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Y’all may know I’m mentally ill. I have mentioned a time or eighteen. It’s a thing I do, talking about my experiences with mental illness and mental health care, trying to provide an anecdote to do with the data.
What I talk about somewhat less is having cognitive variations and learning disabilities. Which I do. Most of my life I thought I didn’t. I was never evaluated for learning disabilities; I got good marks in school (some of the time). I was not evaluated for autism spectrum disorders. When I was a child ASD wasn’t a diagnosis at all. There was just autism and the perception of it was really scary: autism meant kids who didn’t talk at all and had to be put in helmets so they didn’t hurt themselves too much from banging their heads against the wall and lived in institutions. Autism definitely didn’t mean anyone like me. (Even though I did have repetitive motion behaviours — my relatives talk about it a lot as a cute baby story.) When autism spectrum disorders did become diagnoses in the U.S. I was an adult and adults are rarely evaluated for autism. Or cognitive variations. Or learning disabilities. They’re childhood things aren’t they? (Don’t those kids grow into adults?)1
It is real damn frustrating. It’s hard to start anything and harder to finish what I do start. I would love to be organised but I can’t; when I have to put something in my hands down I have to put it down now and that means wherever I’m at and not wherever that thing lives. Sometimes digits transpose when I am reading or keying or writing them and sometimes the words I read are not the words on the page but I learned a long time ago to compensate well enough no one knew. I compensated well enough I forgot I had this thing that might be dyslexia until I started paying attention to what my perceptions and thoughts were doing. I have a lot of trouble communicating in person using my voice — I don’t process speech well and I don’t speak well.
And sometimes I am just not good at thinking. (Lately this has been a lot of the time.) It’s hard to even complain about having trouble thinking to my wife. She perceives it as Moira Is Being All Negative About Herself Again and she interrupts me with “You’re not stupid. You’re one of the smartest people I know” and I’m all faaaaaaack what’s the point? and I just shut up again. I’ve had this conversation and it doesn’t go anywhere nice.
Thing is I’m not saying “I feel stupid and I don’t like myself for it.” Okay there’s some of that I wouldn’t be me without some of that but it’s more frustration at not being able to do shit what is needful. I am trying to say I feel stupid and I need help doing shit. Please. Being smart does not help me. Being able to rattle on about how cool quantum mechanics was when I finally managed to lose the distortions dualism imposes on quantum-scale stuffs and wrap my head around monist models of quantum-scale mechanics is not a useful skill in daily living. In fact being perceived as highly intelligent whilst actually having cognitive impairments has been an enormous pain in the ass. People assume because I can understand quantum mechanics and high-order differential equations (and possibly most important because I have a talent for writing) I am globally smart and can apply that intelligence to any problem needing solving. Which I can’t. But I have trouble getting help because I’m smart.
It’s more than just “Gosh Moira you should be able to do these things.” It’s also “Gosh Moira you are so smart you can’t possibly have cognitive impairments.” And people feel taken advantage of when they do help. They’ll see me do something fucking ludicrous nerdy like building a reference document for my tabletop role-playing-game using endnotes and a bibliography in compliance with The Chicago Manual of Style. I can’t blame anyone for wondering why — if I can do that — I can’t do something that. Y’know. Pays? There’s a Voice in my head saying the same thing all day every day. (Most of the time it looks like I’m working on the nerd project I actually spend not working on it. It’s just since no one’s paying me to do the nerd project no one cares if I’m reading manga instead of working.)
Only rarely do I get any farther than “I feel stupid” before I get cut off. It’s exhausting, trying to get the rest of this said and heard, so that’s usually where it stops. In text — in a blog post — I can say it all at once. Nobody has to read it all, but I can say it. There’s maybe a better chance for communication this way.
- On my Big-Ass List of Shit What Needs Doing is finding someone who can do that evaluation and see about official diagnosis; if nothing else it would help to have to throw at the Social Security Administration for disability stuff. But some people who have known me a long time and are not unfamiliar with autism traits have said that autism is not inconsistent with my history and my behaviour. Even if they don’t feel qualified to make a full-out diagnosis. They include my wife — who is admittedly not all that objective but it is kind of her field (one of her Master’s degrees is in psychology) — and my general practitioner (who reads up on things her patients ask about when she doesn’t know) and the therapist I’ve seen, off and on, since before I met my wife. What with there being rather a lot of spite for people who are ‘self-diagnosed’ I usually write about the traits directly and avoid the diagnostic label. But I’m reasonably confident I am actually autistic. The Bad Self-Diagnosed Autistic Person who full-out claims an autistic identity with all the negative parts that go along with and is doing it to be an enormous jerk seems to be a unicorn. But I have seen hatboxen in fora like F•rk write hatboxish shit and follow it up with “i cant help it i got teh assburgers hur hur” which is yeah appalling behaviour. ↩
Today, 20 November 2009, marks the Eleventh Annual International Transgender Day of Remembrance. It’s the day that we set aside to commemorate the lives of people murdered due to trans hate and discrimination and prejudice. This year, we know of one hundred sixty-two persons who have been killed because they were trans* or were perceived by their killers as trans*. (Link to the T-DOR 2009 materials in English at the Transgender Day of Remembrance Website.) We don’t know — can’t know — the names of everyone who has been killed.
It doesn’t matter. Every murder hurts us. Every life stolen because we — everyone outside the cis binary, whether trans or intersex or nonbinary or any or all of those (I will be using trans* as a shorthand for this) — are seen as less than is precious and irreplaceable. We mourn for those who are gone. We grieve with the people who were closest to them. (Thanks to Chally for finding Queen Emily’s post from T-DOR 2008 on How to Mourn.)
I personally am angry. All over the world, in every society, we are there and we are dying. Because we are still seen as less than, as mistakes, as inherently deceptive, as the butt of every cruel man-in-a-dress joke, as freaks. Our genitals are viewed as substandard facsimiles at best, our sexualities are commodified and sold when they are considered at all. We are discriminated against in employment and housing, in immigration and criminal justice, in airplane travel, in language. Our medical needs are routinely denied coverage by insurance providers in the United States — even those needs which would be covered, if the insured were a cis person — and can be difficult to obtain even in countries which provide health care to their citizens. Worst of all we are dying because people feel entitled to kill us. Because we are who we are, there are people who feel we deserve to die.
So I am proudly out as a trans* woman with a disability here. (There are many of us who are trans* and disabled. Our bodies are freighted with meaning.) So I am not out in other parts of my life. In those parts I have to hope I pass and fear that I won’t. I want this space to be a safe space for everyone outside the cis binary. Not just for me though I need safe spaces too. It needs to be safe for the people who aren’t comfortable being out. That means no policing of gender identities. Just as no one has to prove their disability here, no one has to prove their gender or to have a gender at all.
Please help us remember those who are gone, and help us make our parts of the world safer for those who are still here.