PUB DATE AND COVER REVEAL!

HEYYYYYY it’s been so long since I’ve written a blog post. You know how life can be. I’m trying to run a subsistence farm, raise a kid, and be a human being. It takes up a lot of time.

However, I have BIG NEWS. I HAVE ANOTHER BOOK COMING OUT. AND IT IS REALLY FUNNY AND GOOD. It’s a modern day Robin Hood retelling…and Robin is a woman. It has autistic and otherwise neurodivergent characters, too.

You want a blurb? Here’s a blurb:

A Robin Hood for the Modern Age…

Robin never thought she’d meet the girl of her dreams in a bank, much less when they were both robbing it, but her mother always said to find someone who shares your interests.

Maryann wants to start a cooking school for disadvantaged kids, Robin to save her parents’ farm from repossession. It’s natural that they team up to make the world a better place through crime.

Their job experience as a barista and a hotel maid doesn’t transfer to grand larceny, however. Some clumsy mistakes mean it’s not long before the FBI is hot on their heels. The agents seem to have criminal motivations of their own, so going to jail might be the least of Robin and Maryann’s worries.

Worst of all, Robin is falling in love. She doesn’t think Maryann has ever dated a woman, but sometimes it seems like maybe, just maybe, she feels something deeper than criminal conspiracy.

Will they find a happily-ever-after this side of prison…or the grave?

SO…hopefully you’ll be asking yourself WHEN DO I GET TO BUY THIS?? The answer is, July 9, 2019! However, if you are a blogger/reviewer and want an advance review copy, I still have some available. You don’t have to be super famous or anything, just a nice and semi-reliable person. FILL OUT A REQUEST FOR AN ARC HERE.

So…are you ready to see the cover? Thank you to Ashley at Redbird Designs for doing such an awesome job with this!

HoodlumeBook

 

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The Privilege of Having Friends

I’ve made no qualms lately about how I’ve been feeling. More or less, just done. Tired of the struggle. Tired of trying. And now, after yet another bout of deactivating Twitter and a go-round with my neurodivergent boyfriend, I have to wonder even more what the point is.

I’m a mature person, and I know all the platitudes and all the reasoning that folks give when someone is feeling like this. But, other than the fact I have a daughter who I don’t want to hurt, all that reasoning rings hollow in a world that prides itself on rejecting and isolating people like me.

Everyone thinks they’re a good person, and that they’re right. So when they “just don’t like someone”, they think they’re just being practical by cutting that person out of their lives and social groups. “So-and-so is so creepy. They just give me a weird feeling.” “They try too hard.” “They’re just boring.”

Of course, everyone has a right to have the friends they want, to surround themselves with the folks they feel comfortable with. But they never stop and think about the ones they reject–not because those people are harmful, but because they’re just *eyeroll* or *side-eye for no tangible reason* or “other people don’t like them” or, in the case of the Twitterverse, “they said something once that was wrong for [insert convoluted reason that has nothing to do with what they were actually trying to communicate]” .

It’s a privilege to be liked. It’s a privilege to know how to present yourself in a way that’s socially-acceptable; to communicate in a way that’s understood. It’s a privilege to have friends.

Those of us without that privilege, if we have our feelings hurt and are unable to understand why we’re rejected, we’re accused of seeking pity and trying to manipulate.

It’s true you can’t make people like you. But, when the bulk of society has rejected you for reasons you can’t understand (and which they can’t even really define), it’s really difficult to go on trying.

This is a huge problem for Autistic people. It is, I’m sure, the reason behind our huge suicide rate. We’re too earnest. Our feelings are too powerful. We don’t understand social interaction. We don’t know how to explain our thoughts and feelings and find a way to connect with people. So, we’re rejected. Over, and over, and over.

It’s also an issue, as I can attest to—heartbreakingly—for schizophrenic folks like my partner, and for people with major depression.

I can yell all I want about the fact that there’s nothing actually wrong with us, but that’s not going to change anything. It’s not going to make people respond differently to us. It’s not going to save lives. This is a phenomenon that starts as schoolyard bullying and persists through the nursing home stage. It’s effectively a form of eugenics against neurodivergent people, to be honest, but I know that rhetoric is over the heads of most of you if you haven’t experienced it.

All I can say is, our feelings are just as important as anyone else’s. There are good people out there who will love us for who we are. It can seem so hard to find those few people in the sea of assholes, though. Maybe I shouldn’t be harsh and call them assholes, but I don’t know what else to call folks who reject people simply for being “weird” or different.

The reason I identify as Christian is that Jesus’ message was exactly that: stop being assholes to folks just because they’re different. The people who society throws away and rejects are often the most valuable, and how you treat them is a true measure of your character.

Of course, professing those values is another reason for me to be rejected, by atheists and other self-identified Christian bigots alike.

This is the world people say is worth sticking around for. And, they’re right. But it’s fucking hard sometimes.

Where Feminism Failed Me

[rape, assault, abuse, gender dysphoria]

I’ve been tossing around the idea lately that I’m not actually a woman.

It’s not just “lately”, to be honest, but this latest bout of introspection on the matter has been rather more decisive.

Today, my gender crisis was triggered by a tweet asking women what they’d do if men all disappeared for a day.

Cue the regular answers of “spin around gleefully in a field of wildflowers while not getting raped” and such. I’m not going to say I don’t understand those answers. I do, sort of. I’m a survivor of multiple bouts of domestic abuse, domestic rape, many counts of sexual assault, and constant sexual harassment. I mean, I am a woman. Or, at least, I look like one, if not a very good one, according to social norms.

However, I just can’t buy into it. Not really.

I’ve always hated feminism—or, at least the brand of it that I recently discovered is called “white feminism”. Anyone who doesn’t know the distinction should really look it up. It explains so much.

White feminism is the “rah rah Sisterhood” brand of feminism. The type that separates the world into men and their victims. Yes, that is glossing over a lot of complex and valid theory, I know.

But that’s my reaction to white feminism. I hate it in the way I hate things that trigger me emotionally: that is, I hate it on a non-rational level. I have a knee-jerk reaction to it that comes before thought.

I have always been rejected by femininity and have never identified very strongly with it. I’m not sure which of those things came first. Since I was little, girls have always told me I’m not really a girl, that I don’t act like a girl, and have made that clear in every way possible: I’m not one of them.

White feminism would have me believe either that this isn’t true—that my internalized misogyny is the reason women have rejected me—or that these females only rejected me because they’ve been brainwashed by the patriarchy into believing a narrow and subservient view of femininity.

That, however, is cop-out bullshit. It’s women turning around and blaming their own victims.

Now, don’t get me wrong. The patriarchy exists, and misogyny does exist. Better folks than I have written about it. But it’s indisputable that women get paid less and are at a disadvantage in the general power dynamic. Men perpetuate almost all rape, the majority of violence, and are able to keep women systematically subservient.

But what we need to not ignore is how women are complicit in this. We need to not ignore the ways that we benefit from traditional femininity and use it to oppress other women. And we need to not ignore the ways we perpetuate other systems of oppression that intersect—or don’t—with misogyny.

I’ve been abused in a lot of different ways in my 41 years. Every single one of those times, there were women who could have stopped it, and didn’t. There were women who blamed me, who gaslighted me, who ignored my cries for help. Not because they didn’t have the power to help, but because it would have destroyed their comfort. It would have disrupted their place in the system of supremacy—a place where they’re given preferential treatment by nature of their traditional (read mostly white, cis, heterosexual, abled, neurotypical) femininity.

Women don’t get a pass from me for that by nature of their gender. They’re not just victims of their circumstances.

The only way we’re going to stop these systems of abuse and oppression is by acknowledging the ways in which we benefit and are complicit. It’s a complex and painful process to acknowledge that. I know we’d all like to think that it would suddenly get a lot easier if men just disappeared. But I think you’d find that the majority of those systems would still persist in the absence of masculinity. Because it’s WAY more complicated than men, and their victims.

We need to look at the ways in which WE perpetuate oppression if we want to have any hand in dismantling it.

Personally, I do.

I’ll be damned if my daughter will go through the shit I did, and if I’ll allow that to happen simply because I myself have been a victim or beneficiary of the same systems.

Narcissism Isn’t Neurodivergence

Merry Christmas, to those who celebrate!

I do, and I’ve been spending my Christmas in the normal way: researching Narcissistic Personality Disorder. What I’ve discovered is:

  1. I probably am not myself a narcissist; but
  2. A lot of neurodivergent personality traits seem to be typically mischaracterized as narcissism; and
  3. Neurodivergent people are groomed to think we are being narcissistic if we ever dare insist that our feelings are as valid as anyone else’s.

Now, there are A LOT of blog articles about narcissism, and most of them seem to be written by some schmo who feels victimized by their ex-girlfriend or mom, and so they spend a lot of time detailing how that person’s personality traits are signs of narcissism.

It’s always good when you read something—especially on the internet—to think about who is writing it, what the context is for their opinions, and what their motivations are for writing it. This is vital when you’re reading about neurodivergence and mental illness. Ableism and saneism are real and harmful, and they infect a large percentage of the literature. Even mental health professionals are burdened by their ableism and saneism, as are most of our family members. Internalized and lateral ableism and saneism are also a thing, so even stuff written by neurodivergent people can display it. Be thoughtful when you’re reading anything about neurodivergence.

In that spirit, I’ll start by giving you some context in which to read this post.

I’m not a psychiatric professional. I’m a neurodivergent person—bipolar and autistic with PTSD. I’m an activist, and an author who writes books with neurodivergent characters. My kid, my partner, and many of my family and friends are also neurodivergent. The upshot of all of this is I spend a lot of time studying and thinking about psychiatric conditions and neurodivergence, and the interactions of different sorts of personalities.

maymay xmasI started researching narcissism because I was worried that I was showing traits of it. It’s a long story. Basically, I worried I was a narcissist for thinking my feelings and opinions might be as important as anyone else’s in a situation where someone was hurting me. After researching, I can feel pretty safe in declaring I’m not a narcissist, but I worry that other neurodivergent folks might also be groomed to feel this way—or might actually be told they show signs of narcissism just because they dare think their own neurodivergent feelings have merit in a neurotypical world. So I wrote this article.

Since I’m not a professional, I will give links in this article to back up the stuff I’m saying, help you process what I’m saying, and separate my opinion (and others’ opinions) from accepted science. If I don’t give a link, it’s probably because I don’t think it’s needed–either because I’m speaking from experience or what I’m saying is so well-accepted as to not need a reference. If you need a source, try looking it up yourself (though you can always ask me if you need help).

 

WHAT IS NARCISSISM?

Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or NPD, is very much in fashion right now as a diagnosis. Part of that is undoubtedly because of all the armchair-diagnosing of Trump. It’s really frustrating for a lot of neurodivergent folks—and a lot of others who are hurt by Trump’s policies—to have his behavior framed in this way, because it’s often accompanied by suggestions that he’s “sick” and “needs help”—i.e., the idea that he’s a narcissist is used to excuse his behavior and suggest that it isn’t his fault.

However, NPD isn’t neurodivergence. In fact, it was proposed to removed from the DSM-5 in 2013, because a lot of research suggests that narcissism is a bunch of personality traits present across many different mental illnesses, and also in people without mental illness. A lot of clinicians were pissed off about that (take away one of their favorite punishment diagnoses?? NEVER!), so it was reintroduced. However, it appears that it might be removed from the DSM-6.tess xmas

Remember that the DSM isn’t some sort of bible of what a “true disorder” is, anyhow. Psychiatric professionals are often wrong. There are fads and fashions in the mental health industry, just like anywhere else, and science makes loads of mistakes. Homosexuality was listed in the DSM until quite recently, and autism has a layered and complex history in the DSM as well, just as a couple of examples.

When you’re on my side of the mental health industry, you learn that professionals can show the most saneism and ableism of anyone, and that the science behind mental illness itself is driven by saneism and ableism in a lot of ways. So, you learn to take things like the DSM with a grain of salt.

DSM or no, it is truly very clear—narcissism IS NOT NEURODIVERGENCE OR A MENTAL ILLNESS. NARCISSISM IS JUST BEING AN ASSHOLE. It is voluntary and intentional behavior, and never causes distress to the narcissist. Those facts preclude it being a mental illness, by definition (if something doesn’t cause someone distress, it isn’t a mental illness!). Add that to the fact that narcissists are unlikely to seek treatment—narcissists don’t see anything wrong with their behavior, again, by definition—and that there is really no treatment that is shown to work in changing narcissistic behavior (probably mostly because the person doesn’t see it as a problem—you can’t change if you don’t’ want to), and one starts to wonder what the value is in listing narcissism in the DSM. The only value in identifying it is to warn others away from that person or give others information on how to deal with them.

However, this fashion in the psychiatric industry for diagnosing people with NPD—as evidenced by the books and articles coming out about the “epidemic of Narcissism”—will hurt neurodivergent people the worst. A lot of neurodivergent traits can look like narcissism if you’re looking at them through a saneist lens, which is a danger above and beyond the misdiagnosis itself: having a diagnosis of NPD on your record is a surefire way to make sure you’re ignored by medical professionals and treated badly.

Whether it’s listed in the DSM or not, and even though it might be misused as a punishment diagnosis, it’s pretty clear that REAL narcissists do actually exist. So, what does a true narcissist look like?

According to DSM-5, the signs of narcissism are as follows:

  1. They think they’re unique, special, smarter than others, and better than others;
  2. They expect to be treated better than other people;
  3. They have obsessive fantasies of power, success, intelligence, attractiveness, etc.;
  4. They only want to associate with high-status individuals;
  5. They need continual admiration from others;
  6. They use and manipulate people to advance their goals, intentionally and without guilt;
  7. They lack empathy;
  8. They’re intensely envious of others, and believe others are equally envious of them.

Most psychiatric professionals seem to agree that there are two types of narcissism: grandiose narcissism, and vulnerable narcissism. The grandiose type is “loud and proud” about their selfishness. The vulnerable type tries to hide it, because they don’t want to be judged for it (not because they think it’s wrong, though. A narcissist never thinks that they are wrong.) But both types truly believe they are better and smarter than everyone else, and that they are entitled to better things because of it.

Narcissists know that they are narcissists—in fact, one of the most failsafe tests for identifying a narcissist is to just ask them. They will tell you.

These people don’t hurt others on accident. Their actions aren’t unthinking. They don’t lash out or withdraw because of trauma or unregulated feelings; they purposefully manipulate people into doing what they want, because they think that they’re smarter than other people, and that they deserve to be catered to. They know exactly what they are doing.

What causes narcissism is not known. It has been suggested that there’s a genetic component, but, even if that’s true, there’s definitely also an environmental factor. Whatever the cause, narcissists tend to bear and raise other narcissists. It is generational. But we should spare that tired old chestnut, that someone hurt the narcissist in childhood and they’re acting out trauma. Narcissists do not deserve our pity, because they act intentionally.

NEURODIVERGENT PEOPLE AT HIGHER RISK OF BEING WRONGLY LABELED NARCISSISTS

I’ve seen this accusation leveled unfairly at a lot of neurodivergent people. Neurotypicals seem quick to condemn neurodivergent traits they don’t understand, and which make them uncomfortable, as narcissism. In fact, anytime a neurodivergent person asserts they have a right to express their feelings, it seems that someone will be standing by and accusing them of being a narcissist.

Neurodivergent people often have trouble regulating our feelings and expressing them in socially acceptable ways. Because of this, we’re told that our feelings are wrong. We’re punished—emotionally and physically—for expressing them.

This can cause us to mask (“masking” is a process by which a neurodivergent person tries to hide their true self and act more neurotypical). But masking tends to be a losing game. The stress of it can cause us to burn out, melt down, shut down, get very depressed, and withdraw. We are punished for that behavior, as well.

When we mask, we often feel like an imposter—like we are afraid that others will discover who we truly are, like we don’t belong. Since imposter syndrome is a sign of narcissism, this can cause us to be mislabeled (or for us to mislabel ourselves) as narcissists.

Another of the signs of a narcissist is that they lack empathy. This is something that autistics are also accused of, even though autistic people will tell you it isn’t true, and studies show that we actually have an increased physical reaction to seeing someone in pain, as opposed to an allistic person. We just have difficulty communicating our distress in a way that allistic people understand.

Sometimes neurodivergent traits cause us to hurt others on accident. We can lash out because we’re overstimulated, or because of trauma. We often don’t know the social rules so we miss cues, which can make us seem selfish or self-absorbed. And, since our feelings are more powerful than neurotypicals’, we can be so wrapped up in our own feelings that we can’t see others’ feelings or don’t have enough resources to cater to them.

However, there is a difference between neurodivergent behavior and narcissistic behavior—an important difference. A neurodivergent person, unlike a narcissist, cares how other people feel. We, in fact, put ourselves through a lot of pain and stress in order to make others feel better. We are taught, pretty much from birth, that we are disgusting, broken, and wrong, and the only way to make others comfortable and happy is by hiding who we truly are. This is very traumatic for us, and the trauma can make our behavior even more volatile and difficult. But we put ourselves through it anyway.

We are sacrificing our feelings for others, and sometimes we get called narcissists for it. Since our feelings are just as important as anyone else’s, it seems like the people demanding we do this might be showing more narcissistic tendencies than we are.

So, my fellow neurosiblings. Even if we accidentally hurt others because we miss social cues; are triggered into meltdown or shutdown because of overstimulation or trauma; or have difficulty regulating our feelings because of our neurodivergence: THIS IS NOT NARCISSISM. INTENT DOES MATTER IN THIS CONTEXT.

If you’re not hurting others or manipulating them on purpose, and if you feel awful afterwards for hurting people on accident, you’re not a narcissist.

Happy Holidays! reggie xmas

Even though she’s not that much of a narcissist, Elizabeth Roderick thinks her books are pretty cool and thinks you might like them. They have a lot of interesting neurodivergent characters, gun battles, and romance. Check them out!

 

What Happened with WriteMentor

I’ve gone back and forth, back and forth, about whether I need to write this blog post. When people are smearing you all over the writing community, it’s hard to just sit back and take it. But I’m exhausted, and scared. I can’t take any more abuse and bullying. I just want it to go away.

However, I’m not the only person who has been a victim of the particular group that’s smearing me and ruining my life and career. Anyone familiar with YA Book Twitter knows which group I’m talking about. It’s headed by a few very popular authors who have a lot of connections and power in the industry. These people do a lot of great things, have a lot of great ideas. But they also have a lot of problems.

These authors have a big following, and those followers apparently think they can do no wrong. Everything these authors say, their followers back them up. Whenever they call people out (which is a lot), those folks get drowned in a sea of vicious ally tweets. But every time these authors display problematic behavior of their own, their fans accept their excuses, believe their gaslighting, and attack the people who are calling them out.

Now, a lot of people are afraid to speak up and express their opinions about anything, for fear their opinion will be deemed “wrong” and they’ll be subjected to painful dragging.

People in the back threads of YA twitter whisper about it a lot, but what can you do? These are the folks who can—and do—destroy the careers and reputations of writers, bloggers, and readers over issues which often seem really minor and subjective to anyone not caught in the echo chamber of YA Book Twitter.

A lot of people have suffered because of this group. I’m one of them. At this point I have nothing else to lose, it seems like, so I feel like I should step up and talk openly about all this, for the benefit of those who still do have something to lose…and in the faint hope that perhaps YA Twitter can make some steps toward healing and acceptance.

I don’t know if I’m doing the right thing. But I just need shit to change in YA Twitter. A lot of us do. So I’m gonna have this convo, for better or worse, in hopes that folks actually listen for once.

So.

A little over a year ago, on the date THUG released, I wrote a blog post.

I’ll backtrack a bit. For those who don’t know, I’m an Own Voices writer. I’m neurodivergent and queer.

Being an own voices author is really difficult. In my case, it involves disclosing a whole bunch of things about myself that don’t exactly look good on a resume and cause a good deal of prejudice to come my way. But I decided at a turning point in my life that I’m going to be honest about my neurodivergence and embrace it, because people like me have nothing to be ashamed of.

My first book I pitched with a neurodivergent main character is The Other Place. It’s written in first person, present tense, with a very different sort of voice because the main character is schizophrenic.

I got all sorts of really exhausting rejections on that one. “Great writing, I just can’t identify with the character.” “I really wish this book were more about overcoming schizophrenia.” “Our reader recommended we take this on, but we already have a book about schizophrenia on our list.” There were other rejections, too, but they basically boiled down to “This is just too neurodivergent.”

I did get The Other Place published, though! Hooray. Then I moved on to pitching a YA with another psychotic main character and started getting a lot of the same kind of rejections.

So, anyway, THUG came out. I was excited for it, because it looked like something I could identify with, even from my white point of view. My partner was almost killed by police when he was having a nonviolent, unarmed psychotic episode, and everyone tried to blame him for it. I was so glad to have a book that talked about the problem of police violence coming out.

However, I hated how the publishing industry was patting itself on the back for publishing that book. Why wouldn’t they publish it? It’s just a great book. They didn’t deserve any of the kudos. Those go all to Angie Thomas.

Going back to the blog post.

At the time, I had literally about ten blog readers, all of them neurodivergent people like me and all of whom I knew pretty well. So, I felt comfortable in my audience and didn’t over-think the post too much. I told about my experiences, went on about how happy I was THUG was being published, but indicating that the publishing industry has a long way to go. I said I felt like they were using own voices writers as trophies, holding us up saying, “Look what we did!” Then, they’d go back and reject a bunch of other own voices writers because they already had their trophy, thanks.

I know now that including THUG in that post was hugely wrong. Yes, I know the book is important on its own merits, and I thought I’d made that clear in the post. But, you know, when writing from my own point of view, for my own friends—especially because I’m autistic and have very different social consciousness than most people—I don’t always correctly anticipate how stuff looks to others, and how it can hurt them.

The first comments I got were from my friends, that they liked the post, but it was fairly quickly that someone who wasn’t my friend pointed out that I’d done it wrong.

However, the way they pointed it out? They told me that I was “trashing” THUG and “griping” about the industry.

Hold up, I said. I’m not trashing the book. And I’m a marginalized woman talking about my experience as an own voices author. That isn’t griping.

People started calling me all sorts of saneist and ableist slurs and saying stuff that triggered my PTSD. But I did finally (after about 15 minutes) get it through my thick skull that, oh, wait, I can see through all their ugly ableism what they mean. I apologized and changed the post.

But this is YA Twitter. That wasn’t enough for them. I was dragged by literally thousands of people who said that I didn’t have a right to speak up as an Own Voices writer, that I can’t write, that my opinion doesn’t matter, that I need to shut up, blah blah blah. And when I pointed out that, hey, I’m trying to listen here, but you’re being awfully ableist with some of this shit, they said I was using my neurodivergence as a “shield” or “weapon”.

Now, I can understand how neurodivergence could seem like a shield or weapon to folks who only pick up the identity when they’re trashing other disabled people. But for me it is something that is with me always. It affects every word I say, everything I do, every thought I have. It can’t put it down, even when I’m in a good mood. Even when I’m alone. It is who I am. It causes me a lot of problems: I misunderstand what people say. I say the “wrong” things. I freak out. I withdraw. Sometimes I believe everyone is a spirit sent to give me clues that will lead me to the afterlife. But there are a lot of cool things about me, too.

So, here I was, a neurodivergent human being, trying to cope with millions of tons of abuse. I almost ended up in the hospital. I was eventually diagnosed with an exacerbation of my PTSD because of this incident.

I shouldn’t have included THUG, it’s true. But I apologized and changed the post, and the underlying point I was trying to get across is still relevant: publishing has a long way to go before it’s really unbiased. I don’t think what I did deserved what I got.

After that incident, I was put on a block list. I had agents who had my full ghost me. And I kept getting abuse.

More than a year later, I’m still getting abuse. And it is abuse. When there’s nothing you can do to stop it—no amount of apologizing, introspection, and learning about oneself that you can do to satisfy people—then it is just straight-up abuse. And these people are intent of driving me out of the industry. I guess they think that kicking a marginalized woman out of publishing is a big win for diverse books.

Recently, I volunteered to be a mentor on WriteMentor. I was really excited to help another neurodivergent author get into the industry. But soon after the sub window opened, the organizer, Stuart White, approached me. A friend had told him if he didn’t kick me out as a mentor, then this group that had abused and bullied me before would tweet that the contest was problematic. They told him that POC wouldn’t enter the contest because I was a mentor.

So, he dumped me. “It’s just business.”

It doesn’t matter that entrants get to choose which mentors they submit to, so prospective mentees wouldn’t have to deal with me in any way if they didn’t like me. It doesn’t matter that several neurodivergent and disabled folks said they felt more comfortable entering the contest because I was involved. It doesn’t even matter that I’m not out here being problematic – at least no more so than any of us. I wrote one blog post that some people took issue with, which I edited and apologized for within minutes of being called out, and otherwise I’m just a neurodivergent activist out here doing my thing to make the world better.

None of that matters. Ask yourself why none of that matters, and why it’s so important to kick a neurodivergent activist out of publishing because of what I did.

I’m not the only marginalized person these folks have bullied. In fact, they do it so much that they’ve been written up several times in mags with huge circulation. They especially enjoy trashing on disabled and neurodivergent women, it seems like. When they’re called out on it, they make a million excuses, and blame their victims…which is what they accuse their victims of doing. But with them, it works, because they’re popular. They’re the cool kids.

It sucks.

I feel like I’m back in middle school, trapped in an environment that is completely controlled by these cool mean girls, and I have to remind myself every moment that they’re not the whole world.  It doesn’t matter what I do – they’ll twist it to make it look like I was trying to do something else. They’ll point out every mistake, every failing. They’ll call me “stupid” and “gross” and “trash” and “useless”. Anyone who thinks of being my friend, they’ll tell them, “You don’t want to hang out with her. Did you hear what she did?” Even if my friend is not persuaded by those arguments (and cool girls are persuasive – that’s part of what being cool is), they’re left with a choice: stick by me, and be ostracized with me, suffer the same abuse that I do. Or ditch me and save themselves the trauma.

I don’t blame people for picking the latter. I really don’t. But it’s something we need to stop doing if we’re going to evolve as a community, as a species.

I always say that intent does matter. If a person (especially someone neurodivergent with communication issues) says something and you misinterpret it, why would you claim injury when they try to explain what they really meant? Doing so is weaponizing your neurotypical privilege – the privilege of understanding language in the way the majority does. The privilege of communicating easily with others.

But, I have to say: intent doesn’t matter when you uphold discriminatory systems, like Stuart White did. He may have gained ally points for caving into pressure, but in the meantime, he caused real and measurable harm to a marginalized woman, and to the community as a whole. One fewer neurodivergent writer will get a mentor, thanks to Stuart White.

If you don’t see that as a problem, then just admit you don’t care about neurodivergent people and go home.

“But you deserve this harassment because you’re racist!”

Ok. Sure. Except I’m not out here being any more racist than anyone. I work on my mistakes and biases. The group that called me out, doesn’t. They’ve showed their asses so many times: putting ableist slurs in their books without apologizing, piling on disabled women for just existing, saying extremely heterosexist things, refusing to take down memes that are insulting to First Nations people. They never apologize, and they always do it again. But somehow those of us who make one wrong move that we immediately apologize and feel awful for deserve to be ostracized for the rest of our lives.

When popular people make mistakes, folks gloss it over. They make excuses. They forgive and forget. But the rest of us aren’t so lucky. One mistake or oversight can cost us our whole career – or worse. If we cross the wrong person— who is powerful, and toxic, and will not let it go – they will destroy us.

I know that these folks have endured bigotry and trauma in their pasts, and that’s where some of this venom comes from. Trauma in our past can make us see threats where there are none. It can make us read ill intent into people’s words and actions that isn’t there. I know, because I go through this, too. But part of healing is learning to work through that trauma and not have it affect your relationships. I try really hard to not make others pay for my PTSD-driven interpretations of their words and actions. If I freak out because they’ve said something that hurts or offends me, I take their word for it when they say they didn’t mean it that way. Their intent does matter – way more than my PTSD reaction does. My feelings are still valid, but I don’t have the right to make others pay for that. Making others pay is where toxicity starts.

Having your feelings hurt is harmful – but if the person who hurt them didn’t mean to, is that true harm? And do you have the right to intentionally harm them in return?

Just because a person is marginalized doesn’t mean they aren’t bigoted. We’re all bigoted. We all need to work on it. And we all need space to improve and do better. If we can’t offer that as a community, then soon there will be no space for any of us.

Just because someone is right sometimes— does great things and has great insights sometimes —doesn’t mean their ideology is perfect. None of us are right all the time.

These are complex issues, and we need to allow room for the discussions of the complexity without shutting each other down and only letting the blue check marks speak.

I really want to just give up. But writing is all I know how to do. It’s a coping skill for me, which has got me through some really tough times: abuse. Homelessness. Prison. Addiction. And worse. I can’t give it up. But I’m gonna be switching up how I go about my career.

As Kid says, I’ve been through worse, and I’ll make it through this, and I sure hope she’s right.

All the other ones who have been hurt by this group, or any other bullies: you’re not alone.

Query for Hoodlum Army

Hey, all~

This is weird, but I’m asking for input on this first draft of my query on here. I’ve decided to concentrate on pitching this one, since it’s more “normal” (meaning: it does have an autistic character, but neurodivergence doesn’t come into play in the plot). So, tell me what you think:

HOODLUM ARMY is a suspenseful romantic comedy, complete at 77,000 words.

Can crime make the world a better place?

Maryann wants to start a cooking school for disadvantaged kids, and Rob wants to save his parents’ farm. When they both try to raise money by robbing the same bank at the same time, they’re thrown together in what turns out to be an adventurous and altruistic crime spree.

To reach their goal before Rob’s parents’ farm is auctioned off, they have to rob thirty banks in sixty days. Dubbed the “Hoodlum Army”, they become a social media sensation. A cop and FBI agent are a step behind as the duo steal across the country. A couple close calls are enough to convince Rob and Maryann that there’s something illegal going on with these lawmen, and that prison might be the best outcome if they get busted.

As the game heats up, the Army set their sights on a bigger target: Larry Lemon, a bombastic billionaire with immense financial holdings ripe for pilfering. They get help from an unexpected quarter—Larry’s own family—and realize the stakes in this game are even higher than they suspected.

Even when you’re a crook, money isn’t the most important thing. Right and wrong are slippery concepts, but some things are worth stealing—or dying—for. They just hope the latter isn’t necessary, and that it’s possible for this tale to have a happy ending.

Invisible Friend Jesus and the Baggage

Invisible friend Jesus sat beside my bed, his back against the wall and his long legs pexels-photo-463467.jpegstretched out in front of him. He was reading a Janet Evanovich hardback. Stacks of books lay beside him, and the walls around him were plastered with collages, drawings and graffiti.

“There you are,” I said.

He glanced up from his book and raised an eyebrow.

I pressed my cheek into my pillow and sighed. “I feel like shit.”

He marked his place in the book with one of the socks on my floor and set the book down. “That doesn’t surprise me. Look at all that junk piled on you.”

“Huh? There’s no junk piled on me.”

He rolled his eyes and stood up, then began lifting things off my back. He stacked them up against the wall: suitcases. Duffel bags. Boxes. There were enough to fill a U-Haul.

“Oh,” I said. “I guess there was junk piled on me.” The weight gradually lifted until he’d removed the last bag, and I lay there, dizzy with relief, as he unzipped one of the suitcases.

He dug in it and pulled out a plush duck, one of its wings torn, its fur stained and matted with what might have been spilled mocha. “Why are you keeping this?”

I sat up, stretching my newly-freed limbs and rolling my neck. I shrugged. “Donno.”

“And this?” He pursed his lips quizzically, holding up an acid wash jeans jacket with the arms cut off and Metallica written on the back in Sharpie.

“Ew, throw that one away.”

He tossed it into the air, and it disappeared. A feeling of relief and comfort stole over me.

I leaned back on the wall and watched him as he continued to dig through the detritus of my personal baggage. “How long can you carry that stuff for me?”

He shot me a smirking glance. “As long as you want. Are you sure you don’t want me to throw it away, though?”

The idea of removing all that weight from my shoulders forever was incredible. Amazing. What kind of beautiful life could I have if I weren’t weighed down by that junk? But the thought whisked away, my shoulders slumping. “I couldn’t live without my baggage. That’s just not how the world works.”

“If you say so.” He gave me a lopsided grin and pulled the weight from my shoulders, holding it up for me to see: a large athletic sock, full of… “Are you really going to eat these?” He pulled out a clump of dusty, melted-together hard candy.

“No, probably not.” I hugged my knees. “I know I don’t really need all that stuff, but it’s so hard to let go of.”

“I know.” He held the sock upside down. More disgusting candy and bits of broken plastic toys fell out into a pile on the floor. He waved his hands over it like a stage magician. “Mumbo jumbo, bibbity boo.” The pile vanished.

I squinted at him. “You’re not gonna, like, make fun of me for carrying it around, even though it makes no sense?”

He gave me a look and laughed. “Am I going to make you feel guilty and ashamed for wanting to carry around loads of guilt and shame? Fuck, no. That’s not what I’m here for. That’s what other people are here for, apparently, but only because they’re carrying around their own shit, and it’s heavy so they want to foist if off onto others.”

“People are weird,” I said.

He giggled and pulled a broken jewelry box from one of the duffel bags, tossing it into the air. It turned into a swarm of ladybugs, which buzzed out the window into the spring sunshine.

Elizabeth Roderick is an author. You can help her lift some of her financial baggage by checking out her books on Amazon

Liberals: Stop Being Assholes to the Mentally Ill -#NeverAgain

gun-revolver-fire-firing-370202.jpegRight now, President Trump, a Florida Sheriff, and millions of citizens are talking about how involuntarily locking up mentally ill/neurodivergent people is the answer to the U.S.’s gun violence problems. According to them, corralling all the “savage sickos” in hastily-erected, for-profit hospitals is in everyone’s best interests. Registering and rounding up neurodivergent people is much more practical and desirable than registering or confiscating people’s guns; Second Amendment freedoms apparently are more valuable than Fourth Amendment freedoms.

As most of us should know by now, neurodivergent folks are only responsible for 1% of gun violence in the United States. Beginning another Aktion T-4 wouldn’t even have any discernable effect on gun violence in this country. But neurodivergent people are often the ones to pay for neurotypicals’ violence.

This stark ableism doesn’t matter to most Americans, because it doesn’t affect them. We’re not really human in their eyes.

Liberals reading this are no doubt nodding along, albeit without much emotion. Most of you think all this talk of locking us up is just bluster. Nothing could ever possibly come of the sitting U.S. President loudly calling for the wholesale imprisonment of a whole class of people, who have committed no crime other than to be born with different brains. To most of you, it’s just another annoying thing right-wingers say. It’s no real threat to you.

You need to take this seriously. Liberals: YOU AREN’T HELPING.

I hear the things you say. The jokes you crack when Trump calls for our involuntary hospitalization: “Well, Trump should be the first one in, crazy as he is!” I hear you talking about how life was better before Reagan shut down all the mental hospitals. “All the sudden, the streets were full of screaming wackos.” Did you know those hospitals he shut down were hellish places where we were sometimes warehoused naked in bare rooms, hosed down for sanitation? Did you know we generally got no treatment other than perhaps a five-minute visit from a psychiatrist once a month, and no medication save for body- and mind-destroying chemicals like Thorazine?

Homelessness was actually a step up for the mentally ill. But all you care about is that, before, you didn’t have to see us.

So, when the time comes to round us up, you will sit by, telling yourself it’s a good thing for society, and even a good thing for us.

You feel not a whit of compassion or empathy for mentally-ill people. It doesn’t occur to you what it might be like to be locked up for no reason, even under the best of conditions (and they won’t be the best of conditions). To you, we’re not human, so it doesn’t register that we have feelings, thoughts, a life that we want to live.

For the most part, Liberals don’t actively campaign for us all to be locked up. However, they do say mentally ill people shouldn’t be able to get guns. Well, okay. But you know that means you’re taking constitutional rights away from a marginalized group for no reason, right? You’re denying us the liberties you enjoy, simply because of how we were born. And think through what it would entail, to take those rights from us. It means that, whenever someone got a diagnosis, our doctor would have to report us to the government and have us put on a list, so that we couldn’t get guns. Does that sound cool to you? Hint: it’s not.

Did you know that a domestic violence conviction doesn’t preclude someone from having a gun? That’s a much better predictor of gun violence than mental illness, but it doesn’t occur to y’all to ban those folks (who are already known to the government, because of their conviction, and who actually did something wrong), instead of the neurodivergent. (Those who want to jump in and say they ARE banned from having guns, please do your research. That ban only prevents them (in some limited cases) from BUYING guns, and has a billion loopholes that have allowed a large number of men with DV convictions to be mass-shooters with legally-obtained guns.)

Liberals don’t stop there with the ableism, though. They tell people not to “humanize” folks like Nikolas Cruz by pointing out that he might be neurodivergent. I have news for you: he is human. Human beings are the ones who take high-powered semi-automatic weapons and shoot other human beings. In Cruz’ case, it was because he was apparently a white supremacist, and had a violent personality. Yes, you can throw in the neurodivergence (though as I stated before, statistically, neurodivergence and violence are inversely related, so it doesn’t make sense), but then you’d also have to take a look at how society systematically shunned, tortured and mistreated a lonely and confused little boy until he grew evil enough to do what he did.

That’s not an excuse for him, though. Society tortures and shuns all neurodivergent people, all the time, and most of us don’t ever hurt anyone else.

Neurodivergence is not a predictor of violent behavior. However, Cruz had been reported to the police and FBI dozens of times for violent behavior. Strangely enough, violent behavior is a predictor of violent behavior, whether you’re neurodivergent or neurotypical.

Despite all this, liberals are willing to throw neurodivergent folks under the bus in order to feel like they’re keeping their kids safe. Statistically, ableism is a lot more likely to harm their children than gun violence. It’s estimated that one in five people suffers some sort of mental illness in their lifetime, and every one of those people will be hurt by ableism. I don’t know how many people are hurt by gun violence, but it’s definitely not 20% of the population. So, they’re actually hurting their kids with their ableist shitfuckery, not keeping them safe.

I’ve waited until the end of this to make something clear: I’m completely in favor of gun control. But if you have to take away neurodivergent folks’ liberty and humanity to do it, it’s not worth doing.

However, here’s some good news that is so fucking common sense that I shouldn’t have to say it: YOU CAN HAVE EFFECTIVE GUN CONTROL WITHOUT TAKING AWAY NEURODIVERGENT CIVIL RIGHTS. In fact, taking away our rights will have close to zero effect on gun violence.

So please. Fight for gun control, but leave us out of it. And take our president seriously when he talks about locking us up. Stand up to him when he says shit like this, instead of laughing it off.

Thank you.

Elizabeth Roderick is a savage sicko who writes about screeching wackos. You can explore the wonders of Neurodivergent culture (and support a marginalized artist) by reading her books.

Diverse Books and Writing What You Don’t Know

rainbow book(revisiting this post from 2015)

Write what you know. It’s a trite piece of advice for writers struggling to find a subject to which to put their pen, and a dire warning to those embarking on literary excursions into the unknown.

Many feel this saying is a load of crap. After all, if we can only write what we know, then we have no business even writing a memoir: our view of ourselves and our experience is so myopic, and our blind spots so extensive, that we can’t claim to truly know even what’s going on in our own lives. However, when we plunge into writing about something we don’t know, it pays to be cautious. After all, when you’re an “outsider” with respect to your subject matter, those on the inside are going to know if you get it wrong.

I’ll start with this piece of advice: Write what you want. Writing is an art, and stifling that art with a bunch of rules and warnings isn’t going to help anyone. You have something to say, and so say it, with your whole heart and to the best of your ability. But I’ll add this caveat: if you’re going to write about a type of character or situation that exists in contemporary life and yet is outside your personal experience, I advise you give it deep thought. The agonizing, soul-searching variety of deep thought. Your characters, and your readers, deserve no less.

Most of us have heard of the We Need Diverse Books movement. It is a worthy cause. Stories, both fiction and nonfiction, are an integral part of social change. Books help connect readers with people and situations that they may never encounter in their day-to-day life, and can broaden understanding and acceptance in a way that no amount of preaching or direct social activism can do. Books are a safe way to explore situations that we’d be frightened to become involved in in real life, and can help to lessen our fear and misunderstanding of those situations. For instance, a person frightened of foreign travel might be more comfortable after reading a million guidebooks. The more different cultures, lifestyles, and ways of being people are exposed to in books, the more comfortable they’ll be with it in their real lives.

It is precisely for this reason that we need to be mindful of how we portray our diverse characters. I’m not saying that we should never let a diverse character be anything other than a shining beacon of perfection, so that we don’t give readers the impression that all people of that diverse group are “bad”. Quite the opposite. What I’m saying is, the character has to be realistic. We have to be comfortable in that character’s shoes. We have to know them like we know a human being, and relate to their struggle, before we write about them. Otherwise, we’ll get it wrong. We’ll portray them as an issue, instead of a character, and we’ll miss an opportunity to let readers identify with them on a human level. And yes, we can end up doing actual, measurable harm to real people by reinforcing stereotypes and misconceptions.

I love it when books have diverse characters, but when I hear editors or agents say, “If there’s no diversity in your books, don’t worry: it can be added,” I cringe. It is possible to deliberately add diversity in this way and still have a great book. But, if you’re adding diversity purely for diversity’s sake, be very cautious. After all, if you’re inserting a diverse character just to make the novel more marketable, then you are exploiting the group to which that diverse character belongs. If you’re changing the color of a character’s skin, giving her a limp, or modifying his religious practice, take a long moment to get to know that character again, because you have changed who they are. Make sure you don’t overlook, misunderstand, or gloss over the issues that the character might face in their daily life. Otherwise, you run the risk of your character being a blue-eyed guy with shoe polish on his face asking John Wayne to smoke-um peace pipe.

You’ll have readers that identify with your diverse characters, and if you tell their story incorrectly, you’re selling those readers short and hurting them on a personal level.

This concept also applies to characters who are members of groups which may not traditionally be viewed as “diverse”. If your character is dealing with issues of any kind that you haven’t dealt with personally, make sure you put thought into it. For instance, I’m a recovering heroin addict, an ex-con, and a victim of physical and sexual abuse. I have thrown books across the room and cursed authors’ very souls for, in my view, misrepresenting these issues. I’m really tired of reading about poor, battered women who suffer their completely evil, idiot husbands stolidly until the day they rise up with unblemished inner strength to assert themselves. I know it may sound counterintuitive to some of you, but I feel belittled by this narrative. Abuse is ugly; it changes you. It weakens you. And it can make you stoop to the level of the abuser, because you know no different, and because you’re so scarred and hurt that you can’t function in a healthy manner. I do recognize that not all survivors of abuse see it this way, but it doesn’t stop me from feeling that my story is being exploited and told incorrectly for profit, when I read a book that gets it “wrong”.

Additionally, I’m tired of seeing drug addicts portrayed as objects of pity or contempt; complete hot-mess wastrels; soulless beings with no hope, intelligence, or inner life. I especially hate this narrative when said addict ends up seeing the light, and becomes a pink-cheeked, happy and productive member of society within the course of 350 pages.

It’s also annoying just when people get details wrong: heroin addicts with dilated pupils (opiates contract the pupils), or about a character “melting” black tar heroin in a spoon (it doesn’t melt; you have to dissolve it in water). The details are easy to research, and the rest, well, all I can say is that drug addicts are people, too. Drugs can make people into a hot mess, it’s true; but that hot mess can be interesting to examine, and you’ll make your story better if your character is well-rounded.

And, as a psychotic person, when a book about a “psycho killer” comes out, I have a legitimate fear reaction. People like me are beaten, imprisoned, and killed because of wrongful stereotypes like this. The same for some other marginalized groups. Misportrayals can do real harm, and you don’t want that on your conscience. So, do your research if you’re writing about characters from different walks of life as you. And, the best research is not academic research, but experience*.

If you want to have marginalized characters in your books, but don’t share that marginalization, I say go for it…but put thought into it, and seriously consider having your diverse characters be side-characters, and not main characters. Also, don’t write characters with marginalizations that you’ve only read about. If you don’t have a diverse group of friends, then you might not be the right person to be repping diversity in literature. But, seriously, we all have diverse friends, right?

I have a lot of Mexican-American characters. I speak Spanish and have lived most of my life in areas with a huge Mexican-American population, so I’m comfortable writing about the culture—usually from an outside point of view, because I may not know the internal issues of being Mexican-American, but I can speak to my experience as an observer, and so my characters can as well. I also have Mexican-American beta readers, so if I mess up, as I always will, they can help me with it.

I also often write about characters with mental illness/neurodivergence. I am mentally ill, autistic, and have psychosis. However, when I was writing a book with a schizophrenic main character, I reached a point where I felt like I was getting it wrong. So, I went down to the local park and made friends with a young schizophrenic man I’d seen hanging around.

My friendship with Phoenix was never about writing a novel. I don’t hang out with him because of his mental illness, but because I enjoy his company. He’s an amazing, intelligent, and hilariously funny person.

Hanging out with him taught me a lot about myself as a neurodivergent person, and opened my eyes to the way ableism affects us all. We were kicked out of bars, restaurants, casinos and libraries because people were uncomfortable with his behavior (mine too, to be honest); I had to intervene with the cops and the courts when he was arrested for no crime other than being schizophrenic. I spent horrible, anguished days and nights, crying and worrying, when he was institutionalized, or in the hospital after someone misinterpreted something he said and beat him into a coma. Certain experiences with him have triggered my own episodes of psychosis, as well, which were of course frightening and draining.

My Other Place Series wouldn’t be what it is without Phoenix. I would have missed so much of the joy, the beauty, the horror, and the subtleties of the schizophrenic experience if I hadn’t spent time with him, because seeing psychosis from the outside, and really being part of someone else’s experience, is different than experiencing it myself. The more insight we have into life and people of all kinds, the better our writing will be.

Just like I don’t hang out with Phoenix because he’s mentally ill, I didn’t write my book about the schizophrenic character because he is schizophrenic. I wrote it because he’s an interesting character, with a really good story to tell. Readers will identify with characters, and want to spend time with them, if they’re interesting people, and not just a list of symptoms and diagnoses or character traits you gleaned from internet research.

Putting thought into it doesn’t make you exempt from criticism, however. Nothing will. If, someday, a reader gets angry at me for getting a Latinx character wrong, well, it will upset me, and I’ll listen, but I’ll have the consolation of being able to talk about it with my Latinx beta readers and friends and do better next time, so it won’t destroy my love of writing.

And, y’all, I get criticism about my own voices characters. Nothing makes you exempt. Criticism is part of being a writer. Even when we are writing from experience, we won’t know all facets of that experience. Every experience is valid, and incomplete. (Note: please don’t harass own voices writers because their experience doesn’t match yours. Truly.)

Even if they don’t resonate with everyone, I am comfortable with and proud of my books. I think they can add to people’s understanding, rather than detracting from it by creating false impressions.

This is what we should strive to do when we write, whether it’s from a diverse perspective or not, and whether our tale is a lighthearted romantic comedy or a dark “issues” novel.

Always treat your characters (and your readers) with the respect they deserve, and you will be able to bear any criticism with dignity.

*For the love of God, man, don’t apply this concept to writing about drug addicts and ex-cons. I’d rather your characters be trite and wooden than for you to go get thrown in the slammer for a PCP binge you embarked on for novel research.

Elizabeth Roderick is an author and freelance editor. You can find THE OTHER PLACE and her other books on Amazon.

Piece of notebook paper with words written in pencil: What if I'm not a real person and it hurts now."

The Neurodivergent Experience: It’s Never About Us

[Content warning for just about everything you can think of. If you’re having a bad day and don’t wanna hear about the horrible things neurodivergent people have to put up with, have this picture of a puppy and go read a nicer article]Picture of smiling, panting, tricolor Australian shepherd puppy on the beach

These are particularly bad times for neurodivergent/mentally ill folks. They’re trying to cut our benefits and health care. They’re constantly trying to make it easier to have us involuntarily committed and sterilized. Every day, it seems they come up with some new way to torture us in the name of a “cure”. The headlines are full of stories of police killing us for no reason, and we all know that those stories are just a few of the many abuses which occur on a daily basis to people like us. And yet, they continue to blame the neurodivergent for every highly-publicized violent crime that happens, as well as for the dangerous and destructive behavior of our (very mentally-healthy) president.  Yes: they hurt US, and then gaslight everyone and try to say it’s OUR fault.

But when we speak up, we get comments like this one here on my last post. People tell us we don’t know what we’re talking about. They think we’re unreliable narrators, and can’t be trusted to manage our own lives or even know what our own lives are about:

“Police are just doing their jobs when they illegally detain, harm, imprison, or kill you—they have no way to know that you’re not really dangerous.”

So, we have to prove to the police that we’re NOT dangerous in order to not get shot? We have to prove we’re NOT committing a crime in order to not get harassed or arrested? If we’re not holding a gun; if all we’re doing is yelling, or pacing, or crying, they have no reason to think we ARE dangerous, and we’re not committing a crime by showing emotion.

Like I said in my previous post, statistics show we’re no more violent than sane people are, and that we’re a good deal more likely to be hurt BY neurotypical folks than we are to hurt them. Especially when it comes to police: they’re more likely to hurt us than the other way around. So yes, it does follow that, when neurotypical folks lock up neurodivergent folks, the dangerous people are locking up the less dangerous people. In fact, we’re often hurt in the act of being locked up (usually for no reason).

It does follow.

“We all have problems; ableism isn’t real, people are jerks to everyone.”

Nope. You can’t be locked up for committing no crime. You can’t be forcibly sterilized. People don’t give you bleach enemas in an attempt to cure you of being neurotypical.

People are jerks, yes. But people are bigger jerks to neurodivergent people. Don’t think you understand what it’s like. You don’t.

“I heard a third-hand story of someone who was very nearly hurt by a schizophrenic person once, and therefore it’s completely right to lock up neurodivergent people.”

I hear this sort of story a lot. The only time it’s first-hand is when it’s being told by someone who worked as an ER medic or some such—someone else with a skewed sample size, because they only saw the folks who were in crisis, and were being forcibly detained and put in a position of high stress and danger (and therefore were actually defending themselves and not inciting violence. Don’t @ me telling me “the medics were trying to help them, they weren’t defending themselves.” If a group of people grabbed you and tried to tie you to a gurney, and you didn’t want them to do that, you’d fight back, too. We’re human beings, you know).

You’re forgetting a little thing called lived experience, which trumps your third-hand anecdote every time. Do you know what else trumps it? The statistics that show neurotypical people are more likely to injure us than the other way around.

Yes, there are neurodivergent people who are violent. That doesn’t mean you get to lock all of us up…just like the fact that neurotypical people are more likely to be violent toward me doesn’t mean I get to lock up all neurotypical people.  (That however would be a course of action supported by statistics.)

There’s so much else going on in that comment (and in others that I get every day). The takeaway is this: A neurodivergent person can’t speak out without someone telling us we don’t know what we’re talking about—that they, a neurotypical person, know better than we do. Literally, if we say we had eggs for breakfast, a neurotypical person will rappel from the ceiling and ask us if we’re sure we aren’t hallucinating or confused, if maybe we had oatmeal instead. Our voices, experiences, and opinions are constantly silenced and passed over in favor of “experts” or our family members. These folks can be some of the most abusive toward us, and yet the narrative is always centered around what can be done to help them: what makes our caregivers, family, and friends more comfortable. Usually, that’s finding easier ways to lock us up, sterilize us, render us unconscioius or inert, “cure” us, or find a way to detect our neruodivergence in utero so that we’re never born in the first place. Do any of those things sound like civil rights to you? Would you like any of those things done to you?

Just because we’re different, doesn’t mean we don’t want what anyone else wants: quality of life. We’re don’t exist in this world just to make you comfortable. No one does. If your neurotypical neighbor stays up all night singing loudly along with the radio, you don’t try to have him sterilized so he doesn’t have similarly-loud children, or make sure he’s medicated into a stupor. And yet, because we’re neurodivergent, you think you have the right to do that to us.

Even when talking about the realities of our everyday life, the way everyone does, we’re told we’re “oversharing”; that we’re making others uncomfortable; that we’re “whining” and “complaining” and that we should be more positive; that we’re triggering others with our stories.

It’s always about others’ feelings.

Is it any wonder we lose it sometimes? And yet we’re not afforded the luxury of venting our feelings and frustrations, again by the nature of being neurodivergent. Our emotions are too strong and messy for neurotypicals to deal with. When we display them, we’re ostracized and chided at best. We lose friends, we lose jobs, we lose everything that makes us happy. At worst, y’all beat us, lock us up, or kill us, just for speaking our minds. I have personal anecdotes, if you need them—read my blog, or my memoir, or ask me.

People don’t listen to us and constantly speak over us. Is it any wonder we feel isolated? Is it any wonder we commit suicide, because it seems like no one cares?

But, there are people who do care, who do understand. Never forget that.

All you glorious crazy people out there, I want you to know I’m listening. I’m here for your joy and your pain. You are important, and your feelings are valid.

Elizabeth Roderick is an author and freelance editor who is crazy as fuck and wants to tell you all about it. You can find her on Amazon.