21 April, 2010

Wait you guys, things are sometimes beautiful

Because people my age are really fantastic at pointing out exactly how much everything sucks, but not how much everything is awesome, I haven't yet written about something that happened to me two weeks ago in my nonfiction workshop.

Basically, in a passive-aggressive move against a kid in my class who made what I took to be patronizing comments about the way I talk, and also just as a result of this totally unbearable pressure that's been building all term because I've been so overwhelmed by school, especially this particular class because so much speaking is required and because it's such a long class, and also because of various classes this term where I've gotten to listen to professors and classmates explaining autism, I started writing an essay about being disabled to be workshopped in class.

I was leery of talking too much about "the movement" because I thought that it would seem strange and radical to people who haven't been exposed to it. I also have very little interest in explaining what autism is or how it affects me. So I started the essay by talking about my psych professor's declaration that "autistic kids want people for what they can get from them, not for who they are," and my non-response. Then I talked about Joe and how I feel that people like Joe are cut off from other people not just because they are nonverbal but because of the huge amount of distancing and othering pity that is heaped on disabled and different people by society. Then I moved out to talking (vaguely) about my identification as disabled and my alignment with disability rights, basically explaining how I feel unable to talk about this stuff in real life, how I feel invisible, how I feel like a disabled person is never expected to be in the room when disabilities are being talked about.

The process of writing the essay was really upsetting for reasons I don't have time to describe and I ended up feeling that it had been a bad idea to put myself in the stressful position of trying to write something like that aimed at my classmates. That's when I wrote sometimes the best self-advocacy is shutting the fuck up and I resolved to bite my tongue through what I expected would be a really uncomfortable workshop and never work on this essay again.

However, the people in my class were incredibly kind and sensitive, by and large did not tell me that they wanted more explanations of autism, that I should think about severely disabled people's parents' feelings, that I should describe my childhood, that people with autism can't talk, or basically anything I was expecting. One kid said, "I think this essay proves your professor wrong." Another said, when asked to give negative feedback, "The speaker ends the essay on a negative note by claiming that she isn't accomplishing anything, but that isn't true--she works with kids and has a blog."

I'm mega late for eating dinner with my friend. But I'm just trying to say I feel extremely different in class now, and better about my essay, and also proud and glad about "disclosing," as LF would call it. This week in class quite a lot of things were wrong with me, and I don't know how I would have been able to stay above water sitting at a desk for three hours if I didn't now feel so safe with my classmates, more free about talking badly, and more able to do stimmy things.

(Also, soon after I told her that talking in workshops makes me really upset, my professor decided to change the form of our workshops so that instead of getting only one turn to talk and being required to talk and being expected to cover very specific things, we are still required to talk, but we get several chances to talk about a few different aspects of the piece being workshopped, and we don't have to talk every time. I don't think she made this change only because of me, but it has made my experience of class incredibly different and I'm much more able to participate well and feel comfortable.)

No comments:

Post a Comment