Tag Archives: blog carnival

This is not the post I started out writing.

Standard

The next disability blog carnival’s topic is intersectionality. Intersectionality is one of those words that does not slide completely off my brain, the way ‘monotropism’ does, but slides partially off my brain and is not a word I would ever use except in paragraphs like this one.

It is a word normally used by people within a very particular way of looking at oppression. And among people who may not be exactly within that category, but who take the word from those who are. I don’t even know the word for that category, although I can usually recognize it by the sorts of words it uses. As long as it is not too abstract, I greatly appreciate reading from things in this category. But I am not myself someone who can work within it (may have something to do with this post, which is in no way an insult to those who can work within it). Intersectionality refers to the way that being oppressed in more than one way at a time (such as being disabled and black and female) combines to make an experience more than just the sum of its parts.

I have spent all of the time since the blog carnival was announced, trying to write on this topic. The results in no way compared to some of the brilliant writing I have read from others. In fact, all they compared to were past efforts to write homework assignments I barely understood by plugging in words to a formula and straining my brain to the point of pain (rhyme not intended) trying to come up with more words to fill in the blanks.

I started out by listing the current categories I fall under when it comes to being subject to various forms of oppression: female, disabled, lesbian, mixed-class/poor, nongendered, and fat. Then I added a few notes under some of them.

1. (Disabled.) Specifically, I’m physically disabled, cognitively disabled, psych survivor/ex-patient/mad/etc. take your pick, and have chronic illness and chronic pain. All of which are sometimes lumped together and sometimes play out very differently from each other. And while these categories stem from the medical model, they also often reflect ways that even the political aspects of the disability communities have divided themselves, and thus become relevant as more than just medical categories.

2. (Mixed-class/poor.) Born middle-class, been poor by my country’s standards since adulthood. Because this has to do with disability, I am not the sort of fashionably downwardly mobile person I often read about who can always go back to the middle class or even the working class but chooses not to because it clashes with their values or wishes. I know enough from having talked to people who grew up poor and working-class that I’m quite aware I have plenty of middle-class privilege that can’t evaporate no matter what happens. My self-description as poor is not an attempt to erase that, but rather an attempt to convey the reality that I am subject to major classist oppression that will last the rest of my life no matter what choices I make. Permanent, involuntary downward mobility exists in the world, even if I’ve virtually never heard it discussed when people talk about classism. Which itself probably has something to do with the fact that disabled people are invisible, and that most discussions of classism seem to revolve around the struggles of the working class. And the fact that people expect class to be simpler than it is, either you are or you aren’t a particular class, when things are more complicated than that.

3. (Nongendered.) Neither cisgendered nor transgendered. Gender is a concept that, while I understand intellectually that it is greatly important for other people, is entirely absent and incomprehensible to me. I imagine that it must be some collection of aspects of a person’s identity that all cluster together in most people’s minds, whereas I’ve spent my life oblivious to how they are connected or why I would want to connect them, and innocently trampling all over people’s ideas of what it means to be masculine, feminine, or even any particular point in the middle. For more information, read Urocyon’s Gender, Sexuality, Identity, and Binaries or, if you can get it, the article “Growing Up Genderless” by Jane Meyerding in the anthology Women from Another Planet?

Then, I set about writing about how those things mixed around make life much more complicated. Most of the things I could come up with were the obvious: my status as what a friend called a “perpetual outsider” in single-issue, single-identity communities. Even in the autistic community, where I have found (unasked for and unlooked for) status, I have found no belonging. How could I, in a community where it’s impossible to go anywhere without hearing some other aspect of my life (even some to do with autism itself, since I am far from the right kind of autie) degraded, denied, and disparaged? Even the “status” has been given to a distortion of my life, not to who I am. And the same is true of the LGBT community, disability community, feminism, and all the others. I have only to walk into an LGBT community center to find a gay man who is inspired by my presence to tell me how he used to work in an institution where there were people who looked like me, where he would stand over the cribs of some of the inmates and ask (insert pained voice) “Why are you alive?” And who wants my sympathy for the agony he feels at the existence of disabled people. Seriously. This happened.

(For more on that kind of topic, see The Difference Slot, by elmindreda, who eventually left the autistic community over such experiences.)

The original thing I wrote was full of stories like that despite them just being the tip of the iceberg on this subject matter. And I grew more and more frustrated as I fit my writing into a formula that did not at all convey my thoughts. Then I decided I would rather write nothing at all than write what I didn’t mean. So here is what I do mean:

I can’t write a lot about intersectionality as a topic because I don’t ever not write about intersectionality as a topic. Every single piece of my life that I describe, is the life of someone who falls under multiple categories. I write about these things by becoming very specific and writing about things I do and experience. I write as one single instance of life and expect people to fill in the broader context on their own. And from that broader context, they can use it to think about situations that at first glance are nothing like mine.

The way I experience these things has no equivalent in words, that I know of. It is like being acted upon by a large number of separate gravitational forces that push and pull in a physical-seeming way. It’s possible to name specific forms of oppression that are recognizable to everyone, but the way I experience these things isn’t as simple as listing off sexism, ableism, etc. As with most of life, I experience a much higher degree of detail in these gravitational forces that push and pull on me, than there is in the words. So why divide them in the exact way that they are normally divided? Why say that there are six things, when you could say twenty, and why say twenty when you could say a hundred? These are just shorthand for the more complex forces at work in the societies we live in, and it is important not to forget that in these often hyper-abstract discussions. I understand very much why a common language is important, but sometimes it obscures as much as it communicates.

So I will continue to move through the world (and the bits of the world that are around me will affect me, and I will affect them) and write (when I can) about specific aspects of my life, all of which have something to do with this thing they call intersectionality, whether that’s the topic of the day or not. Because I don’t stop being all these different sorts of person, when I stop specifically naming them.

Breaking out of sheer monotony.

Standard

For the next disability blog carnival, with a theme of “breaking out” (but not in rashes) (hosted by Andrea of Andrea’s Buzzing About, I was going to write something all about the fairy tales people tell themselves in their heads about disabled people. I was going to talk about the fact that when you’re not one fairy tale, they go “Oooh, so you’re this other fairy tale then.” And of course the consequences of not living up to other people’s fairy-tale versions of disability, or of being some weird hybrid of them that nobody expects.

However, I’ve been ill lately, and that’s made it difficult to write about that particular thing, but necessary to break out of something entirely different. A strange, monotonously repetitive mindset that seems to go along with some levels of pain and weakness.

It goes something like this (translated into words, of course):

  • Hmm, there is something I think I might want to be saying or doing right now.
  • That means I have to translate it into the right words or actions.
  • So here I go, translating.
  • I need to connect to my body more in order to do all this. Right now, my mind is sort of floating off and detaching to try to deal with this.
  • Okay, there’s the body, that’s what I’ve got to figure out before I can type or otherwise move.
  • YEEEEEEEEEEEOOOOOOWWWWWWWCH.
  • Okay, need to find a way to deal with the pain.
  • Brain is floating off and disconnecting again.
  • Thoughts are turning into all these little wispy fragments again.
  • Got to try to make at least some sense out of what’s going on, because it’s purely miserable otherwise.
  • Hmm, there’s something I might want to do or say…

Only, repeat it. And repeat it. And repeat it. And repeat it.

Until it turns into, not a bunch of separate things occurring in a particular order like I describe above, but a whole rhythm of experiences where different things sort of pulsate in and out of awareness in a regular pattern, and the whole thing is covered over, no matter which part is going on at that moment, by feeling really, really lousy and ill. And it gets mostly tedious and monotonous, of all things, because the rhythm sticks in my brain even if memory of what’s going on keeps sliding out of it.

And I’m not really talking about anything minor, either. Even before I realized anything was up, people were telling me I looked really crappy. At the worst of it, someone called 911, and the paramedics tried to test my level of alertness by pressing as hard as they could on a nerve that was near the surface and already irritated. I felt the pain, but failed the test completely because I couldn’t do anything other than stay limp. (Which might be good in a way, because normally if someone inflicted that much pain on me I’d fight back.) The whole lack of response == lack of awareness idea is one that really bugs me, although I know there’s some kind of protocol that requires the whole pain-infliction routine.

At any rate, even when things haven’t been that bad, things haven’t been the best circumstances for a long, eloquent post on disability stereotyping either.

So instead of the post I was after about breaking out of stereotypes, you get this one, where I get to attempt to break out of the rhythmic monotony of thoughts being thwarted by pain and exhaustion. Please try to avoid those pesky stereotypes while reading this, though; they get old.

There are a few reasons I made this post:

One is what I said, to break out of the monotony. Not that this is the only time I’ve done so (the repeating-thing seems to come and go), but it’s one time. And even lying around not doing much gets a bit old even when I am doing better than before.

Another is just in case it describes an experience that someone else might’ve had but had trouble describing. Because that’s something that’s often important to me. It took a lot of work to ask someone if this was common, and it turns out it’s a pretty common response to pain and illness in general if it’s bad enough. I’ve experienced it before, but of course at the time when I’m experiencing it, I don’t usually have the capacity to remember any other time, nor to imagine it stopping or anything changing in the future. It’s only in retrospect I can put it in any kind of perspective, because at the time my already-tenuous grasp on time is, to put it mildly, not there anymore.

And the third reason is that I can now at least post the thought that most commonly leaps to mind during the phase when there’s something I want to communicate that ends up getting cut off before I can say anything. It’s something that goes, as well, for every other time I either can’t think or move in standard enough ways to generate responses other people understand. It translates best as, “Please remember I’m a person.”

So maybe my inability to post what I was intending to, isn’t so bad after all.