Hope you’re doing great and that you’re surviving the month of blue hell on the internet that is Autism “awareness” month. I’ve been pretty aware all my life, honestly. It’s exhausting to meet the nonsense halfway, especially now companies are using algorithms to pick out who might be autistic due to the pages that we follow. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll have seen me pick fights with companies that feast on our suffering. Because of course I did, I’m essentially Victor Meldrew from One Foot in the Grave. It’s what my partner loves me for. I’m attracted to Joriks, he said today. He doesn’t lie.
I was planning to write my big monthly blog (which is essentially what it’s become to be honest!) about neurochauvinism. A term I think understands the specifics about how neurodivergent people are met with misunderstanding, dehumanisation and other nasty parts of existence, simply for being who they are. It also is a nice-sounding word to talk about something thoroughly unpleasant. However, I couldn’t. Not yet.
At the start of the month, I was invited to attend a series of academic presentations, at one of the universities my mentees attend. It was, eh, not good. I was luckily around more autistic people who challenged the all-NT autism researchers. These researchers have some very serious conceptual problems around what we are actually like. Their idea of our minds as being divergent is focused on processing speed and accuracy only, but that’s like describing a zebra as a thing with legs. Great, probably important, sure. But not really its distinguishing feature, one likely shared by tonnes of other groups for tonnes of different reasons and not really the important part of what makes up a zebra.
They made no reference of trauma or the double empathy problem. I’m not going to talk about it in greater depth yet, because I am still waiting for two of the three researchers who’d promised to contact me to do so. Looking at the way our contributions were responded to, I’m not surprised. The email correspondence I had with one researcher was pleasant but frustrating, since they had no intention to understand the issues with the questions central to their research. I won’t share due to GDPR, But rest assured, dear reader, that it was, as they say, a thing.
This will of course all go straight into a blog, hopefully next month’s one, and my book that I’m still going to be writing over June, July and August, when my partner is working as an EFL teacher. Life just needs to be a little bit less relentless please. Relent. I want life to relent. More? Relent more? Yes. That, please. Cheers.
I’ve increased my sertraline dose, which has not stopped me having nightmares and sleeping badly, but I have not had a meltdown since increasing it. I am tired a lot more often though, I seem to have fewer overall spoons. This is difficult when you’re autistic and struggle with assessing how you’re feeling on a moment-by-moment basis. When changing medication, I’m never sure whether what I’m going through is ‘the right thing’, because I can only go with what I experience. And what I experience feels ‘wrong’. You see the problem there. I’m thinking that this level is a bit too high, though the good days are very, very good indeed. Let’s just see how it all pans out.
(addition, written the morning of the 25th: I’ve actually got a cold. That’s what’s going on with me. Hooray! At least I have a reason now. <3)
I also did a full course of antibiotics this month, after my boil came back. It was, well, pretty exhausting. I don’t like the fact that if I need to rest due to being ill, that I don’t automatically have more energy for normal life afterwards. I wanted to share a photo of my ill face. But, unfortunately, WordPress says no. It’s probably for the best if I don’t.
On Sunday 30th of April, THIS WEEK (ooh, now isn’t that exciting?) I will be running an Autistic Pride event at Bath Spa University. It comes out of AutWell, the Autistic Wellbeing Group that I’ve been co-convening since December last year. Remember that blog in December? Well, it’s been going great! Every week, a sizeable group of students join us and we chat about being autistic. We’re still learning and we do put in a tonne of work into it, but we’re starting to get the hang of how to run the group. This event celebrates that. Hopefully, the weather will be nice. But even if it isn’t, I will be there, chatting, chilling and answering questions on autism and neurodiversity. I can’t wait. The poster, made by the talented Finn Hammond, is right here:
Beyond that, two very cool things happened these past few weeks.
- I am now facilitating AutAngel’s LGBTQ+ peer support group. It’s online and all-autistic. The members are amazing and I had a wonderful first session last week. We’re meeting once a fortnight. I look forward to continuing for as long as I’m allowed to. Maybe more people will be allowed to join, I’m not sure how the process works. I think they’re looking at the waiting list again, now I’ve joined. Please visit AutAngel’s website. No need to be based in Reading – I wasn’t even the person furthest away from Reading on the Zoom call!
Find it all here:
- I heard today that I’ll be hosting another Autistic Pride event: a pilot for a Neurodivergent Writer’s Group for Out on the Page, a charity that supports queer authors. I’ll be running it on June 20th. It will run as a single event, since this will be a pilot for potentially longer-term group meetings, on Arts Council funding. This is dependent on the responses from the attendees, of course. So, if you’re a queer neurodivergent writer and, like me, you’ve found regular writers groups complex and awkward places by and for neurotypicals, please join! I’d love to see you there.
So I think that’s all the news. I cannot wait to see you at any or all of these events!
Thanks to everyone who watched my video from last month’s blog. I’m very proud of it, warts and all. I hope it will start a conversation that desperately needs to happen. If you haven’t watched it yet, please make the time to do so and share it around as widely as you can.
WEE BIT OF POLITICS
As I promised in the comments to his video, here’s John Duncan’s video on Transphobia. The movement against trans existence is also one that’s implicitly and explicitly eugenicist, impossible to see outside of ableism. The behaviour modification systems that are the norm in British society are used to invalidate autistic people’s right to self-identify. You know that I’ve spoken to my local MP about this topic last year and I was practically laughed out of the room. But thinking about that now, I can recall her insistence that: “Someone has to teach people right from wrong.” If she’d had a gavel, she would have banged it.
That didn’t strike me as weird at the time. I even folded, accepting her premise that ‘teaching people right from wrong’ was a valid one, though that conversion therapy is wrong, even if it’s sold as PBS or ABA. Thinking back, I don’t think ‘teaching people right from wrong’ is a thing which moral human beings should be advocating for at all. What kind of person is so convinced of their righteousness that they insist that ‘right’ is taught? And what is that ‘right’ and its inverse? Moreover, who are the teachers in her model society? And more importantly, who are the students? Why was she referring to behaviour modification only in terms of fixing ‘bad’ behaviour?
She simply didn’t accept the fact that ABA, PBS and all behaviour modification ‘therapy’ are conversion therapy. They impose one system of behaviour on those who don’t already show it. How she couldn’t understand those were the same thing baffles me to this day. But I was, I guess, speaking to someone committed to retaining the status quo. We, as queer neurodivergent people, fundamentally challenge that status quo. Yes, she validates the existence of trans people. But to accept that conversion therapy practices are normal in the NHS, in education and in social care, in private and state-owned settings and everywhere in the field of autism, she could not. It’s ‘not an equalities issue, I’m not a health spokesperson.’ I think I’m getting upset with something over a year after it happened, guys.
The sound you hear is your author slowly being pulled into the direction of anarchism.
Anyway, Tabby from Contrapoints was ALWAYS right!
The EHRC ruling was shocking, but not surprising. An organisation that seeks to stop trans people from existing is also one that will have no problem with training modules advertising ABA. They wouldn’t have given me the time of day.
Labour’s response was the most telling. I didn’t expect better from the Tories, but the popularity of transphobia in Labour and the SNP shows how unfinished progress is and that the arc of history doesn’t necessarily always bend towards justice. Not unless we do something about it first. In 2023, it appears that British politics has been caught by a transphobic bug that affects specifically the middle and upper middle classes. I am concerned for their safety, since some of my favourite in-laws are middle class. But I can and must resist. If only for my trans siblings. Because they were there when cis gay men were dying of Hiv/AIDS in the 1980s and 90s. And they will be there in the future. I try to do my best. Give to Mermaids and other trans-affirming organisations and give your time to trans people. They’re going through a lot at the moment.
I think that just about covers it for today’s blog. I promise I’ve been busy. I’m fighting a lot of fights at the moment, so I have less time to spend on this blog. I hope I’ll be back a bit sooner next time, but until then, look after yourselves. Also, do your taxes. I have!
All my love,