Tuesday, May 17, 2016

We Can't All Get Along

I came across this article recently.

Unfortunately, comments were closed on it, explicitly because it 'could turn bad and hurt people' and the owner of the community 'wants all people who come here to feel safe to express something'. A strange justification for shutting down conversation about a serious issue, in my opinion. But in any case, that's why I'm posting a blog entry about it instead of just having my say in the comments.

Essentially, the article imagines a hypothetical disability conference that brings together everyone in the 'disability community' to speak our piece with one rule - no one can say they're offended by something. If you get offended, and show it, you'll be booed out of the hall. This is painted out as a wonderful thing, but it sounds absolutely terrible to most self-advocates.

What the 'let's all get along camp' don't seem to get is that there really are irreconcilable differences. There are people in the 'disability community' who think people like me are better off dead. This is not hyperbole, this is serious. There are also people in the 'disability community' who openly endorse practices that I have nightmares about, practices that deeply wounded me as a child. (They weren't practiced under the same name, because I was undiagnosed, but the damaging aspects are the same.)

And I've had it relatively good, among autistic self-advocates. There are many people who have been hurt far worse than me. Think about it - this 'inclusive conference' would invite both Issy Stapleton and her mother - who, if you've followed the news story, you'll know has been convicted of trying to murder Issy. This conference would place a survivor of an attempted murderer in the position of being asked to listen to her murderer defend her actions and not take offense at that. And if she had the reaction that most victims of such a serious crime would have, she'd be 'booed out of the hall'.

There are also people who've gotten seriously hurt over less serious and more widely accepted practices in the disability community. Practices such as restraints, ABA, genital examinations, and others have been reported by self-advocates to have caused significant trauma and PTSD symptoms. It's not reasonable to expect someone not to get offended when you're describing their traumatic experiences and saying it's a good idea to do these things. It would be an exceptional person who could stay calm under those circumstances.

If you're a supporter of LGTB rights, imagine a conference like this one, but about LGTB issues. And we invite everyone - not just LGTB people and PFLAG members and supportive doctors and therapists, but also ex-gay ministries, church leaders, parents who abuse their LGTB kids, therapists like Kenneth Zucker (who teaches trans kids to act their birth gender), everyone who has an interest in LGTB people in any form.

And then you say that even if someone is endorsing practices that drove you to past suicide attempts or caused years of misery in your life, you're not allowed to get offended. If you act offended, your voice will be shut out.

Does that really sound like a good thing?