ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem came out of the April 7, 2015 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] siliconshaman and LJ user Ng_moonmoth. It also fills "The Company of Strangers" square in my 3-16-15 card for the [community profile] genprompt_bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by [personal profile] librarygeek for April being Autism Awareness Month. It belongs to the series An Army of One: The Autistic Secession in Space.


"Othering In"


Astin had never quite trusted language
in the way that other people seemed to do,
because it left no space for xyr between
the categories of "male" and "female."

Astin was always something else,
always other than expected,
never fitting in no matter
how hard xe tried.

It itched in ways
that xe could not describe.

In the Lacuna, though, everything changed.

There Astin found people who agreed
that if the box on the form was inaccurate
and the options were incomplete
then of course it was the paperwork
that needed to be changed

instead of Astin.

Just like that, Other became an option,
an inclusion rather than an exclusion,
a lacuna between male and female
where Astin fit quite comfortably.

So too, the people of the Lacuna decided
that they were not freaks or crazies
but shadow-soldiers, specialists,
experts with valuable skills that
should be respected instead of
taken for granted.

The ones who spoke with Operetta
about their mental and physical needs
called themselves psychiatric survivors
instead of noncompliant patients.

Operetta hummed off-key and wrote out
requests for supplies that might work better.

It was Hootowl who declared that neurodiversity
was an asset, not a liability -- that the people
in the Lacuna mostly differed from those
in the galactic Arms and that was okay.

Backup confided to his brothers that he was
tired of being talked about as a disorder
since he liked the way he was and it
wasn't hurting him any, nevermind
what his father used to say.

They decided that it was a mental variability
instead of a mental disability, and that was fine.

The language was evolving along with the culture,
expanding to create a space in which new voices
could speak and be heard as clearly as the old,
where Backup's repetitions and Shakespeare's quotes
commanded equal respect with Router's careful orders.

The fresh phrases settled in alongside
the body language of hand-flapping and
a general distaste for too much eye contact,
framing and embracing the relationships
through which people interacted.

Most were perfectly content to socialize
across the vast black ballroom of space
instead of trying to cram everyone together
into a single habitat -- they had Sargasso Base
and Supply Base Bounty 3D3N, and that was
enough for those who wished to mingle.

They were strange.
They were strangers.

These were good things
in contrast to the old familiar conflicts
which they had discarded in favor
of this far-flung camaraderie,
othering in toward belonging.

Astin had never felt so comfortable,
so utterly at home, as xe did now
in the company of strangers.

* * *

Notes:

Genderqueer identity and glossary are complex, spanning a wide range of everything outside the masculine male and feminine female categories. While often classed as gender identity disorder or gender dysphoria, this is not accurate for everyone. Some, like Astin, would just really like everyone to stop trying to make them be the gender that their sex implies; it's not necessarily about change but about acceptance. Pathologizing the situation does not help. The problem isn't caused by gender variation, but by gender policing.

A more positive mental vocabulary helps too. It is harmful to scapegoat neurovariant or mentally ill people. Also, this is from a reference on multiple personalities, but in general people do like like being called a disorder. Further consider that some disorders, such as homosexuality, have come and gone as people realized it was not the trait causing the problem but the surrounding society.  Childhood is not a disorder, neither is neurdiversity, and people should be free to choose their own labels.  Being different or being rejected by society doesn't mean you have a problem; having difficulty with your everyday life or mental focus is the kind of thing you might want help for, but even then sometimes external accommodations work better for some folks than trying to change themselves.

And of course, for autism awareness, here's a pointer to the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network. An Army of One is compatible with the autistic inclusion pledge, with some poems being prompted by people on the spectrum. Others have been prompted by friends and family of neurovariant folks, or other neurotypical readers following up on interesting threads.

Thanks for posting!

Date: 2015-04-10 12:15 am (UTC)
librarygeek: cute cartoon fox with nose in book (Default)
From: [personal profile] librarygeek
Yes, I needed to read this today, so I sponsored it sight unseen, on faith that you did as good a job as ever. THANK YOU!

I sponsored 100,000 and 1 also, but that at least I have read the preview copy. ;-)

(no subject)

Date: 2015-04-10 01:23 am (UTC)
mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)
From: [personal profile] mdlbear
Like.

Emotionally complex response

Date: 2015-04-10 01:44 pm (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
SIIGH.

Want MORE.

Re: Emotionally complex response

Date: 2015-04-10 07:50 pm (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
It's all tangled together, actually.

The culture as it is developing is ENGROSSING, one I'd seriously consider having the family translocate to.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-04-10 04:43 pm (UTC)
kyleri: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kyleri
This is _delightful_ and I wanna move there.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-04-11 03:37 am (UTC)
technoshaman: Tux (Default)
From: [personal profile] technoshaman
Astin had never felt so comfortable,
so utterly at home, as xe did now
in the company of strangers.


BTDT. :)

Re: Yes...

Date: 2015-04-11 04:46 am (UTC)
technoshaman: (sing)
From: [personal profile] technoshaman
As the filkers say, "Strangers no more, we sing." :)

(no subject)

Date: 2015-04-10 12:15 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] labelleizzy.livejournal.com
oh *yay*.

you always write the kinds of thing I wish I grokked better than dimly, and you always shine a little light on things.

Thank you!

Date: 2015-04-10 01:03 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
I'm glad you enjoyed this so much.

I tend to write the kind of culture that I admire. So the Lacuna is quirky and has its geographic challenges, but on the whole it's a nice place. I'm intrigued by how society would evolve in that situation.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-04-10 02:19 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] clockworklady.livejournal.com

I remembered the proposal that people write about neurovariant characters so they aren't an 'other' or a 'burden' to their loved ones. I guess the only thing that's stopping me is that I'm worried about writing a stereotype or accidentally making some poor character the comic relief when they shouldn't be, or making them 'super-powered' as 'compensation'.
Then again, I have two gender-variant characters who are definitely not murderers or sex workers. Well, they are dead, but nearly every other character in the setting is already dead. Sure, one of them does hate her body, but she's very self-critical about herself in general, and will be spending most of the plot helping someone else, so hopefully not a 'victim' any more than anyone else. After many people, including her, have gone through a lot of trouble, she'll finally realise that she may actually be as worthwhile as her loved ones say.
My other character has a more 'typical' experience as rising with a body aligned to his true gender after death, but remembers his life and is one of the few willing to talk about it. I may have more of a problem with making sure he doesn't come across as 'camp': he's a French theatre critic who loves his male partner, fine clothes and his gold watch but I would say he's more cultured.

Thoughts

Date: 2015-04-10 03:35 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> I remembered the proposal that people write about neurovariant characters so they aren't an 'other' or a 'burden' to their loved ones. <<

That can help, yes.

>> I guess the only thing that's stopping me is that I'm worried about writing a stereotype or accidentally making some poor character the comic relief when they shouldn't be, or making them 'super-powered' as 'compensation'. <<

It can be challenging to write outside what you know. The best technique I've found is to get direct input from people with that trait, either live or by reading things they've written. An Army of One has drawn heavily from prompts by neurovariant folks along with their friends and family members. More official sources were much less accurate.

>> Then again, I have two gender-variant characters who are definitely not murderers or sex workers. Well, they are dead, but nearly every other character in the setting is already dead. Sure, one of them does hate her body, but she's very self-critical about herself in general, and will be spending most of the plot helping someone else, so hopefully not a 'victim' any more than anyone else. After many people, including her, have gone through a lot of trouble, she'll finally realise that she may actually be as worthwhile as her loved ones say. <<

That makes sense.

>> My other character has a more 'typical' experience as rising with a body aligned to his true gender after death, but remembers his life and is one of the few willing to talk about it. I may have more of a problem with making sure he doesn't come across as 'camp': he's a French theatre critic who loves his male partner, fine clothes and his gold watch but I would say he's more cultured. <<

*chuckle* I think camp has its place. I've got a couple of flamboyantly gay characters, Backdraft and Flambeaux ... but another of my high-camp one is Savoir Faire, who as far as I know is straight.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-04-10 02:51 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rhodielady-47.livejournal.com
This is a good poem.
I wish other writers would include this sort of social improvements in their worlds.
:^}

Thank you!

Date: 2015-04-10 02:55 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> This is a good poem. <<

I'm delighted to hear that.

>> I wish other writers would include this sort of social improvements in their worlds.
:^} <<

I wish that too. Maybe if I keep giving good examples, others will follow suit. There are writers who have done glorious worldbuilding and brilliant sociology. C.J. Cherryh, C.S. Friedman, and M.C.A. Hogarth all leap readily to mind.

Re: Thank you!

Date: 2015-04-10 04:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rhodielady-47.livejournal.com
Cherryh actually had her own form of neuro-varience in some of her books (I think the "azi" in her books can be counted as neuro-varient?)
:^}

(no subject)

Date: 2015-04-14 02:43 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] clockworklady.livejournal.com

I've looked at diagnosis criteria for autism and it seems irritatingly vague, especially for Asperger's. I mean, I had trouble understanding gossip and bitchiness among girls growing up and I was taken for a ride a lot. Eventually, after a year of being excluded and bullied by students and teachers, I became scared of socialising and thought being tough and serious would stop me from being tormented or being the butt of jokes in my family. As a younger sibling to a very smart, quick one, this always happened. My brother is still capable of bullying those 'dumber' than him, but thankfully chooses not to unless provoked. Especially since he was rewarded with laughter and applause for doing so as a child. Rather than teach me, my family would snipe because I didn't speak in the right voice or answer the phone right or other things I probably would have gotten right if they had actually bothered to show me. I was also paranoid about lying because I was often accused of it- but when you have parents who go off like landmines, you would say or do anything to avoid them screaming at you. Yet Mum told lies about me to her friends for cheap sympathy and laughs, and got angry when I wrote her opinions about school on a worksheet. But I always knew not to say unflattering things about someone's appearance and my dad has either never got it right or thinks it doesn't apply to him.


I do have friends now and a very loving relationship. I became a lot calmer when people were actively and consistently nice to me and I wasn't targeted by a bully. I get anxious when people are loud, when there's shouting, when there's nasty tones of voice, when there's a lot of conversations going on at once and when people are gossiping. I like a bit of small talk but I'd rather know about who I'm speaking to and I hate whole, hour-long inane conversations when there's no point or is entirely gossip. But apparently I'm a weird woman for hating gossip, as if gossip is feminine. I don't think it would have been comely for a woman to be gossiping in the Victorian era. Not a nice example, but my point is that 'normal girl' behaviour has changed over time.
It's actually difficult to get socialising right when you read a lot of fiction where the characters who are good, giving and kind are actually treated well or win out, and the mean ones and those who gossip are usually punished or aren't the heroes, so don't get the same happy ending. You think being kind is enough, but then when people hurt you it's somehow considered normal and it's your fault anyway for some reason.
I haven't been diagnosed with autism as I score high on empathy, which is very flawed, and I was guessed to have ADD without hyperactivity once, but how do we know if someone is autistic or hasn't been taught right or is convinced other people are too cruel to be bothered with, i.e. traumatised?

Thoughts

Date: 2015-05-03 11:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> I've looked at diagnosis criteria for autism and it seems irritatingly vague, especially for Asperger's.<<

Yes, it can be.

>>Eventually, after a year of being excluded and bullied by students and teachers, I became scared of socialising and thought being tough and serious would stop me from being tormented or being the butt of jokes in my family.<<

Wow, that sucks.

>> I do have friends now and a very loving relationship. I became a lot calmer when people were actively and consistently nice to me and I wasn't targeted by a bully. <<

Yay!

>>but how do we know if someone is autistic or hasn't been taught right or is convinced other people are too cruel to be bothered with, i.e. traumatised?<<

Or both. Autistic people are greatly discomfited by many of the demands made by neurotypical people, such as making eye contact. So the first requisite of interaction becomes "hurt yourself." Who wants to be around people always telling you to hurt yourself? Punishing you for not hurting yourself enough? No wonder autistic people are so solitary. But put two compatible ones together with each other, they get along like a house on fire. Funny how that goes.

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