Trumperdämmerung

The United States has gone in the direction of other Western countries that have allowed right-wing white nationalism to infect their countries via the election of Donald J Trump.

Don’t tell me that Trump voters chose him because of mere economic anguish on its own. White Trump voters chose racism, bigotry and the systemic oppression of women, people of colour, LGBTQ+ people, disabled people, Muslims, Jews and anyone else who doesn’t fit into the idealised cisgender, white, straight, Christian, abled, male mould. It’s the Southern Strategy in its grossest form, originally perfected by Richard Nixon and continued by the Reagan and Bush administrations. Would Bernie Sanders have beaten Trump? Probably not. As much as I liked his advocacy for decreased income inequality, voters of colour didn’t choose him in the Democratic primaries. Trump’s specific appeal is the racism. It’s the sexism. It’s the hatred of marginalised people. Even if individual Trump voters may not be stereotypical Confederate flag-waving, slur-using, racists, they are insulated from racial oppression. Trump’s highest margins came from the whitest regions in the country. These people live their lives without interacting with PoC, or Muslims, or people whose political views are drastically different from theirs, and so they can vote for Trump without thinking of the consequences.

If it were truly about economics, those people would have turned out for Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary. They would have supported Elizabeth Warren. Instead, they went to Trump, who promised in his words and actions that he would restore blatant white supremacy in the United States. The backlash against a black president, and the strong likelihood that a woman whose policy was based on inclusion would succeed him, sent them running into Trump’s arms. Never mind that Trump is an inveterate liar, a craven opportunist, an abuser of women and an amoral con artist. He said he’d make America white again. He fed right into fantasies of the old order before the Civil Rights Movement and the Obama presidency.

This man hasn’t even taken the oath of office yet, and his supporters are already emboldened. There have been numerous reports of people of colour, women, LGBTQ+ people, disabled people, Muslims and Jews being physically and emotionally assaulted by Trump supporters who feel that his election gives them carte blanche to exact revenge on everyone they consider Other. This is similar to what happened in the UK after the Brexit vote–again, they thought the vote gave them licence to abuse and marginalise others.

If you voted for Donald Trump, you are complicit. If you enabled Trump by stressing ‘economic anguish’ over the hatred he promulgated for the past year, you are also complicit. If you reported on Trump dispassionately without condemning his behaviour, you are also complicit. I will not go out of my way to empathise with ‘poor, suffering Trump supporters’, since most of those Trump supporters had higher incomes than the Clinton voters. If you voted for Trump, you told me and people like me that our lives are worthless.

Dark days are ahead. I’m struggling. I know people reading this may be too. As long as I’m here, I’ll keep writing.

Toxic masculinity in the autism community

(content warning: sexual harassment and assault; misogyny)

I have come across incident after incident in which women, femmes and other people perceived as women find themselves being bombarded with unwanted sexual or romantic propositions, sexual harassment and outright sexual assault by cis men on the spectrum in spaces that are either by or for autistic people, or in online communities for autistic people. I know several women and femmes who have experienced harassment from men who think they’re entitled to their affections or their bodies, including lesbians. I’ve seen guys being creepy towards women in person, and have reported them to event organisers. Before I transitioned and started being perceived as male by the general public, I had a man propose marriage to me online as a way of getting me out of my parents’ abusive household. I was 19. He was in his 40s at the very least–more than twice my age.

Being autistic does not exempt you from the forces of toxic masculinity, compulsory heterosexuality or other forms of gendered hostility. Autism may make people internalise society’s messages differently from other people, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t internalise those messages. We are people and people are a product of the societies in which they are brought up.

I believe some of this is attributable to the systemic desexualisation of disabled people, including autistic people, during childhood and adolescence. The assumption is that we won’t be interested in romantic or sexual relationships anyway–or shouldn’t be–so we are not taught how to approach relationships in a healthy, positive way. It’s also the case that a lot of autistic people struggle with learning social norms that are seen as simply arbitrary. There may be some social norms that are simply arbitrary, but respecting people’s romantic and sexual boundaries goes beyond simple social niceties. When those developmental factors are blended with cultural messages that promote male entitlement and rape culture, some autistic men end up with attitudes that both reflect their difficulty approaching women or people they perceive as women, and the idea that they’re entitled to a romantic relationship or sex because they’re men. This results in situations where men in autistic spaces will do things ranging from awkwardly asking people on dates because they’re both on the spectrum and they think the other person is pretty to full-blown sexual harassment and assault.

Like everyone else, these guys need to be told that nobody is entitled to romance or sex, but that there are ways that they can learn how to build healthy relationships to the people they’re attracted to. Build bonds based on common interests. Don’t treat autistic space as nothing but a dating opportunity. Work on how to make friends first. Value women and people perceived as women as human beings, not just as opportunities for dating or sex. Respect the boundaries of people who say they aren’t interested in going out with them or sleeping with them.

We need to stop tolerating this kind of behaviour in autistic space and be absolutely clear that harassment and assault are unacceptable. I have been in way too many spaces where guys like this are routinely allowed to come back. Being autistic should not absolve you from common decency, and common decency includes respecting the sexual and romantic boundaries of other people.

Intersecting Selfhood: Trans Identity, Autism and Mental Health Disability

Here are the notes for the presentation I gave at the Disability & Intersectionality Summit yesterday, ‘Intersecting Selfhood: Trans Identity, Autism and Mental Health Disability’. They’re a bit long, so I’ve put them all under a Read More tag so you’re not faced with Massive Wall of Text. I’ll also link to the PowerPoint (well, really Keynote) slides later. 🙂

(Content warning for racism, transphobia, religious abuse, brief mention of police violence, disablism)

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