For #worldmentalhealthday I thought I’d do a podcast. This has advice on how to dry plums, make apple butter, glean fruit & vegetables…and also a discussion of suicide. *shrugs* Here you go.
That’s the big question for a lot of us, though most people roll their eyes when we bring it up.
Our so-called president is starting bitch fights on Twitter with a nuclear power. Nazis are marching in the streets. They’re making a show about the young Sheldon Cooper. If these aren’t harbingers of the apocalypse, then I don’t know what.
So, I’m starting a podcast. This is my contribution. Here’s episode one.
Yeah, but what do you expect me to do? Save the world?
I’m a survivalist. I build my own shelter, grow my own food, and write my own novels about intersex aliens. I’ve got it all figured out. Now, you can learn from the expert.
Basically, I’ll be talking about tiny house homesteading, writing, neurodiversity, and politics.
This podcast is of very poor audio quality. I know this. I KNOW, OKAY? I’m learning. I’m lucky if I do one thing right every day.
Pictures of my house are forthcoming.
It’s time to write another of these posts wherein I open myself up for harassment and harm. It’s important for me to speak up, though, because I’m seeing lots of people (especially marginalized people) getting hurt. If you’re one of those people and you’re too afraid to speak up for fear of getting hurt even worse, please know that you are welcome to DM me.
My mother was a Montessori teacher for 32 years. As you can imagine, she has a valuable stockpile of anecdotes about what kids do and say. For instance, one time a little girl came running up and threw herself into my mom’s arms. “Josiah told me he hates me and never wants to play with me again!”
My mom, who had witnessed the whole interaction, patted the little girl’s back. “He didn’t say that, Queidlynne. He said he’s working on a project right now.”
Queidlynne stomped, wiping her snotty nose on my mom’s shoulder. “In my head he did!”
This has become a catchphrase in my family. Every time one of us wrongly interprets someone’s intent and accuses them of things they didn’t do, we catch ourselves and laugh. “In my head you did!”
If Queidlynne (thankfully, not her real name) had asked Josiah if he really did hate her and didn’t want to play, he probably would have said, “No, I don’t hate you. I’ll play with you when I’m done with this project.” He also might have said something snotty, or ignored her, but at that point she at least would have been sure of his intent, and have had a real reason to be upset. As it was, though, she didn’t have good reason. Queidlynne’s feelings were real, and my mom did the right thing by listening to her, comforting her, and talking to her about it. However, those feelings had no basis in reality.
Even if Quidlynne had experienced rejection from other little boys, it wouldn’t mean that Josiah was rejecting her this time. Just like other people can have hidden bias against you, you can paint them with the colors of your past experience and assume they are just as bad as all the others.
I’m seeing this sort of situation play out so often lately- but with adults, in the sphere of progressive activism. Neurodivergent people are ESPECIALLY likely to be hurt in this sort of scenario: not only are our actions/words/reactions notoriously wrongly-interpreted through a neurotypical lens, but we’re more likely to misinterpret others. We need to be accountable for that, and make sure to step back and listen. And NT people: when we tell you what we meant by something, don’t tell us we’re wrong. You can tell us we hurt you, but we don’t think the way you think or see society through your lens. Stop trying to force us into that mold, and we’ll all communicate a lot better.
There’s a lot of emotion flying around, and a lot of collateral damage from it. People-good people, and quite often marginalized people-are getting hurt, because someone misinterprets something they say and then doesn’t care to listen to the explanation. An offhand and perhaps ill-worded comment, or unpopular but harmless opinion (also common amongst ND people, because, again- our thinking is DIVERGENT from social norms, which doesn’t mean WRONG) can cause an explosion of anger and bile that blows a permanent rift in the community.
I’m also seeing a lot of folks excluded from marginalized communities, or from the marginalized umbrella, for not being “marginalized enough” in the first place. Y’all…just…jeez, ok?
Communities of marginalized people have existed, I’m sure, since the beginning of humankind. People who, for one reason or another, are outcast from mainstream society gather together for comfort and protection. Marginalized folks often rely heavily on these groups for companionship, support, and validation. They are a lifeline to us.
However, there’s an alarming trend of people in marginalized groups trying to exclude people and police membership requirements. Since the whole purpose of these groups was to give marginalized people a place where they belonged, it’s devastating when that group turns around and tells them they don’t belong there, either.
It’s true that people can be mega fucked up, and there are those who will lie about their identity in order to troll and prey on disadvantaged people. But those are an incredibly small percentage. Until the person has clearly shown their intent by causing (or trying to cause) real harm, YOU are the one who is causing real harm by attempting to exclude them. It’s like Trumpty Dumpty and his Muslim ban (and edicts against other residents/immigrants): until the potential immigrant has shown they’re a “bad hombre” (which would likely become apparent through the exhaustive vetting process which is already in place), the only real effect of a ban is to exclude a group which is composed almost entirely of good hombres (y mujeres).
We need to be more welcoming of each other, accepting of each other’s differences, and tolerant of the wide array of perfectly valid opinions that exist in any marginalized community. Discussion and debate is fine. But insulting someone and even questioning their identity…that’s what bigots do to us. That’s the sort of behavior we’re fighting against.
The umbrella of “marginalized people” covers a lot of different sorts of folks, and we all have different experiences of oppression. We all belong to specific subgroups (and subgroups within THOSE subgroups), but the umbrella of “marginalized people” is meant to cover us all. The entire purpose of calling ourselves “marginalized people” is to be inclusive, and to give oppressed people a place where they belong.
There are many who would seek to own that entire umbrella, and try to leave the rest of us out in the rain—or at least huddled on the fringes, drenched in the runoff. They are the people who say, in one way or another, “You can’t possibly understand what REAL oppression is like, because you don’t belong to X subgroup.” We can all hopefully spot the sickening irony in that statement: that the one speaking similarly has no way of knowing what the other person’s experience in Y subgroup is like, either. I have also, horrifyingly, seen people try to exclude others in their own subgroup. If someone doesn’t agree with them on an issue, they attack them for “not being X enough” or “not doing X right”….and then they often turn around and say the other person is the one being oppressive.
Maybe in their head the person who doesn’t agree with them is being oppressive, but in the real world THEY are the one who is excluding the other person, centering themself in the other person’s experience, talking over them, and erasing their feelings. They’re saying very clearly, “I don’t want to be in the same group with the likes of you.” They’re, in fact, doing what non-marginalized people do to us. Furthermore, they’re gaslighting, and they’re forcing the other person to join in the Oppression Olympics by making them justify their right to have an opinion by pointing out all the ways in which they themselves are marginalized. (And then often, are forced to endure being told “you’re really trying to be oppressed, aren’t you?” and “stop playing the marginalization card” and “stop using your marginalization as a shield”, a tactic which is also flaunted so disgustingly by Tronald Dump, who does something, then tries to divert attention from the fact he’s done it by accusing everyone else of doing it. So yeah…those people are in great company, right?)
But no one owns that umbrella, and we shouldn’t try to. We should be happy to share it with others who need it, because doing so doesn’t decrease the amount of space available for us. It’s a super-special sparkly magical umbrella that gets bigger and more effective the more people it covers. All of us have a right to stand under it, and an equal right to speak up as a marginalized person. This applies to other inclusive groups (like Own Voices) or inclusive subgroups (like disabled people), as well. None of us owns the experience. All our experiences are valid, and letting all our voices be heard can only add to the conversation.
If I am speaking as a marginalized person in general, I am not attempting to speak for you, or as a member of your subgroup. It doesn’t matter if you think you are MORE oppressed than I am, or that I don’t understand your experience (of course I don’t, and I’m not trying to say I am). I am a marginalized person, and therefore I have a right to speak as one. Period.
It doesn’t even matter if I name another subgroup and say something like, “I have seen people saying this is happening to X community, and now it is happening to my community as well.” No part of that sort of statement is me trying to speak up as a member of X community. It is me trying to give people context for what is happening to MY community, by using another situation that people are more familiar with (the ND narrative, and I’m finding in particular my psychotic narrative, is so foreign to people they just can’t get it. How can I be proud of my psychosis? It’s BAD. Saying I’m psychotic is equivalent to saying I’m a murderer to most people. I’m not exaggerating. Think about your own reaction to it. And sometimes the only way I can get people to understand is to say, “Think how wrong it would be if you called X marginalized person ‘sick’ or ‘dangerous’ for being who they are?”)
No marginalized experience is the same but there are (very real) commonalities. I am not saying my oppression is greater than or even equal to yours by pointing those out: I’m just making valid observations. Furthermore, I’m not causing you any real harm by doing so. Maybe in your head I am, but in reality, YOU are the one causing ME (and others in my group) harm by saying, “People like you are not worthy to be in the same paragraph as me,” and “That stuff is bad when it happens to x group, but not when it happens to you.” That message is damaging not only to mental health, but to public perceptions of that group of marginalized people. It results in erasure of that group’s experience. It’s an attempt to say that group is “whining” or “faking” or “being a snowflake”. It deepens that group’s oppression, which is supposedly the thing we’re all fighting against.
If it does rub you the wrong way if I mention someone from your group while speaking about my own experience as a marginalized person, take a good look at yourself and ask yourself why you feel that way. As the person causing real, immediate harm, the onus is on you to examine yourself and your motives. Do you have a bias against my group, and you think it’s just gross to stand next to us? Do you think you completely understand our experience and can judge that we’re not really marginalized, we’re just making it up? Or is it, more forgivably, just a misunderstanding—you think I’m trying to speak for your group specifically instead of exploring and pointing out commonalities across the spectrum of the marginalized experience as a whole?
If you think that someone is mistaken and that the commonalities don’t exist, that is definitely a matter for discussion, but if you are saying unilaterally that “you don’t experience that—that’s a thing only my group experiences”, then you’re trying to police and erase that person’s experience, and you’re wasting a very good opportunity for both of you to learn about the other. And if you think it’s bad it’s happening to you, but ok it’s happening to me, then you’re just a bigot and a jerk
Trying to unify a group is NEVER a harmful intent, even if it doesn’t work, or is, in your opinion, misguided. That might require discussion to hash out, but there is no discernable reason to attack a person—especially another marginalized person—whose intent was to do good. However, attempting to divide our groups, exclude people, and do real damage to people’s reputations, employment opportunities, friendships and mental health…that is true harm. That’s not just harm in someone’s head. And, if you are doing real harm—especially to other marginalized people—in the name of preventing hypothetical harm, you’re inarguably the real antagonist in this story.
Another irony of the Oppression Olympics is that it takes a lot of privilege to participate. You have to have the cognitive ability to follow convoluted arguments, the eloquence to respond, the social skills to respond in a way that people might listen to, the emotional stability to endure stressful and emotional situations…not to mention the time and spoons it requires to become involved in these semantic battles. In a practical sense, a lot of marginalized people don’t have the resources to respond appropriately in these situations (especially ND people, who have different social and emotional experiences), and when you attack them, you are taking advantage of their weaknesses—weaknesses that are part and parcel of their experience as a marginalized person—in order to further your own ends. The practical aspects of survival always have to take precedence. We have to earn money somehow, take care of ourselves (eat, bathe, go to the doctor, take our pills), etc.—which can be quite difficult for a marginalized person for a lot of reasons. When you attack them, you are displaying your own privilege in an attempt to harm someone who is already oppressed.
Harming a marginalized person is bad (really, harming any person is). No ifs, ands, or buts. It’s just bad. If you’re doing it, you’d better have a damned good reason. Ask yourself what practical benefits you’re reaping from this exercise, and what your intent was in the first place. Avoiding harm in your head isn’t a good excuse. Simply “being right” isn’t a good excuse, because how can you think you’re right in the first place if you’re harming a marginalized person? If your attempt is to educate, look at the practical results: have you educated anyone? People aren’t going to listen to someone who is insulting them, oppressing them, hurting them. If you get out the belt and severely beat a child in order to teach him not to steal cookies…yeah, maybe the kid shouldn’t be stealing cookies, but who is the one truly doing harm in that situation? Who is the one who really needs educated?
Anger is understandable but abuse is not. Learn how to walk away before you cross that line. If someone is telling you not to abuse them, they’re not policing your anger. They’re standing up for themselves. I’m not talking about white tears here, which is very different.
And if your excuse is that you really do have it worse than the other person, ask yourself how you can possibly know that if you have no experience with their situation, and why it’s so important that you prove it in the first place?
If your excuse is that these seemingly-benign comments or opinions display “passive-aggressive bias” and “hidden prejudice”,you may be right. But frankly, I’ve always found those types of bias reveal themselves in their gross, naked glory if you take the time to scratch off the veneer and see the driving force behind the words. There’s no need to guess. We don’t always have the energy or spoons or ability otherwise to take that time to figure it out, it’s true. But if we don’t, why should we waste the time/energy/spoons we supposedly have a dearth of by being angry at a person who possibly meant no harm, and who caused you no harm except in your head?
And I’m not trying to stray off into “not all X people” territory, I’m just stating something that I, as a marginalized person, have (because of past experience) made incorrect assumptions about a person’s bias more than once, to my (and the other person’s) detriment.
And yes, even if someone isn’t personally displaying bias, they’re still part of the system of bias, which definitely bears thought and scrutiny, but if you attack someone for this you usually get locked in an intellectual battle which rarely has any practical benefit. For instance, if you start screaming at me about how capitalism is my fault because I’m part of the system, that conversation is going to go badly (and not just because I’m less a part of that system than most). So, unless it was I who jumped into your conversation about socialism and said “not all capitalists are bad”, just leave me the fuck out of it. I can only answer for my own actions. That’s all any of us can answer for.
If we’re really going to change the systems of oppression, we have to not model them.
Intent does matter…and practical outcomes matter even more. So if the practical outcome of your behavior is hurting marginalized people, alienating them from their communities, and deepening their oppression, you’re not doing good in the world.
The Oppression Olympics are a sick game that no one can win. We all lose.
Endnote: I’m perfectly willing and even eager to discuss this post with anyone. I will clarify, and own any mistakes, ill-wordings, misinterpretations, or subtleties I may have missed. If I am flat-out wrong somewhere in your opinion, I welcome you to tell me, because that is what conversation is about, and we should always seek to have greater understanding in all things. But really, cue people reinforcing all my points by attacking me…
It’s less than a month now before the final book in The Other Place Series is released. Synchronicity comes out May 2!
The Other Place Series was really fun to write. Well, maybe “fun” isn’t quite the right word. The stories in the series are, in my opinion, great stories. But they go deeper than that for me.
The Other Place Series starts out with The Hustle, which is a tale of Liria, a young woman battling addiction, homelessness, and abuse. She’s trying to find her place in a world that seems set up to exclude and take advantage of her. It’s often described by readers as “a rollercoaster”. That’s a good description, because that’s what it feels like to deal with those issues.
When I was younger, I was dealing with physical, sexual, and emotional abuse as well as the onset of psychosis. I was addicted to heroin, and went through periods of effective homelessness, as well as incarceration. Writing The Hustle was a way for me to process those experiences in a way I never had before. It was hard, but it was also a great experience.
The next book in the series, The Other Place, follows Justin, a talented young artist with schizophrenia, as he struggles to find his own place in the world.
Writing The Other Place was my attempt to deal with my deep fear of my own psychosis. When I was younger, I thought I was schizophrenic. It terrified me that I might be. I couldn’t think of anything worse than to be trapped in the horrors of your own mind, caught in a constant, living nightmare. I didn’t tell anyone about my psychosis for decades, and (as I said) self-medicated it with heroin and other things.
My psychotic episodes ended up being infrequent. It turns out I actually am bipolar and have PTSD, not schizophrenia. In writing The Other Place, though, I was exploring that part of myself that I was so afraid of…and discovering that I wasn’t afraid of it anymore. There’s nothing wrong with me, or with anyone with psychosis. It’s not a living nightmare at all, though it can be tough to deal with some symptoms at times.
In writing The Other Place, I also ended up in a close relationship with the man who is now my fiancé, who himself is schizophrenic. When I began hanging out with him, I recognized a lot of my own behaviors in him, and I identified with the way he was treated by society—getting harassed, threatened, physically abused, and kicked out of places when he wasn’t doing anything wrong at all. I started to see myself and my place in society more clearly, and realized that a lot of behaviors I’d been blaming myself for and trying to change, were not things I could or even wanted to change. They were things other people wanted to change about me, because they saw me as abnormal and even dangerous. All those years, I’d been beating up on myself for other people’s prejudice.
Society’s prejudice against people with neurodiversity—the idea that we’re violent, scary, hopeless, helpless, and lacking any kind of beauty or inner life— is so deep-seated that people don’t recognize it as prejudice. Not even I saw it for what it is.
The Other Place Series is an insider’s perspective on how it feels to be an outcast. It shows the prejudice and mistreatment people like me face on a daily basis. Not only was this series a growth experience for me personally, I think it could change the way others think of people with mental health issues.
Besides all that, they’re just good stories. In my opinion, they’d be good stories even if they didn’t deal with addiction or mental health issues at all. After all, people with mental health issues are just people, with their own stories to tell that have nothing at all to do with their diagnoses and addictions.
The last book Synchronicity, is the story of Liria and Justin trying to make a life together, despite all the forces trying to tear them apart. I’m really proud of this book, and I hope you all love it as much as I do.
Are you ready to see the cover? Okay…
I am just now coming back from a long weekend with my partner (I can call him my fiancé now, but it’s gonna take me a while to get used to that).
It was really nice to see him, and we had a good time. We stayed one night in a nice hotel, and mobbed around town like always. We faced fewer problems with the public than we usually do this time, but I wanted to talk a little bit about the treatment we often face.
There’s a lot of prejudice about people with psychosis, and we encounter it not just when we’re having a psychotic break—though that’s certainly the most dangerous time for us, because that’s when our liberty, health, wellbeing, and even lives are most at risk. But just being ourselves on a good day has consequences in society that most people don’t recognize or think about as problems.
Even by myself, I often get tailed by store clerks, and I almost always get told to leave my backpack at the front of the store—it’s not a big backpack, either. It’s about eleven-by-seventeen inches, smaller than most purses, and I never see them ask anyone else with that small of a bag to leave it. My partner, who has schizophrenia, has it worse: he’s often kicked out of stores, accused of shoplifting, or not even allowed in (sometimes he dresses really nicely, but other times he wanders around in his pajamas and slippers. The “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service” rule is actually very ableist/sanist. There’s nothing wrong with dressing like a slob. Seriously. Get over yourselves).
In hotels (especially nicer ones), we get questioned by the staff, and have to show our keys to prove we’re guests.
In restaurants, we’ve been denied seating. The excuse is often that they’re “full”, but we’re not given the option of waiting. We’ve also (more rarely) been asked to leave because we’re making other diners uncomfortable.
All of this happens not when we’re doing anything illegal, harmful, or even particularly distracting. My partner, and I to a lesser extent, just give off strange vibes. We make people nervous, because they’re conditioned to think of people with psychosis/people who act differently are dangerous.
We’re not dangerous.
I hope you think about this next time you interact with someone like us.
Invisible Friend Jesus sits next to me on my bed. He’s cleaning his toenails with a file, scraping the dirt from under them and flicking it onto my quilt. It’s gross, but part of me wants to save the dirt and put it on display in some cathedral.
“I feel like I should be cleaning your feet for you or something,” I say.
He glances up at me, smirking. “Do you want to?” He holds the file out toward me.
I lean away from it. “Not really.”
He goes back to his task, shrugging. “Cleaning other people’s feet isn’t really part of your culture. It’d be sort of awkward if you wanted to, to tell you the truth.”
“Another thing about my culture,” I say, “while we’re on the subject: cleaning your toenails on someone else’s bed: not really okay. But it’s cool, because we’re friends. The quilt washes.”
He pauses in digging out a particularly stubborn deposit in the corner of his big toe. “Sorry. I didn’t really think about it. My feet were just dirty.”
“Naw, it’s cool, it’s cool. Really.”
He hesitates a moment then, seeing I’m serious, goes back to digging.
I watch him with disgusted fascination. “I didn’t really think about Jesus’ feet getting dirty before. I thought you were perfect in every way.”
He raises an eyebrow. “The Bible talks about my dirty feet. It’s a little embarrassing, but it was necessary to the story, I think.”
“Oh yeah, you’re right.”
He wipes the file on the hem of his suit jacket and starts in on shaping His nails. “I’m a human being. The whole point of me—as a religious concept, anyway—is that I’m a human like any other, with dirty feet and everything. I’m God’s way of showing the world that it’s okay to be human.
“Dirty feet don’t make us ‘imperfect’, anyway,” he continues, “they just make us human.” He frowns in concentration, trying to shape his pinky toenail just so. “It’s the same with all the other stuff that goes along with being human. None of it is imperfection. All the trouble starts when people start blaming and judging others for what they see as their flaws. It’s what I spoke out against, because we would be a lot happier if we’d quit worrying about that stuff and just accepted ourselves and others.”
“I get you,” I say, “but that’s some complicated shit when you get into issues of people’s beliefs threatening others. I’d say that sort of behavior truly is a ‘flaw’.”
He nods. “I know what you mean. If you’d notice, the Bible talks about how I lost it on a few people for doing stupid and hateful stuff, too.”
I grin. “Yeah, I remember some of that stuff. Those are some of my favorite parts.”
“I can’t say it wasn’t satisfying.” He clips the edge off one of his nails and flicks it away; I wince as it lands on my pillow. “Living on Earth is a complicated thing,” He says. “God understands that. But God is bigger than all that, too. God wants you to forgive your enemies, even for threatening and hurting you. Notice I don’t say ‘embrace’, just ‘forgive’. And I don’t mean we should lie down and let them trample us, but we should forgive them for trying.
“This is not an easy thing to do, when you’re just trying to get by as a mortal person, and assholes keep messing with you and your family—messing with them, or worse,” He says. “God understands that it’s difficult. He knows we won’t always succeed—that we’ll flip our shit sometimes—and forgives us for it. But we’d be a lot happier if we stopped trying to get revenge. Because, in the process, sometimes we end up becoming the thing that we hate: we end up threatening and hurting other people in return. Then those people act out in self-defense and in greater hatred, and the cycle continues.”
“That’s why you forgave the people who crucified you,” I say. “As an example that it can be done by human beings, even in those circumstances.”
He nods, stretching out his legs and wiggling his toes. “Yep. That shit wasn’t easy, but I felt better after I’d done it. Better in my soul, anyway; I was in some pretty bad agony physically, to say the least. But forgiveness helps the forgiver as much as the forgiven.”
I draw my knees up to my chest and hug them. “I wish your followers would listen to you about all this stuff, because my country is really scary right now. It’s starting to look like Nazi Germany. I have a hard time turning the other cheek when people are threatening our health and lives, and when they’re supporting racism, bigotry, and the destruction of society and the environment. And most of the people doing that in the U.S. claim to be Christian.”
He gives me a long look. “Human beings have a long way to go before they find the Kingdom of God. I know it seems like this battle has already been fought, but what a lot of people don’t realize is, their lives are short and the battle is long. The fight is ongoing, and will continue until the Kingdom is achieved. All I can say is, we have made progress. And God is still with us, no matter what.”
So glad for this. I’m not autistic, but I’ve struggled with heroin addiction too…it helped the negative symptoms of my bipolar/PTSD, like depression, psychosis and anxiety.
Addicted and autistic? At Spectrum, Maia Szalavitz explores the unexpected biological and psychological commonalities of addiction and autism, and some new science that suggests that combination may be more common than you think.
Shane Stoner’s addiction began in 2008. He lost a factory job, his parents divorced, his father died — and then a relative introduced him to heroin. “I felt like heroin gave me confidence,” Stoner says. “I could get out of bed in the morning and do the day. No matter what happened, it made me feel like it was going to be all right.” It erased his constant anxiety.
Stoner, now 44, eventually entered detox in 2013 after he was arrested for stealing copper from an abandoned house. It was obvious at that point that he was addicted to heroin. But it would take several more years for him to get the diagnosis that truly helped…
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We’re truly in dark times. Trump is building concentration camps for immigrants. They’re lynching Muslims in my (very-blue, even) state. People are getting thrown out of the country for disagreeing with the president. Jewish cemeteries are being desecrated. The list is too long. There are too many fires popping up everywhere to even keep track of.
It’s overwhelming, and unfortunately, this shit going on now is just piling up on top of the shit a lot of people were dealing with beforehand. This is just the bigotry, hatred, maliciousness…you name it…coming out into the open where EVERYONE can see (as long as they’re not blind, like the majority of Trump supporters).
There’s no way to really deal productively with this, from the position of “normal” people. All the lobbying, protesting, organizing, social action, and self-care in the world is just busywork while we’re watching our world crumble. Most of us, all we can do is stay strong, and be there for one another. We take the actions we can to try to bang sense and action into our government and to prop up our failing democracy, and to take care of ourselves and others who need it, but ultimately we’re relying on those in positions of power to do what they need to do and can to save the country and the freedoms we’ve been fighting for—have fought for forever—and that we’re so proud of.
Amongst all this, I see a lot of people on the left who are hurting our cause. And we can’t afford that. Not right now.
There has been a lot of upheaval in the left. There are a lot of tensions between marginalized groups and more advantaged liberals that are now coming to a head, because for people who don’t have a real dog in this fight, it seems difficult for them to understand the depth of the anger, terror, resentment, and feeling of betrayal disadvantaged people are feeling. These conversations are happening. They’re being sorted out. Please, God, I hope so, because we cannot sustain a rift right now.
I started to suspect that Trump could win when I first started paying attention to the campaigns. During the first part, I was dealing with the destruction of my marriage and some severe mental health instability (anyone new to this blog, I have severe bipolar and PTSD, and I deal with psychosis, suicidal behaviors…blah blah blah). So I wasn’t paying attention. When I started to, I had a feeling of creeping dread. But still, when he was elected, I was stunned, and thrown way off balance. I had a bad episode.
I started out talking to people about the election from a place of pure terror and rage. And it was infuriating that people supposedly on my side didn’t understand my anger. They said I was being immature and counterproductive.
I’m mentally ill, sure, but I’m an adult. I’m also used to second-guessing my feelings. People blame and belittle me for my behavior, and because of that I’ve spent my whole life fighting out-of-control emotions which I can’t actually control without medication. So yeah, even when I was in that state, part of me knew they had a point. But they needed to give me space for my anger.
I’m starting to come out of that angry place. Thank God. It was a horrible place to be. Some people aren’t out of it yet.
Most of you know what happened to me on Twitter the other day. People were so angry, that they forgot that they needed to listen to me. They didn’t realize that I understood their anger, but that I was speaking from a different standpoint (different types of marginalization, a different place in my processing cycle, different life experiences). They mistook the fact that I didn’t agree with all their points, for deafness to their arguments. I was listening, though.
The real barrier to communication was that they weren’t listening to me. Which is too bad, not just for me, but because people never listen to “people like me” with severe mental illness, and they might have learned something and strengthened the cause of social justice.
But they didn’t strengthen the cause. Quite the opposite. Those people, in their anger, embodied THE WORST of the bigotry I get from the right wing. They said I was whiny, delusional, a snowflake, and that I needed to sit down and shut up and listen to people who really knew what they were talking about. And then they didn’t give me space for my FURY that they would DARE say that shit to me.
People like that play right into the hands of the alt-right, who say we’re a bunch of delusional snowflakes who think no one has a right to an opinion but us. It creates a habitat for more gaslighting. It is counterproductive.
I say this even though I understand their anger . Some of the people I spoke to had damn good points. I know that because I was listening. Some people DID listen to me, and I thank them for it.
In the meantime, though, some of the worst of those people damaged my career. And I’ve spent the last few days clinging to my sanity and trying to stay out of the hospital for the sake of my mother (whom I’m caring for after her open-heart surgery a week ago) and my daughter (who is also openly bisexual and recently diagnosed as neurodiverse, is dealing with a lot of marginalization and bullying because of it, and needs a solid example of a mother who knows how to do this shit).
It wasn’t the right-wing that marginalized me. It was the left.
They need to stop. They’re turning into the thing we’re fighting against.
*I actually considered a more inflammatory title, but I learned a long time ago that purposefully goading people wasn’t a good way to open dialogue. The problem (and the reason I considered a clickbait title), is that it (inadvertently) worked last time. Human beings don’t pay attention unless you MAKE them, by pissing them off or creating some other emotional reaction, accidentally or intentionally. (Milo has learned this, and you’re falling for it.) I’m not gonna play that game (or maybe I am. Idfk. I don’t know how to behave in society anymore, or never did). So, now I’m back to talking to my regular audience, who knows me and will talk to me respectfully if they misunderstand or disagree (please. I hope).
Elizabeth Roderick is an Own Voices writer of neurodiverse fiction. You can find her on Amazon.
I’d say I’m digging my grave worse, but now I know I’m back to my regular audience of neurodiverse folks and their allies…like I’d thought I was yesterday. That was a bad miscalculation, and I apologize, as I did from pretty much the outset, if you’ll read the thread. I listened to the people who actually spoke rationally to me, and I changed the article, then got mobbed by a bunch of mostly white people, many of whom did nothing but troll and bully.
I made a mistake and apologized, and fixed it as best I could. After that, I’m not in the wrong here. The people mobbing me were. And this needs said, even if it gets me more shit. I need to stand up for the rights of neurodiverse people to be part of the conversation, because we all are really tired of being told to sit down.
I’m going to go through the things I saw yesterday that were extremely worrying. Any of you who do/say these things, I really hope you do some introspection.
People who say I’m using my neurodiversity as a “shield” to “try to take part in the conversation” have no idea what it’s like to be marginalized. Marginalization is the opposite of a shield. It leaves you open to attack in a way that most people don’t understand. For instance, not to give hateful people ideas, but if someone were to call the police and say I’m a threat, they’d likely lock me up, no questions asked. This is what they do to people with psychosis, on a daily basis. This is institutional bigotry, and it’s wrong. So, yeah. Being psychotic: not a shield.
People who say neurodiverse people don’t know what it’s like to be marginalized, or that what we see as marginalization is society working to separate us “for our own good” need to step back and pay attention. Neurodiverse people like me are considered a “threat” even though we’re not. At all. We’re more likely to be hurt BY others than to hurt others. Nevertheless, any time someone does something shitty and violent, people say they’re “mentally ill”. For most people violent behavior equals mental illness, and vice versa. This is the sort of bigotry that gets us killed. Most people who do violent and horrible things are just assholes, racists, etc. Every time someone says we’re violent, we’re marginalized more and more.
The worst part of all of this marginalization is that most neurodiverse people buy into it. We think there really is something wrong with us. We have a hard time standing up for ourselves for this reason, and also because of how exhausting it is to be shouted down and told we have no right to speak up for ourselves. This is why I’m not backing down. I’m not going to be told, like I was so many times yesterday, that I need to sit down and shut up. That this isn’t about me. That I was “whining” and “being bitter” and “being delusional”, and that my “viewpoint is shitty”. Those words are marginalizing. In standing up for “diversity” and “inclusiveness”, you’re trying to silence and discount a marginalized voice. Period.
Because me talking, on my own blog, about my own experience, is not me “talking over” anyone. There’s room for me in the conversation. Besides: when you’re marginalized, people don’t sit waiting to hear your voice. They don’t just let you talk. Sometimes you have to talk over people in order to be heard.
So, yeah, shame on me for using that book as an example, because it hurt people’s feelings. Again, I apologized, and took out the reference. I feel extremely bad, because this shit got so big it did end up taking away from the joy of the day. It’s something I didn’t think about when talking to my core audience of neurodiverse people. It wasn’t our day. That doesn’t mean I had no right to speak at all on that day, though, let me make that clear. And it doesn’t mean I was diminishing a person of color’s achievement, either. Neurodiverse people have a right to center ourselves and our feelings. There’s room for us at the table without anyone else having to feel they’re being shunted aside. If you think differently, then you’re actually trying to take the conversation away from us. You’re making it about you.
My main point in the article yesterday, I want to reiterate, because it was valid. To start with, all of the hurtful stuff people said that I said, I didn’t actually say. I said the book had to be a million times better than a non-Own Voices book to get published. I said that Own Voices books are necessary and special. My real point was the publishing industry shouldn’t pat themselves on the back for publishing an Own Voices book, because publishing great books is what they’re there to do. (To be clear, PEOPLE should celebrate that this book got published, because it’s important. Since my partner was nearly shot by police when unarmed, and then he was blamed for it, I have a very strong personal emotional reaction to this point of view being humanized, and am so glad it was given voice.)
One of the most worrisome things I saw was defensiveness from the gatekeeprs themselves. They said not only that I was “whining” and “bitter” (don’t say these things to a marginalized person who is talking about how they’re being marginalized. Ever. It’s not okay). They also said, “Publishers aren’t ‘patting themselves on the back’. They should make a big deal out publishing an Own Voices book. When publishers see there’s money in Own Voices, they’ll publish more.” That’s missing the point, and it’s dangerous for publishers to think of it this way, without addressing the real problem. There’s always been money in Own Voices. We, the readers, know it. We have been hungering for these books for ages, and JUST NOW they’re seeing dollar signs. But, considering rejections I got for my book with the schizophrenic MC before I found it a good home, and ones that other people are still getting, agents and editors continue to “not identify” with Own Voices to a much larger extent than non-Own Voices, and they use us to fill “quotas”. Until the latent bias in the gatekeepers goes away, a lot of great books are still going to fall through the cracks. Don’t get defensive and think we’re whining or bitter. Just listen.
I hope people will stop attacking me in non-productive ways, and see the real problem here. I’m not the real problem. I’m an Own Voices writer stating my opinion, and anyone who thinks that’s a problem, needs to take a good, hard look at themselves.
Anyone who still wants to talk to me and also LISTEN, I will be very happy to do so. If you’re not going to admit my voice is valid, though, you need to step back.
I’m going to take this opportunity to hope a nerurodiverse person’s voice actually gets heard for once.
I am a person with psychosis. That means, legally (in fact, as a matter of course), I can be locked up for committing no crime at all, but only because I might-at some point-commit a crime. I’ve been harassed by police, kicked out of businesses and public buildings for acting “weird”. My partner-also neurodiverse- was almost shot for having a completely nonviolent psychotic episode. My voice is not often heard. And I don’t appreciate that it’s being suppressed now.
So yeah. It was bad timing to bring this up now, because I don’t want to at all take away from the celebration (by AUTHORS and READERS) that an awesome Own Voices book got published. But my point is valid. Publishers shouldn’t be patting themselves on the back. And I have a right to say it.
Don’t tell me that I don’t have a right to my opinion, and that if I’m expressing that opinion I’m “talking over” someone else.
Don’t tell me that I don’t have a right to my frustration about continued bias in the gatekeepers of publishing. Nor am I “bitter” or “whining”. That’s a really privileged point of view. I’m standing up for myself, and for other marginalized voices. This argument sounds like a lot of the bullshit Trumpists spout about protesters and marginalized voices.
So yeah. Misinterpret me all that you want, and then don’t listen when I explain, apologize, etc. Threaten an Own Voices writer’s career for expressing her opinion. But realize that you’re bullying and suppressing a marginalized voice. That’s not discourse. It’s not promoting diversity or acceptance. You are, in fact, a HUGE part of the problem.
I’m taking out the reference to the book in question because people thought I was trying to say it shouldn’t be celebrated.
I apologize greatly for hurting people’s feelings. I didn’t mean to say people shouldn’t be celebrating today. I should have left this post for another day, because my points are still valid.
If anyone is still actually reading this instead of just responding to online comments, then I’ll be glad for all this wank, if maybe just one or two people see the validity in my points. My point was never to say Own Voices writing shouldn’t be celebrated—in fact, I’ve said the opposite, a million times. Own Voices books are something special beyond just being”great” books.
But anyone who thinks I’m bitter about the publishing industry, I’m not. I’m speaking truth as I see it, and as a lot of people see it. Just because one great Own Voices book gets published doesn’t mean that there isn’t a problem in the industry. A lot of people have approached me and told me stories very similar to mine about their experience with publishing “gatekeepers”.
A lot of us think the publishing industry has a long way to go, and that the PUBLISHING INDUSTRY shouldn’t be throwing itself a big ol’ party quite yet.
Don’t pat yourselves on the back for publishing a great book. That’s what you supposedly exist to do.
For every Own Voices book that gets published, there’s hundreds of other Own Voices books that don’t. Sure, some of those books probably need some work. After all, none of us were born knowing how to write, no matter how interesting our points of view are. But a lot of those own voices books are really good, and still fall through the cracks.
I’m glad that a lot of agents and editors are putting out calls for Own Voices books. This is a good start. But don’t pat yourselves on the back yet. I’m an Own Voices writer, too, and I—along with a lot of others—can see just how far the publishing community has to go.
Agents and editors read hundreds of queries a day, and untold numbers of submissions. They are the first ones to say that, if something doesn’t grab their attention right off, if they don’t love it, then they aren’t the right agent for that book. This is s big problem when we’re talking about Own Voices books. Most agents and editors are white, neurotypical, straight, cis, etc., and come from the sort of background that allows them to major in English. (I’m generalizing here, and I apologize. But the numbers back me up.) So is it any big surprise that they find it harder to identify with different points of view?
When you read something that’s so far outside of your cultural center, it’s probably going to make you uncomfortable, or even defensive (I may not have neurotypical privilege, but I have white privilege, so believe me, I know what that defensiveness feels like. We need to fight it and just listen). These points of view might be jarring to us, or even seem unrealistic. Agents, when reading Own Voices submissions, probably won’t even take time to quantify why they’re having the reaction they do. They’ll just toss the manuscript aside as “not for them”. The Own Voices submissions that the agents do like might be relatable for them in some oblique way. The writing might have been toned down on purpose by the author to be more accessible for other audiences (yes, this happens. I’ve done it, and I’m not the only one). Or, they might just be written a million times better than a book the agent would usually sign by someone with a similar viewpoint as them.
Before anyone starts calling me a snowflake and telling me I’m just bitter because I don’t write well enough to get published, and/or that I want “special treatment” for Own Voices writers…check yourselves. For one, I am published (that’s one of the reason I’m writing this: I’m standing up for a lot of other Own Voices writers who aren’t yet published, and either aren’t comfortable standing up to the publishing community for fear of getting blacklisted, or don’t yet have enough confidence in their skill to be sure of the bias in publishing). For another, none of us want “special treatment”. We’re trying to get the same quality of treatment that those more advantaged than us have. We’re trying to get people to listen, because it’s so easy to drown out our voices as “unrelatable” or “unlikable”.
I do, however, want agents and editors to consider giving Own Voices submissions more than the once-over a “regular” submission would get. Ask yourselves why you’re not relating to the writing. Is the character voice too different? Do you feel disoriented by their way of life or outlook? Does the tone seem too dark for you? Does the plot take turns that are atypical, perhaps because the character interacts with their environment in a way that you’re not expecting? Are you uncomfortable with how the main character views people who are more advantaged than them? Worse yet, do you already have a book on your list with an x-type of character, so you think there’s no room for one more? These are all reasons that I, and a lot of other Own Voices writers, have been given for why our books were rejected. Perhaps you might want to give those books another chance, to see if perhaps you’re missing out on a great book because of a bias you weren’t perhaps aware of.
Yes, we know publishing is a difficult business. We, as Own Voices writers, know this as much—perhaps better—than anyone. And we’ll keep trying. We’ll work so hard at our craft that one day we’ll be good enough to be successful, even if that means we have to write a million times better than a non-Own Voices writer. But, meanwhile, stop congratulating yourselves for publishing Own Voices books, and instead just congratulate the author for writing a great book, and yourselves for doing your job—just like you would with any manuscript. Because Own Voices writers aren’t “trophies” for you to display on your list to prove you’re open-minded. We’re not here to fill a quota, and we’re not here to parrot your own worldview back at you and make you feel good. We’re here to tell our stories, and we’ll keep doing that, whether you like it or not.