Note For Anyone Writing About Me

Guide to Writing About Me

I am an Autistic person,not a person with autism. I am also not Aspergers. The diagnosis isn't even in the DSM anymore, and yes, I agree with the consolidation of all autistic spectrum stuff under one umbrella. I have other issues with the DSM.

I don't like Autism Speaks. I'm Disabled, not differently abled, and I am an Autistic activist. Self-advocate is true, but incomplete.

Citing My Posts

MLA: Hillary, Alyssa. "Post Title." Yes, That Too. Day Month Year of post. Web. Day Month Year of retrieval.

APA: Hillary, A. (Year Month Day of post.) Post Title. [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://yesthattoo.blogspot.com/post-specific-URL.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Inspiration and Inspiration

Inspiration and Inspiration

I Hate one.
I am not your inspiration simply for existing.
I am not your inspiration because I am able to write and tell
my story that you will reduce to overcoming what wasn't an
obstacle with the help of the real barriers in a way I would
never approve of.
I am not your inspiration.
That is a complete sentence.

I Love-Hate the other.
I am inspired not in the way of a warm fuzzy feeling,
But in the way of words are demanding to be written
Art is demanding to be made,
And I can not eat or sleep or stop or work on my the
homework that is about to be due until this idea has
pushed its way into existence no matter the toll on me.
I harness my inspiration.
It writes my complete sentence.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Dear Neurotypicals: What if you use your words?

If we don't use our words, we won't be indistinguishable. (What's wrong with saying, "use your words"? Many, many things, including the part where it's ignoring communication that you actually did understand because you didn't like how it was phrased. Thanks, Neurodivergent K.)

But it's not just about words, is it? Once we're using words, you want them to be the "nice," polite words that don't challenge your ideas of how the world works. You want them to be your words, not our words. You want them to be in the right tone, which is, again, polite, and definitely not angry or demanding. (Why is it only called demanding when we're demanding to be treated as human, not when you're demanding we do things like make eye contact or stop flapping?) 

And then you want us to understand all sorts of things from your communication that weren't actually conveyed in words. So how about this: USE YOUR WORDS. Not your tone, not your social codes about connotations and extra layers, not your body language. If we don't get to use ours (the different ways of flapping mean things, didn't you know) because you won't understand, or you'll pretend not to, because you want us to use our words, then guess what? You can use your words. 

Your tone of voice is not inherently easier to read than mine. Your body language, with shifts in how you stand, is not inherently easier to read than my flapping. Your facial expressions are not inherently easier to read than mine. Your layers and layers of meaning behind your words conveyed in all those things are not inherently easier to understand than my flapping and grunting, and in fact they are a heck of a lot more complicated than my statements that mean exactly the words I said. 

And yet. You get to tell us to use our words, and this is somehow completely sensible. It doesn't matter that we've got a disability that literally makes it harder for us to use our words. We have to use them anyways, and it's not even our words we're really supposed to be using. We, on the other hand, don't get to give you the same demand: most of you all don't have any disabilities that make language use harder, and those of you who are demanding we use are words are usually doing so in a language you're fluent in too. That doesn't matter. Some huge percentage of your communication is happening through not the words, so have you considered using your words? 

Friday, July 15, 2016

Writing Accidentally Autistic Characters

Instigated by this Tumblr post, particularly the part where iridescent-enby asks what a writer can/should do if they realize they are writing an accidentally autistic character. How do they make the autism explicit without speaking for/over us (do they make it explicit?)

I’m responding as both a writer and an autistic person. Finding out that you were accidentally or unintentionally writing an autistic character is not the same as setting out to intentionally write an autistic character. When you set out to write an autistic character, you probably do research about autism. Hopefully, this research includes things written by actually autistic people, but... I'm well aware this isn't always the case. 

And advice about writing with autistic characters can be found. So can letters to writers about autism, examinations of common narrative methods for "showing" autism, analyses of problems like character development meaning "overcoming" autism or acting "less autistic," and discussions of behaviorizing vs. humanizing approaches to writing about autistic people and characters. I've even thrown my hat in this ring before, with "Who Gets to Stay Autistic?" In retrospect, I think I should have left the comma in the title: Who gets to stay, autistic?

There doesn't seem to be so much about what you do when you realize you're writing an autistic character. Which is kind of funny, because there are so many autistic characters running around who we're never told are autistic, who we recognize because we know ourselves. I definitely recognize characters as autistic while I'm reading. Alanna of Trebond and Olau, later Alanna of Pirate's Swoop and Olau. Annie Cresta, with the added dose of PTSD that literally all the Victors have. Hermione Granger, because if I am just like her, then she is autistic too. Emily, from Questionable Content. Dairine Callahan.

It's not hard to write an autistic character without setting out to do so, because we're people, and you'll see us around in life. We exist, and knowledge about autism is such that you'll often only realize that we're quirky or eccentric, not that we're autistic. Something is different about us, and maybe it's interesting to you as an author, but you don't have the word for it and therefore neither does your now-accidentally-autistic character. 

That doesn't mean you can't find out later. Most likely, you'll find out because all of a sudden autistic people are noticing that they have a lot in common with the character, and maybe we're even telling you about it. Somehow or other, you find this character you wrote is autistic. Now what?

If you realize a character of yours is autistic while you’re still writing things with that character, and they’re in a context where the diagnosis and some level of popular awareness of it exist, you can arrange for it to come up. They could hear that their accommodations request could get approved. (If it's approved, you don't need to devote a plot arc to making this needed accommodation happen FFS, what is the ADA anyways?) They could have a teacher ask, "I thought there was something in your IEP about that?" (The school social worker asked me this when I quit group. I never had an IEP.)  They could show that they've known all along by mentioning it off-hand. ("Not eating that. Autism thing." or "No, everyone is not a little bit autistic! If everyone were a little bit autistic, fluorescent lights [or other sensory issue for the person] would not exist!" if they get into a situation where someone makes the joke about everyone being on the spectrum.) They could show up in a T-shirt that indicates autism. (Shirts of mine which would work for this purpose: Autistic Party Giraffe by Sparrow, Autreats Amazing Annual Adulthood Accalamation from when Autreat still existed -- this one involves some verbal explanation since non-autistic people who went to Autreat as kids and then as adults could have this short as well--, and "I love someone lacking autism" from Tone it Down Taupe.)

They could run into another autistic character who does already know, recognizes them, and says something. (This is perhaps more realistic than you'd think: I have literally been approached by another autistic person and greeted with, “Did you know you’re autistic? Come have lunch with me!” Subtlety: not something we’re usually known for, and autistic people recognizing each other as similar is a thing that happens whether or not we have the word autism. If one has the word and the other doesn’t, this could be how the second gets the word.)

Whether or not it's practical to include a reference to make the characters autism explicit in the actual work, however subtle or obvious, you can respond with Word of Author (aka God.) Don't claim you were intending them to be autistic if you weren't, we generally don't like lies. But! You totally can (and should):
  1. Be noticeably not-insulted by the insinuation you could write (or play) an autistic character. Yes, folks have gotten insulted by the idea that a character they wrote or played or were otherwise involved in was getting read as autistic.
  2. Accept the possibility (probability) that the character is, in fact, autistic. We're pretty good at recognizing our own. 
  3. Be noticeably not-insulted by the idea that fans noticed something about a character you didn't necessarily intend. It's super easy to accidentally write an autistic character if you don't know that the real people they resemble (who you may have borrowed some autistic traits from) are autistic themselves!


Perhaps counter-intuitively, I would suggest that you not immediately go research autism for the purpose of writing the character if it becomes clear you’re writing an accidentally autistic character. If we're reading your character as autistic, that means you are already writing a good autistic character. Reading what supposed experts have to say about us is not going to help you write a better character. It will put stereotypes in your head that you will then need to work to avoid.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Why don't you just make your own? WE'RE TRYING!

All too often, when people talk or write about representation in fiction, the responses we get are somewhere in the area of, "So write your own stories." We do! Getting them published and disseminated is the hard part, because mainstream publishers (and film companies, etc) in the USA and probably a good chunk of Europe too are of the opinion that the default person we can all relate to is the cisgender straight white vaguely Christian abled man. Any deviations from this supposed everyman occupy the difference slot. (You mean you have/are that too? Yes, that too.)

So we wind up crowdfunding our anthologies, or self-publishing, or making our own publishing companies, or one of any number of things, if we get our stories out at all. Autonomous Press exists. I have stories on Amazon. Kickstarter and Indiegogo often have crowdfunding going on for anthologies by and for marginalized folks. I'm actually thinking of, and supporting, one in particular as I write this post: Hidden Youth: Speculative Stories of Marginalized Youth has a Kickstarter active at the moment, with about a week left. I would love to see more people supporting it because I want to read the book. (I pledged for copies of both books, since this is the second in a series.)

I would also love to reach the point where stories about disabled people, people of color, queer people, women, and especially people who are more than one of the above are not shunted to the side with "write your own!" followed by "those stories don't sell," where we get these anthologies without needing to make Kickstarters and Indiegogos and found our own companies just to see ourselves in fiction. (I love the idea and reality of us having our own media companies and collectives. I do not love the idea that us having our own media companies and collectives is the only way we can get representation.)

But right now, crowdfunding is where we seem to be at. (Also Star Wars, since the leads for The Force Awakens are a white woman and a black man, and it grossed great. There isn't actually evidence for the idea that stories about anyone besides the supposed everyman don't sell. It's just a convenient lie for folks who are used to being represented and don't get why we're all up in arms about not getting stories where we're the heroes.) So if you want to get to read and watch these stories, please, do support them when you come across them and can do so. Hidden Youth: Speculative Stories of Marginalized Youth has about a week left on its Kickstarter and I want those books

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

(Formal) Accommodations

For the first time in my life, I have formally turned an accommodations letter from Disability Services in to a professor. My accommodations are done "correctly," with proper paperwork from the abled people who make it their business to document those things.

Despite all my opinions on the abled bureaucracy gatekeeping access for disabled people (where are your handlers, where are our papers?) I thought I would feel safer, more secure, with that bureaucracy at my back. The person in charge of disability services likes me. A lot of people at this university do. I thought I would feel safer in knowing there was someone besides me who would at least theoretically defend my accommodations, even if getting it to happen in practice didn't seem likely. (More likely for me than for most-- see also: the person in charge of disability services likes me.)

I was wrong. I don't feel safer.

I don't mean in comparison to how safe I felt in the math department, where I didn't turn in my letter because everyone know and trust me. Besides, everyone got that my accommodation would be totally useless to someone who didn't need it anyways. When speech is usable at conversation-typical speeds, the right to use AAC, either writing or typing, instead of speaking is not going to provide an advantage. Very few people write or type faster than they speak. Regardless, the bigger portion was that the professors know me. They trust me to 1) be able to learn the material and demonstrate in the written homework and exams that I understand it, and 2) know what I do and don't need. So they never asked for my letter.

I mean in comparison to how safe I felt in class 1) not having disclosed at all, 2) having said I'm autistic but not mentioned any accommodations, and 3) after having had the conversation about accommodations but before forwarding the Disability Services letter about said accommodations. How safe I felt increased as I progressed through those steps, and then dropped as soon as I sent the letter in.

You see, I'm taking a statistics class this summer. I'd never met the professor before the first day of class. She's nice, she's friendly, and she even pointed out that accommodations are a thing when going through the syllabus, which most professors don't do. (They have to have a disability statement on they syllabus, and that statement is generally pretty boilerplate, copied from other professors or semesters. They don't need to announce it in class while going over the syllabus and usually don't.)

I talked to her during a break during class. I let her know what my accommodation is (typing/text-to-speech or writing) and she was cool. She suggested that in addition to the in-class solutions I already had, I should always feel free to email with questions after class. I'm pretty darn sure her reaction to my disclosure is not the reason that going through the "proper" accommodation process with my paperwork leaves me feeling less safe than not doing so.

So what is it? Anyone else have this experience? I'd love to have more idea of why I'm feeling this way.