Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Crafting Non-Ableist Behavior/Learning Goals

 I've been putting a lot of thought into curriculum design lately, since I got inspired to try to plan out my future child's potential homeschooling curriculum. And since I've had a lot of struggles with life skills that I wish I'd been taught earlier, my curriculum plans are including those skills. Looking into premade life skills curriculums, however, I've run into numerous examples of normalization/ableism in the goals, such as goals like "dressing appropriately for a job interview" or "turning on the lights when they're in a dark room". And it got me thinking, how can you tell if a learning or behavior goal is actually a valuable goal for the individual, or just something that will make them look more normal without improving their life?

So, here's my general idea of a guide for how to tease those apart:

First, consider the pros and cons of doing the thing for the student. I get the feeling most teachers don't think about the potential cons of learning life skills, or don't think there are any cons. And certainly some skills, such as being able to independently put on the clothes they'd be wearing anyway, don't really seem to have much of a downside. But many life skills do have cons, which should be weighed along with the pros.

One example: diversifying food selection, or being more willing to eat new foods. This is often a problematic goal set for picky eaters - personally, when I got autism treatment as an adult, their attempts to impose this goal actually led to me quitting the treatment. Let's look at the pros and cons of this goal.

The biggest con I can think of is that it involves asking the student to eat things that they might find extremely unpleasant to eat. For me, the argument that drove me out of the treatment centered around mushrooms, a food that disgusts me about as much as eating mold disgusts me. 

It's also important to keep in mind that many of the sensory issues that contribute to food sensitivity may not be subject to habituation, or may be very slow to habituate, so this con doesn't just apply during the training. Whenever you try to train an autistic person to tolerate a sensation they find intolerable, there's the potential that they will never stop being bothered by that sensation. For example, I have taken karate, but as soon as I got my first gi, I found that it was very unpleasant to wear. I tried to wear it anyway, but it would continue to bother me the entire 2-3 hours I was in class, and the only thing that helped partially was to periodically throw myself against mats to get deep pressure. Rather than getting better over time, however, my sensitivity to the texture of my gi actually got worse.

So, what are the pros of greater food variety? Potential for a healthier diet, depending on which new foods are targeted. Less likelihood of finding themselves hungry while surrounded by food they can't eat. Possibly reducing food costs, if cheap foods are targeted. Better ability to adapt if they need to make dietary changes in the future, such as if they develop type 2 diabetes or move to a place where their favorite foods are hard to find. And less likelihood of getting into conflict with people who insist on getting offended if you don't want to eat food they picked out for you.

Another example: toilet training. The cons of toilet training involve the discomfort and bother of having to hold your pee and poop until you get to a bathroom, the potential of being somewhere where a bathroom isn't readily available, and less physical comfort if they enjoy the sensation of wearing a (used or clean) diaper.

The pros include less risks of skin breakdown and bladder infections, less odors that others around them may find unpleasant, less production of garbage and/or use of laundry, less risk of transmitting intestinal diseases, greater physical comfort if they dislike the sensation of wearing a (used or clean) diaper, more independence with personal hygiene, and avoiding the stigma that incontinence carries for those past early childhood.

So once you've identified the pros and cons, look at each item and ask:

Is this factually true?

Is this the student's problem or someone else's?                                                                       

What other behaviors could allow them to gain the same benefits without the cons?

For example, although this is a common concern, in most cases, picky eating does not actually place the person at risk of nutritional deficiency. Studies have shown that most picky eaters actually have diets that are about as balanced nutritionally as those of non-picky eaters. The exception is those individuals whose list of acceptable foods is extremely small - say, single digits. It's valuable to consult a dietician if there are concerns that an individual may not be getting enough of any nutrients, rather than assuming that a picky eater's diet is automatically unhealthy.

Meanwhile, the problem of getting into conflict with others over food is not actually the picky eater’s problem. Just because there are social conventions around giving and receiving food does not make those conventions right, or give people the right to penalize others for not conforming to those conventions. In addition, people who take offense at others not accepting their gifts of food harm more than just picky eaters - people with other reasons for avoiding food, such as health, religious or ethical reasons, also frequently come into conflict with such people, too. And in the case of health issues, people who take offense at others refusing food have sometimes contributed to people dying or getting seriously injured, especially if they use deception or exert power to get others to eat food they don’t want to eat. Given that the pattern of “insisting that others must accept and eat food given to them” causes serious problems for multiple groups, including life-threatening problems for some people, it seems pretty clear to me that this is a more serious, concerning behavior than rejecting certain foods.

Of course, recognizing that it’s someone else’s problem doesn’t mean you can’t take measures to protect yourself. A good example are rape and sexual assault prevention programs that target potential victims and teach them tactics to keep themselves safe. It can also be valuable to talk to disabled students about tactics to protect themselves from ableism. However, in these situations, merely complying with harmful actions from others is usually not the best course of action, and even if it’s best to comply in the moment, it’s insufficient to keep them safe in the future. All students need to have strategies for opposing unjust actions, even from people in positions of authority. At this point, the third question above comes into play.

Similarly, the stigma of incontinence is not the problem of the person who wears and uses diapers, and harms both people who could be toilet trained but aren’t and people who can’t be toilet trained. However, there are also health concerns for not being toilet trained, to the point where the average lifespans of people with severe disabilities differ depending on their toileting abilities. This is especially true for non-ambulatory people, for whom using diapers greatly increases the risk of skin breakdown from pressure sores. However, even if toilet training isn’t an option, measures can be taken to improve skin health, such as frequent changes, good cleaning practices, etc, many of which the individual may be able to learn to deal with. For example, if they can change their own diaper, they can ensure more frequent changes for themselves. Or if they can recognize when they need a change and ask for it, they can encourage caregivers to change them more often.

So, based on the analysis of our two example tasks, I would say that in most cases, toilet training is a worthy goal and being less picky about food is not. However, in both cases, there are situations where it is or isn’t a good goal. If an individual accepts only a single-digit list of foods, diversifying that is probably a good idea. Meanwhile, if a person can’t hold their pee or poop well enough to prevent accidents unless they limit fluids, avoid activities where bathrooms aren’t readily accessible, and/or allow for frequent interruptions in activities, toilet training may not be worth it. Of course, all of those things are likely to be true in the short term, but if they’re not improving, it may be worth going back to diapers.

Lastly, I also encourage, if possible, discussing these pros and cons with the student. Some students might not be able to understand even if you explain it, but for others, telling them that wearing a used diaper can be bad for your skin could be a good way to motivate them to cooperate with toilet training. And if there’s any room for uncertainty, it’s better to give explanations that aren’t understood than fail to explain something the student could have understood.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Growing Up Kinky - My Story

I came across a news article about research into the formation of kink/fetish identity, and it suggested several stages of development. So I thought I'd take a look at these stages, and see if I can identify anything matching that in my life experience.

1) Early Encounters: This stage encompasses early inklings towards kink, typically taking place before the age of 10, where kinky people experience an attraction, draw, or fascination with a kink or fetish interest, often without the words or concepts to understand it, and often without sexual arousal. Examples include always wanting to be captured while playing cops and robbers, or seeing television shows with superheroes in peril and feeling absorbed by the show.
This stage definitely defined my childhood. One of my earliest memories is of watching The Jungle Book, around the age of 4, and getting fascinated by Kaa, the hypnotic snake, to the point where I wandered around preschool the next day bugging my eyes out and singing "trust in me".

With regards to my interest in disabilities, that came later. I had a sometimes-friend in elementary school who had cerebral palsy and a mental disability, but I remember liking her in spite of her differences, which quite frankly repulsed me a bit. I also remember being forced to read about Louis Braille, and resonating with his conflicts with teachers while having basically no interest in his blindness.

It wasn't until right around the cusp of puberty, age 10-11ish, that I suddenly developed a fascination for disabled people. I remember my attention being caught by an autistic child I met, though I have no idea how much of that was dawning fetish and how much was a subconscious recognition of a person with a similar neurotype to myself. On the other hand, the fact that seeing one kid about my age with a limb difference at the pool prompted me to obsessively draw similar limb differences in my school agenda is pretty clearly an early sign of my fetish for disabilities. And even more so my reaction to my school's unit on disability awareness, which motivated me to spend time pretending to have various disabilities as well as learning the Braille alphabet and fingerspelling.

2) Exploration with Self: This stage encompasses kinky people exploring their kink or fetish interest with themselves, typically between the ages of 5 and 14. This exploration typically occurs via fantasizing, seeking out erotic media, masturbating, and exploring material sensations on their bodies.
OK, here I feel like the stages start overlapping. For mind control, forced transformation, kidnapping, whump, etc, this stage started in elementary school, several years before the dawning interest in disability I mentioned above. I was obsessed with the Animorphs series in elementary school, going to the point of conceptualizing my least favorite teachers as Controllers as a coping strategy. I also liked this one series about the daughter of a veterinarian who investigated crimes against animals, and thought up elaborate hurt/comfort scenarios involving tortured animals. I also developed a fascination for the 1994 movie Pet Shop, which featured an alien couple disguising as human and starting a pet shop with the intention of kidnapping humans to sell as pets on another planet. In the movie, they were foiled quite easily - in my fantasies, they succeeded, and I had long-running stories about kids in cages, trying to cope with captivity, wondering what fate awaited them. After I got anti-drug education around 10-11ish, I'd always throw in an addict character undergoing withdrawal.

For me, this stage continued well past 14, easily into my twenties. It's important to note that all of this occurred through fantasizing, first expressed through playing with twist tye people, and then later through writing these stories down, and none of it involved me paying any attention to my own physical body. The only scenario I recall where my body was even relevant at all was one where I was a giant who'd captured tiny people to torture and play with.

I certainly never conceived of any of this as erotic, or paid any attention to my genitalia whatsoever. I generally tried to forget that I had genitalia altogether, and apart from trying to make sure they remained clean, I never touched them. Any conscious awareness of sensation in my genitalia was likely to trigger flashbacks to my childhood sexual abuse, so I suspect that I heavily dissociated from my own body.

3) Evaluation: This stage encompasses the process by which kinky people evaluate what their kink interests mean for their identities and lives, and typically takes place between 11 to 14 years old, at the same time when other identity development processes are often in full swing. It can involve feeling stigma over their kink interests, feeling generally different, realizing that not all of their peers share their interests, worrying there might be something wrong with them, and sometimes actively engaging in research in order to try to label and understand their interests.
I probably unconsciously stigmatized my own kinks due to both a fear of any sort of sexuality and the negative reactions I got from people (mostly my teachers) who took my fantasies too seriously and stereotyped me as violent. In addition, my kinks heavily line up with my mom's triggers, so any discussion of them with my mom tended to get shut down very quickly, leaving me feeling guilty for having upset her.

My first exposure to direct kink-stigma, however, was through the Courage to Heal book, which quoted from a contributor who'd used BDSM to self-harm. Her account heavily implied both that BDSM was inherently unhealthy for anyone to participate in, and that healing from trauma could and should involve shifting your sexuality away from BDSM to more vanilla interests. At the time, I uncritically accepted this account, and even proceeded to try to convince kinky people I met online later to believe the same way.

I remember at one point posting on an LGBT forum wondering if there was something wrong with me for liking stories where characters were tortured and hurt. Some people mentioned hurt/comfort fics, but that just left me feeling more broken, because I didn't really care about the "comfort", just the hurt. I felt like I was supposed to feel bad for characters who had bad things happen, and write about bad things mainly as a serious exploration of dark themes that resonate with real life, but I still found myself relishing descriptions of characters being tortured and feeling disappointed when they got rescued.

I also regularly, starting around 10-11ish if not earlier, had revenge fantasies about torturing and maiming harmful people and this somehow leading them to be reformed. Those bothered me because a) I couldn't think of how to make it realistic, and b) my self-insert character doing the torturing and maiming and proceeding to use the character's vulnerability to manipulate them into reformation usually came across at least as villainous as their victim, if not more so for the extreme measures they took.
4) Finding Others: This stage encompasses the process of realizing that there are other kinky people out there and often takes place after the age of 11. The discovery of other kinky people often occurs via the internet, magazines, and is often accompanied by a feeling of kinship, such as finding their home, tribe, people, or family. This stage often includes a process of developing resilience against kink-related stigma and developing a positive sense of kink identity. Physically attending a kinky club, group, event, or conference also often comes up during this stage, though typically not until they are at least 18 years old.
In July of 2012, when I was 23, I wrote a description of several categories of "identity weirdness" I'd discovered, including ABDL and transabled. I had absolutely no inclination that either would be in any way relevant to my identity, or any idea that it was anything more than my ongoing special interest in psychology and my recent encounters with a trans boy that led me to be interested in the subject. (Ironically, I've since realized I am somewhere on the spectrum of each of those, though not the particular points I described in that post.) Around that time, I remember wondering briefly if I might be interested in ABDL, and then firmly shutting away the possibility because I didn't want my life to get harder.

I don't remember how I first discovered ABDL, it might've been through transabled discussions, given how I mention the potential confusion between the two. (I still think a significant subset of DLs would be accurately described as transabled/BIID people who desire incontinence.) But later on, I rediscovered ABDL sites while researching incontinence for a story I was working on, and this time, I stumbled across ABDL fetish fics. At first, I skipped past them as irrelevant - I was there to research, not read fiction! - but I kept getting distracted by them and sucked into reading them despite my efforts to stay focused.

One of those times, I was 26, sitting in the backseat with my parents on a road trip for my mom to do a job interview. I was researching incontinence on my phone, and I once again got sucked into reading fetish fics instead. And this time, I noticed a wetness in my crotch - the first time I remember ever noticing anything about my genitals while engaging with my kink fantasies.

My immediate assumption was that I'd started my period. I don't remember what I did for supplies - I might've had a tampon in my jacket pocket, or else asked Mom to give me one from the glove compartment. But I do remember vividly the shocking moment when I wiped myself and it came out clear, not red. And I remember suddenly realizing that it was sexual arousal, not my period, that had made my crotch wet.

I was horrified. I fortunately had a counseling appointment only a couple days later, but those couple days I waited were miserable. I kept feeling compelled to read fetish fics and then hating myself for it. Once, I hung out in my office reading fetish fics while my family were painting (we run a law firm as a family business) and I was feeling guilty for not helping, but I couldn't convince myself to stop reading. And then my brother walked in to ask what I was doing, and I was horrified. I stammered out something nonsensical and fled to the bathroom, and proceeded to have a panic attack while cleaning myself up. I had another, very similar panic attack when my dog sniffed with interest at my crotch at home right after I'd been reading fetish fics and I realized that she could smell my arousal.

That counseling session helped me calm down. The counselor talked to me for quite awhile about the difference between fantasy and reality and encouraging me to remember that fetish or no, I absolutely didn't have to kidnap and torture someone in real life just because I'd fantasized about it. During that session, I realized that for the sake of my mental health I had to come out to my family, and we talked about that, too. And afterwards, I called a family meeting and had one of those awkward, formal and anxiety-inducing "coming out" discussions that you see people posting videos of online. Ironically, when I came out as asexual at 18, and more recently as nonbinary around 28 or so, those were nothing like the standard "coming out" narrative you tend to hear, and yet telling my family about my fetish felt exactly like that narrative in every excruciating way.

But fortunately, as my logical mind had known all along but my self-hating kinkphobic inner voice refused to be convinced of, my family was completely fine with it. My Mom took some time to accept it, and we've had some arguments about how to balance her triggers with my need to speak openly in order to accept myself, but we've gradually worked out an amicable solution. And my Dad and brother have had absolutely zero issues with it whatsoever. It felt like a weight off my shoulders when, a couple hours after my awkward coming-out, I was grocery shopping with Dad and he started asking me questions trying to analyze exactly what it was about my kink fantasy that appealed to me. We've always bonded over analysis, so it was the perfect sign to me that he fully accepted my kink as just more fodder for our ongoing analytical discussions.

Shortly after I came out, I made a Tumblr account with the express purpose of exploring my fetish and what it meant for my identity. I became notorious among the more kink-negative sections of Tumblr for being "that ableist kink person", but at the same time, I stumbled into two communities that helped immensely with my self-acceptance - pro-shippers and the paraphilia/minor attracted person communities. When Tumblr banned porn, I followed both of these communities to Twitter.

Both of these communities accepted my kinks without question, and included people with far more taboo sexualities than my own (MAPs in particular have probably the absolute most stigmatized sexuality it's possible to have). And both regularly argued with trolls who were saying the same sorts of things my negative inner voice often said to me, and arguing with research citations, logically-thought out arguments, and civility and respect against people who uttered death threats and had arguments consisting of illogical one-liners attacking strawmen. I found watching these arguments incredibly healing, as if I was bandaging the wounds in my souls with the reasoned and compassionate voices defending people I identified with.
5) Exploration with Others: This stage encompasses the process of actually engaging in kinky play and/or kinky sex with another person, and typically takes place after 18 years of age. For many kinky people, they only really felt kinky when they actually engaged in kink with another person.
I've done a little bit of experimenting here and there, but mostly I haven't done any kink play, and yet I very much see myself as a kinky person regardless of whether I practice it IRL or not. I'm content with reading and writing fiction, to be honest. The stuff I've tried IRL I've enjoyed, but it's not really necessary to me, and right now I have other priorities that are more crucial to me, such as starting a family.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Knowing No - A Response

Coyote has an interesting post here:

What is "knowing" no?

It got me thinking about something that happened recently. Dad asked me to do a chore that I really wasn't feeling up to doing, and I hesitated. Mom chimed in with "you can always say no." I immediately said no.

And then I decided to explain to Mom how the phrase "you can always say no" did not feel like an accurate phrase when Dad is asking me for chores. How, very often, I feel like saying no to doing a chore is not a safe option for me.

Housework not being done seems to trigger my Dad's depression a lot. He has relatively high standards for cleanliness - I don't know how he compares to the average, but his standards are definitely higher than mine or my brother's, and maybe higher than my Mom. And the idea that he is helpless to get and keep our household at his standard of cleanliness triggers feelings of despair and resentment in him that I really don't understand.

He also frequently expresses the feeling that he's not getting enough/any help keeping the house. Even when my parents were living together, and Mom probably did about an equal amount of cleaning to him, he would complain about not getting help cleaning. I remember arguments about it, because Mom would get offended that he was discounting the work she'd done.

So, when he asks me for help with a chore, I never know if a refusal will be fine or if it'll set him off. When I help, I don't know if my efforts will be recognized, or if he won't notice, or if he'll start complaining about something else. He also seems to vacillate between remembering that I'm autistic and having realistic expectations, or randomly assuming that my lack of cleaning is because I'm deliberately trying to force him to live in a pigsty. And periodically, he'll just start ranting about it, with no real warning.

Meanwhile, when I stay at Mom's place, my efforts get more consistent results. If she asks me to do something, I can give an honest assessment of my likelihood of being able to do it. If I forget to do it, she accepts that without much emotion. If I do it, she might not notice, but if she does, she'll definitely be happy about it. And she basically never gets into random tirades about how the house is a pigsty and she feels like just giving up.

So there's an example of what 'not knowing I can say no' feels like.

Friday, March 09, 2018

An Autistic Takes On Thirty Days of Cleaning - Part 2

When I did the 30 Days of Cleaning, my plan was to write notes about each task as I did it, and post them once a week.

That didn't last long.

I did finish the challenge, but I didn't write up most of the tasks. I only wrote until day 7.

So, along with that explanation, here's the rest of the notes:

Day 4: Scrub down fridge.
Day 5: Organize and toss expired foods.

Firstly, these two are in the wrong order for me. I was very confused thinking about how to scrub down the fridge before organizing and throwing out food, since the rotten food was in the way of where I'd be scrubbing. So when I finally made myself open up the fridge, I started tossing out rotten food instead of scrubbing.

Unfortunately, I didn't finish. I started with the bottom shelf, the worst one, and got halfway through before I had to stop. The smell was horrible, and the last straw was getting something sticky on my fingers.

Challenges: This is probably the hardest one for me so far, simply because it's so disgusting. I honestly don't know if I'll be able to finish this one today. If not, I'll try some more tomorrow, and then move on to the next task. I like working close to the ground, it's easy on my joints, but the constant up and down while tossing things out was a bit uncomfortable.

Day 5:

I got back to this job while making myself breakfast. I was surprised how much easier it was - I guess I got the worst done yesterday. I finished up tossing the rotten food from the bottom shelf, and scrubbed it with a soapy washcloth until it looked nice. There's also a drawer thingy with rotten vegetables underneath, but I'm not touching that.

Challenges: A bit of grossness, but far less than yesterday. I didn't like the up and down, but once I got to scrubbing, that was pretty good. A bit of a workout for the arms, but not painfully so.

Day 7: Wipe down walls, and wash garbage can.

For this, I washed the front door. I used a washcloth and dishwashing detergent. I did it late at night and I'm really tired, because Dad left to drop Mom off at her place and we had to make our own way home. And I'm still sleep deprived from the trip back yesterday. (I slept most of yesterday, though I still got that day's challenge done.)

Challenges: The angle was a bit uncomfortable, and I had to scrub really hard to get any noticeable result. The worst part, though, was how the water started running down my arm as I was scrubbing. Really unpleasant sensation.

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

An Autistic Takes On 30 Days of Cleaning - Part 1

For January, I'm doing the 30 Day Cleaning Challenge - adapted for my abilities, of course.

As anyone who reads my blog (or even my sidebar!) will know, I'm autistic. And this makes it a lot harder for me to keep track of and do many everyday household tasks, including most of the cleaning tasks listed in this challenge.

But I'm planning to become a mother. In fact, I want to get started when I'm 30, and I'm 28 now. So I'd better get down to it.

In the past several months, I've done various 30 day challenges, and succeeded with each. I did two different 30 day writing challenges to explore my own identity. For December, I did this 30 day meditation challenge, and I thought when I started that I'd probably screw up and miss a day, but I didn't. I'm starting to feel like this 30 day challenge format is a really good, achievable format for me - not perfection forever, which just gets me discouraged, or trying to build a streak, which gets me back to square one when I miss a day, but just spending a month focusing on working a bit every day on the same thing.

And since I see a lot of people who really don't get just how hard cleaning can be for autistic adults, I'm also going to try to write up notes for my readers on how this is going for me. This is not part of the challenge, mind you. If I miss a day, that's not a big deal, and I won't necessarily try to make up. This is just an added bonus task.

To get started, I'll post my first three days (notes generally written immediately after doing the task, in case you find the tense confusing):

Day 1: Clean microwave and oven.

Well, firstly, I'm translating 'and’ as 'or’. Cleaning the microwave was enough of a challenge, no way I'm also cleaning the stove on the same day.

I did this early morning before anyone else was up. I removed the plate thingy and washed it. The plate was really tough, lots of stuff caked on it. Then I left it in the drying rack and went to clean the microwave proper. I noticed a ring thing that went underneath the plate and pulled that out to clean, then scrubbed the microwave. I didn't do as thorough a job as with the plate, because the angle was awkward and I was getting tired, but I did scrub what I could. When I went to wash out the cloth, I cleaned the little ring, which was super easy. Then I returned to the microwave.

As I was cleaning it out, I noticed an unpleasant smell. I also ended up getting food particles on the counter in front of the microwave, so once I figured I'd gotten the microwave as clean as I could, I wiped down the counter in front as well.

When I was done, a thought occurred to me. I wasn't sure if it was safe to run the microwave before it dried out. I tried to do other things to occupy myself until my parents got up. I tried to do dishes, but I was too overloaded and spilt water on myself. So then I went to change. After changing, I decided to go and ask my parents about running the microwave and brag to them about cleaning it. As I did so, I also checked the next day's task and asked 'what are appliances?’ I'm still not sure what counts as an appliance.

Challenges: This task involved a lot of standing, both in front of the sink and the microwave. Reaching into the microwave involved bending my back in a way that caused back pain by the time I'd finished. The inside of the microwave smelled bad as I was cleaning it, and the feeling of soapy water and soapy wet washcloth on my skin also bothered me. This is especially true since my skin on one hand has a rash from the dryness of the winter air.

Day 2: Clean dishwasher and appliances. Here's how to clean your toaster.

As mentioned, I don't really know what 'appliances’ means, and we don't have a dishwasher. Plus, we spent last night in my Mom's place, and she doesn't have a toaster. (Plus, I can't really make sense of their instructions.) I have a dentist appointment, and I take anti-anxiety meds that get me too high to function afterwards, so I knew I had to do it early in the morning.

I decided last night to clean the coffee machine. Mom's been away from her place for a week, and there was rotten coffee in the machine and rotten food in the sink. I almost puked last night getting the worst of the rot down the drain. This morning, I washed out the coffee pot, then washed the coffee machine and lastly the countertop around it. I also picked up and moved some spices and garbage in that area. The garbage doesn't have a bag in it right now and I didn't have the energy to find one, so I just put the garbage on a different countertop for now.

Challenges: This involved standing and using the sink, same as the microwave. The angle was less awkward and it was done more quickly. The biggest challenge was the smell of mould, which made me gag.

Day 3: Wipe down pantry.

For this one, the biggest challenge was getting started. The task confused me, I couldn't quite think of what steps to do. Plus, I was planning on eating noodles and parmesan for breakfast, and the parmesan was in the pantry, so I thought I should combine the two tasks somehow. But the uncertainty for how to get started delayed me enough that I started getting low blood sugar, which made it worse. Plus, Mom got stressed out while getting ready for work, and my phone was low on charge, so I ended up retreating to my room to meditate and then exercising a bit, and got kind of off track.

Finally, I realized that I really needed to eat breakfast, and decided ‘never mind cleaning the pantry, let's get these noodles cooking’. And then once they were cooking, I realized maybe I could wipe down the pantry while I was waiting. I dragged over a chair to reach and did it. It was surprisingly quick and easy.

Challenges: I had to stand on a chair, but this task was so quick, that didn't bother me much at all. The biggest challenge was getting started on it, because I got it tangled in my mind with preparing breakfast, and the combination was too complicated for me.

Friday, November 17, 2017

My Future

OK, parents of autistic adults who can't live independently.

You think it's scary, imagining what will happen to your child when you die? Imagine how scary it is for them.

I'm 28 and I live with my parents, because although I'm smart and capable in many ways, self-care is not one of those ways. I have severe executive dysfunction, and I work so hard with so little result.

I see how much I'd need to do to live on my own, and I know how far I am from being able to do it. And it terrifies me.

I can't find help, because I'm smart and talkative and articulate, and no one believes that a developmental disability can make you as disabled as I am without affecting intelligence or communication skills. Even if I could, most of the programs available don't pass the midnight burrito test, and I barely survived the public school system. I can't live like that.

And you know what, parents of autistics? Most of you aren't helping. You're complaining about what a burden your children are, you're calling them low functioning and saying people like me don't need help and people like them don't need choices, you're focusing on early intervention and quack treatments and pretending that your kids will stop being autistic if you try hard enough, you're setting up the programs that don't meet the burrito test, you're putting your heads in the sand and pretending it's not a problem, and a few of you are even talking about killing your children so they don't outlive you.

There are a few parents who are standing by us in the fight, and I appreciate you guys. But it's not overstating things to say that some of our worst enemies, as autistic people, are parents of autistics.

And it makes me so furious, because you guys have so much power. I'm a disabled adult who doesn’t know how to run things myself or convince others to help. I have very little power to help myself, much less others. But you guys are strong. And instead of being our biggest allies, you're our worst enemies.

Friday, November 03, 2017

Couple Privilege Does Exist: A Response to Lola Pheonix

I recently came across this article, Five reasons 'Couple privilege' doesn't exist. The writer of this article, Lola Pheonix, seems to be coming at the question of couple privilege from a polyamorous perspective, which is different from the experience of aromantic people. I'll try to address both perspectives, although it's important to keep in mind that I'm not poly and I have essentially no experience with poly relationships. I also bring up disability quite a bit, because my initial learning about privilege was largely in the context of disability.

They* quote Franklin Veaux saying privilege is "any advantage that one person or group has over another that hasn’t been specifically earned", and go on to disagree with that definition, stating that privilege has to be based on a societal system that deliberately benefits a certain group over others.

I disagree with both definitions, actually, but I like Franklin Veaux's definition better. I'd simply amend it to say that this advantage results from social systems, not purely from biological differences. For example, being able to walk isn't a privilege, it's just a biological reality. But being able to count on buildings having entrances designed for people like you to enter easily is a privilege given to people who can walk (we don't have any buildings with entrances that assume the ability to fly, for example).

Lola Pheonix's definition of privilege, meanwhile, is overly narrow. It excludes discussion of privilege systems affecting groups that are not widely known & recognised to exist by society.

For example, many buildings have flourescent lighting, which can be an accessibility issue for people with epilepsy, migraines, or sensory processing issues. I have yet to encounter anyone who deliberately choose flourescent over other options because of a hatred for people with those disabilities. Instead, the vast majority of flourescent lights were installed by people and organizations who simply didn't consider the potential accessibility issues that could be relevant to their choice of lighting.

I, personally, see being able to design and visit buildings without worrying about the lighting causing seizures or similar negative effects as an example of abled privilege. But Lola's definition wouldn't count it.

They then discuss 'couple's privilege' as if it consists solely of how poly relationships are treated in personal relationships. Setting aside the question of whether systematic patterns of being insulted for a certain identity can count as oppression by itself, that's far from the only effect of couple's privilege. There's a reason gay couples pushed so hard for legal recognition of their marriages, and that's because it comes with a long list of legal benefits. These benefits are not available to unmarried partners, including all but one of a polyamorous person's partners. Nor are they necessarily available for the primary relationships of aromantic people.

For example, although my brother and parents have certain rights by virtue of being my family, they could potentially lose custody of my child to my sperm donor if I were to die before my child grew up. This is especially true if I don't make the sperm donor sign papers beforehand. (As I wouldn't if the pregnancy wasn't planned, for example.) And only recently did Canada first allow a mother's best friend to undergo a second-parent adoption, representing the first time a second-parent adoption was granted to a non-romantic partner. Similarly, I shudder to think of the legal battle if a polycule had a custody dispute. My guess is that any partner who wasn't married to the child's parents or biologically related to the child would be at a severe disadvantage, no matter the relationship to the child.

And speaking of gay couples, next, they bring up how many of these couple's privileges aren't available to non-heterosexual couples. I'll acknowledge that point, although I'd argue it soon won't be true anymore. But just because a certain set of privileges aren't afforded to everyone with a certain identity doesn't mean that identity isn't privileged. After all, trans people can be straight, but they certainly don't access straight privilege. Similarly, gay couples (and other queer couples) being denied couple's privilege doesn't mean that heterosexual couples can't be privileged over single heterosexuals, polyamorous heterosexuals or heterosexuals who aren't able to marry for various reasons (eg threat of losing welfare or disability payments).

Next, they mention that many of these privileges aren't unique to couples. This, too, is not really relevant. There is a lot of overlap between different systems of oppression. Both trans and disabled people often get treated as 'self-narrating zoo exhibits' and asked overly personal questions by strangers. POC, women and physically disabled people all tend to get touched intrusively and nonconsensually by strangers. Both POC and invisibly disabled people (especially neurodiverse or mentally ill people) are at higher risk from police violence. Trans women, POC and disabled people are all at greater risk of being murdered and have our killers receive lighter sentences. Single people, LGBT people and disabled people are all likely to be denied the right to adopt for reasons that don't affect our actual ability to parent. The list goes on. If we excluded any oppression shared by multiple distinct groups from privilege discussions, we'd have virtually nothing to discuss.

They also mention that choosing to prioritise certain relationships over others isn't oppression. I agree. If you're treating your partner of 5 years who you live with as more important than your LDR with a partner for 3 years, that's just human nature. And if your friends prioritise your partners the same way, that's probably just because they know one partner better. We can't, and shouldn't, treat all people as if they were equally important to our lives, and that includes poly partners.

But there's a big difference between inviting your friend's spouse but not their girlfriend because you know their spouse better, or you don't get along with their girlfriend, and doing so purely because they're married. And similarly, there's a difference between inviting your own spouse but not your girlfriend because she's out of town, or doesn't like those kinds of events, or you'd simply rather bring your spouse; and doing so because you fear negative reactions to coming out as poly, or feel that she doesn't belong there because she's not the one married to you.

They then discuss binarism. As a mostly cisgender woman, I don't feel qualified to comment on whether or not binarism exists, although I will mention that I've seen a lot of disagreement among non-binary people about this question. I would also be interested to hear their thoughts on 'truscum', and how that relates to binarism. But I digress.

They also discuss how visibility doesn't lead to acceptance. As an autistic person, I have an interesting experience with being both hypervisible and invisible, and I can attest that both are terrible. Hypervisibility isn't the same as visibility, though. Visibility, to me, means being able to access positive self-representation and narratives that help you to develop a sense of yourself as a member of a category of people - being able to see yourself represented and included in society's construction of what 'protagonists' are like. And caricatures and stereotypes are no better than the complete lack of representation, and can in some cases be worse.

I also feel like their discussion of privilege treats it as a binary, which it certainly isn't. A nondisabled poor trans woman of color has abled privilege over me, but I have class, cis and white privilege over her, making me almost certainly more privileged overall. And the same could be said for pretty much any axis of privilege. People who are privileged in most, but not all aspects will generally be more privileged overall than people who are privileged in only a few aspects. This doesn't negate the reality of any one axis of privilege.

Overall, I get the feeling we probably agree more than we disagree.

* I don't know what pronouns Lola prefers, so I'm using 'they/them' as the most neutral option.