“It’s Not That Nice in Israel Right Now”

“It’s not nice in Israel right now,” she told me, this middle age, bordering old age Israeli, Ashkenazi woman (judging from the Eastern European last name she had on her credit card). She then chuckled to herself, and I’m not sure what exactly she meant by that chuckle. Was she chuckling at the fact that compared to Gaza, Israel is looking pretty damn nice to live in? The ineffectiveness of the Palestinian missiles? The multitudes of Palestinians who have died from Israel’s attacks? Or because when faced by the sheer horror of the atrocities her country was committing against largely innocent civilians and children, the only thing she could manage to do was laugh?

 

From Jews for Justice in Palestine: "Relatives and friends of the al-Hajj family gather in a mosque to pray over the bodies of eight family members during their funeral in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 10, 2014. Photo by Said Khatib / AFP."
From Jews for Justice in Palestine: “Relatives and friends of the al-Hajj family gather in a mosque to pray over the bodies of eight family members during their funeral in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 10, 2014. Photo by Said Khatib / AFP.”

I didn’t press her. I couldn’t. I was at work. For those who know me, and follow the blog, I would at a world famous Aquarium, which is about as specific as I can be on a public forum. And we normally get a few Israeli visitors each day, a family or two. But since Operation Protective Edge began earlier in July, we have seen a significant increase in Israeli, mostly Ashkenazi (again, going off last name/skin tone) visitors.

 

After determining how many tickets to purchase, while doing the actually transaction, I always ask visitors where they’re from. One of the perks of being a cashier is you get a chance to meet people from all over the world. When people tell me there from Israel, instead of trying to engage them in a discussion about the apartheid in Palestine, as I’d do otherwise, I simply say, “Nice.” It’s polite, inoffensive, nothing that can get me fired from a job I most definitely need, without giving them the satisfaction of receiving the typical American exotification, or even approval. It was to this curt response that the Israeli woman told me “It’s not that nice in Israel right now.”

 

I don’t know if there is a workers holiday in Israel right now which accounts for the influx of Israelis. There has been a unusually large number of folks from Denmark lately as well, as well as the Hamburg, Cologne, and Munich regions of German, due to worker holidays.

 

Regardless of whether they are escaping Israel or had this holiday planned out, I think this highlights an important part of the occupation. Not to suggest that all Israelis are of high economic means, but there are significantly fewer restrictions, explicit and implicit, on Israelis than Palestinians when it comes to travel. Even within the state(s), there are many roads that are restricted to Israelis only, on which Palestinians cannot travel. Then there are the check points, which can take hours to get through.

 

Then, there’s the de facto Israeli policy that effectively bans movement between Gaza and the West Bank, and from either location into Israel (more so the case for Gaza–Israel is a bit more lenient with travel from the West Bank). This means most Palestinian travelers must go through Egypt or Jordan to go almost anywhere, even if it is just the other side of Palestine.

 

This doesn’t even begin to cover the myriad other issues Palestinians face when traveling, like the inordinate costs, which given the few well-paying job prospects can be daunting and unattainable, or the fact that a Palestinian Authority travel visa is in many places not acceptable as either a travel document or proof of citizenship (in the US for example, it is a valid travel document, but not a valid proof of citizenship).

 

This gets to one of the issues of any occupation. One side can escape the violence. One side can’t. If the average Israeli wanted to, they could escape the violence, even if just by driving a few miles away on an Israeli only road to a part of Israel which Gazan rockets can’t reach. For Palestinians, those whose land has been occupied for nearly half a century, where hospitals are bombed and tens of people are killed every day by sophisticated drone and missile technology, they cannot escape. They cannot run away and hide. It doesn’t matter if they are young kids playing on a beach or asleep in your home. If you are a Palestinian Gazan, almost by default, your chance of moving out is almost non-existent. That means Israel can always find you, or target you. That means that unlike your occupiers, you cannot be safe.

 

“It’s not that nice in Israel right now.” Yes, ma’am, but at least you could escape.

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Ask Piija, Part 1: How Do You Create Your Own Language?

Hjaeja kaikki! Jämma juugħoiđ? Tää m’Ǯěty öbma țeħdwmąđ m’ķiyli! Vlotahÿppni!

Hello, and if you can understand that, congrats! Chances are you didn’t, so here’s the translation: “Hi, y’all! How are you doing? Today, we’ll learn how to make a language. Good luck!”

This is the first part of the Ask Piija series, in which I answer questions from y’all that you’d like me to hear my thoughts on. And the first question I got, which actually gave me the idea for the series, was how to create a language.

For those who don’t know me personally, some background is in order. I love languages. Like, a lot. Since I was a child. When I was three, I made my first language (something which I know several other Autistic children have done, interestingly enough), Trianese, which was mostly gibberish. I made my second language when I was 11 because I suspected my parents of reading my diaries, and I’m currently working on my third now (the above phrase is in my third language, Čiäǯka.

Beyond there creation, there have been SO many times when I’ve spent literally hours on the computer reading about different linguistic phenomena; if there were ever a linguistic Jeopardy, I’d definitely have a good chance of winning.

Recently, I began sharing some of my translations (example at the bottom of the post, with audio recording), which lead to the question I received a few days ago. So, without further ado, here is how you make a language:

(Note: Yes, the bullets are mixed up–I’ll fix it soon.)

  1. Pick a language family for your language to belong to. Then, pick several other languages/language families from which your language can have contact influences.

Once you become a master language creator, you can make one without any reference to natural language families, but in the meantime, it’s good to choose a language family on which you can base your language. Before you do that, though, you should think about some aspects you want you language to have. For example, do you want your language to be/have:

  • inflecting, or synthetic? fusional, agglutinating, or polysynthetic?
  • signed, or written?
  • written in an alphabet, an abugida, an abjad, a logography, or a syllabary?
  • grammatical or lexical evidentiality?
  • solely pulmonic consonants, or clicks, ejectives, and implosives?
  • small modal index, a large modal index, or sentence-final particles for aspect and/or modality?
  • tonal or non-tonal?

These are some questions you’ll need to think about, and based on your desires, that will narrow down list of language families for you to choose from.

Assuming you are an English speaker, if you are looking for an easier language family to imitate, consider the Germanic and Romantic language groups, as well as Sinitic (Chinese) languages. Germanic and Romantic are most similar to English, and while Chinese is a very difficult language to learn for English speakers, it is highly analytic, which is often the easiest mode for English only-speakers to understand language.

If you’re looking for a moderate challenge, try the Finno-Ugric, Indo-Iranian, Celtic, Turkic, Niger-Congo, and Austroasiatic language families. If you’re looking for a hard challenge, try Austronesian, Semitic, Dravidian, Algic, Japonic, Slavic, and Samoyedic languages.

Once you have picked a language to serve as a main base, choose several for contact influences. For example, my language has a Finno-Samic base, with Celtic, Turkic, Japonic, Samoyedic, and Khoisian influences. Celtic and Turkic influences are limited mostly to vocabulary, Khoisian influence extends to the constant index, while Japonic and Samoyedic affect the grammatical structure in minor ways.

  1. Once you have figured out the basic parameters of your language, it’s time to get communicating! Come up with your mode of communication, and create some words and phrases. Play around with different grammatical structures, too. This should be fun!

If you have access, find a basic kindergarten text, and try to translate that into your language. Come up with the words first, then try and see how different grammatical structures you want to use work in basic situations. There will be some that work great, and others that don’t, some that you love, and others you hate. In this stage, your language isn’t even a language–it’s a fluid, amorphous blob in a state of accelerated evolution. Every time you work on it, it will have changed, words will be different. One day you will have a verb copular verb and the next you won’t. That is what you want.

Eventually, try and define some of these structures. For example, since my language has a Finno-Samic base, it is highly agglutinating, and has 32 cases. It also has no ‘to have’ verb. In the early stages, I played around with this a lot to see how I wanted to execute these aspects of the language. But eventually, I created a list of the cases, and defined their endings, and specific situations in which they’d be used. I also Tried several ways of creating possession and relation structures, and eventually codified them.

  1. Now you need to build up your vocabulary. Find lists of words you want to translate, and translate them. Some can be purely descriptive, animal names, city words, and such. But others should be more grammatical in nature, such as commonly used verbs, pre/postpositions (if using), and such. Try to solidify more complex grammar structures, such as evidentiality, verb modality, tense, and aspect, and clauses and phrases. Explore structures that have no basis in natural language, and incorporate those into your communication.

This is a fun time for you language. It’s the teenage years! You get to try and make it more complex and more well-rounded, but you also get to expand and explore more with it. It’s super fun to create wholly new structures. For example, I’ve always felt uncomfortable with the sole existence of possessive pronouns, which denote ownership, in most languages. This is my wife, my child, my thing. I created relational pronouns and a relational case, which is similar to the possessive pronouns and genitive case in many languages, but denotes relation, not possession. Figure out some linguistic properties that will make this your language.

  1. Optional: If spoken language is a part of your language you should start practicing basic speech.

Try writing out a few sentences and practice using them. Eventually, try and vary the phrases according to the situation. Try to build some basic fluency and flexibility.

  1. Translate more complex things into your language. Create idioms, sayings, and more abstract language. This is also when you should start to try and figure out a culture for you language, and try to figure out how that culture affects your language.

Try translating songs. This will really push your ability to think in and about your language. Monologues and eventually dialogue are also great to translate.

  1. Practice more!

All you can do at this point is practice. You will still change things about the language. Natural language is always in a state of flux, and so is yours. But you’ll notice hopefully you fluency improving greatly.

Hopefully, that’s helpful to those who want to make their own language!

And now, as promised, here is Jądʀagħaikađ Änsi Kuištässa, that is, For the First Time in Forever, from Frozen. A recording is located at the bottom.

 

Anna:

Aetö nyt avta maalmakoa

Door now open for the world

Kaitingŋi täälä väm tätsut

Everything here comes awake

Čjae pąh usko villai onn usjaplaa

I can’t believe on us are so many plates

Tähmąšäli aina tyskji

This hall always empty

Ju ʀim ǯuonta tansią

It never hosts any party

Vimin, m’poʀti eyfä avtöħ

At last, the gate will soon be opened

 

Hačiga täälä eyfä onn

People here will soon be

Jämma aistae eyfonn

How weird will soon be?

Mjuut čjae aabijuovi kannätalltai!

But I am so ready on top of change!

 

Syl jądʀagħaikađ änsi kuištässa

Cause for the first time in eternity

Tähmąķänta ķännarją
These lights will shine

Jądʀagħaikađ änsi kuištässa

For the first time in eternity

Čjae tansi aekuknuoy änsi

I dance all night for

Onnko krujadoy älä ķaeymynnjä?

Is heartburn or elation?

Čjae ąh van veytat

I don’t really know

Mjuut jądʀagħaikađ änsi kuištässa

But for the first time in eternity

Yksni ąh čjae onn

Alone won’t I be

 

Čjae vij cwnöǯ kaikki…čjae fykk cwnöǯ m’Jąksioa

I want to meet everyone…I might meet the One

 

m’Nuoy tʀuǯ tansią taešupʀa

Evening bring dances with men

Čjae paiv aat älkä muosaa jael

I’m sure that they will my dress like

ǯa muosöfyʀšţikiyʀuħoykae

and my sophisticated properness

Ÿtkišti jaa peʀcěde čjaelltai

Suddenly he standing around me

Pytkä, çyfma, ǯa aabikÿmja

Tall, smart, and so handsome

Čjae šjödej syl eghveytat m’ķtow puhuä

I eat cause I don’t know what to say

Mjuut nejyn vi nauʀa ǯa jult aekuknuoy

But then we laugh and chat all evening

Jokä ąđmošti rÿfdą

Which totally strange

Jötingŋi ķuħ amiha čjaellai onn nyt

Nothing like life on me now

Jądʀagħaikađ änsi kuištässa

For the first time in eternity

Onn mażja, onn hooska

Is magic, is fun

Jądʀagħaikađ änsi kuištässa

For the first time in eternity

Čjae laejäntaa muożihta

I extend my hand

Čjae veytat aat ąh järķäva

I know that not realistic

Umoyda ķäʀliną

To dream of passionate love

Mjuut jądʀagħaikađ änsi kuištässa

But for the first time in eternity

Aikan ʀuuski čjaellai onn

At least a chance on me is

 

Elsa:

Älkä pąh taʀlaeħ älä tvaljaʀ

They can’t come or see

Onnon mitątjuta oykaešti

Be that good girl properly

Lymyħy, ąh çyħy, đuopoiđ scondond

Conceal, don’t feel, your pain hide

Jąksivyʀhi pě kaitingŋiđ tuhta

One mistake can everything destroy

 

E: Onn para tähmą änsi

E: Is just today for

A: Onn para tähmą änsi

 

E: Ottagħiħ tärmysÿs

E: Waiting agony (is)

A: Ottagħiħ täʀmysÿs

 

E: Varti avtaöme m’poʀti

E: Guards, open the gate

A: m’Porti

A: the Gate

 

A: Jądʀagħaikađ änsi kuištässa

A: For the first time in eternity

E: Älkä pąh taʀlaeħ älä tvaljaʀ

E: They can’t come or see

 

A: Minäumoy sååda vrae

A: My dreams gain color

E: Onn mitątjuta oykaešti

E: Be that good girl properly

 

A: m’Ruuski kannätat muomaalma

A: A chance to change my world

E: Lymyħy

E: Conceal

 

A: m’Ruuski löÿtą ķäʀliđ

A: A chance to find passionate love

E: Đuopoiđ scondond

E: Your pain hide

 

Anna:

Huö kaitingŋi pattuądʒ

Tomorrow, everything finished

Tää muovaiŋʀuuski

Today my only chance

Syl jądʀagħaikađ änsi kuištässa

Cause for the first time in eternity

Jądʀagħaikađ änsi kuištässa

For the first time in eternity

Jötingŋi čjaeđ tönskji

Nothing me stop

 

At the moment, I’m struggling to upload the recording in here, so if you’d like it, email me at apoststructuralautistic@gmail.com, and I’ll send it to you. If you know how to embed a recording into WordPress, please let me know! Thanks!

 

❤ Piija Suoynna Riistia

Ask Me!

Recently, I’ve had a number of folks ask me my thoughts on a variety of topics. What is love? Why do you not identify as human? How do you arrive at non-humanism? Do you think there are similarities between kink and autistic experiences with stimming and nociception? I love these and all the other questions I’ve been asked, and I’m guessing y’all have more. Soooooooo I’m trying to create some more avenues for folks to ask me questions!

  1. Email me! My email is apoststructuralautistic@gmail.com.
  2. Facebook me! Either a private message or a comment will work.
  3. Tweet me! My twitter handle is @APSAutistic, and I check the account regularly.
  4. Comment! Especially if it’s about a certain post, comment below, and I’ll get it.

I will do my best to answer as many as possible. Of course, I can’t guarantee anything, but I’ll do my best!

❤ Piija Suoynna Riistia

That’s Not What Makes Me Crazy, Part 3

TW: Discussion of ableism, self-injurious behavior, self-harm behaviors, and suicidal ideation

Before you read, let’s get one thing ‘queer’–you may not pity me at any point in this article. You might be tempted to, especially if you are Allistic, but please resist.

The first time it happened, it was scary. I freaked out. I shouted for my parents, they came running in, but as soon as I told them what had happened, they told me there was nothing to be worried about, and that I’d be fine.

A young light skinned child gently biting their right arm. Portrait shot against a yellow background, picture is cut off just beneath the eyes.
A young light skinned child gently biting their right arm. Portrait shot against a yellow background, picture is cut off just beneath the eyes.

What had happened was that I had fallen asleep on my arm, and when I woke up, it lay limply on my bed, refusing to move no matter how hard I tried. After a few seconds, blood came rushing into it, quenching my dying cells’ thirst, and my arm exploded into the weirdest, most intensely dull and sharp pain I’d ever felt.

 
Despite my parent’s insistence that this was totally normal, I was enraptured by it, both the new sensations and that it could even happen in the first place. I told everyone at school that day, including a few teachers, and I could just not get over how it felt.

 
Over the next few years, I developed an extreme propensity for numbing parts of my arms and legs, in particular during long periods of stress and anxiety. There were everyday instances, such as sitting on my arms or legs just right to cut off blood flow for a few minutes; and then there were more extreme examples, such as the time when I got my leg numb for the entire two and a half hour car ride from Los Angeles to San Diego. Holy fuck, getting out of the car hurt SO GOOD. I still remember getting out and struggling to walk while the blood sprinted into every capillary, the pain of that rush, the numbness fading into sensation, my jelly legs slowly solidifying into walkable appendages.

 
When I finally told my parents what I was doing, they were very, very concerned. They told me that if I kept a limb numb for so long repeatedly, I could be destroying cells and harming my body.

 
I was freaked out, and eventually I stopped due to the fear that I would need to have an arm or leg amputated, but that was not by any means the first or last type of pain inducing or self-injurious behavior I’ve engaged in.

 
At birthday parties, there are often clips on balloons meant for clipping the balloons to things so they would stay still, and for weighing them down. I would take the balloons and clip them to my ears, nose, eyebrow, or lips, and keep them on for as long as I could. There was a birthday party I went to when I was probably 10 or 11 for a family friend, where I knew literally no one there but him, his family, and my mom. His mom had spilled soda all on me, and I had cried loudly because of it and I was freaking out until the balloon diverted that tension. I took the balloon and clipped it to my ear until it hurt so bad I was almost screaming. People told me I was weird, but honestly, it really helped me regulate myself, and it felt really, really good.

 

Then there’s the slapping, biting, and nail digging. This, I’ve really tried to keep hidden, because it’s what most people have commented on the most.

 

But recently, I’ve been opening up about it, and that has allowed me to be more successful at regulating emotional overload. For example, a few days ago at the Aquarium, a military family got extremely angry at me about our military discount policy, which they felt I was lying about. I called a supervisor, who explained I was right, and she then called a manager who explained we were both right. And then, when my manager offered to give them a better discount, they rejected because it still wasn’t good enough. Overall, it was a really shitty experience, and a lot of their anger was directed at me, specifically how they thought I was fucking up, when I was doing my job correctly. Almost immediately afterwards, I told my boss and coworkers I was going to take a stim break, I went into a private area, and I unleashed an epic slap storm on my arms. They were red, and afterwards, my hand was bruised. But you know what, it got me calm, and I didn’t have a meltdown or a binge episode later that night, which usually happens if I’m not allowed to stim with self-injurious behavior after a major negative emotional interaction.

 
A common reason parent autism advocates give for needing a cure (or, in more “progressive” cases, severe reduction in symptoms) is because some of us do partake in self-injurious behavior. Some Autistics, like myself, are more aware of the self-injurious behaviors we engage in and their potential for harm than others. I’ve read stories from parents whose children have fascinations with peeling their skin off, and other sensory experiences that present significantly greater potential for harm than any of my nociceptive stims. Most are concerned that their child is trying to harm themselves.

 
As someone with a history of self-harm ideation, and on occasion, self-harming behaviors, I would like to clarify that the self-injurious behavior I engage in, and others engage in, come from a completely differently place than self-harming behavior.
Self-harming behaviors are behaviors with the express intent to harm yourself. Often, it is a cry for help, and in some instances, can be indicative of suicidal ideation and suicidality.

 
Self-injurious behaviors, on the other hand, are fundamentally a type of stimming, mostly engaged in for one of three reasons: the behavior is regulating (sensory regulation); the behavior feels great (sensory seeking); or the behavior expresses our emotional state when we don’t have words to (sensory expression). And as with most stims, it can be engaged in when times are tough, or when we are very, very happy or excited or another positive emotion. For example, my family has a lot of chip bag clips just like the balloon ones, and I’ll take them from time to time and clip them to my ears or nose or eyebrows or lips, sometimes because I’m in a great mood, and that helps me both express the good mood, and heighten the good mood.

 
Of course, there are times when self-injurious behaviors help me regulate bad situations, but parent advocates often forget the potential benefits of self-injurious behavior, and the nuances of self-injurious behavior. They link it with self-harm behaviors, when they share little in actuality.

 
There are cases where self-injurious behaviors must be addressed. A child fixated on cutting themself with a butcher knife, someone who loves the feeling of scaldingly hot water, etc. But rather than address these behaviors from a place of shame and danger, as is often done, it is imperative to understand that the child is engaging in them because of the sensory high, regulation, and/or expression that they provide.

 
It is also important for Allistics to make sure they don’t pity Autistics for these behaviors. Trust me, I am quite happy with how I engage in them, and the effect they have on me. I wouldn’t want to change that.

 
It’s also important for Allistics to understand that these behaviors are not limited to “low-functioning” or “moderate-to-severe”* Autistics. I am an intelligent, passable Autistic, and I still engage in many self-injurious behaviors. As said above, I have more awareness than others of my actions and their potential for harm, but that doesn’t change the fact that I still engage in them.

 
Bottom line, understand that these behaviors can be very helpful for some of us. We don’t need pity. We don’t need shame.

 

❤ Piija Suoynna Riistia
*I’m using diagnostic terms for reference. I reject them.

My Autism Does, in Part, Define Me (and That’s How I Like It)

In response to some of my work at the Stanford Daily, I’ve received some criticism from a certain person, a brother of a person with autism (his brother’s preferred identification), and son to a board member of Autism Speaks, who used to work for Cure Autism Now (I kid you not, that used to be an actual organization).

Most of the criticism centers around one main points: that because I am a speaking, high achieving Autistic who passes as Allistic, I cannot speak for the Autistic community, because I’m not all that similar to the rest of Autistic community. It was not said overtly, but rather more subtly, and I had to read his text and deconstruct it to make sure I was understanding it correctly.

I will address that later, but in light of the fact that yesterday was Autism Pride Day, and want to focus on another problem I saw in his piece that deals with issues of openness and pride. (Note: I was so perturbed by Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield’s bullshit attempt at “activism” that I posted about that yesterday.)

From his piece, “Another argument is that Autism Speaks has no representatives with autism on any senior or advisory board. However, there are individuals with autism on the Family Services Committee (where they can have the most direct impact on the lives of those on the Autism Spectrum and the families), as well as the many others involved within the organization. The Autism Speaks website does not state in these contributors’ descriptions that they have autism, since autism does not define these individuals or their contributions to their respective committees or positions. In addition, the Board of Directors is made up mostly of family members of individuals with autism, who see the challenges of those on the Spectrum firsthand every day and work hard to fulfill their goal of changing the future for all those affected by autism.”

First, let take care of logistics before we get to the center of this doozy. I never said that were no Autistics on any of Autism Speaks’ senior or advisory boards–I said there were no open Autistics on their senior or advisory boards after the departure of the only openly Autistic any of their boards ever, John Elder Robison. This might seem inconsequential, but it makes a real difference. In the context of any advocacy organization, it’s not just enough to have members of the minority groups in leadership positions. It’s important to have open representation, so that community members can see successful images of themselves and possibility models to identify with. That doesn’t mean I think that Autistic members (or members with autism) should be open publicly, if they don’t want to, but rather that Autism Speaks should make an effort as an organization to seek out at least some Autistics who are open publicly. I don’t care that family of Autistics (or people with autism) are on the board, I care that my community is fairly represented on the boards of an organization that is supposedly helping me.

Next, I’m not afflicted by autism. No one is afflicted by autism. Autism is a neurotype, a term used to describe a collection of neurologies that have similar characteristics. It is not a disease. It is not a disorder. And it is not something from which we suffer, from which we are plagued, or by which we are afflicted.

Now, for the heart of the issue. Quoting again from his op-ed, “The Autism Speaks website does not state in these contributors’ descriptions that they have autism, since autism does not define these individuals or their contributions to their respective committees or positions.”

From this statement, it is not clear if the decision not to openly state that these members are people with autism (their apparent preferred term) is their own or that of Autism Speaks. But either way, it is a shame that Autism Speaks and the board members with autism feel that their Autism does not and should not define their contributions to the board.

To be honest, I’m confused how their autism doesn’t define, or at least greatly influence, their contributions. I mean, isn’t that the point? They are people with autism working for a supposed autism advocacy organization on a committee that helps families with Autistic individuals. It should seem as if their contributions should be seem as contributions by people with autism, and thus more important and relevant to the conversation, because they belong to the marginalized group themselves.

This touches on the issue of internalized ableism, and before I go there, I want to emphatically state: I support Autistics, and I support their right to self-identification, and their right to their opinions, and free speech. I do, however, think that interrogating the potentially for internalized ableism is important.

The bottom line is that if they wanted to, they could openly identify as people with autism. John Elder Robison did, and I’m sure they could as well.

But since the dawn of autism research and awareness, Autism has been viewed as a problem. It has been viewed as shameful. It has been viewed as something that should be mitigated and fixed. And rather than combat that opinion, Autism Speaks has further entrenched it for many Autistics, and the general community.

Again, I don’t want to criticize the individuals and their decisions. Rather, I want to criticize Autism Speaks for creating an environment where many Autistics are not proud to say that autism is a defining factor of their life, let alone a part of their life.

I am queer, trans, and disabled. I’m white, I’m Sicilian-American, and I’m quatrilingual. I hate the color orange, I can’t feel cold, and light touch, without warning, can be overwhelming. I’ve worked or volunteered at an Aquarium for 8 years, I feel a stronger connection with red phalaropes than I do with most humans, and I rarely, if ever, identify as a human any more. I love soccer, I think Brazil is awesome, and I love that I can draw a near perfect map of Europe, including listing major cities, completely from memory. I love that my world is so different from those around me, that I can feel and experience things more deeply and more creatively, and that I have the ability to share that with others, so they can broaden their perspectives.

An opened, rainbow water-colored hand with rainbow marker drawings across it. Rainbow colored background. Beneath the hand, it reads "We are who we 'AUT' to be."
An opened, rainbow water-colored hand with rainbow marker drawings across it. Rainbow colored background. Beneath the hand, it reads “We are who we ‘AUT’ to be.”

On (the day after) Autistic Pride Day, I want to claim these, and all of my other identities, including being Autistic. I want to help make a world where Autistics can communicate that they are Autistic with pride, without fear of discrimination, and without feeling that they should not let their autism be a major part of their lives.

I am Autistic, and my Autism does, in large part, define my life. Like everyone, I’m not just one thing. I’m the intersection of many things. And if I were not Autistic, my life would be inconceivably different.

I’m not just proud that I am Autistic, I am happy and love that I am Autistic. I am happy that I sense the world around me so profoundly, that light touch, when cultivated with consent, can make me feel so ineffably high. I can’t imagine a life where the number four and it’s multiples didn’t make me feel giddy, or where orange didn’t burn my eyes. And despite the challenges my color sensitivities and many other differences present, I would not want my life to be any other way.

I am Autistic, and Autism is not the only part of my life that defines me, but it is one of them, and it is one that I am especially proud of.

To be honest, I wouldn’t want to live my life any other way.

To Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield: Thanks, but No Thanks

Celebrity activism is pretty tricky. There’s not a lot of celebrity activism I truly condone, in large part because it tends towards the worst types of activism out there. The kind of activism where you wear a logo from a mainstream organizations that looks pretty and nice and host FABULOUS parties but do little but lip service to help the communities they’re trying to aid, all so you can get a few nice photos and brownie points for support us marginalized folks. We get it, “you care.”

Photo of Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield walking down the street holding small signs with writing in front of their faces. Writing is blurred from this distance.
Photo of Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield walking down the street holding small signs with writing in front of their faces. Writing is blurred from this distance.

One of the few celebrities whose activism (at least what I know of it) I support is Darryl Hannah, a fellow Autistic, who for years has spoken and worked tirelessly to support and aid various environmental campaigns. She gets that the environmental movement is not an isolated cause, but rather intersects with class, race, gender, and so on. In 2006, she was arrested for protesting the closure of the South Central LA farms, created in the early 1990s after the ’92 riots so low socioeconomic families could feed themselves healthy food. She has worked with native groups in recent years to protest the Key Stone XL pipe line. Yes, she gets nice pictures of her taken, yes, she gets press time, but most importantly, unlike most other celebrity activists, she gets that the activism is not about her.

Recently, it seems like Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield, who have literally been only every single talk or variety show the past forever promoting SpiderMan 64 (I’m only being somewhat hyperbolic), have been trying to merge their celebrity into the realm of activism.

You might remember last month when Andrew Garfield played dress up as a transgender women for the Arcade Fire song “We Exist.” The irony of situation (that in a song about how transfolk exist, a white cis-het male was cast to play the transfemale character), as well as it’s generally fucked-upedness, has been widely dissected, and a variety of calls for him to shape up have been issued.

Today, Buzzfeed posted about Emma and Andrew doing THE COOLEST THING EVER AS THEY WERE LEAVING LUNCH. They spotted the paparazzi while eating, and rather than getting their billionth (that might actually be realistic) photo together, they made signs on notecards that essentially said, on hers, “We don’t need more attention, but these great organizations do.” On his was a small list of organizations that need more attention, including Autism Speaks.

Now, if you’ve followed my work, or the work of probably 90-98% of Autistic bloggers, you know that we despise Autism Speaks. It is a terrible organization founded on the belief that our existence is sad and pitiable and must be fixed or, better yet, eradicated.

Judging from the photo, (and the fact that they’ve done similar things before) this didn’t seem to be an impromptu yuppie moment. Most people don’t carry around with them the necessary supplies to make the kind of sign with them, let alone celebrities of that stature.

This was preplanned.

This was done with the intent not to draw attention to those organizations, let alone the marginalized groups. If that were the case, they would never had suggested that Autism Speaks, the media and fundraiser obsessed eugenics promoter needed any more attention.

This was done with the intent to play up the Emma and Andrew Care About Sad Things Card. This was done so they could look good. This was done so they could say that they cared about me without actually doing anything.

If they had listed some organizations that supported marginalized groups, organizations with whom they regularly volunteered, I’d be happy. If Andrew had helped produced a video for “We Exist” starring a transwoman, in which he played her brother, or friend, or lover, I would have believed that they might actually have cared. If they did spontaneous mini-campaigns that had a semblance of believability, I might actually have a more positive opinion of them.

But all they care about is themselves.

Emma and Andrew, you do not help me when you use your power to silence me.

You do not help me when you make your “activism” centered on your promotion.

You do not help me when I become and object that you can cling whenever you want to look good.

You do not help me.

-Piija Suoynna Riistia

Critiquing the Language of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and PTSD Allyship

TW: Discussion of PTSD and potential triggers, including, but not limited to, rape, assault, mass shooting and military service.

I’ve seen a few lists and articles circulating the internet about how to be an ally to people with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). And while most make some salient points, they all fail in several crucial ways, which actually alienate many folks with PTSD.

A young woman sits on a pillow with her legs tucked into her chest and arms wrapped around her legs. Her head is tucked into her chest and knees. She is leaning against a wall, and on the wall we can see the shadow of a gate.
A young woman sits on a pillow with her legs tucked into her chest and arms wrapped around her legs. Her head is tucked into her chest and knees. She is leaning against a wall, and on the wall we can see the shadow of a gate.

First, let’s talk about what PTSD actually is. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is an anxiety disorder that is caused by feeling extreme fear and distress, almost always with a sense of being trapped, in regards to an event, or a series of events. For this definition, there are two very important aspects of PTSD we can glean.

First, there are two general types of PTSD. The first is acute PTSD, the type most people think of when they think of PTSD. Acute PTSD develops when you feel fear, distress, and a sense of being trapped in regards to a major traumatic event. Common examples include being raped, being a soldier in the military, or being present at a mass shooting. Any major event where loss of life or autonomy is imminent could theoretical cause acute PTSD in a person.

The second type of PTSD is called chronic, or complex, PTSD. This develops as a result of feeling fear, distress, and a sense of being trapped in regards to a series of small events that, by themselves, would not qualify as traumatic, but aggregated have an equal, if not worse, effect that a major traumatic event. Victims of domestic violence, school yard bullying, and systematic work place harassment are some examples of those who might develop chronic, or complex, PTSD.

The second aspect of PTSD that this definition highlights is that you do not need to be a victim to develop PTSD. This is a common misconception, and one that is particularly damaging to people with PTSD who would not consider themselves victims.

People who witness traumatic events can still develop PTSD, even if their life or autonomy is not at stake. And people who are perpetrators, or at least think of themselves as perpetrators, can still develop PTSD.

This is something that is often not thought of, but it’s crucial to understanding PTSD. If someone feels forced into doing something that they perceive will threaten the life or autonomy of someone else, they are at risk for developing PTSD. Folks in the military who develop PTSD are often do not consider themselves victims, at least in the traditional sense. Instead, many feel trapped or compelled into doing something they perceive will threaten the life or autonomy of someone else.

And then there are more common instances of non-victim PTSD, like if a school yard bully’s parents are telling them to harass certain kids. In that case, depending on the severity of the bullying, if the bully is fully cognizant of the effect of the bullying, and if the bully feels remorse for their actions, the bully is actually also at risk to developing PTSD.

Not everyone who feels fear, distress, and a sense of being trapped in regards to a traumatic event or series of microtraumatic events is will develop PTSD. The risk for developing PTSD has some genetic and epigenetic basis, that is that high risk for PTSD can be inherited. Speaking personally, I’d bet 90% of my family over the age of 15 has PTSD (though only a few of us have it diagnosed). We have faced a lot of intergenerational trauma over the past five generations, and while I can’t say this with absolute certain, it does seem as if that vulnerability to PTSD has been passed on to each generation.

Understanding PTSD development not simply as the result of isolated events, but at times as a community development due to a shared history of intergenerational trauma, can help contextualize the therapy of PTSD as less of an individual pursuit, and more as a communal pursuit. Again, speaking personally, over the years, some in my family has opened up about our shared experience with PTSD, and that has allowed us to heal together, in some cases in just small ways. We already share the experience of PTSD, and now we can share in the experience of dismantling it, and overcoming it.

Allyship Tip: As an ally to folks with PTSD, it’s important to understand these nuances of PTSD. First, by calling us victims, you can actually be perpetuating trauma, by making those with PTSD who do not feel like victims feel more stigmatized for their actions. Furthermore, situating PTSD as a community and family experience can ultimate help those of us dealing with it by allowing us to reach out to others who are also dealing with PTSD, to heal together with others who understand.

❤ Piija Suoynna Riistia

Allistic/Autistic/Other

TW: Photo depiction of extreme ableist language

There are a lot of reasons why I love the terms ‘cisgender’ and ‘transgender.’ Quick reminder: a transgender person is someone whose gender does not match that which they were assigned at birth, while a cisgender person is someone whose gender does match that which they were assigned at birth.

First, neither centers the others. What I mean is that just by looking at those terms, one is not “typical” or “expected” or “normal.” They represent two different realities, that is all. And while one is significantly more prevalent and expected than the other, the terms themselves do not address that prevalence or expectation. And while one identity is largely considered more “normal” than the other, they terms themselves do not perpetuate that false and dangerous notion.

Secondly, though the identities seem to function in a dichotomy, in reality, they do not. Gender is very complex, and there are so many more identities out there than the two most prevalent and well known. The terms ‘cisgender’ and ‘transgender’ allow for that diversity of gender experiences. You can be genderqueer, you can be non-gender, biqueer, triqueer, agender, genderfucking and so much more, potentially as well as cisgender or transgender, and the terms cisgender and transgender do not preclude that, in large part because they do not function as normal/not-normal dichotomy, as described above.

This brings me to my main point–my extreme discomfort with the word ‘neurotypical.’ From the moment I heard it, I hated it. It fails in the ways that cisgender/transgender exceed. ‘Neurotypical’ creates an expectation and image of normalcy of neurology, and it creates an unrealistic dichotomy, where Autistic and Neurotypical are the only neurologies that exist. I’d like to examine those ideas, and propose better than to use when describes those are not Autistic.

What is normal, anyway? I realize that’s probably the most annoying questions ever, but we so often take normal for granted we forget what it means. Normal is average. Normal is expected. Normal is not weird. Normal is known. Normal is tolerated. Normal is, well, normal. And we live in a world were being not Autistic is considered normal.

But what if we lived in a world where everyone, save a select few, was Autistic? Where those who are not Autistic were considered weird. Unexpected. Abnormal. Autistic would be normal, and neurotypical would become neuro-atypical. Or, more likely, Autism would become neurotypical, and neurotypical would become something else, something disease or disorder that most Autistics believed needed to be eradicated.

What I’m getting at is that what is normal and what is not is a social construct. We create our social norms, and we have the power to break them. Yet if you listen to prominent “autism advocates” and autism scientists, the rhetoric employed suggests that we are broken, lost, damaged, defected, deficient and just generally not how we are supposed to be. That is, we are not normal. Neurotypical reinforces those ideas. If neurotypical is typical, or normal, then Autistic is not typical, not normal.

Sure, being Autistic is less likely statistically speaking than being neurotypical, but that doesn’t mean we have to be less expected, less usual, less well known. That doesn’t have to mean that we are any less typical than those who are not Autistic.

Another big problem I have with neurotypical is how it creates a false dichotomy with Autistic. The reality is, there might be multiple different, at times overlapping, neurologies out there. Some neurodiversity advocates believe that ADD or ADHD individuals might have a different neurotype. And there might be more neurotypes out there that have yet to be formally articulated. In that way, it’s inaccurate to use neurotypical as a descriptor of neurology, when there is the potential for such a rich diversity of neurotypes.

Finally, what on Earth does neurotypical mean? Yes, it means that you’re neurology is considered socially and culturally typical, but that doesn’t actually mean anything about neurotypical specifically. The best definition for neurotypical is not Autistic. And that doesn’t offer much insight, either.

Google Australia search page with "Allistic people should" typed in the search bar. Suggested searches are: Autistic people should be killed; Autistic people should die; Autistic people should be exterminated; why Autistic people shouldn't have children; should autistic people have children; should autistic people drive, should we kill autistic people.
Google Australia search page with “Allistic people should” typed in the search bar. Suggested searches are: Autistic people should be killed; Autistic people should die; Autistic people should be exterminated; why Autistic people shouldn’t have children; should autistic people have children; should autistic people drive, should we kill autistic people.

When we uses words like neurotypical that rely on dichotomies of normalcy and expectation to be meaningful and relevant, they actually lose all of their meaning. In the same way that by only discussing race in the context of people of color in mainstream dialogue, hence making whiteness seem like a undefined, unracialized, default, neurotypical, but being best defined as not Autistic, is this undefined, unneurologized, meaningless default.

From now on, to refer to folks who are not Autistics, I plan on using the word ‘Allistic.’ Autistic is derived from the Greek word for self, while Allistic is derived from the Greek word for other.

Allistic perpetuates no expectation of normalcy, typicality, or usualness. It exists, just like Autistic does. And while the identities might seem to form a dichotomy, the terms themselves do not.

Now, it is still difficult to define Allistic, but using the word Allistic as opposed to neurotypical might actually help with that. By treating Allistic the same way we treat Autistic, Allistics might be able to see themselves as sharing a neurotypical, which could potentially help advance conversation about what Allistic actually means.

Allyship Tip: If you are not Autistic, explore calling yourself and others who are not Autistic Allistics. That’s not to say you must call yourself or think about yourself that way, but think about the personal and political ramifications of using the identity neurotypical, and how Allistic creates a more positive image of those with different neurologies.

 

❤ Piija Suoynna Riistia

That’s Not What Makes Me Crazy, Part 2

One of the best parts of working at an Autistic-friendly organization is that I can take quick minute or two stim breaks when I need them. (Stim/stimming is short for self-stimulation/self-stimulate. I’ll go into much more detail later, but essentially, a stim can be anything from jumping, spinning, rubbing something with a specific texture, saying a specific something, or any number of stereotyped or repetitive behaviors.) There’s a quiet room next to my workspace that’s usually uninhabited, and if I need to, I can go inside and jump, spin and flap my hands to calm down and regulate myself.

At the end of the day, after all the guests at the Aquarium are gone, and we’re closing up operations, if I get overwhelmed, I’m free to small stim (hand flap, fidget, apply pressure to my nasal bridge) in our end-of-operations room. If I need to jump, spin, or slap my hands, I can step into the hallway and do so.

A young male-appearing person with short, brown hair and white skin, eyes closed, placing a purple-red crayon on his nose.
A young male-appearing person with short, brown hair and white skin, eyes closed, placing a purple-red crayon on his nose.

Autistics might stim for three main reasons. First, for self-regulations. In the above examples from work, I might get overwhelmed for any number of reasons–a guest tried to walk off with one of my pens, a guest asked if the price of admission included my stapler and I didn’t get that he was joking until his daughter told me he was, some folks came in wearing bright orange shirts and it burned my eyes–and to deal with the anxiety, stress and potential pain, I need to stim.

Self-regulatory stimming doesn’t just help combat or calm negative emotions or feelings. It can also help us regulate intensely happy or joyful experiences. Last month, I had the amazing privilege of meeting Laverne Cox when she came to Stanford to speak. Not only did I get to speak with her beforehand with a small group of trans students, but afterwards I got to speaks with her with a group of campus activists and organizers. Laverne Cox is a true possibility model for me, and twice during the after talk, I got so overwhelmed with my emotions that I needed to excuse myself and go on the outside balcony of the room and stim.

Another reason Autistics might stim is sensory seeking. Allistics (that is, neurotypical [that is, not Autistic]) also sensory seeking. For example, if you like the taste of a certain dish, you might savor it, or make it again. If you like the texture of a certain fabric, you might buy several blankets made out of that fabric. But Autistics often exhibit higher, more intense versions of sensory seeking than Allistics do. This could be rubbing a piece of wood for an hour, or listing to certain music while rocking back and forth. For me, I love to apply pressure for to my nasal bridge, in particular with fresh, Ticonderoga-Dixon pencil erasers (yes, there is a difference between them and other erasers). In 1st grade, I remember whenever we had to sit in class for a lesson or be still for a while, I would take my pencil’s eraser and press it against my forehead. I wasn’t feeling particularly emotional, or in need of regulation–it just felt fucking good. Still does, and I do it whenever I feel like it. I now also have glasses that I wear that I’ve adjusted so they apply special pressure to my fore brow and bridge.

The final reason why an Autistic might stim is for self-expression. Stimming is the easiest way for me to express myself and my emotions and feelings. I stim differently depending on how I’m feeling. When I’m generally happy, my hands tend to be bouncier, and my motions more crisp when I stim. When I’m generally not happy, my hands tend to be more chaotic, hurried, and jerky.

Stimming can occur with all major external senses. In this excellent video, Amethyst discusses in more detail the three main reasons Autistics stim, as well as seven senses that Autistics might use when stimming: taste, touch, smell, hearing, sight, proprioception, and vestibular. I’d like to briefly mention two more senses that Autistics, myself included, stimulate–thermoception and nociception. Thermoception is how we sense and process heat, or the absence of heat. I’m really heat sensitive, but have difficulty feeling cold. To me, cold things make me feel blissfully numb, and it’s a sensory experience that helps me regulate myself, as well as one that seek out just because it makes me feel good. Nociception is how we sense pain, or the lack of pain, and a sense I often stimulate when I’m extremely stressed or angered. Usually I will intensely dig my fingernails into my skin, or slap my arms extremely hard. At times, I’ll even bite my hands. Allistics often get worried and afraid for me when I engage in this, but my intention isn’t to harm or hurt or kill myself. Rather, the pain that I feel helps me deal with the outside stress.

A young, male-appearing kid, with short black hair and brown skin looks at the camera while waving his hands.
A young, male-appearing kid, with short black hair and brown skin looks at the camera while waving his hands.

This leads to the main point of this post. Allistics often misunderstand stimming, and discourage it in a number of formal and informal ways.

For example, as a kid, my family would make me sit on my hands, or make me restrain my body in other ways to stop from stimming. At times, they even told me it made them not want to be around me, and that if I couldn’t stop fidgeting, I wouldn’t have any friends.

In school, I was told not to stim (fidget was their word) because it was considered disruptive. I was never overtly punished, for which I’m truly fortunate–too many Autistics have to suffer “quiet hands” reminders–but it was very clearly not tolerated.

I developed a lot of shame around stimming, something Amethyst also did and talks about in the video, as well as many other Autistics. For years, I hated my innate need to move or engage with the sensory world differently than others.

But last October, well before I had begun to believe I might be Autistics. I told my therapists about how I would in the private of my bedroom or the bathroom fidget or flap or even, if no one was around, jump or spin, and she told me to pursue this as a stress release. It felt terrifying to try it outside of my private areas. I remember flapping in the elevator at work for the first time and having a mini-freak out about whether or not there were security cameras in there, and if the security folks where watching me right now in disbelief.

As I began to realize that I was Autistic, and there was a reason for this, and that others were dealing with similar issues I was, and that stimming was something that many engaged in proudly, it became empowering for me to stim. It felt like a beautiful form of self-acceptance, and a fuck you to the world for trying to get me to stop (I’m a rebel, what can I say?) I’m so much better able to deal with my outside world and environment in large part because I feel much more free to express my feelings and regulate my emotions in the way that is most natural to me.

Allyship Tip: If you consider yourself an Autistic ally, make sure that you and the spaces you occupy are as stim positive or neutral as possible. Don’t stare at us. If you’re curious, ask questions politely, but many of us still have a lot of shame to work through with regards to stimming, and folks staring at us can make us relive that pain and make us abandon stimming, which can be quite hard on us.

❤ Piija Suoynna Riistia

Autism in the Media

Trigger Warning: Autism Speaks, discussion of Ableism and ableist manifestations in the media

We’ve been doing a lot of hiring the past month in preparation for the summer, and it’s been nice getting to know the new workers. I generally like them, and they seem to generally like me, some in spite of, others because of, my idiosyncrasies.

Probably what requires the most getting used to is me asking if someone is serious or sarcastic to make sure I’m following the conversation correctly. One particular incident, a few of the new hires were standing next to my cashier station with some of the other old cashiers, making jokes. I was pretty lost. And so I asked some questions to clarify the situation and make sure I was following. I guess some of the new hires seemed confused, or to find it funny, because my supervisor, a great Autistic ally who was standing nearby, injected, “Erika Lynn has difficulty understanding certain jokes.”

“Oh, are you like Sheldon,” one of the new hires asked me. In case you don’t get the reference, she’s referring to Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory, the most popular show in America–literally.

“Yes, actually, I am. We’re both Autistic,” I said.

“I didn’t know Sheldon was Autistic!”

According to a producer of The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon is not Autistic, but rather based off the stereotypical computer programmer or hard scientist…who generally share nearly all the same traits of with one of the stereotypical images of Autistics. Jim Parsons, the actor who plays Sheldon, has said he believes is character has highly Autistic qualities, and hinted that, if it weren’t for the show’s producers telling him otherwise, he would outright identify Sheldon as Autistic. Beyond that, many Autistics believe him to be Autistic, and on YouTube, there are countless videos that seek to explain Autism using Sheldon Cooper as the main, often only, example of an Autistic.

Sheldon is not the only believed to be, or confirmed, Autistic on television. Probably the two next prominent are Dwight Schrute from The Office and Abed from Community. These three characters share a lot of common traits. For starters, they are all men, and they all seem to be intelligent (yes, even Dwight). They all come from backgrounds that do not appear to be underprivileged (yes, even Dwight, too). They all have specifics areas of interest ranging from bears to beets to Battle Star Galactica to string theory, and have difficulty with humor and sarcasm. They often misinterpret rhetorical questions, and will say the wrong thing at the wrong time. Despite being regarded as annoying by nearly everyone in their shows, they are in some way loveable, which redeems them from their “flaws.” Each have their own idiosyncrasies, but they are all very similar in how they are so different from the rest of their “normal” cast mates.

If you widen the scope from television to movies and books, you see many characters that resemble those on television. Adam from Adam, Christopher from The Curious Incident with the Dog at Night Time, Donald from Mozart and the Whale, and Don Tillman from The Rosie Project, along with Dwight, Sheldon and Abed, all fit into what I call “the quirky, high-functioning Aspie” archetype. Some of these characters have Asperger’s diagnoses, some don’t, but either way, most people, like my coworker, don’t even realize they’re watching or reading about an Autistic. To most people, these people are idiosyncratic weirdos who are nonetheless loveable.

This stereotype does a lot of harm to Autistics.

But it’s not the only one. The other main stereotype we see of Autistics is, as I like to call it, “the ultimate burden.” Suzanne Wright conjured up this image in her November address last year in which she referred to us as lost kids. It’s the same image that is brought up whenever the Autism epidemic is talked about, or when a parent or an Autistic child who needs serious support begs us to find a cure so their child can become normal.

This is the image of Autistics that Autism Speaks, the mainstream scientific community, and the news media often portray. In recent years, they have been acknowledging the quirky, high-functioning Aspie more and more. Yet more often than not, these sources nearly exclusively talk about Autistics as if 90% of us were an ultimate burden.

Now, these stereotypes tend to highlight and focus on some of the extremes from the Autism spectrum. There are people like the quirky, high-functioning Aspie. My grandpa is one. And there are also Autistics who do require near constant assistance. My mom has worked, mostly tangentially, with several.

My criticism of these two stereotypes isn’t a rejection of those two ends of the spectrum. Rather, it’s a call to understand that there is so much Autistic diversity in the world. When only a tiny fraction of the spectrum is represented, most Autistics become even more marginalized. It becomes even more difficult for neurotypicals to relate to us, and can lead to misunderstand and mistreatment of Autistics.

Detective Sonya Cross sits at her desk facing the camera, her eyes shifted to our right. She's wear a gray sweater, a white undershirt, and her expression is taught.
Detective Sonya Cross sits at her desk facing the camera, her eyes shifted to our right. She’s wear a gray sweater, a white undershirt, and her expression is taught.

There are glimmers of hope out there, currently. For example, the FX The Bridge has Diane Kruger playing an Autistic (Asperger’s) character that, while in many ways similar to the quirky, high functioning Aspie model, in many ways complicates the narrative. The role is consulted on by Wrong Planet founder Alex Plank. This is good, but still far from where depiction of Autistics needs to be.

Going forward, I hope that the media, collectively, can construct a more nuanced collective image of Autistics. The more that neurotypicals understand that we are a diverse collection of people–just like they are–I believe that they will be better able and more willing to understand us individually, our needs and our accommodations, and our skills and our strengths. They will be able to empathize with us more, and I believe will have a better ability to start conversations about how to make spaces they inhabit Autistic friendly, safe, and affirming.

❤ Piija Suoynna Riistia

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