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As Salt ‘n Pepa says, it’s “None of Your Business”

I am an Ally for many different causes. Frequently these seem to cause some sort of trouble for either myself of my family. Now I know my immediate family (husband/kids) don’t really sweat it, but sometimes it has some interesting consequences–particularly with our extended family.

purseSome people wear their feelings on their sleeves… I wear mine as buttons and patches on my purse.  With the exception of the lavender bespectacled unicorn in the center (with “Haters gonna Hate” embroidered below) every patch and button has been hand-selected and added by me.  I bought the bag (with the unicorn on it) from Etsy a few years ago, and then just started adding things on.

The front is pretty self-explanatory, though a couple of the patches are a tiny bit obscure. My personal favorites are the “do no harm but take no shit” button towards the bottom center, and the “feminist killjoy” patch to the left of the unicorn.

Now, by placing these patches and buttons onto my purse, I have made something of a social contract. I understand that when I visibly wear something that declares a like or a dislike for something, I am implicitly allowing people to ask me about it.  Most of the time I get people telling me they “love my purse,” or “did you sew all those on yourself?”  But every once in a while, someone finds something they might not agree with—and now it’s awkward.

Let’s start small. I once had a lively discussion on the juxtaposition of the Star Trek command badge with the floral Vader patch. After I pointed out that I also had a Galaxy Quest mission patch, a Tyrell corporation patch (not shown) and Browncoat patch (also not shown), we agreed it was ok to put the two franchises next to each other because I was being all inclusive.

Speaking of all-inclusive…. that brings me to my point. You might also see that I have several buttons that out me as an LGTBQ Ally.  On one occasion, this prompted a “what are you a queer?” from a perfect stranger (to which I responded, “oh, I’m sorry, I’m already married,” and smiled sweetly before continuing, “but I’m sure you’ll find someone lovely.”  I have also had people who know me a little better—and know that I am married someone of the opposite sex—ask me if there’s a particular reason why I might be an advocate equal rights.

Let me lay it out for you. It’s honestly none of your business why I support equal rights, if indeed I have one at all.  Is it necessary to have a child who identifies as something other than heteronormative in order to support rights for all?  Are you asking me my orientation? Would it matter if I said I was bi? or gender non-conformative?  Should it? Is that ANY of your business?  Because it’s not. WHY do you think I need a reason to be a decent human being?

There’s this great passage from Rose Madder where Rosie asks Anna why Anna’s parent founded Daughters and Sisters, the secure shelter where Rosie is staying. And Anna hands Rosie a Paul Sheldon Misery novel, and says:

Bodice-rippers are one of my secret vices… but they’re trash, and do you know why? Because the whole round world is explained in them. There are reasons for everytyhing. They may be as farfetched as the stories in the supermarket tabloids and thye may run counter to everything a halfway intelligent person understanda bout how peopel behave in real life, but they’re there…In life, Rosie, sometimes people do things, both bad and good, just-because.

I don’t need a reason to be a thoughtful human being, any more than some jerk has a reason for being an asshole. Sometimes people are good (or bad) just because. I wear my allyship on my purse so that people who might need help can see where to turn. I put my Ally sign on my cube door, so people who need help understand that I am a safe place and I will listen, not judge, and help them.  And you had better hope that I don’t see you being a jerk to someone (based on their orientation or otherwise) because I. Will. End. You.

Here’s the thing. sexual orientation is just one small part of a whole human being, and I feel that to discriminate against people for something that is (honestly) not something that the public should know/care about. Now, if that person chooses to make their orientation known AND part of their persona, I’m all for it, too. But it should not be a defining point on which human rights are granted or taken away. This is a horrendously complex thing that involves an infinite continuum of:

  • biological sex (the parts you get at birth)
  • gender identity (pronouns)
  •  sexual orientation (who you are attracted to) — which can include asexual
  • romantic orientation (who you want a long relationship with)
  • sexual behavior (not preference, but BEHAVIOR)
  • gender roles (what society expects)

Here watch this:

To a lot of people…it’s easy to imagine that human beings are simple, and you can know a person’s sex, and then you will know all sorts of things about them deeply and clearly. And if you don’t fit into this nice little box, people who do can get really confused and sometimes even angry…

[people should understand that] there are no nice shiney boxes, or if there are shiney boxes, there are an infinite number of them. Enough to put all of the people who currently exist, have ever existed, and will ever exit.

I guess what I’m trying to say is… it’s none of [our] business.


 

And now because you have that wonderful song from 1993 in your head…

Sassy, Classy, and a little bit Aspy

When my oldest was in elementary school, he was having a lot of problems with his reading. We were convinced he had dyslexia but had no money to get him tested. We had tried in vain to get the school to test him; they turned us down. I eventually a turned to a friend who is an ARD Facilitator.  She told me the magic phrases to use and soon we had an officially diagnosed child with a 504 plan and accommodations in place.

The Sunday after the diagnosis, I met her at church and thanked her for what she had done. She had saved us a lot of money and I was very grateful. As we talked about getting kids tested and what not we talked about undiagnosed children in the church. I laughed and told her, “oh, but you can take a quiz online and be diagnosed with just about anything. I mean, according to a test I took online I’m high-functioning autistic.” Her response? “Oh yeah, I could see that, you’re a little Aspy.”

Autism in females is understudied and misdiagnosed1. When you look at the list of traits, it’s easy to see how many of the traits could be mistaken for other things, or as quirks of “just being smart and a little eccentric.” Often they are diagnosed with secondary illnesses that are side-effects of the Aspergers/autism (depression, anorexia, obsessive/compulsive disorder, etc.).

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In some cases, it is noted that women are much more successful at masking their symptoms and acting in a “normal manner.”2  They work from meticulous notes kept in their head. They might even channel their hyperfocus to their advantage in work or play. In short, women in autism can often turn their “illness” to an advantage.

Here’s where it gets interesting… I think the internet (and my friend) are probably right. I’ve never been what you would call a “normal” girl. I had always chalked it up to me being a year younger than my classmates. “There was no way I could be as socially adept as my classmates,” I would tell myself, “since they’re all older than me. Everyone is always telling me there is a huge difference between a 13-year-old and 14-year-old.”  When I manifested my need for control as anorexia in my junior and senior year of high-school, I passed it off as OCD and a need to please my parents. I was never really good at mimicking a popular person, instead, I would befriend people of many varied groups and ensure that I had people I could count as “friends” no matter where I was.

Down the line, I was checking off traits: yes, yes, yes, sometimes, yes…. it was both frightening and vindicating. I had always assumed my awkwardness to be a function of my age or my upbringing. But as it turns out… my upbringing had probably forced me to be closer to “normal” than I would have been if left to my own devices.

  • Forced manners classes gave me a basis on which I could build my persona.
  • Dance classes gave me a feminine friendly focus for my hyperfocus.
  • The one trophy I ever earned was for writing over 30 book reports in a single month—which I did at the age of 5.
  • My parents seemed to keep up with trends and bought me civilian clothing I could wear when I was not in my school uniform. And when I was forced into public school, I wore all black, since I didn’t have to worry about matching my clothes

quote-temple-grandin-mild-autism-can-give-you-a-genius-1-248433And you know what? I’m okay with this. I take a low dose of anti-anxiety/depression pills to keep the worst of my OCD type symptoms at bay, and that mostly works. Sometimes having a name to call your bundle of weirdness is in and of itself comforting. And honestly, I’m not horrified to learn these things about myself. After all, it has some positive benefits: I taught myself to play drums from YouTube, I can draw and paint very well, and my need to correct injustice created a social justice warrior (much to the chagrin of my more conforming relatives). Rather on focusing on fitting in, I’m more concerned with finding my own tribe, and it makes me happy when I can recognize someone with the same “quirkiness.”

After all, it’s like Temple Grandin says:

The thing about being autistic is that you gradually get less and less autistic, because you keep learning, you keep learning how to behave. It’s like being in a play; I’m always in a play.

Temple Grandin

I am sick and tired of being sick and tired… now I’m just mad.

So. On November 10th, I wrote this post on Facebook:

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Let’s talk about it a little further.

I would like to say that I was shocked and appalled by what happened, but the sad truth is that I’m not. And that is because this is not the first time I’ve heard those words, or felt the anger rise up in my chest like bile…. it’s just the first time I’ve had that kind of hate directed at one of my children.I had always hoped that no child of mine would ever have to deal with this kind of stupidity. Not because they could “pass,” but because we should be living in a post-racial society by now. All I wanted for them was to not have to deal with the name calling, and the stereotypes, and the assumptions that I had to deal with… that my parents had to deal with… that my grandparents had to deal with… and so on.

But that is not what happened on Thursday.

On Thursday, my son was a target because the color of his skin and the company that he keeps. On Thursday, children that he has known for the majority of his life said some really hurtful things. And he already knew that they felt that way. He’s had to have multiple talks with them about the “stupid things they were saying about Hispanics and Mexicans.” And to their credit, they stopped doing so… around him. Until Thursday. And you know what? It would have been Wednesday, but the kids were out on Wednesday because they needed a mental health day after the nightmare of Tuesday.

I am grateful to have such good friends that sympathize and are similarly offended. It was never my intention for the post to go viral—all ever wanted to do is show people I know that this is REAL. These kinds of stories that you hear on the news aren’t just kids saying things to get attention. My kiddo HATES attention; I kept his name out of the story on purpose. But I needed to show people—many of whom are still my friends—that the choices that we make can have real consequences for real people. And yes, perhaps it was the work of a few asshole kids at this one school… but that’s not the only school that is experiencing this kind of backlash against minority children. There are children who are being told that they’re going to have to go to another school because soon their school will be “all white again.” There are families that are desperately afraid that someone will be knocking on their door and rounding them up in the night, regardless of the immigration status of the various family members. There are young women afraid to walk anywhere at night, and church members afraid to attend services.  And they are just as real as my son.

children-are-not-a-zoo-of-entertainingly-exotic-creatures-but-an-array-of-mirrors-in-which-the-quote-1Ultimately, our family will be okay. We are strong, and we raised strong children. My sons are social justice warriors and will gladly take up the fight. They’ve marched in Pride Parades, worn “I am a Feminist” buttons, and stood up to teachers when they’ve felt the lesson was biased or racist in its premise. But if you are reading this… please. Please take a minute to think of the other children who are waking up in a world where they are suddenly “other.” Think before you speak, before you post, or  before you say something thoughtless. Kids aren’t hateful by nature. It’s LEARNED.