Monday, October 19, 2015

Why I Use a Pseudonym

Someone recently asked why I use a pseudonym. I can tell you, it's not because I'm ashamed to put my name to my opinions or to reveal that I'm autistic and an abuse survivor in everyday life. I talk quite openly about autism, abuse and neurodiversity issues in everyday life, and have even spoken at NDP meetings about disability rights.

When I first started going by 'Ettina' online, I was in my early teens, and my Dad forbade me from using my real name on the Internet. Why? Because of child predators. He did not want anyone I met online being able to track me down and try to exploit me. Which is a very real issue, and I completely agreed with that rule.

I started this blog when I was 17, and still under the 'no real name' rule (I was allowed to make my own choice at 18). By then, I had already seen another reason not to blog under my real name - anti-vaxxers. On the EOHarm listserv, at the age of 15, I was viciously flamed for saying that I thought calling autistic people 'walking biohazards' was disrespectful. Not only that, but they went so far as to Google my handle and drag up stuff I'd posted on other forums (badly misinterpreted, by the way), in order to call my claim of being a 15 year old kid into doubt. I was honestly quite shaken by this. I have also heard of anti-vaxxers sending death threats (although that link claims it is 'new', it was going on 10 years ago) and have no desire to have people sending me or my family threats over my beliefs. No one I know in person would do this, even if they disagree with me.

Plus, I plan on becoming a mother someday. For all that these people claim they're trying to protect children, they have shown themselves willing to bully and frighten children, and threaten children with violence. I don't want that for my child. I went into advocacy to give my future child a better life, not to put them at risk from the worst of the anti-vaccination and anti-neurodiversity movements.

Furthermore, I have gone by this name in communication with self-described psychopaths, even linking to a psychopathic blogger because I find his blog interesting. As far as I know, I have given them no reason to want to hurt me, but psychopaths do sometimes attack others unprovoked. If one of the psychopaths I've met online decided it would be amusing to hunt me down, I want to make sure it's not easy for them.

And lastly, I don't like my real name. I don't like how it sounds, and some of the letters in it are ones I have a dislike for (yes, I dislike certain letters of the alphabet). Not enough to change it, when I'm used to it, people know me by it and my parents chose it for me. But when given the chance to pick a different name to be called by, I'll do it.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Why I Give Money To Beggars

This is inspired by David Hingsburger's post Cider, about giving a bottle of cider to a beggar who said he wanted a drink to celebrate Thanksgiving.

I give money to beggars.

Not every time they ask for it, because I don't always carry enough spare change for that, and I don't think I'm obligated to give. But often, when someone asks, I will give them money.

I have been told this is a bad idea. The argument goes that many beggars have addictions, and while you might be wanting to help them get food or a place to stay, what they might actually spend the money on is whatever they're addicted to. I've been told I should give food or these coupon-thingies that can be redeemed at homeless shelters for a meal and a bed for the night, not money. That way, I can make sure my gift is used in the 'proper way'.

Well, long before I knew I had executive dysfunction, I knew I couldn't do that consistently. I carry change a lot more often than I carry food, especially shareable food. And I have no idea where to get those coupon-thingies, and doubt I could remember to keep up a regular supply. So, in many circumstances, my options are to give money or give nothing at all.

And so, I asked myself - what if they do spend my money on an addiction? Well, if that's what they were going to do, they'd have spent money from others for the same purpose. Or if they couldn't get any money begging, they might have hooked or stole to earn their drugs. And it's not like an addict doesn't also need food and a warm place to sleep. If enough people give them money, they could get those needs met as well as satisfying their addiction.

Plus, would an addict seriously decide to quit just because I disapproved of their lifestyle? When even family members or an inpatient stay at an addiction ward generally can't convince an addict to quit, what chance does some random stranger have? If they're going to quit, they need to decide to quit for their own reasons, and not because someone tries to force them to quit.

And what about the beggars who aren't addicts? You can't always tell who is or is not an addict. And you can't entirely anticipate what their needs are, either. Maybe they want food or a place to stay, sure. Or maybe they want to get some Advil for their aches and pains, or a bus ticket to another town, or some new clothes, or a pool pass so they can get cleaned up in the changing room showers. Or maybe they want to get something nice for themselves or someone else - something that isn't technically needed, but would brighten up their day and help them forget their troubles. How could I possibly carry enough coupons to guess all of those possibilities? And what if they don't want to explain themselves to a complete stranger?

But most of all, it was the thought of looking someone in the eye and them realizing that you assumed they'd spend any money they got on drugs, and that you felt you had the right to tell them what they should do with your gift to them. I'm not going to ask if you kept my Christmas present or regifted it, or what you spent that gift card or $20 on. So, if I give a gift out of empathy instead of as a social convention, shouldn't I offer the same respect along with my gift? Help should not come with strings attached.

So, I give money to beggars. Some of them might spend it on addictions. It's none of my business if they do.