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

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Alyssa Reads The Myth of Gender: Create Your Own Identity

Full disclosure -- I'm reading this book as part of a Simbi deal, in which I got the book in exchange for reviewing it on a site where it's sold. I'm still going to review honestly, because 1) ethics and 2) I am terrible at claiming to like things I dislike, have you read my reactions to Uniquely Human? I wanted to like that book. I did not like that book. Also this review isn't the required one anyways, and mostly consists of my notes for writing that review.

So, here I go. You can get The Myth of Gender: Create Your Own Identity by S. G. Mune on Amazon, in paperback or for Kindle. They also seem to be providing it through Simbi, and may still be game for reviewers? My copy is a pdf for reviewing. I have mixed feelings about the book, by the way.

The first things I noticed, because I checked the book out on Amazon before agreeing to notice, are the reviews already there (positive except for a therapist who seemed very bothered by how the contents of the book aren't in line with clinical guidelines, which Mune didn't claim to be aiming for, and which actually makes me want to read the book more. After all, evidence based "best practices" and similar are always geared towards giving the most possible people the best outcome, with best defined by the folks in charge. There are always people who don't fit, and there are always people who disagree with the definition of "best" that's being used. Pay attention to their stories.) I also noticed the author bio, which is really interesting but does have one slur I doubt is really theirs to reclaim. Appropriation of things that aren't theirs to claim is a thing -- there's one slur in their bio and another near the end of the book, of which I'm fairly sure neither is actually theirs to reclaim. I'm not sure what culture Agobi is from, but that's likely appropriated too.

I enjoyed the personal stories. They're fun, they're individual, they're funny, and they have meanings behind them. Some of them resonate. (I didn't want to play the "girl" roles at school either, usually. The one time I went for it, it was playing the queen in the kindergarten play, in which I had the queen save the knight too so it wouldn't be one-sided.) I was very amused by the use of giraffes as an example, thanks to the Autistic Party Giraffe.

A good bit of the advice reminds me of things I learned when studying Mandarin, because of course the Tao Te Ching came up, or when we read parts of the Bhagavad Gita in my senior year, or even Siddhartha, though I don't remember which year of high school that was. There are unexpected comparisons, there's the idea that it's OK not to know things, and there's an explicit statement that we only know someone else's identity by what they tell us it is. (Familiarity is not a bad thing. Having seen something before, but in a different form, means that it is easier for me to make connections.)

I have big issues with the idea of language as the catalyst for human identity. As someone who spoke in infancy but doesn't have much in the way of episodic memory from ... ever, really, but I certainly don't remember much of anything from before I was eight even though I'd been speaking for seven years by then, I have to disagree strongly with language as being the catalyst. The ability to describe things more broadly, I might buy (not sure, but maybe), but language is not the only descriptive tool we have available to us. So that's my not buying it. I also have an ethical issue because people who either never use language or for whom language is not natural exist and are humans with identities. Not in the sense that they describe that identity in language, but in the sense that they can know what does and doesn't fit with who they are and what they want.

I loved the statement about children wanting "everyone's dream to come true, not just the normal boring ones" (emphasis in the original.) Kids really do tend to be so much better about accepting people than adults are, until the adults teach them otherwise. And empathy for yourself, asking yourself what you would do if your friend had the problem you're having now, is so important.

I also seriously love the impishness in some of their life and expressions and art. Someone concludes you are everything they fear? Prove them right. [I am your optimal outcome, in every way but one. Thud. I rejected your ideal of indistinguishability from one's peers. Thud. I have thrown myself conspicuously and defiantly into a wall at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Thud.]

Taking issue (and repeated issue) with the idea of being forced into boxes is great. And taking issue with "unity through extinguishing difference" is also great. (Hi, neurodiversity paradigm, I think you fit well here.) Their take on gendered clothing and colors, and how ridiculous these can be, is great. I'm not fully on board with their definition of "orientation" but I definitely like calling out the part where we almost always realize attraction before actually knowing what's in someone's pants, and I definitely like the mention for the idea that you can have a preference re: a partner's gender without it being an all-important trait that must match your preference.

The idea that all our internal pressures and similar are thing we've placed there ourselves runs victim-blaming when abuse enters the picture, when compliance based therapies enter the picture. I don't trust that. And this isn't the only time their statements run victim-blaming, either. Watch out for it, sometimes on a systematic level. Really, really watch for the victim-blaming and not quite -- I don't want to say not getting, because they talk about the transgender day of remembrance and murder and people being killed for who they are -- but sometimes badly overlooking the extent to which we have  to pay attention to the people who hate us and fight back for our lives and freedom, or hide for our lives and the hope of later freedom. Overlooking the extent to which trauma is real, and that yes, we can be hurt without our consent.

The statement that no one has ever died from being fired is similarly ... just not true. People do starve to death because they don't have an income anymore, people do freeze to death because they don't have homes anymore, people do sometimes die as a result of having been fired. Losing things that you could afford to lose and maybe even needed to lose is one thing, but no you should not tell people to be glad for things that could literally kill them. Similarly, appearing mystical or mad to those around us is no concern of ours... until it is. Sometimes those perceptions get people involuntarily, and sometimes they get people killed. Both of those are actual concerns.

On the whole, I enjoyed the collection of stories and essays that is this book, though I cringed at points. Generalizing their experiences to broader theories didn't work out quite so well (though I am approximately 100% sure that the points I think it didn't work are not the same as the ones the therapist thought didn't work.) There are apparent contradictions, but whose life doesn't have those? If I contradict myself, then I contradict myself. I am vast; I contain multitudes. (And language is only ever an approximation, if a useful one.) A big theme I liked was the idea that you can change, and that things that don't work for you can be discarded and replaced. That's not always possible, but knowing when it's possible and taking advantage of the possibility is so useful. There were definitely bits where I'll be applying that theme to the book itself (use the parts I find useful, discard what I don't) but it was worth the read, for me.

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