to misogyny and the power of men just as much as any other women. But they also have tremendous power over people with disabilities, many of whom are deeply dehumanized. The assumption that women have neither the power nor the ability to hurt anyone gets really dangerous really quickly for children with disabilities receiving therapy.

And it also means that people with disabilities often have a different relationship to gender than most nondisabled people. If you’ve been harmed by women over and over and assured that you liked it, it complicates things. If you’re a girl, it can make it hard to see a group of women as a Safe Space, especially if they think the thing making it safe is keeping the men out. If you’re a boy who has been repeatedly harmed by women who believed they were powerless, it can be hard to understand that the gender hierarchies that feminists and others talk about actually do exist. And it complicates things in any number of other ways.

But if you have been hurt by Nice Lady Therapists, you are not alone. If it has affected your relationship to gender, you are not alone. If it has left scars that others say you shouldn’t have because she was nice and meant well, you are not alone.

You don’t have to think someone is nice because she says she is. It’s ok to think that someone is hurting you even if that upsets them. You don’t have to think someone is safe or loving just because they are a woman or a therapist or smiling. Women can be abusive too. In human services, it is common. You are not alone, and it was wrong to treat you that way. The harm done to you was not because of your disability, and it’s not something that you could have fixed by being more cooperative or working harder or having a better attitude.  It’s not your fault, and it’s not because of anything wrong with you. And it’s not your fault if it still hurts. 

I’m not sure what else to say about this today. I think that there is a lot that needs saying (and I hope I will find some of it in the comments.) Any of y’all want to weigh in?

12:25pm August 10, 2014

space-chase:

I NEED TO EXPLAIN SOMETHING HERE 

a lot of people who’ve seen this  post think I’m saying that autistic people are sexually abusive. I’m not trying to say that. 

I’m saying “my abuser had [that characteristic], and [that characteristic] is now triggering to me, but I don’t want to completely exclude people with [that characteristic] from everything i do. I’m sorry to anyone with [that characteristic], I might be mean to you because of this, and I want you to know that it’s not about you or even that you have [that characteristic], it’s what it makes me remember.” 

That could be anything about him.  I am afraid of boys with blonde hair and pale blue eyes. Hell, I’m afraid of anyone with pale blue eyes. I’m afraid of people who tell me they love me. I’m afraid of being first to be more feminine. I’m  terrified of boys older than  me. 

It’s just the autism that shows the most because I know it’s horrible of me to think that way, and i try so hard to get around it, but I constantly get panicky and agressive around people with any of his traits, and autism is the worst one to act this way about. 

I unfortunately know what you mean.

I’m autistic.  The man who molested me for four years (he was 14 years older than me) is also autistic.  

And for a long time I was triggered by autistic men.  I didn’t know they were autistic men.  I just knew they had something in common with him that I could pick up on easily.  Something about the way they moved.

I was also triggered by men with his body type.

It took me a long time to learn to stop reacting this way.

And I’m also autistic.  And I have ties to an autistic community where I am constantly running into men who move a lot like he moves.

So I can’t imagine how long it would take to stop reacting that way if you had no reason to be close to autistic community all the time.

As long as you recognize that you’re reacting to a trait, and that not all or even most autistic men are sexual predators.  As long as you never think autism excuses his actions.  (One thing I had to deal with when I finally told people about him was “Well he was always different…” well I was always different too and you never saw me molest anyone.  That is not even close to an excuse, nor an explanation for what he did.  Not even he would accept that as an excuse or explanation.)  And it looks like you do recognize that.

But I do know what it’s like to be triggered by a trait where being triggered by it can turn into being prejudiced, really easily.