23 April 2008


Abfh tagged me.

5 Things in my bag:
1-A ruler that also functions as a calculator
2-A print card for the local community college
4-a Straw
5-pamphlet from the Mars Society

5 Favorite things in my room:
1-My Invader Zim figure collection
2-Animator's clay and some figures made therof
3-my two tarantulas

5 Things I have always wanted to do:
1-direct a documentary
2-establish a school primarily for autistic kids
3-publish a book (or two or three - some autiebiography, some science fiction and some mainstream fiction)
4-get a Ph.D. in physics (emphasis on astrophysics or particle physics)
5-make an animated cartoon

5 Things I am currently into:
3-writing (especially novel and sitcom)
4-Japanese language and culture
5-making up my own language (I invented an alphabet yesterday - now I just need the words and grammar!)

5 people I'd like to tag:

5-Big Time Sysnaesthe

Consider yourselves tagged! :)

20 April 2008

Bullying: How the "Other" Grows Up

This is from a comment I made on a blog about bullying. It describes some of the physical violence done to me (hence the angry tone), and has a few expletives. If you believe that all bullying is "just a part of growing up", "makes the victim stronger" or that "victims just ask for it", then please, by all means, read this.

I was bullied throughout from kindergarten through 8th grade when I transferred to a charter school whose students are more accepting. Mostly the kids made fun of me because I'm autistic and I don't wear "popular clothes" - just jeans and a T-shirt, can't afford anything else. One girl harassed me for not going to church, which I didn't at the time. There were many rumors that I was a lesbian, which was true but I still denied. They also made fun of my seizures. The worst thing about that year, though, was that the physical violence elements of the bullying I'd experienced all my life intensified much more compared to previous years.

There would be usually five boys ganging up on me, beating me and at times trying to rape me. Luckily I could get away at that point, but it was pretty awful. They would slam my head against the water fountain and the sinks, and push me to the ground, and one time because of this for a week I could barely walk (all the while I had to listen to my sister complain that she needed a chiropractor because of pain from washing dishes). They made fun of my special interests, which at the time were quantum mechanics and UFOs. One thing I learned at this time is that when you're dealing with serious bullying, even when it's still just at the verbal stage, ignoring just makes things worst. Maybe it works with little kids just making typical insults, maybe they tire quick, but I know that I spent three weeks not even acknowledging them, just looking through, and it just persuaded them to up the ante, so to speak, to try to provoke me.

Running away and fighting back were my best bets, though as I was out of shape running wouldn't do me much good (in elementary school and junior high I most often did not get to participate in PE because it was easier for the school to sit me out than to deal with the bullies on the field, and I was in adaptive PE anyway, and motor tasks are difficult to co-ordinate). Fighting wasn't much good, either, since I hadn't been formally trained (though my dad did teach me the right way to punch) as we couldn't afford lessons, and I wasn't nearly as strong as five boys.

When I reported these things to the office (I would litterally spend a couple hours out of class each day in her office pleading to have something done about this, but I was refused the right to file a report, and she would just ignore me, lecture me about the importance of being in class, or tell me it's all my fault because I rock, walk oddly, have seizures, and don't wear designer jeans. Yes this is really what I was told. And they told me I shouldn't defend myself because it doesn't get me anywhere.

Well, as long as they're taking me down, I'm at least going to cut them down a notch too. Cussing at a jerk can be all you have when they otherwise have grabbed so much control over you. Throwing things at them, hitting them, threatening them, sometimes it's all you have to keep yourself from lashing out in more drastic ways. It's been five fucking years and while I no longer have flashbacks and nightmares about it, it still makes me angry.

An exact quote from the counselor: "There are three things you don't talk about: religion, politics, and space aliens". The visiting counselor agreed with a nod and an mm-hm and then added, "Abortion, too". She echoed, "And abortion." These are the people who are supposed to be advising me?! In the United States of America? Fuck that! It's not even me who would bring these things up; I rarely spoke at school before high school, and approaching someone I don't already know to expend the huge amount of energy it takes for me to talk; these people are just unbelievable. They broke into my locker and saw books about UFOs which is why they knew that interest, and I usually had physics books with me.

When I was being bullied ferociously in 7th grade, I told those guys in a serious, yet shaky voice that I wanted to fucking kill them, and that I could do it, too. Not a wise thing, of course, and if I were an adult and knew that someone had said that I would contact the authorities. But because someone says that, while it's wrong and warrants attention, doesn't mean they are the bully whose "fault" this is. I in no way antagonized those kids throughout my life, yet I was driven to that point (though fortunately I was able to resist actually doing something like that - I doubt that I could've done it, even if I had access to a weapon).

It's not okay when you saw a rape victim had it coming because she was attractive, or was in a certain area. Likewise, it's not okay when you blame bullying on the victim because their behavior was odd.

To people who think it makes the victim stronger - when you see and hear people who became stronger for their experiences, mind that these are the ones who survived and who have now overcome it to the point that they can be successful. That doesn't mean they represent the reality of all - or even most - people who are bullied. The only purpose that bullying and discrimination have served me in my life is to motivate me to fight against them.

And, while to some extent "bullying" (as in insults and general nasty things) is a part of growing up. However, being terrified to go to school (or other places, and rightly so), living in an environment where fear and intimidation are your only tutor of social skills, and where you are consistently, sometimes even quite blatantly, told that you are an inferior kind that deserves this treatment - no. This is not "common". This is not "encouragement". This is not "natural".

19 April 2008

ON Growing Up One Arm in the Straitjacket

There is a spiral, a pattern that embeds itself into the order of the natural world. A mathematical oddity. An improbability. The Greeks saw in it truth and beauty. Today it has applications in the stock market. To most, it is just a pattern unfolding in a patch of dead, scattered sand.

The sand is what gets me. It’s what draws my attention, as does the lone paperclip that catches a small bit of light as it rests in the slight shadow of the nearby desk. The pattern, the golden spiral, is to me the ripple of an ocean wave transposed to a dream. A pure expression unbound by linguistic ambiguities, one that transcends definition and yields to unadulterated communication.

I spent most of my childhood afternoons in class gazing in various directions. Sometimes up the front of the classroom, sometimes the window. Sometimes a wall. Didn’t matter, really. It was the gazing - the thinking - that was the point. However I managed to elude the misperception that I was disengaged from reality as long as I did remains as mysterious to me as is the hidden meaning I am supposed to extract from such written expression as “;)”.

If my teachers didn’t notice anything unusual, my sisters sure did. And while not saying so outright, my mom certainly must have noticed, for all of her exasperated attempts to understand why “simple” things were so much more difficult for me than other things, things that would typically be considered complicated and challenging. I quickly ascertained that I was some different kind of person, a foreign person within the only home I’d ever known. Culture clashes were inevitable, but it was hard for either party to not feel personally targeted, as there was no clear physical indicator that my culture even existed.

Before anyone ever uttered the word “autism”, I was keenly aware that people like me were routinely shoved into institutions under the premise that their lives were not worth the trouble of accommodating them independently, and that such effort would be wasted on individuals perceived to be clearly incapable of enjoying it. I still remember watching a program on TV in the early 1990s, and all the gloom and doom predictions people made for the people featured, the people I pointed at and said, “They’re like me!” with childlike enthusiasm. My mom corrected me, said that I wasn’t like them, as they were severely disabled and would bang their heads. I wondered what made me so different from them.

Whatever my perceptions, the message was clear: there is a set pattern of development that typical children follow like a map with only one road. And if these milestones are not met within given ranges, then that is sign of disease process. Not a sign of having a different sort of body than people expected, not a sign of having a different sort of mind. Not a sign of difference or disability, but of disease.

This as the backdrop of my childhood, I made the unconscious yet purposeful effort to watch myself every second of my life that I was in public. Make eye contact, no matter how much it hurts, just do it. Explaining that the lack of eye contact means you’re paying attention isn’t good enough. No hand gestures, either. And don’t rock, but talk even if it pains you. You have to walk a certain way that is unnatural and difficult, you must keep your head at a proper, normal angle, and don’t let your mouth hang open. If you don’t keep this up, you look retarded, and you know how much your peers belittle the mentally retarded, as if they’re somehow lesser. If a loud noise scares you, or an offending touch hurts you, you cannot shout or move away. You must bear all intrusions, no matter how violent, with silence and good behavior.

I like to try this thought experiment with people who don’t understand how stressful this can be, people who think that if someone is capable of imitating “normal” behavior, that they should act that way all the time. Now imagine that you are a child, and I am a doctor. A teacher. A parent. I tell you that it is absolutely imperative to rock back and forth for most of your waking life, despite your never having had the inclination or the thought to do so. Although too much is forbidden, you may talk sometimes. But only on one subject, and you must never look at someone’s eyes, or even their face. If you do, you must stare “through” and not “at” – whether or not you actually understand this distinction. And whenever you screw up, I am going to correct you, and withhold rewards. After all, these things are good behavior. Only good behavior gets rewards. Bad behavior never gets a reward, because we don’t really want to see that anymore.

When I advanced to seventh grade, the reward for good behavior changed from approval to safety, as if the junior high were operating as a miniature institution. While the total population of the institution was about 500, only a small handful of us were held captive to its most prized tenet of conformity beyond possibility. If someone threatened my life, it was because I could not afford designer jeans. If someone stole from me, it was because I look strange when having a seizure. If someone beat me up, it was because I failed to acquiesce to the moral superiority of my verbally abusive peers, but rather entertained the foolish thought of defending my dignity.

I sometimes like to think I have permanently overcome the flashbacks I still from time to time experience, that I am strong enough to stare my memories in the face as they creep along at my heels and to say “no more.” I sometimes like to think that once these personal emotions are resolved that I have defeated the problem. I sometimes like to think that my experiences were aberrations. As I face school, public transportation, job interviews, dating, adoption and parenting, though, I cannot ever ignore the fact that what has happened to me is a mere appendage of a wider phenomenon. Regardless of my own circumstances, through the collective experiences of the autistic community, I will always have one arm tucked firmly out of sight in the straitjacket.

17 April 2008

A Mild Form of What?

(Picture is of a book cover, which reads: "The Bisexual Syndrome: A mild form of gayness" and has a review quote that reads: "A fascinating look into the world of the high-functioning homosexual.")

As per the forecast of the Autistic Bitch from Hell in this post.