Category Archives: violence

No title for this one.

I wanted to draw your attention to this article from the Los Angeles Times, Police fatally shoot unarmed man in Koreatown:

Los Angeles Police officers shot and killed a man in Koreatown early Saturday morning after he reached into his waistband for what officers believed was a weapon, authorities said.

The man was twenty-seven year old Steven Eugene Washington, and he died after a single shot to the head. The officers are Allan Corrales and George Diego; both fired and it’s not known as yet whose bullet hit Mr Washington. Both officers have been reassigned until the investigation is over.

The article goes on to say that ‘Washington’s relatives criticized police and said the dead man had suffered from a learning disability and was generally afraid of strangers. They insisted that he was not violent and that he probably was walking home after visiting a friend.’

One has to wonder how, in such a situation as officers deemed it necessary to shoot, the bullet hit such a vulnerable mark as a head, given that police are trained to not shoot fatally where possible. (Edit: It seems that this is not so universal as I’d thought; Lauredhel’s understanding is that police are trained to not shoot unless they have to shoot someone at once, in which case the only reliable way is a kill shot.) One has to wonder about how and why police shootings of innocent people are as common as they are. But that’s not what I want to focus on today.

I want to point to how dangerous assumptions about normative behaviour are to PWD. There’s a great deal of potential for acts that are quite in line with harmless behaviour for the way one’s brain works to be read by others as scary, threatening, dangerous. All too often, though, it’s those abled folk who feel threatened who end up doing the harm.

The police officers were expecting one thing, but the reality was quite another. And they were the ones with the power.

And a man has died for it.

By 21 March, 2010.    news, violence   



We Need to Consider More than Universities

There’s a lot of really good stuff out in the blogoamorphia1 about sexual assault on uni campuses. The focus is specifically on USian colleges and universities though Rape Culture exists pretty much everywhere with only slight variation. It’s worth reading, if you’re up to reading about sexual assault at all. (I’m not always.)

Predators are good at target selection. All of them. We see this in the uni rapists who repeatedly assault vulnerable young people. And the analysis of these assaults and assailants is valuable. I hope the attention being focused on this issue leads to real change in how sexual assault is treated by colleges and universities because the status quo is disgusting. Victims are made to undergo ‘mediation’ with their assailants in the name of ‘fairness;’ people known to administrations to be serial rapists face only the most cursory of punishments while their victims often leave, faced with an environment that could hardly be more obviously hostile; the government agencies tasked with reducing rape on uni campuses in the US have hardly bothered to appear to do anything at all.

But I’m a little uncomfortable that the focus is on the most privileged, most visible, most likely to be photogenic segment of sexual assault victims. Not that these people don’t need or deserve attention–they do. (And really I’d like there to be much more awareness that the things cis men do to each other are not HILARIOUS PRANKS but are sexual assault and should be treated as such. Cis men, you have a task: Even if you can’t be arsed to end sexual assault of other folk by cis men, you may wish to end assaults on yourselves by cis men. Hop to it.) I just worry that the pattern we see so often where the most privileged people are centered and marginalized people are pushed to the edges will repeat itself. That sexual assault victims whose circumstances differ will have a more difficult time being heard. That there will be a sense of “Well fuck we already had to care about these college [het cis probably currently non-disabled largely white largely middle-to-upper-class] girls getting raped and now you want us to care about you? Sorry, we’re all out of giving a shit.”

Because predators aren’t just at universities and colleges. All those uni students will leave school eventually. Not all predators even go to uni. They will all be looking for targets. Not only will they choose targets that are vulnerable and have a low risk of incurring negative consequences, they will seek out environments where there are large concentrations of their preferred targets. They will search for jobs where they will be in positions of authority over those targets. Predators that prefer children try to get jobs in schools or in religious settings. Predators that prefer disabled people, mentally ill people, or elderly people look for work in hospitals and supportive care facilities. Predators that prefer sex workers become pimps or police.

Part of the problem is going to be that people will be able to relate to the uni predators better. University-age women are often attractive people by accepted standards of beauty. Raping a pretty young cis woman is understandable–the rapist was attracted to her and wanted to fuck her and wanted to cut through all the preliminary bullshit and get right to the fucking. It’s harder for people to imagine wanting to fuck children or older people or disabled people or crazy people or fat people. Who’d find that attractive? (Who would rape you?)

It isn’t about sexual attraction. A predator’s preferred type of victim may not have anything to do with the sort of people xe finds attractive in non-predatory relationships (assuming xe has any) and may be of a different gender from xer orientation. Cis men who identify as straight and prey on children who read as male by ciscentric standards aren’t necessarily lying about their orientation, even to themselves. Predation isn’t about sex despite there being sexual gratification involved. (Though the predator xerself likely doesn’t understand this.) It’s about the predator making xerself feel powerful by stripping xer victims of power. It’s about the predator boosting xer self-confidence by humiliating xer victims. It’s about the predator feeling safer by making someone else afraid. It’s about hate. It’s about entitlement. It’s about controlling the behavior of others. And like all kinds of abuse, it’s about making the victims responsible for the emotions and actions of the predator.

Sex is just the mode of abuse. The choice of victim is about getting away with it.

So how do we not lose track of this? How can we address the issue of rape on university campuses without centering that experience of rape and marginalizing others? How can mainstream anti-rape activists not treat our experiences of rape as Other, as exotic, as something incomprehensible? Because that path leads to paternalism and patronization. It’s not good for us no matter how well-intentioned. It’s the sort of thing that leads to disabled people with ovaries being sterilized without their consent or knowledge at the behest of guardians who simply assume, with ample justification, that they will be raped in institutional care facilities. Since there’s nothing they can do about that (as we all know rape is a force of nature and not an act performed by humans capable of changing their behavior2) they can at least protect those people with ovaries from some of the potential things that could result from said rape. That one of the things they are protecting people with ovaries from is the possibility of bearing a child and being a good and loving parent–which happens even when a child is conceived by an act of rape–doesn’t occur to them. They know best, and they can’t imagine this person they’re placing in an institutional care facility being a good parent.

Cross-posted from my tumblr blog, Rabbit Lord of the Undead.

  1. Sphere, pshyeah.
  2. MY SARCASTIC VOICE LET ME SHOW IT YOU.

SSRIs, Violence, Walking, and Dogs

Recently a link was making the rounds on Tumblr about how SSRI anti-depressants caused violent and homicidal reactions in people (h/t to the lovely Cara for making sure we saw it). I was largely ignoring it because, frankly, there’s a lot of unproductive discussions about whether SSRIs, or anti-depressants in general, or even psychotropic drugs as a whole, are teh most awesome things ever! or an evil tool of big pharma or poisoning our children or should be put in the water supply to help the population at large. And my attitude towards psych treatment, whether it be therapy or medication or anything else, is pretty similar to my attitude about religion: everyone has the right to make their own determinations about their treatment and whether they would or would not like to take psych meds, and just as my atheism doesn’t make someone else’s faith any less valid, I can support someone’s decision to reject psych meds without lessening my own right to believe they help me personally. (To extend that, I support anyone’s right and decision to pursue or not pursue any kind of treatment, to identify as they feel appropriate, and to reject the whole framework and basis of psychiatry.)

That said, I thought it might be useful to take a look at this article to discuss some of the issues I see in a lot of these arguments and discussions. The basic gist of the article is to publicize an archive of “3,500 crime related news reports linked to the use of SSRI antidepressants … Pharma and the FDA may still be agnostic about SSRIs causing violence but 700 murders, 200 murder-suicides and 47 postpartum depression cases, including the 2006 case of Andrea Yates who drowned her five children on Effexor, don’t lie.” The article describes the site as “more of a public service than the FDA which has yet to withdraw the drugs named in the 3,500 stories–or even call them dangerous,” so the clear goal of the article is to encourage prohibition of SSRIs as a class.

That’s a pretty broad goal to be supported by such thin and unconvincing evidence – and that’s my problem with these kinds of arguments. Whenever I talk about these kinds of science articles, I often use the same phrase: “correlation does not equal causation.” This means that although two variables may be very closely associated, there’s not enough information to figure out which of them causes the other, or even if the two are related by anything more than chance and coincidence. A simple example is that everyone who orders food at McDonald’s is a human. Can we assume that if a dog walked into McDonald’s and ordered food, it would magically transform into a human because of the correlation between ordering at McDonald’s and being human? No.

To unpack this further, let’s look at the fact that a lot of people who walk in my neighborhood have dogs. I know some people who got dogs specifically in order to encourage themselves to do more walking – so the dog is influencing how often they walk. However, I also know people who do a lot of running or hiking and got a dog to keep them company on their outings – so their walking/running influenced their having a dog. So does being a person who walks outdoors make you more likely to get a dog, or does having a dog make you more likely to walk outdoors? We just do not have enough information to figure that out. This means my observations of walkers and dogs should not justify a public policy to issue dogs to every household to ensure people walk outdoors.

To extend this to the SSRI stories, there’s not enough evidence for us to determine if people who are not violent or homicidal become so when they are given SSRIs, or whether people who are already violent or homicidal are likely to be given SSRIs for treatment. And that’s a very important thing to be absolutely clear on when we’re talking about having the FDA eliminate an entire class of anti-depressants that some (including me) rely on for treatment.

There’s a couple other factors in the dog analogy that I also see at play in this SSRI story:

  • Observer bias: I think dogs are pretty cute, so when I’m out and about, I tend to notice pedestrians with dogs more than I do pedestrians without dogs. So if I see 10 pedestrians and 4 of them have dogs, I’m much more likely to notice and remember the dog people and think that the majority of pedestrians have dogs. Similarly, self described “anti-SSRI advocates” are more likely to notice and prioritize instances where SSRIs occur with violent behavior.
  • Who is observed: I happen to live two blocks from the most popular dog park in town, so people from miles away drive here in order to hike with their dogs. There are a lot of trails that don’t allow dogs and if I lived right next to one of them, I’d likely see a lot more walkers who are dogless. So I’m not looking at the entire population of walkers and dog owners when I’m observing a connection between those two characteristics – I’m looking at a population more likely to suggest to me that the two are connected. Similarly, the SSRI stories are drawn entirely from crime reporting. Stories about people who take SSRIs and do not engage in violent, homicidal, or otherwise criminal behavior are not going to be in a crime story – so the archive is looking at a subset of SSRI-takers that is more likely to confirm their perception that SSRIs cause criminal behavior.
  • Interpreting evidence to fit desired results: when growing up, I tried out the “dogs will make me walk and exercise more” argument on my parents. This is because I wanted to get a dog, and I was trying to put together any argument I could to support that conclusion – I had started with the conclusion instead of with the evidence. Some of the stories mentioned in the article make me wonder if the SSRI stories suffer from the same problem. One of the quoted stories is “Lynyrd Skynyrd harmonicist Mike Caruso’s remark that, ‘the doctor put me on Cymbalta. That turned me manic.'” To me, giving an anti-depressant to someone with undiagnosed bipolar and triggering manic behavior is a very different argument than if taking the SSRI created violent or homicidal behavior that hadn’t previously existed in the person.

In order to convince me that SSRI used caused these behaviors in people who otherwise would not display them, I would want to see a clinical study where people were observed before and after starting SSRI treatment and a control group was also monitored while not having SSRI treatment. Those kinds of scientific studies are the only way to meaningfully determine whether the two variables have any kind of causal relationship.[1] And without that data, this article does a lot more harm than good – by reinforcing existing perceptions that criminals are all mentally ill and by shaming or scaring people who take and benefit from SSRIs.

[1] I should note that requests for data and scientific studies are often used to invalidate or minimize reported personal experiences from marginalized groups, an academic privilege argument of sorts. I do and continue to credit individual experiences where SSRI treatment caused specific behaviors for that individual, but I feel very uncomfortable making blanket decisions about whether or not these drugs should be available at all, for anyone, based on third party descriptions of the experiences of others.

Cycles Are Hard To Break: Disability and Domestic Violence

According to a 1997 study which I see cited in a lot of places but can’t actually find a copy of, unfortunately, 85% of women with disabilities in the United States have experienced domestic violence. Other studies pinpoint the rate at lower levels, but seem to generally agree that women with disabilities are at least twice as likely as able women to experience domestic violence and intimate partner abuse.

For women with disabilities, domestic violence is a very serious issue which is complicated by disability. It can take many forms, including insidious ones which outsiders would not necessarily recognize as domestic violence, and intervention becomes complex when you realize that many crisis and counseling centers are inaccessible. The limited resources available to able women are even more limited for disabled women.

When I worked for a domestic violence and sexual assault hotline/crisis center several years ago, one of the questions I was most commonly asked by outsiders was: “well, why don’t women just leave?” Many people are aware that the answer to this question for able women is: “it’s a complicated situation.” Take that to the power of 12 for a woman with disabilities: How can you “just walk out the door and don’t look back” when you’re a wheelchair user being kept on the inaccessible second floor and you’re dependent on your abusive partner to get out the door?

For women with disabilities, leaving an abusive relationship may mean losing a carer. It may mean losing children, because the courts are often reluctant to award custody to women with disabilities. It may mean being deprived of autonomy by people who think that people with disabilities cannot make their own decisions. It may mean institutionalization. It may also end with being forced back into that abusive relationship.

Women with disabilities who experience domestic violence can be made financially and physically dependent by their partners. Patterns of abuse can include depriving women of medication and routine care. They can include total isolation from friends and family members. They can include sexual abuse, ranging from rape to forced sterilization. They almost always involve total control and the use of coercion and threats; physical violence does not have to be present for a relationship to be abusive. They often involve deprivation from financial and social independence, including economic abuse in the form of confiscating funds which belong by rights to the disabled partner.

People with disabilities often literally lack access to domestic violence resources in their communities. They may not be aware of domestic violence services and may be unable to label what they are experiencing as domestic violence. If they attempt to report abuse, they may face disbelief, even from people like members of law enforcement who are supposed to take such reports seriously. Indeed, women with disabilities may encounter social attitudes that suggest that they actually deserve to be abused; “caregiver fatigue,” people say. “It looks abusive but it’s really not,” they also say. The abusive partner may in fact be praised by members of the community, and viewed with sympathy by people who view the disabled partner as a burden and who are not seeing the dynamic at home.

Help is increasingly available for able women in domestic violence situations. The same is not true for women with disabilities. There needs to be a greater push for accessibility in shelters. A greater push for intervention services specifically targeted at women with disabilities, including training for counselors and advocates which includes discussions of the unique axes of oppression experienced by disabled women. There needs to be a greater awareness of the fact that trans women are even more likely to experience intimate partner violence in their relationships, and that abusers often target disabled trans women. There needs to be a recognition of the fact that, for abusers, disabled women make a particularly appealing target.

Is your local domestic violence center accessible? Is it trans-inclusive? Does it focus on heterosexual relationships, or does it recognize that abuse can occur in a broad spectrum of relationships? Does it specifically offer disability services? Does it respect neurodiversity? Do representatives of disability services in your community know how to look for the signs of domestic violence and receive training in intervention? What is your community doing for disabled women experiencing domestic violence?

The feminist community at large has made domestic violence an important issue, but what is it doing for disabled women?

It Will Always Be The First Thing I Think Of

**TRIGGER WARNING FOR DISCUSSION OF SELF-HARM**

I’ve been under some significant emotional stress lately, more so than usual. And I’ve had a couple of incidents when I received some very upsetting news. Of course I’ve cried. Sobbed, even. And reached out to my friends and family and cared for myself in all the healthy and productive ways I learned in my years of therapy. Take a hot bath. Read a good book. Snuggle with the kitty. Get enough sleep. All that kind of thing.

But before that – before the tears even start welling up, much less spilling over – my mind flashes on an image of my left forearm. Sometimes it’s being slashed with a razor blade. Sometimes it’s being burned with a cigarette or the hot metal of a lighter. In one particularly vivid recent image, my left wrist was being smashed with a hammer. This happens in less than seconds, before any other reaction. It’s entirely unconscious and I’m often surprised by how quickly and vividly the images take over my consciousness.

I used to self harm a lot. I thought I’d made it up myself, back when I realized that scratching at one spot on my skin with a thumbnail would peel back the skin to expose glistening wet red pain. I quickly progressed to razor blades and learned the exquisite joy of making a perfectly straight line in my skin, imposing some kind of geometry and order on my out of control body that would hopefully extend into my increasingly disordered mind. I learned how pressing a hot lighter to the inside of my ankle would send a poker of pain straight up my body in a wave so powerful it drove out every other sensation or thought. I learned about long sleeves in summer, the trick of putting a painful cut on the inside of my wrist so it would throb every time I took my mittens on or off. My arms looked so bad people thought I was using heroin. (Even writing this out makes me want it.)

And then I stopped. (Not so easily, of course, lots of safety contracts and lists of health coping activities and techniques and medication and relapsing and all of that. But I stopped.) And it’s been … I don’t even remember the last time I did it. Over 10 years, certainly. Long enough that you can hardly see any of the scars unless you know exactly where to look.

But it is still the first thing I think of. My first unconscious innate reaction to stress or emotional pain or just feeling overwhelmed and drowned by my own emotions. It is always there, just under the skin, waiting for me to be weak enough for it to take over again. That’s why I will never trust myself enough to have a razor blade or an x-acto knife in the house – I know that if they’re there, I’ll lose my way sometime.

[I just turned my head and saw two straight pins sitting on the desk (I was mending a hem) and *boom* I see them plunging into my wrist, just near the bone. It’s not that I imagine the process of picking them up – my mind flashes straight to an image of me pushing it into my skin, with the idea that “this is right, this is good.” I can almost feel myself relaxing while I visualize it and then I shake my head and it’s gone and I’m disappointed in myself for even thinking of it.]

I’m beginning to think it will never stop. I may never do it again – I hope I never do it again, I intend never to do it again – but it will always be there. It will always be the first thing I think of, before there’s even time to think.

By 6 January, 2010.    bodies, identity, introspective, mental health, violence   



Not So Silent

As I’m typing this, it’s the wee hours of the morning of December 6th. Today marks the 20th year since the Montreal Massacre, when Marc Lepin walked into the Ecole Polytechnique and murdered 14 women, blaming feminism for ruining his life. (He also injured 10 other women, and 4 men, before turning the gun on himself.)

Over the past 20 years, I’ve probably attended 14 memorials for the Massacre. The ones I’m most familiar with were the ones held at the first university I attended. There, we would gather in a solemn circle lit only by candles. 14 young women would each read the name of one of the dead, and blow out their candle, and we would mourn.

Last year I attended Halifax’s first “Not So Silent Vigil”. Instead of focusing on the murders in Montreal, this vigil was for all the women in Canada who have been victims of domestic violence. Speakers, singers, dancers, and even a hilarious feminist comedienne took on the subject of violence and sexism. There was a moment of silence, in memory of our dead. There was a moment of screaming, for the women who cannot or will not scream.

We have this memorial for gender-based violence every year. In recent years, national vigils have begun to remind us of dead and missing First Nations women (Sisters in Spirit Vigil [PDF]) There are vigils around the world for trans* men and women. We are beginning, slowly, to talk about how these different identities mean that some women’s deaths count, while others don’t merit more than page B3 in the local news.

The Not-So-Silent Vigil (last year) was a group project where many women representing many groups in Halifax came together and created a dramatic and moving experience. I found it to be inclusive of First Nations women and Africa-Nova Scotian women, although others may have different opinions.

It was until I was walking home with Don that I realised that there had been no mention of women with disabilities.

I don’t fault the people behind the Vigil for this. They did a lot of hard work to bring together the groups that they did, and I have no idea if more people will be involved this year, if women with disabilities will be included. (If not this year, then I should get myself involved for next year – I think the women who do this work every year take on a great deal, and I wouldn’t want to ask them to do more than they already are.)

But I also wonder – would it be controversial for me to ask for a moment of silence and screaming for Tracy Latimer? Every time her murderer, her father, comes up for parole, the newspapers take the opportunity to argue whether or not it was morally wrong for him to murder Tracy. People argue that he should be released, because it’s not like he’ll kill again. Disabled children don’t come along every day, after all.

I don’t know, I don’t know. It’s really hard for me to write about this. I don’t want to risk being told that the murder of women with disabilities is a special interest that shouldn’t be brought up at this memorial. But at the same time, I have no reason to believe that I would be told that (except that I’ve been told that in the past, about other memorials to violence against women, but not by this group). Is it appropriative to want to name our names, to remind everyone that violence against us is sometimes considered okay, because our lives are considered less worthy?

Katie-Lynn Baker was starved to death by her mother. Her murderer argued that she could tell Katie-Lynn, who had Rett Syndrome (a form of autism) and couldn’t speak, wanted to die, so she just stopped feeding the 10 year old girl. Her murderer was never even charged with a crime.

Chelsea Craig was fed a lethal dose of medication by her mother, who was found not criminally responsible due to mental illness. The accused claimed she murdered Chelsea because she didn’t want to leave Chelsea alone with her father.

The murderer of Charles-Antoine Blais drowned him in the tub because his autism was too much for her. After her year of community service, she became a spokesperson for an Autism foundation in Montreal. He was 6 years old.

We don’t talk about these names, these deaths, very often. Tracy’s comes up whenever her murderer is up for parole, but I had a hard time finding information about the other names, about Chelsea and Katie-Lynn and Charles-Antoine. We don’t seem to have a national memorial, a day to honour the children who are murdered for being disabled, the women who are raped for being institutionalized, the beating and torture of cripples done out of boredom. We don’t recite the names of our dead.

Should we? Should I incite controversy and recite the names today? Should I shout them during our moment of screaming, for myself if no one else? Should I approach the women who have worked so hard on this vigil and ask to be a part of it, so next year I can recite the names of every woman with disabilities murdered in Canada in the next 12 months?

Is silence ever the right answer?

Today we remember our dead, killed for being women and daring to attend Engineering School, and I recite these names, like a rosary, every year.

Geneviève Bergeron
Hélène Colgan
Nathalie Croteau
Barbara Daigneault
Anne-Marie Edward
Maud Haviernick
Maryse Laganière
Maryse Leclair
Anne-Marie Lemay
Sonia Pelletier
Michèle Richard
Annie St-Arneault
Annie Turcotte
Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz

I hope you will all forgive me, but this has taken 2 1/2 hours to write, and I have no idea if I’ll be able to discuss it.

Hate Crimes against PWD

The FBI recently released the 2008 Hate Crimes Statistics report, summarizing hate crime data from over 13,000 law enforcement agencies in the United States. The Attorney General is required to compile and report on this data yearly. Although the majority of hate crimes are based on race, it includes reporting on crimes “motivated by disability bias,” which made up 1 percent of the reported incidents.

Of the total 9,168 hate crime offenses in the report, 85 were on the basis of disability: 28 against a person with a physical disability and 57 against a person with a mental disability. The most common offenses were “Simple assault” and “Intimidation,” with a number of “Vandalism” incidents also. The vast majority of incidents took place in the victim’s residence or home. This mirrors the overall data – the majority of all hate crimes regardless of basis were assaults and intimidation taking place in or near the victim’s residence or home.

What is most clear from the report is that the majority of crimes committed against people with disabilities are not considered or categorized as hate crimes on the basis of disability. The US Department of Justice released a 2007 report on crime against people with disabilities finding that in one year, approximately 716,000 nonfatal violent crimes and 2.3 million property crimes were committed against people with disabilities. Even considering that only one in five PWD crime victims “believed that they became a victims because of their disability,” these numbers are an order of magnitude larger that then total crimes against PWD listed in the hate crime statistics.

Whether crimes against people with disabilities should be considered hate crimes is a difficult and complicated question. One on hand, the DOJ report demonstrates that the rate of nonfatal violent crimes against PWD was 1.5 higher than the rate for TABs, with the rate of crimes against women with disabilities almost twice the rate for TAB women. It is hard to imagine that disparities this significant are unrelated to disability status.

At the same time, I am concerned about giving more power to the criminal justice system. I read a compelling piece at The Bilerico Project recently which, while focus on trans issues, seems relevant to this discussion:

No one can deny that particular groups are in fact treated with discrimination and even violence. But rather than ask how about how to combat such discrimination and violence, we’ve taken the easy route out and decided to hand over the solution to a prison industrial complex that already benefits massively from the incarceration of mostly poor people and mostly people of color. It’s also worth considering the class dynamics of hate crimes legislation, given that the system of law and order is already skewed against those without the resources to combat unfair and overly punitive punishment and incarceration.

What do you think – should crimes against PWDs? be punished as hate crimes? Is that an effective way to address and prevent continued crimes against PWDs?

By 6 December, 2009.    justice, normality, politics, violence   



“Cast Offs” – A Warning for Rape-threat Content

Cast Offs is a new British TV show. This scripted fake-reality show aims to spoof Survivor-type shows by placing six people with different disabilities (all physical or sensory) on an island. All are played by actors with a disability. The show also shows a series of flashbacks, with each episode focusing on one of the characters’ lives.

This isn’t a full review of the pilot, except to say that I’m not all that convinced that having PWD sledging each other for having a disability, Crips Behaving Badly-style, is all that much of an improvement over having temporarily-abled people sledging PWD. Self-deprecating and collaborative humour I’m all about; pitting PWDs against each other in snide and nasty ways, not so much. As usual, the show claims that it’s terribly adventurous and new, and that it’s all about “satire” and “the last taboo”. Who is being “satirised” and why here?

The point of this post is mainly to warn you about a scene near the beginning, if you are thinking of watching, but you’re triggered by sexual violence and threats of rape. The scene occurs without any warning or inkling of the turn the content is about to take.

Description and clip below the cut. **Trigger warnings apply.**

Read more: “Cast Offs” – A Warning for Rape-threat Content

By 28 November, 2009.    media and pop culture, violence   



I’d Rather Be Dead

I didn’t think I’d need to do this but it has come up: This post is not a place to discuss the merits of assisted suicide. Many disabled people, including me, find it really unsettling. In the context of able-bodied and neurotypical people telling us our lives aren’t worth living it is especially inappropriate. Comments on the subject will not be published.

Warning: The following includes graphic descriptions of medical unpleasantries.

I could never live like you. I’d rather be dead. You’re so strong. You’re so brave. How do you do it?

I have a chronic pain condition. Most of the time I don’t bother getting into detail because I don’t feel like it but it’s illustrative here, so I’ll share. I live in pain. It pools in my hips and my left knee and my right shoulder and sometimes my legs turn to stone. Every step I walk hurts and I keep getting slower and more labored. (My disability is invisible only in the most technical sense. Fortunately people have lots of practice not seeing disability! So, phew.) Sometimes, like the other night, my hands hurt so much I can’t get the non-child-resistant easy-open top off the bottle of pain meds.

(If my hands hurt so much why do I type? Why not use a voice writer? Because this voice here, this is the voice I write with. This is not the voice I speak with. I would write far less if I had to use my voice to do it. And it’s only pain.)

And then there’s the Weird Shit. (It’s a technical term.) I take antibiotics daily because if I don’t I get a urinary tract infection which leaves me crumpled in the bathtub screaming, gushing blood, graying out, waiting for the big antibiotics to get working. Sure I could go to the emergency room and I have — where they give me the same antibiotics I’d get from calling my urologist’s answering service and pain meds weaker than what I take daily. And I get to deal with having medical professionals react to me being trans* and poor.

A sore throat once turned out to be a fungal infection, another one was a tonsillary abscess, the treatment for which was getting stabbed with a large-bore needle then having the contents of the abcess squished out. It was about as comfortable as it sounds, and it tasted every bit as good. I did not bite the nurse practitioner who was treating me. My general practitioner later looked at me really weird when I expressed concern that my next sore throat (it was just a virus and a runny nose) might be one of these until I explained that I’d actually had these things.

The big one was when a cold — in the space of three weeks — became bronchitis, then pneumonia. If I rolled onto my right side, I felt like I was drowning. If I sat up, I felt dizzy. A chest x-ray showed much of my left lung was wrong. I was admitted to hospital that day, the five doctors that came that night took my wife into the hall and told her the things that could be killing me. There was fluid in the space around my lung. They poked at me and stuck a needle in and drew off three hundred millilitres. I didn’t get appreciably better. They installed a peripherally introduced central catheter so they could give me vein-killing antibiotics like vancomycin and aureomycin. The fluid they’d drawn off, cultured, proved to be sterile. More chest x-rays showed shadowy bits around my heart and more imaging showed fluid buildup there too — between having a lung and a third to breathe with and a heart working under the increased burden, I was understandably tired. Even more understandably when some time during the week I was in hospital, my red blood cell count fell through the floor. They were tracking everything that came out of me so it wasn’t like the blood was going anywhere, it just… vanished. They gave me more blood. Later they got the bright idea of drawing off the fluid around my lung at least and took me down to radiological medicine. I got to sit up for it. They did throw in some lidocaine, which at the time I hadn’t figured out that I could say “Hey I don’t metabolize this like most people I need more time for it to take effect before you start stabbing me with shit” so the ginormous fucking needle they stabbed me in the back with? I felt most of that. Ow. I wasn’t supposed to see it (mustn’t discomfit the patient, even if she finds things comforting that most people don’t), but I got a look at the three-litre vacuum bottle half full of murky green fluid they’d sucked out of me. I felt much better, though that lung felt crinkly like cellophane from having been collapsed so long. It was a teaching hospital, so the place was crawling with med students who all (I heard — the nurses wouldn’t actually let them come near my room for which I am still grateful) made excuses to come read my chart. I was medically interesting. I never did get a diagnosis. A real diagnosis, I mean. I know full well that ‘idiopathic pericarditis’ means ‘the membrane around your heart is inflamed and we don’t know why.’

On a fun side note, while I was in hospital busy being sick with Weird Shit I kept getting calls from work. I was the only person in the company who knew how to do what I did, so I provided user support. From my hospital bed. On morphine, with blood running into my arm. It was kind of impressive, in an appalling way. When I was home (I was out of work almost two months and none of it was remotely vacational — at some point I’ll write about having had a whole week of vacation in the ten years since my diagnosis with this chronic pain condition) they sent someone to bring me a computer so I could do some things, occasionally.

I’ll stop with the Ways Kaninchen Zero Is Very Very Ill now. The point is yeah, there’s a lot going on. Most of us could tell similar stories, or scarier ones.

I cry, often. Even with the meds I’m in a lot of pain all the time. I’m exhausted, all the time. I work thirty to forty hours a week in spite of it (though I’m running up against the limits of that too).

People who don’t live with chronic pain wonder how I do this. How do I live with this much pain? How do I keep going? How have I done this since I was a teenager? (I’m thirty-seven now.) I must be a fucking paragon of moral fortitude, because (I’m told) I’m not even all that bitter about it (though I am, sometimes). I’m happy, when I can get around the depression I’ve carried most of my life too.

I could never live like you. I’d rather be dead. You’re so strong. You’re so brave. How do you do it?

I hear this a lot. It’s actually not a secret, though I think the able-bodied are somewhat afraid of the answers. It’s not even difficult. Most anyone could live my life, probably. I have a good life. My doctors listen to me when I tell them what’s going on with me which is wonderful after so many years of being told I wasn’t in pain because the tests didn’t show anything. I have books, games, computers. Because of the last I have friends and I fall in love about five times a year. (I’ve been working on doing things that scare me and I’m telling people more that I’m infatuated, crushing, in love. And that they don’t have to feel the same way about me at all.) Sometimes I can actually stop writing a story and call it finished.[1]

Here’s how I do it: I want to live. I don’t want to be dead. My life is worth living. It’s not tragic. It’s easy. We’ve all got the means to get acclimated to a new home, new furniture, changes in climate and environment. Having a different bodily environment or neurological environment is just something else to get used to.

The commenters in the Why Are They So Angry At Her? thread have it right, I think. The physio/neurotypical haven’t bothered to consider our lives from any perspective but their own and all they see are limits. They imagine being ill with the flu (which leaves me in bed and miserable and hating it too), or an injury that hurt and impaired their movement but ultimately healed: a sprained joint, a broken bone. (All of which I’ve done also: counting the events where more than one bone broke at a time as one, I’ve broken bones more than ten times though I’m a little fuzzy on exactly how many — broken toes are hard to track.) They recall how miserable being ill or injured was and imagine having a disability (or several) as being ill or injured and thus miserable all the time.

We’re not. Even when depression is part of a constellation of symptoms or a side effect of meds or just something else to live with, we’re not. We’re just living, like everyone. When we hear “I’d rather be dead” it often sounds like “you should be dead.” And with good reason. People with disabilities are killed by those who should care for them. Parents kill their disabled children and the public’s sympathy is with the murderers. Caregivers in institutional facilities kill residents and few people care.

Amanda has written extensively about this at Ballastexistenz, and her Background, to the Foreground post is excellent. Not Dead Yet is dedicated to working against euthanasia and assisted suicide policies that make killing us legal, or at least fuzzy. Lauredhel’s post at Hoyden About Town about Christian Rossiter’s lawsuit to refuse nutrition hits most of the points I try to make when I talk about this issue. It’s despair and isolation that drive us to want to die. The neuro/physiotypical don’t see that part of it.

There are social feedback loops that reinforce these attitudes and keep us isolated. Ignorance and fear and hate go together. Neuro/physiotypical friends and relatives stop inviting us to things after a while. We’ve said we can’t come a number of times: we weren’t up to it for whatever reason that day, the venue wasn’t accessible, we didn’t have transportation. Eventually it becomes habit, justified by unhelpful concern. Whatever place isn’t accessible (it’s too much bother to plan for real utility). Oh, they probably won’t feel up to it (our lives are miseries anyway). Around it goes.

[1] Some of my stories can be found at my story blog, though be warned: nearly all of them involve themes of sex, violence, death, horror.

Fort Hood Shootings

As you may have heard, this afternoon at Fort Hood in Texas, a shooter killed 12 and wounded 31 people. The shooter, Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, was killed during the incident.

While this is not a breaking news blog, my initial reaction was fear that the shooter had or could be construed to have had a mental disability that would be seen as the basis of the attack. And because emotions run high after this kind of disaster and people feel protective, there can be some nasty and hurtful rhetoric flying around. (I have already seen some vile and awful things said about his potential Muslim heritage. Needless to say, none of that will be tolerated in comments.) We wanted to create this as an open thread, safe space kind of area to discuss any concerns or thoughts raised by this incident.

Here’s a few resources I’ve seen, more will undoubtedly develop as the story progresses:

  • If you are concerned about specific individuals in the area, check the Red Cross Safe and Well List for more information.
  • Local blood donations are being accepted at Scott and White Memorial Hospital, 2401 S 31st St, Temple, TX?. They will be open until 10pm local time today and re-open at 8am tomorrow. ETA: The hospital has closed to donations for the day due to overwhelming response – please try them again tomorrow.
  • To find other locations to give blood, check the Red Cross website. Even if you live nowhere near Texas, consider donating blood (if it is healthy for you to do so) to prepare for future disasters.

Our warm thoughts and hope for speedy recovery go out to those affected by the shooting and their friends and families.

By 6 November, 2009.    mental health, military, violence   



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