What happens to a community of people who have been raised with sensation of constant, looming danger, of being fundamentally wrong in the way we love and express ourselves? What impact might that collective trauma have upon our bodies and spirits?
Scholars of the brain are fond of saying “what fires together, wires together,” which refers to the brain’s tendency to form neural networks (pathways in the brain that form certain thought, feeling and behavioural responses) that become stronger and stronger every time they are used. Trauma theory holds that traumatized inviduals — and, I would hypothesis, queer and trans community as a whole — have well-worn neural networks shaped around the deeply held physical sensation that we are constantly in danger, that we are bad and unloveable, that others are untrustworthy and violent. Every time we are abused, discriminated against or neglected, those neural networks become stronger, while our neural networks associated with safety and loving relationships atrophy. We become physically less capable of imagining a world where being with others is not synonymous with being unsafe.
Why are queer people so mean to each other?
“In addition, a widespread use of NIPT as general screening may induce ‘eugenic’ use, even when the state is not involved. The adding up of a lot of individual choices to the ‘acceptability’ of aborting certain kinds of embryos or fetuses brings forward a societal phenomenon, which resembles a kind of eugenics in the search for a ‘perfect child’.”
“I HAVE THE RIGHT TO LIVE.” – CHARLOTTE HELENE FIEN TELLS UN
People often ask whether autism (or another neurodivergent condition) is a disability. I’d argue that it is more helpful to ask whether autistic people are disabled (to which my answer would be: in most cases, yes). It may seem a semantic distinction, but it is important: it locates the disablement not in the autistic person’s brain, but in the society they live in and the way the individual and society interact. Autism is not our disability: it may be an impairment, a difference, or some combination. Our disability is the difficulty that arises in our interaction with the specific society in which we live.
A Social Model of Neurodiversity at Work
These burgeoning, fragile, necessary autistic spaces may be the foundations that can help explorations to, and with, allies, companions, partnerships. However power imbalances within and outside these spaces must be acknowledged and respected. Being able to be there was a privilege not available to all. (That shouldn’t be taken to mean that the path to being there wasn’t differently hard for so many of us). It is always better to be done “with” than “to”. Luckily autistic people (can have) strengths in clear, direct, honest communication. What could be more useful (& endangered) in a post-truth world?
Autism and the Arts Festival (University of Kent): 10 Things I Learned
You don’t have to look far to find derogatory descriptions of the communication of autistic people. Terms such as ‘disorder’, ‘impairment’, ‘deficit’ and ‘dysfunction’ abound in the research literature which, when you drill down into it, offers multitudes of negative conceptualisations of the ways that autistic people do, or don’t express themselves. In simple terms, autistic people are considered impaired whether they are speaking, or not speaking, for the words they choose, or don’t choose, for talking too quickly, or too slowly, for doing so at the wrong time, in the wrong way, or in the wrong place. Indeed, as I wrote in 2018, when I explored the intersection of autistic communication with noise and silence in schools, autistic people are simply considered to be making ‘the wrong kind of noise’.
Time to rethink autism and communication
A recently released study from the university of Cambridge claims to show that male and female brains are clearly very different. In a huge study of over 600,000 people, the data obtained showed that men tend to be more analytical and ‘systemic’ while women tend to be more emotional and empathetic, thus providing clear evidence for controversial theories about the differences between male and female brains.
So, what’s wrong with this particular study? Quite a few things, as it happens. But there are also some major issues with the ways it’s being reported. Here’s a basic rundown, from my perspective.
Male and Female Brain Differences – Must We Keep Doing This? via Enough of the neurosexist bilge. It’s not all pink and blue when it comes to our brains
In speaking with participants about causes of trauma, she has heard “everything from sexual abuse, emotional abuse and horrendous bullying, to much broader concepts, like what it’s like to go around your whole life in a world where you have 50 percent less input than everyone else because you have social deficits. Or feeling constantly overwhelmed by sensory experience — feeling marginalized in our society because you’re somebody with differences.” In other words, she says, “the experience of having autism and the trauma associated with that.”
At the intersection of autism and trauma
The problem with the term ‘female autism’ is it essentialises the femininity of the experience of being autistic in this way. Yet there is nothing about this which is unique to autistic women and girls. When I first self-diagnosed I spent a lot of time reading blogs and books by other autistic women, the resonance of their words was a profound comfort to me during the uncertain time while I was waiting for a formal diagnosis. However, I would argue that this resonance wasn’t because they were female, it was because they are similar autistic people to me. Increasingly I find myself meeting men who are questioning whether they might be autistic and I find myself pointing them toward resources on autistic women and girls because this is the type of autistic person they are. This has nothing to do with their gender identity, they are not female type autistics any more than women who have been diagnosed using current tools are extreme male type autistics!
Beyond ‘female autism’
In the middle of 2018, a group of academics came together, with the realisation that we were all, separately, contributing to a new way of thinking about autism. In various ways we had – implicitly or explicitly – developed a quantiative and experimental test of the predictions of the Double Empathy Problem.
INSAR 2019 virtual symposium
Because we are bad at some things, people often expect us to be bad at other things; for example, they see someone failing to conform with social expectations, and assume that person has impaired intelligence.But because we are good at some things, people are often impatient when we’re not as skilled or need support in other areas.
Academic achievements don’t imply competence in self-care and maintenance, and high levels of skill in certain areas don’t always translate to success in education or in the workplace.
We are often taken to be “lazy” because we seem to master some things easily, but fail at things many find “simple.” Autistic kids suffer a lot in school because when they struggle with certain tasks or subjects, teachers often assume that it’s from a lack of effort.
Autistic Skill Sets: A Spiky Profile of Peaks and Troughs
Autism is regarded by many autistic people as a neurodivergence, or indeed a minority people, not a fault. Although adding that of course some have multiple conditions and require a lot of support, and that proper support that values and respects all autistic people and their families fully is much needed.
This is a quick list of some of the research that I value:
Autism: Some Vital Research Links