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

APA: Zisk, A. H. (Year Month Day of post.) Post Title. [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Thursday, March 31, 2022

The Intersectional Infinity Summit

Today, I presented at the Intersectional Infinity Summit. Twice, actually. 

First, I talked about "Exploring AAC as a Student & Educator--Communication Access & Accommodation." Then, I was on the panel, Why Autistic Acceptance is Essential. Spoken language was working for me at the first presentation, but not at the panel, which I think is kind of funny because it meant I used AAC for the presentation that wasn't about AAC. 

Because I used AAC for the panel, I have a record of everything I said during it. That's below, but slightly out of context: 

My name is Alyssa. My pronouns are they, them, theirs. I am a white human with dark brown hair in front of a blurred background.

 I am at yes underscore that too on Twitter. I can speak some of the time but not all of the time. I use augmentative and alternative communication when speech does not meet my needs.

I am definitely autistic and aphantasiac. I may be neurodivergent in other ways too.

If a question is addressed specifically to me, please wait. If it is addressed to multiple panelists, someone else can go first while I type.

I sometimes call April “autistic hell month.”

I do my best to ignore April. Last year my dissertation defense in April kept me busy. I could not pay too much attention to Autistic hell month because I was too busy trying to become Dr. Zisk.

This year I have a survey active during April so I do not get to ignore it. We started sharing it before April because I knew many autistic people would be too tired to participate once April got underway.

(BTW, the survey: Words matter. What words do you prefer when talking about AAC and the people that use it? Fill in this survey and tell us your preferences.
You can also help by sharing the link to the survey.)


If you are thinking about doing an awareness event but do not know where to find autistic experts to help you do it right or do not have the budget to hire one, remember that there is the option of Not Doing An Event.


I prefer resources that treat neurodivergent characters as human characters who do things for human reasons. Learning to understand the actions of different others and their reasons through stories is possible, if the stories give reasons beyond 'because they are broken in this named way.'

If you read a story about a person who acts for reasons, it’s easier to understand that story if you 1) might have similar reasons for action, and 2) would get similar effects from  similar actions. Both conditions can be violated in cross-cultural communication and in cross-neurotype communication, but you can still try.


No amount of evidence that an intervention can achieve a goal I do not have will magically turn into evidence that it can achieve the goals I do have.


I think about connections between cross-neurotype stuff and cross-cultural stuff: we can learn how to do cross-neurotype communication better from the parts of cross-cultural communication that are done well. And we can see that the problems are not unique to neurodivergent people.

I noticed overlap between my experiences studying abroad and my experiences as an autistic person. However, I got more leeway for my differences when studying abroad than when people assumed it was all about autism. This is common for white neurodivergent people.

We know we're different. You get a say in how we understand that difference, but trying to pretend we're the same won't go well.

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Casual Representation Matters

For a long time, I didn't think representation in fiction affected me the same way it affects most people. I intellectually understood that it mattered, and why, but I didn't fully get it. I'd read books with protagonists who were boys and protagonists who were girls (and protagonist teams that had both), and it didn't make much of a difference to me. I admittedly had (and still have) a soft spot for stories where a girl passed herself off as a boy, like Alanna, then of Trebond, from Tamora Pierce's Tortall universe, but there wasn't any great reaction to protagonists who were "like me".

Probably part of this was that most autistic characters written by non-autistic authors are really stereotypical. Definitely part of this was that I'd never actually read a story with a protagonist of my gender. Ever.

By which I mean, I'm non-binary. Reading a story about girls isn't actually representing me, no matter how many people mistake me for a girl.

Then I read Ninefox Gambit, The Raven Strategem, and Revenant Gun.

On top of the plots, which, yes good, these books have casual trans representation. There is an important minor character who uses they/them pronouns, and it's not considered noteworthy that they do. There are plenty of things that are noteworthy about this absolutely terrifying human, but in-universe, their pronouns are just a casual thing.

I actually started crying when I first saw Zehun referred to as a they.

There's also a trans guy in the story whose transness is, again, not a big deal in-world. We know about it because we see him binding (or undoing his binder before bed? I don't totally remember.) That's literally the only reference, but it tells us that yes, there are trans people in this universe. Many (perhaps most?) get surgery, but there are still trans people who bind.

He's a man and I'm not, but again, I cried. Here's a character binding and also being very important to the story for reasons that have nothing to do with his being trans.

When we talk about casual representation, with trans characters in stories that aren't about being trans, this is what we mean. (And yes, I'm aware of some irony in this post being about how they are trans. Representation matters, so I'm going to tell y'all the characters are, in fact, trans. Zehun is like me. I needed that.) There's enough information for me to know these characters are trans. But the story isn't about gender. It's about oppressive interstellar empires and living within (or upending) them. With trans people in it. Their world isn't one I especially want to live in, but it's one that recognizes people like me exist. That means something.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Don't change other people's pronouns!

I've been sitting on this for a while, waiting until the point where I'm ready to write about this. The tip  applies to more than just editors, and it's more than just editors who've changed my pronouns on me. I don't mean that I've told them my pronouns, and then they've written something about me using incorrect pronouns. That's a problem, and as another tip, don't do that either. I mean I've been asked to write an introduction or bio for myself, I've done so, I've sent the text in, and then the final posted text has been edited specifically to change my pronouns.

Maybe they think I accidentally typed the "wrong" pronouns for myself, with the "wrong" conjugation, throughout? I assure you, I am intentional enough about my word choices to avoid making this error consistently for the whole paragraph. I make typos, and sometimes words will be entirely missing, but I don't accidentally misgender myself in text. Discomfort with doing so is how I figured out that 1) I am nonbinary, and 2) my pronouns are they/them/theirs. (Sie/sier/siers is also acceptable in text, but sounds too much like "she" for my comfort when spoken.)

Maybe they think my pronouns are grammatically incorrect? Whenever someone tells me an introduction or bio I wrote for myself, or really, anything I wrote about myself in the third person, has grammatical issues, my first question is if they mean my pronouns. Never mind that singular "they" is older than they are, it's a common statement. I've heard it from people who don't know my pronouns ... and people who do. (Once, a professor pointed out a grammatical issue that had nothing to do with my pronouns or their conjugation. I fixed it, and I thanked him. He didn't say a word about my pronouns.)

Maybe they don't personally have an issue, but think my pronouns will confuse readers. I've been asked before if the plural might confuse a reader. Here's the thing: you can add a note about my pronouns! I've had people do this. It's OK. You can write Alyssa (they/them/theirs) in a text when you talk about me so readers explicitly know "they" is being used as a singular pronoun to refer to me. You can say "Alyssa uses they/them pronouns" in a footnote after my name. You can do both! I'd love it if this weren't needed. However, it's common for people to read text that just uses my pronouns without a note and then use the wrong pronouns to describe me. This note may both reduce any real confusion (as opposed to transphobia masquerading as confusion) and serve as a reminder for people who don't just don't really notice singular they pronouns in text.

Because here's the thing: When you edit text to change my pronouns, it is misgendering. The excuses people make don't hold up. Singular "they" is grammatically fine. Singular "you" is actually newer than singular "they." (Singular "you" and singular "they" get the same verb/adjective treatments because they have similar histories in terms of starting off plural and becoming singular at a later date. It's just that both these dates are long past.) Expressive difficulties are real, but they don't apply here because you didn't need to edit my already existing text.  Direct explanations are the way to avoid confusion without lying. Changing other people's pronouns is misgendering. Don't do it. This is a case where the no-effort option of not making changes is the correct option.

(If, after reading this, you're wondering if I'm talking about you: only if you've actually done this, and there's enough of you that I neither want nor need to single anyone out. I just want people to be aware of this as a thing to not do.)