Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Autistics Speaking Day: This is why we need it.

The past couple days I have been talking about the Orycon having an autism panel utterly devoid of Autistics panel situation. And I will likely be talking about it the next couple days as well.

This situation is proof that we need Autistics Speaking Day-that our work is not yet done.

It should be a given that when people talk about us, they should instead stand beside us and talk with us. It should not be a novel idea that Autistic people have things to say on autism. The idea of Autistic advocates, or Autistic adults, or Autistic people who are not directly related to the neurotypical who decided that they're an autism expert, that shouldn't be a novel idea.

They should never have planned a panel without Autistic representation. If for some reason they had made the oversight, they should have been apologetic and done their best to fix it.

They would not have doubled down, derailed, and tried to tell me why non autistic parents of autistic children are better representatives of autism, the Autistic experience, than actual Autistic people are.

That is the sort of behavior that, in a world that doesn't need Autistics Speaking Day, would be socially disadvantageous in the extreme.

Maybe one day we won't need Autistics Speaking Day.

That'll be the day that not a single presentation on autism is given without an Autistic point of view strongly represented.

That'll be the day that not a single book or article on autism gets past editors without notable Autistic input.

That'll be the day that everyone understands that knowing an Autistic person doesn't mean you know what it is to be an Autistic person.

That'll be the day that everyone-and I do mean everyone-knows that not all autistic people are exactly alike.

It'll be the day that general society knows that Autistics grow up-the day that not every piece of media is about autistic children.

It'll be the day when we are finally acknowledged on the experts of our own reality, as the primary stakeholders in autism discourse, and as the people who have the ultimate perspective on the Autistic experience.

We won't need Autistics Speaking Day when our voices are heard every day.

Orycon just showed me how far we have to go.

More Orycon-Pointing out some wrong

I am going to be stuck on the Orycon thing for quite some time. Why? Because they screwed up, and then they went down every path except “we screwed up. How do we fix it?”.

So, Orycon, this is the ways you stepped in it. Not all of them. Just some.

First, the initial screw-up. You planned a panel about autism without autistic people on it. Full stop, this is a problem. You don't do that. I don't care what about autism you are talking about, there is an autistic person or a dozen autistic people who are qualified to speak on it. We're just cool like that.

The secondary screw-up: I asked if this was, indeed, a panel about us without us, politely (since allistics care so much about that), and if so why? Then when I asked to follow up if the answer was indeed “nope just parents” (it was) you said it wasn't and got pissy at me for clarifying. It isn't an assumption when 5 of you have told me you're parents, not autistics. It was a legitimate point to clarify.

Tertiary-Nthary screw-ups: Now we get to start getting into some justifications.

All of the correspondence is linked to from my last post, for reference: Orycon doesn't want autistic money

I am not going through each email line by line at this point because I do not have the time or the spoons, so this is mostly going to be the real stand-outs.

First, we're going to start with “not answering the question I asked”. I asked if there were any Autistics on the panel. This is a yes or no question. The answer is yes, or it is no. When I get a flurry of emails saying that “I'm a parent” then the answer is not “yes”. The answer is “no”. This is not me making an assumption. This is me drawing a conclusion from the information I have-a correct conclusion at that.

As a correllary to the first, Orycon informed me that they don't ask presenters that question. And they had the gall to say it's ok because straight people can be for gay rights.

Guys, don't do that.


If you think that an analagous situation (a panel about the incidence of homosexuality with a bunch of straight parents of gay offspring) would be acceptable, go all the way home. It would not be. It would be unacceptable. Don't. If you are not a member of a marginalized group, even if your identical twin sibling you grew up with and shared a room with and now share an apartment with is, you may not speak for that group. You are not an honorary member of that group. End of discussion.

Orycon tried to assure me that they're oh so autism sophisticated, and that brings me to point the second:

If you are actually autism sophisticated you know a few things. One is that your autistic child is not the only autistic person on earth, and that autistic people are not a monolith. You also know that while some autistic people do not like standing in front of crowds, others are ok with it or even like it. True autism sophisticates know where to find autistic people (you know, the ones that aren't their children or their student). The “but my autistic 6 year old couldn't do this” or “my autistic nephew wouldn't like to”, it does not fly. Not if you're presenting yourself as experts.

Telling neurotypical people about autistic people may fly with them because they don't know anything either, but it does not fly with me. That thing you did where you told me all about autistic people? That's splainin'. I know about autistic people. I am an autistic person. I am friends with a whole lot of autistic people. I am not-so-friendly with some more autistic people. I do not need you to 'splain to me about autistic people-especially not with stereotypes and gross generalizations based on the one or two autistic people you know. Don't do that. It's a logical fallacy and it's condescending as all get out.

Which takes me to another derail that went on. “You don't go to a sci fi convention for a panel about autism”. No shit I don't, but if there is a panel about autism, it had best meet standards for quality. No, I do not go to a sci fi con and expect to meet autism experts—but if someone is presenting themselves as an expert they best bring it.

Orycon, “I've read a lot” does not make you an expert. Again, having an autistic child does not mean you understand the autistic experience—nor does University Of Google make one an expert on the rate of autism in a population over time. There is no reason that the conjecture of parents is any more valid than the conjecture of autistic people, & that is what we're talking here. It is conjecture. You don't know, though you have your thoughts. I don't know for sure either, but I have mine.

And. Orycon, if you were truly “autism sophisticated” you would know that being a geek does not mean you at all grok what it is to be autistic. If you think they're the same thing, or too similar for the difference to matter in such a discussion, you have a severe case of Dunning-Kruger effect goin' on.

“Are all autism researchers autistic?” was a delightful red herring, Orycon, given that none of these folks is an autism researcher. Just sayin'. You don't get one standard for parents and another for real autistics.

The email from the chair was 3 kinds of bingo all on its own, starting with what about the parents?, proceeding through “MMR!!!!”, moving on to more about the parents, and sprinkled with all sorts of derailing tactics. Let's talk about those.

Orycon, you don't have to like my tone. But you know what? I asked over 2 dozen people. My tone was fine. I was polite. I was nice. I was patient in the face of a lot of patent bull. There are a lot of smartass things I wanted to say and did not because everyone has lied to me and told me that if I am nice, people will do what is right.

People are full of it.

My tone was fine. You not liking that I was right, Orycon, is your problem, not mine. “I don't like your tone” is a lazy rhetorical strategy, and that's where you chose to go-”what about the parents” and “don't take that tone with me young lady”. Tone is not a valid argument when you're talking down a power gradient, folks. Tone is not a valid way to excuse your own errors. And you have confirmed for me what I always expected: that people say they don't like your tone when what they really mean is they don't like being wrong.

The projection was nice as well. Orycon representatives, I was not defensive at all. Quite the contrary. I had nothing to be defensive about: for one, I'm not wrong, for two, I approached you with questions, thus automatically I was not the one having to defend anything. You were defensive-both in the 'defending my position' way and in the 'defending my position not with facts but by taking it personally way'. That is what defensive means. Since you jumped right to getting mad at me for daring to challenge you, I had no opportunity to be defensive in either meaning.

See how that works?

Finally, in pure “you have got to be kidding” is the “you should have told us in person”.

Back to being 'autism sophisticated': if you know diddly squat about autistic adults, you know that we are, on the whole, not exactly rich. Most of us live below the poverty line. This is not news.

I emailed you to see if I wanted to spend some of my very limited leisure cash on your con. I am not spending my very limited leisure cash to jump through yet another hoop, to be told that I am being correct in a way that hurts your sensibilities yet again. I don't have that kind of time, cash, or spoon reserves.

You got your friendly suggestion. It was via email. You chose to respond with anger, defensiveness, derailing, and what we in social justice call splainin': you, able people, told me, autistic person, all about autism as though I am not aware.

I gave you a lot of chances to un-screw-up. You could have answered the original question. You could have answered the original question & then asked if I had any suggestions for how to fix it. You could have taken a different route anywhere along the way.

You chose to 'splain, condescend, derail, dogpile, and demand my money.

And that is the quick rundown of the egregious issues.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Orycon Doesn't Want Autistic Money. Also, I won ALL THE BINGOS.

You know, I was really hoping this isn't what this post was going to be. I was hoping it would be "so I was pleasantly surprised". It isn't. This morning someone texted me to tell me that Orycon (a local sci fi & fantasy convention) is having a panel about autism & whether there's an increase or not. Ok, that's a weird thing to have at a scifi con, but whatever.

The panelists:
-Janet Freeman
 -Kamila Miller
-G David Nordley
-Joyce Reynolds-Ward
-Karen Black

 I have never heard of any of these people. When we're talking autism, that's actually a very not-good sign. I know all the big names, I know all the local people, I know a fairly large proportion of the not-so-big names. This is what I emailed them. I want you to note how nice I was:
Good morning, I hear with trepedation that y'all have a panel on autism. I hear with more trepedation that I do not know a single one of these people (I know a lot of Autistic people). Are any of the panelists Autistic? If not, why?
(Full Name Redacted)
Thinking Person's Guide to Autism Associate Editor ( Radical Neurodivergence Speaking Sole Proprieter (
The short answer to my question is "no". I still don't know why, though it seems to be "because fuck you that's why" or "because parents are honorary autistics right?" or "because our one Aspie board member hates public speaking & we couldn't be assed to find an Autistic person who doesn't mind public speaking". Their stated reason was "we can't ask potential panelists if they're autistic!" Except, um, yes you can. If you're talking about a disability, it is absolutely appropriate to ask you if you have that disability. They gave the example of "someone can be straight and be for gay rights"-which is true. But you can't have a whole panel of straight people talking about queer issues! No! Nor can you have a whole panel of white people talking about PoC issues, or a whole panel of men talking about women's issues, et cetera!

 All of these emails came in & were sent out again while I was in class. Please have your Bingo cards ready.

 I would like you to note, again, that my initial question was "Are there autistic people on this panel?" and that this query has 2 answers: yes and no.

 Response the First (Summary: Panelist confirms she isn't autistic but her kids are).

Response email the second:(summary: more parents)

Response email the third(summary: yet another parent)

This one is my favorite for the sanctimony and arrogance with one's own "autism savvy": Response the fourth

I share my perception of the answer (and was nice, ish): My First Response

Dudeguy didn't like my response, also alludes to an email that he never sent me: What that Rickguy said

The email he was alluding to. Which is still a steaming pile, since asking people talking about autism if they're Autistic is actually totally legit: The email alluded to

What I had to say to that: But...what

The chair weighs in, also has no idea what defensive means, and makes a laughable comparison to gay rights: What does defensive mean?

And my response to them: Nice try but no

And some splainin: We're geeks so we totally grok autism

My response to that: Um. No. again.

Allistic person tells me ALL ABOUT AUTISM YOU GUYS: Splainsplainsplain

And then the splainin' privileged tears bingo all in one email: ALL OF THEM

Kind of a let down after the last one, but last panelist confirms he also isn't autistic: But stepdad is totes the same amirite?

Sooo Orycon doesn't even want my money badly enough to give a simple yes or no answer or to do anything about it but to tone police me & give me BS reasons that people who are not like me can talk about people like me without any oversight.

I am disappointed as fuck in Orycon, but I guess I'm glad that they made it very clear that they do not see me as the kind of person worth talking at their event.


Too little too late in the trying to not suck (summary: maybe my autistic kid will talk): Nice sentiment, I guess, but you shouldn't have to be shamed into it.

And some more splainin, with a side of "you should come and be niiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiice to us": Condesplainin'

Look, Orycon, you don't get it. I am not giving you money. Because of this. You got your 'friendly suggestion' in email-like many Autistics, I don't have the money to drop on a con where this sort of oversight was made. I am a fan of stuff, but not enough to bargain my commitment to nothing about us without us. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

New blog feature: This Week In Apparently Impossible Standards

Hello and welcome to my new feature, This Week In Apparently Impossible Standards. This feature is inspired by all those people who consider themselves good people, or even allies, and their astonishing ability to hit new and exciting lows. Apparently my standards for "not a disappointment" are exceedingly high, so here we are.

Although this is called "this week", not all featured stories will have occurred the week of the post. Some may also be amalgams of several situations if the method of sucking is the same.

Inaugural post:
As people who have been here a while know, I enjoy swing dancing-but Portland Lindy Society essentially paid someone to assault me in 2010, & Mindy Hazeltine of Stumptown Dance fancies herself above the ADA and prefers lawsuits to  banning flash photography. So, dancing not happening so much with the deadly weapons. 

Today at school someone I know from those dances asked why he hadn't seen me out lately-and I told him.

Here's a protip, pal: If your reaction to exclusionary bigotry is "that's too bad", you fail to meet decent human being standards. The correct responses include "That's terrible, why am I giving my money to those asshats?", stopping your support of said asshats, & passing on relevant resources if you know of any and have that capability. 

Decent people don't knowingly support people and businesses who chose to be bigots. Decent people don't knowingly support people who choose to hurt people.

My standards: too high.

Friday, October 5, 2012

"forgiving" people who aren't sorry. Not gunna happen.

This has been the theme of this past week or so, and an intermittent theme of my entire life thus far: some person or group does something shitty to me, I am angry about it, that does not change because the shitty people don't care to make amends, some random, usually privileged asshat comes by on their high horse and tells me to forgive the original shitty person/group/whatever.

This sanctimonious asshat, again, always has privilege I don't have on at least one axis and always tells me to forgive for my own peace of mind. That it'd make me feel better, and don't I want to be the bigger person? Let bygones be bygones, et cetera.

And you know, at first I thought these people just didn't understand what they were asking me to forgive-that they didn't know the kind of abuse I went through as a child, that they didn't know that a board member of a big supposedly good autism charity assaulted me with flash for an entire weekend, that they didn't know, didn't know, didn't know.

They ran out of benefit of the doubt, though, when they started commenting immediately after I shared the story that I need to forgive "for myself." Then I started thinking, what's it to them if I am pissed off at my dead mother or at AutCom or whoever for the rest of my days?

Do you, forgiveness pushers, see my mother in yourself? Do you see any reason it was acceptable for a board member of AutCom to follow photosensitive people around with a flash camera? Do you see any reason it's acceptable for students to lock another student in a locker? Are you relating to the villains of the story? Is that what's going on here? Do you need me to forgive them in case you are accidentally just as toxic? How does that even work?

Maybe this for your religious reasons? I still don't get it, though: I'm an Atheist, but I was raised with "you sin (fuck up), you go to confession (apologize), you do your penance (make amends), then you go and sin no more (do your best to not fuck up again)." Only after that are you absolved (forgiven). That model works pretty well for us secular folks too. I highly recommend it.

The thing y'all are failing to understand from way up there is that you are asking me to go against every hard won survival instinct I have. You are demanding that I betray myself as deeply as possible so that you feel better. You say it's "for me". You lie. It isn't at all. It's for whatever convoluted reason you have.

Here's the thing: these people aren't sorry. Not one of the people or groups I've been sustainedly angry at has made even a perfunctory, much less sincere, apology. If someone isn't sorry, I sure as shit am not forgiving them. No. You work for that. If you done fucked up, and I assure you, these groups or people have all done fucked up in concrete ways and know what they are, you apologize and you try to fix it if you want forgiveness. That's how it works.

If you forgive someone who isn't sorry, then you are giving them license to hurt you again. It took me a long painful time to learn that "good people" aren't always good people and that people who others say are looking out for my best interests often are against my best interests. Every single iota of self preservation and self respect I have says "if there is even the slightest chance they will do it again or will escalate, never forgive." Forgiving would be deep self betrayal.

Not forgiving people or organizations who aren't sorry, no matter how great y'all sanctimonious privileged equestrians think they are, is self care for me. And it's not like it's a secret-they know where to find me if they're actually sorry and actually want to be forgiven. But they don't. Take it up with them if you think forgiveness is so important.