tom girl zine

Intersectionality in Autismland

by 

R. Larkin Taylor-Parker

This issue is about systems, so I thought I would share some news from my own conflictual corner of the Internet. Autistic people, especially in America, have been trying for years to get say in the use of charity dollars collected in our names. This is part of a larger struggle over who will control the money or the narrative, nondisabled parents or autistics ourselves. Lately, there has been significant progress toward a united coalition that centers disabled voices and excludes one group that autistics largely despise. Autism Speaks, centralized, paternalistic, expensive in its administrative costs, an institution founded in 2004 along 19th century lines, is hurting. Autistics and parents are making the organization controversial.

The trend of centering autistics and wanting resources to follow need, instead of a master plan in New York, is part of the neurodiversity movement, which is interesting for any number of reasons. A successful, recent outgrowth, Boycott Autism Speaks, is a vivid display of disabled agency, the power of social media, and a loosely-organized, grass roots effort that works. A quick scroll down the boycott Facebook page reveals what may be the most interesting feature of the autistic freedom struggle. Women are creating most original content. The writers, bloggers, and makers of memes are often disabled, the mothers of disabled children, or both. Women and, in a few cases, nonbinary people, garner followings and set the agenda. Men are present, but most of them like, reblog, and retweet.

Recently, a self-identified feminist blogger was ableist. Autism moms, some galvanized the boycott and new to activism, attacked. When I asked them to stop raising a bigot’s pageviews, it was with friendly laughter. I learned that lesson in brushes with them before they were allies. Whatever the sides were, men were rarely the ones striving hardest for the perceived best interests of their children or clamoring loudest for recognition as fully human. One of the most bitter conflicts on the Internet, now winding down, has been women’s work from start to finish. The ascendent faction that is the neurodiversity movement is full of women, has significant, queer-identified leadership, and, despite the problem of underdiagnosis, a growing number of strong voices that have arisen from communities of color. The overlap of disability and poverty in our society goes without saying.

How that happened is a question for scholars. What I know is that things here are increasingly going right. This is a diverse movement with a fair track record of supporting justice for all. Women, sometimes others who are not men, at the forefront of making change. Neurodiversity and its fruits, like the boycott, are centered on supporting vulnerable people to be as free as possible. This movement prizes children and their parents, especially mothers. I have no romantic notions about feminine or maternal moral exceptionalism, but I hope these features will let us make something more right, more humane than what has been. The potential here is rich, its development worth watching.

About the Author: R. Larkin Taylor-Parker is a student, performer, sometime activist, and shadowy presence on the Internet. Larkin can usually be found along Atlanta’s I-20 corridor.

"Resistance"

I recently relocated to Los Angeles from Atlanta and have been spending my time getting to know the city. I’ve also been spending a lot of time hunting for employment. I use the word hunting because it’s like the hunger games out here.

Last weekend, my partner’s newsfeed announced that a historically famous eatery in the city was re-opening. Apparently, some investors had bought it out and were on the back end of modernizing it. They were hiring for all positions, the post announced, and the job fair would take place the following day at another DTLA location.

I showed up in my best pair of black dress pants, a bright but conservative blouse, and my favorite pair of kitten heels. Another young woman showed up just before me in a dress and pumps. There were two pre-screening interviews before anyone was able to interview with the GM. However, one of the investors announced to one of the screeners–loud enough for everyone to hear–that this particular young woman could bypass the screening interview because “she had a pretty face and was wearing heels.”

Before I go on, let me paint you a picture of the scenario:

*The two initial pre-screeners outside of the venue were young, hip looking white people (one male, one female)

*The investors/owners were all white; most were men except for one woman and they were dressed to the 9s (think Italian suits and designer dress)

*The young woman who arrived with me was white and thin

*I am not white nor am I thin

Not only did I feel underdressed after arriving, but I also felt slightly demoralized after that comment from the woman investor. To make matters worse, I was put on queue to meet with the GM and passed over twice before he finally met with me.

My interview with the GM went well enough, in my opinion, and I felt good about it after leaving the interview. However, for the rest of the (busy) day, I felt so low. I struggle with imposter syndrome on the regular, but this day it was hitting me pretty hard. It wasn’t until later that night when I had time to collect my thoughts that I realized that the experience at the job fair had stuck around in my head and had me feeling bad about myself. I felt … Apologetic for who I was.  How would I ever assimilate as an Angelino without “a pretty face and heels?” Is that what it would take?

And then it hit me: Living in this body, being who I am is totally oppositional to the type of culture or lifestyle that is celebrated such spaces. As such, my identity is a form of resistance in such spaces. This is important because norms tell us to become someone or something that we are not, when we should be celebrating the diversity found among and within us.

So, no. I will not assimilate. I will not be changed.

I see you, LA. But you can’t have me.

Taina Brown is a New Yorican introvert masquerading as a foodie ATLien pretending to be a hipster Angelino. In her spare time she likes reblogging things that matter, sleeping in, and dogs. You can find her on IG (tainamb), Facebook (tainambrown), Twitter (@TainaBrown), and Tumblr (sacredremedy).

“You Should Know…”

By Tai Brown

…the name Andra Day. She’s the new artist brought to us by Warner Records. Her soulful voice and style is equal parts Etta James and Adele with a little bit of Billie Holiday sprinkled on top. She performed at this years Essence Fest back in July.  Before being signed, Day gained YouTube popularity with her covers of popular songs. Check out her YouTube page and a brief write up in Essence magazine below.

…Amelia Boynton Robinson died. She was a civil rights leader and freedom fighter. She was also the first African-American woman and female Democratic congressional candidate in Alabama. In 1965, on “Bloody Sunday,” she was part of the crowd attacked by troopers while crossing the Edmun Pettus Bridge in Selma, AL. Before all of that, however, she was an educator. She was 104 when she died. Read more abouther  here.

…la Farfa. In Japan, women and girls who don’t fit the stereotypical size are commonly known as  debu {fatty}. la Farfa is hoping to change that with their magazine geared specifically toward plus-sized women and girls. They recently celebrated their one year anniversary and because of their work, lingerie line Pocha Kawabura was recently launched to accommodate females of all sizes. Editor in chief, Harumi Kon: “We don’t promote losing weight or gaining weight, because there are women that look gorgeous regardless of what they weigh.” Still not sure how I feel about the term “marshmallow girl” but I’m all for body positivity. Check out Buzzfeed’s piece on them here.

…that the fangirl in me is totally geeking out right now. Fire Lord Zuko’s story is being told in an all new comic book series by Superman writer, Gene Yang. I could always relate to the misunderstood Prince of the Fire Nation, though friends always said I was more like his on-and-off-again girlfriend, Mae. But I digress. The series will pick up shortly after Zuko is crowned as Fire Lord. Part one is expected to be released in September. You can read about it here. Don’t mind the typo in the first paragraph.

Illustration by Sonja