Monday, July 17, 2017

I'm Done

I'm done.  This is my final post.

I'm done kissing evangelical Christians' behinds and trying to be more like them.

In fact, I'm done with evangelical Christianity altogether.

My philosophical beliefs are based on love and justice, and they always have been, without any conditions or religious doctrine.

I could never, nor do I want to, be like the phony Christians who judge other people.

I'm done.  I'm.  Just.  DONE.

Friday, April 21, 2017

A Revelation That I Had Today

Image description: a brown-skinned Black woman (Kristy) with shoulder-length locs and thin-rimmed oval glasses, wearing a blue-and-gray striped short-sleeved polo shirt and a rainbow-flag button.
Today, I had a spiritual revelation as I went to my favorite shopping center.  I walked by GameStop and saw that they were supporting Autism Speaks, which is an atrocious organization.  I was starting to feel downcast because I thought my mom and I were the only people in my inner circle (the people whom I consider my closest friends and family) who don't support Autism Speaks.  And then I thought about all the people in the world who both knowingly and unknowingly support an organization that contributes to the stigma and oppression of autistic people.  I started to wonder if I should stop advocating for human rights and stay silent about the damaging rhetoric that Autism Speaks spews out just so I don't ruffle any feathers, but then this Bible verse came to mind:
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. - Romans 12:2, New International Version of the Bible
I also thought of a Bible verse from a hymn that was sung in church during the tithes and offerings:
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with you God. - Micah 6:8, NIV
 And then I remembered a sermon that I listened to this morning by televangelist Joyce Meyer: as Christians we're supposed to stand out because we're set apart from other people.

And that's when it hit me: I can't stay silent about human rights and justice, not while myself and other people are being oppressed and marginalized.  I want to help stop things like restraint/seclusion and applied behavioral analysis, so no other person has to go through the trauma that I went through.

And I'm not just talking about rights for autistic and other disabled people—I'm talking about LGBTQ rights, women's rights, rights for people of color, etc.

Christians say all the time that "God is in control", but the way they act after they say this phrase suggests that they're not willing to help stand up for someone when that person is being oppressed as in, "Accept your oppression.  It's God's will."

No, it's not God's will.  It's not God's will to deny justice to the marginalized.  There are many Bible verses that speak of justice, but this is my favorite one:
It is not good to be partial to the wicked and so deprive the innocent of justice. - Proverbs 18:5, NIV
If you're a true Christian, stand out, and stand up for the oppressed.

Many blessings.



Wednesday, March 29, 2017

ABA's Harmful Message to Children: You Can't Say "No"

Image description: a red circle with a slash through it - the "No" symbol

CW/TW: ABA, sexual abuse, autonomy, consent, gaslighting, violence

I haven't posted here in a while because I was going through another bad funk, but now that I have the spoons, I'm ready to talk the harmful massage that ABA gives to children.

If you've read my previous posts The Dangers of ABA Part 1 and Part 2, you already know why ABA is harmful to people, but what I didn't mention was what ABA teaches children: that they can't say "No", that they must say "Yes" or "OK" to everything that someone tells them if they want to be liked or accepted by anyone, which is extremely dangerous.

When I was 11 years old, I was sitting on the school bus with a girl whom I thought was my "best friend", and she molested me.  I don't remember what happened immediately after that - probably because I blocked it out of my memory.

I kept this hidden from my mother for 15 years because I was so ashamed that I let it happened.  I finally told her last month.  She asked me how I wanted to handle it, and I said that I wanted to work it out in therapy.  So I told my therapist the next time I saw her, about the ABA and the molestation, but she said that ABA wasn't abuse.  She also said something about the molestation that wasn't very reassuring.  I don't remember what that was because I blocked that out too.

What therapists, psychiatrists and other "professionals" fail to understand is that ABA is abuse, and it is harmful - children are under the impression that their feelings, their body, and their identity doesn't belong to them, that they belong to other people.  ABA teaches children that they're to please other people no matter what, which is wrong.

Far too often, disabled people are the victims of violence and abuse.  According to the World Health Organization, disabled children are four times more likely to be the victims of violence than abled children, and adults with psychiatric disabilities are four times more likely to be victims of violence than those who aren't psychiatrically disabled.

So please, don't continue to defend ABA after you've read this.

Thank you.

Friday, December 30, 2016

The Dangers of ABA: A Survivor's Story, Pt. 2

Image description: a road sign that reads "Hope".  The background is a partly cloudy sky with the sun shining in the upper right hand corner.

CW/TW: dissociation, suicidal thoughts and attempts, internalized shame, low self-esteem, religion, depression and anxiety

This second part is really hard to talk about because I'm just coming out of the wilderness, but I'll discuss it anyway.

After I graduated high school, I didn't go to college or get a job because I was still recovering from the trauma I received in school. I lost a couple of friends because of the way I acted in high school, and because I vented about my problems too much on Facebook.  I was really devastated because I was really close with those people.  I started to feel suicidal again.

I also started going through nightly rages where I would scream, curse, throw things, etc.  It really scared my family, but I just couldn't control it.  I felt like I was under attack, and I was.  More on that later.

Plus, I had to be hospitalized several times in this period of my life.  I've actually been hospitalized for psychiatric reasons nine times in my life ever since my sophomore year of high school.  

I first attempted suicide at 21 years old.  I won't go into any details because I don't want anyone to copy what I did, but I was just feeling so bad for being autistic and queer that I just couldn't live with myself anymore.

When I was about 24, I started to dissociate from femininity because I was bullied and pressured to be that way for so long.  I still liked girly things, but it was just too traumatic for me to associate my identity with them, so I started rejecting more and more feminine things.  I started identifying as transgender because I wanted nothing to do with being a girl anymore.

On February 24, 2016 when I was 25, I attempted suicide again.  Again, I won't get into details, but I did have to be hospitalized for the umpteenth time.  I have never felt so horrible in my life.

I coped with my hospitalization by reading devotionals from televangelist Joyce Meyer, and when I got out of the hospital, I was a new prescription for medication.  I felt this wonderful sense of joy that I never felt before.   Most of my internalized ableism about being autistic went away.

But then a few months later I lost a couple more friends after they found out that I attempted suicide, my anxiety starting increasing, and just a couple of weeks ago, I was in the hospital again for suicidal ideation, this time because I was ashamed of being queer.

After I got out of the hospital, I just asked God to take over my life, I surrendered my life to Him and now I realized who I am in Christ: a Christian, autistic, bipolar, Black, futch (butch + femme) lesbian woman.  God loves me just the way I am, and I try to remind myself that.

There are days that things are still hard.  I still get told things that I'm going to hell, and it's hard not to listen to them.  Also, I get excluded from many Christian groups online and in real life, so I have to have reminders that God loves me just as I am.  I am his child, and nothing can separate me from His love.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Dangers of ABA: A Survivor's Story, Pt. 1

Image description: a bunch of black-and-white apples, with a red one that stands out among the bunch.  The red apple represents non-conformity.

content/trigger warning: ABA, ableism, compliance, conformity, aversives, suicidal thoughts, internalized shame, PTSD, religion, religious bigotry, anti-LGBTQ bigotry, LGBTQ conversion therapy, restraint and seclusion, self-harm.

When I was around 3 years old, I was diagnosed with autism.  What came next was a nightmare for me - I was placed in early intervention, which involved applied behavioral analysis, or ABA.  ABA is a method used by psychologists, speech pathologists, and some staff in special education settings to try and make autistic and other neurodivergent people pass for neurotypical as much as possible.  ABA was developed by O. Ivar Lovaas, an extremely ableist psychologist.

Just how ableist was Lovaas?  He said the following quote from his 1981 book, The Me Book:
“With responsibility, the developmentally disabled individual takes on dignity and ‘acquires’ certain basic rights as a person. No one has the right to be taken care of, no matter how retarded he is. So, put your child to work; his work is to learn.” 
There you have it, folks - he believed that people should have to learn to conform to the world, at the expense of basic human rights and dignity.  That's simply not true - everyone, regardless of disability, race, sexuality, faith (or lack thereof), gender identity, etc, must be given basic rights and human dignity.

Lovaas as also anti-LGBTQ.  In the 1970s, he developed LGBTQ conversion therapy with the help of George Rekers, a so-called "Christian" psychologist, and that's not Christ-like at all - to force someone to conform to the world, especially to get basic human rights.

Back to my post-autism diagnosis and early intervention, I was placed in a special education school called H. Winship Wheatley Special Center in Capitol Heights, Maryland, near my house in 1993.  It was an early childhood center for children from preschool to second grade.  I'm not sure what the age/grade limit is now.

Now I don't remember much about my first year of preschool because I was only 3 at the time, but in my second year of preschool in 1994, I was having more meltdowns because I was frustrated that I had to follow so many of the teacher's rules.  I think following those rules, plus the rules of the ABA pathologists.  It was too much to handle.

Kindergarten was even harder in 1995.  I had trouble meeting the expectations of the teachers and I was having even more meltdowns.  I had to sit out during playtime and other activities because of the meltdowns.

First grade was even worse in 1996.  I had a very strict teacher, who would take away our privileges if we didn't do exactly what she said: speak in the appropriate tone of voice, get all the answers right on your paper, pay attention, etc.  The fact that the fire alarm went off almost every day didn't help either.  There wouldn't even be a fire drill and it would go off.  The worst part was that it was a buzzer fire alarm, and being autistic and having a lot of sensory sensitivities, it was a living hell.  My teacher did something really horrible during a "fire drill".  As we were leaving the school building, I had my hands over my ears because I couldn't stand the noise, and she uncovered my ears and yelled "HANDS DOWN!"  This was also around the time I learned that I was autistic: I asked my mom why I acted different from the other kids and was being treated differently then they were, and she said it was because I "had autism".  I started to think autism was bad because I heard other people say I was bad.  I started to internalize the shame of being autistic.

Second grade wasn't much better in 1997.  I had a new teacher, but the fire alarm was still buzzing nearly every day.  My teacher gave me cotton balls to put in my ears to try and block out the noise - cotton balls.  The school said that the fire alarm was broken and they couldn't do anything about, but I think that's a bunch of bullcrap.  I think the school was trying to "desensitize" us so we would get used to the noise, but all it did was traumatize me, and it still does from time to time.

I graduated from Winship Wheatley in 1998 and started third grade at Arrowhead Elementary School in Upper Marlboro, Maryland in August of that year, also near my house.  I was placed in the "special wing" program because of my autism diagnosis.    It was terrible there - it was basically a classroom of special education students whom the mainstream classrooms didn't know what to do with.  There were students who were autistic, had AD(H)D, had emotional disturbances, intellectually disabled students, etc, lumped in one classroom.  That year was torture for me.  I was paranoid that the fire alarm would go off because of all those traumatic events at Winship Wheatley and I was bullied a lot for acting so paranoid, and the teachers didn't seem to care.  I was so paranoid of the fire alarms, plus I was bullied so many times I missed many days of school.

In 1999, my mom took me out of Arrowhead because she saw that it was very difficult for me there and sent me to The Harbour School, a special education school in Annapolis, Maryland, 45 minutes away from my house.  The Harbour School actually had elementary school (or "lower" school, as they called it), middle school and high school - it was a very small school.   I had to repeat third grade because I missed so many days at Arrowhead, but at least I wasn't getting bullied at Harbour.

In 2000, I started fourth grade.  I was making lots of friends, but then this girl came along and invited my friends to join her club.  I wanted to join her club too, but the girl said I had to be "cool" to be in her club.  She said that I had to like Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen Movies to be cool, and that's when it hit me: all the social skills I learned in ABA, all the pressure to comply to everyone's expectations came back and I realized that I had to be "cool" if I wanted to make friends.  That's when I started asking my mom to rent me Olsen Twins movies at Blockbuster so I would fit in.  The girl also said that my clothes were babyish and that people were going to laugh at me, so I asked my mom to take me to JCPenney to buy me some trendier clothes.

I started fifth grade in 2001, and I kept trying to fit into school cliques to try to be cool, but I ended up making a fool of myself.  Another new girl came along and saw that I was trying too hard to belong - and she and her friends made fun of me for it.  I didn't enjoy much of fifth grade because of her and her friends.  I also became increasingly agitated towards my teachers, taking my frustration out on them and refusing to do work because I was tired of complying to expectations.

In 2002, I started middle school - sixth grade - and I started to feel depressed.  I even started to think of suicide from time to time.  Part of the reason was because I had trouble adjusting to middle school.  The other part was that I was starting to feel burned out from trying to fit in so much.  I also started to get crushes on females.  I told my mom about it because we're pretty close, but she just said that it was just a phase, so I decided to let it go.

Seventh grade, the 2003-2004 school year wasn't too bad, but in 2004 when I started eighth grade, I started to feel more pressure to conform.  One time for a "journal entry" for Reading class, we were asked to share what TV shows we thought should be cancelled, and one guy said that Jimmy Neutron should be cancelled, and I said I liked Jimmy Neutron, and the guy said to me, "What are you, four?"  I told him that he could've said it in a nicer way, but then two other kids said that everyone is entitled to their own opinion.  I was frustrated because I felt I was being attacked for what I liked.  Plus, this was also the time when I learned that people thought homosexuality was a sin, so I started internalize even more shame, this time for being gay.

In 2005, I started my freshman year of high school, and I felt even more pressure to conform to what everyone else was doing.  The same girl who said that my clothes were babyish and who said I should watch Mary-Kate and Ashley videos to be cool said that I should start watching more "mature" shows like Grey's Anatomy, American Idol, etc.  See, I was watching mostly Nickelodeon shows like SpongeBob SquarePants, The Fairly OddParents and Drake and Josh, and apparently that wasn't cool enough to fit in with the other teens.  I asked my school counselor for advice, and she said that I had to watch those shows if I wanted to make the friends that I wanted, so I started watching Grey's Anatomy and American Idol.  Also, my mom bought me a Zondervan Teen Study Bible that year to bring me closer to God, and it said that homosexuality was a perversion and I started to feel even worse about myself.

When I started my sophomore year of high school in 2006, my depression really started to take it's toll on me.  I started acting out even more, taking out my frustrations on both the teachers and the other students because I was frustrated with having to conform - I was at my breaking point.  I've had my first of many hospitalizations for psychiatric reasons because I was having severe suicidal ideations.  I also started cutting myself because I had no other way of releasing my frustrations.

In 2007, my behavior got so out of control that I got expelled from Harbour and had to go to Kennedy Krieger High School in Baltimore, Maryland, where I had to repeat my sophomore year due to my poor academic performance.  It's a special education high school that's an hour away from my house.  Kennedy Krieger High School is part of the Kennedy Krieger Institute, which is heavily-ABA based.  The rules were: safe hands, calm body, etc.  Kennedy Krieger was also a living hell.  The school had a "Level System", with Level 1 having the least amount of privileges, and Level 5 having the most.  The privileges were going on school trips, shopping at the school store, going to school dances, eating from the school cafe instead of the nasty cafeteria food, etc.  Your level ranking was based on your behavior.  The highest I ever got to was Level 4 but it still wasn't high enough to go to the trip to the Inner Harbor, which I really wanted to do.  I was really disappointed.

Kennedy Krieger also uses restraint and seclusion to try and control unwanted behaviors.  I'm going to keep saying this over and over again: This never works.  I was restrained and put in seclusion many times and now I have PTSD from those traumatic experiences.

I don't remember much about my junior year (2008-2009) because it was pretty much a blur, but my senior year (2009-2010) was possibly the worst year of my life.  I, once again, tried to fit in with everyone else.  I started carrying my handbag to school, as well as my backpack because I wanted to be cool like all the other girls.  I tried to fit in with this clique of girls because they were popular, and I wanted to be like them.  But when they didn't accept me, I got very angry.

On May 26, 2010, I was were angry with the clique, so I wrote some nasty things about them, thinking nobody was watching.  I then crumpled up the paper and threw it in the trash.  Apparently, a teacher saw it, because she referred me to the Resource Room, which was a room where you were sent if you were behaving inappropriately.  Then my counselor came and asked me about the paper, which she apparently she got uncrumpled and got out of the trash can (since I switched schools, I got a new counselor).  I was livid that she got the paper out of the trash can and so I reached towards to try to get the paper from her.  She reached back so I couldn't get it, and the next thing I knew, at least two Resource staff members came and pinned me down to a mat.  I was so scared and agitated that I screamed bloody murder.  Then the Dean of Students came and one of the Resource Staff said that I was trying to assault my counselor, but I wasn't trying to assault her - I was just trying to get the paper from her!  I was trying to hold onto my pair of headphones because I felt secure with them, but one of the Resource staff managed to pry it out of my tightly clenched hands.  I tried to bite one of the staff to break free from their grip.

Later that day, as soon as I got home from school, I went to the kitchen and got a kinfe.  I went to my room and sat on my bed for about ten minutes, contemplating slitting my wrists.  I wanted to die because I felt so horrible about myself.  I thought I was evil.  What stopped me from doing it was that my mom would freak out if I she saw what I have done.

I finally graduated from Kennedy Krieger on June 11, 2010.  I cried because I was so happy - I was happy that I was free to be whomever I wanted.