07 May 2013

Belated Updates from Finals Hell Week

Given that it's currently three a.m. and I have finals to be studying for and papers to be writing, it's only natural that I'm posting things here.

About a month ago, I delivered an address co-sponsored by the Neurodiversity Working Group and the Student Assembly on "Politicized Disability and the Crisis of Disabled Oppression" at the College of William and Mary for their annual diversity week.

They had prepared a spiffy poster!

Image description: It's a vertical poster with a background consisting of a photograph of what appears to be a stone-inlaid patterned walkway with brick arches facing outward on the left side in a row and brick niches on the right side in a row with black wrought iron gates between them, all headed toward a set of double doors painted a light brown or mustard yellow with six square windows in a rectangular shape on each door. At the top of the poster, somewhat translucent all-caps letters say "Politicized Disability and the Crisis of Disabled Oppression" over two lines, followed by  a horizontal bar and then a much larger all-caps font reading "Lydia Brown." The whole poster has a double-line border around the edges, with a diagonal banner going upward to the right edge of the poster from the center with the text "I Am W&M" in bold black all-caps letters on it, seemingly pointing at a framed headshot of a young Asian woman with shoulder-length black hair and glasses, wearing a beige pantsuit with a lapel pin in the shape of Massachusetts colored with the American flag (blue field and then red and white horizontal stripes) on her left lapel, a multicolored beaded necklace, round gold earrings, and a red round-neckline silky shirt. Beside this framed shot, which is to the left side of the poster, there are more lines of text that say "4/8 | 7PM" and "Commonwealth Auditorium." At the bottom, to the right side of the poster, there are two circles. The one on the left has a black outline and a white background and the word "Neurodiversity" with "neuro" in a mustard yellow font on one line and "diversity" in a forest green font on the following line. The one on the right has a thinner black outline and the words "The College of William & Mary" following the circle on the upper side and "Student Assembly" on the lower side, with the white letters S A cutting through a dark green and mustard yellow background. Wow that was a long image description. 

After the talk, they also took this spiffy picture with the folks who organized the talk (and a student who attended). From left to right, they're S.R. Salas (Community Liaison, College of William & Mary Neurodiversity Working Group), me, Karin Wulf (Associate Professor of History and American Studies), Jake Lewitz (Secretary of Health and Safety for the Student Assembly), Maggie Skorup (President of Campus Buddies and the Undersecretary of Disabilities), and Tony Song.

Image description: Six people standing in a line facing the camera with an auditorium's wooden stage, several rows of black cushioned chairs, and podium with a William and Mary insignia on it visible behind them. From left to right, a white woman with shoulder-length, wavy blond hair, a white sweater unbuttoned over a shirt with black and white horizontal stripes, a black wristwatch on her left hand, and a cream/ivory colored skirt; and then an Asian woman with short black hair and glasses wearing a black pantsuit and red shirt with a multicolored bead necklace as she folds her hands in front of her; and then a white woman with very short blond hair wearing a tan-colored suit jacket over a white dress shirt and black pants; and then a white man with a peach-colored collared button-down dress shirt, a dark-colored belt, and light-colored pants, who is folding his hands loosely in front of him; and then a white woman with blond-brown hair tied back wearing a collared white dress shirt over blue pants and a dark-colored wrap sweater; and then an Asian man with short black hair wearing a powder blue t-shirt over white or light khaki colored pants, who has his hands in his pockets.

Unfortunately, no one actually recorded the talk, but Ariel Cohen of Flat Hat News, the William and Mary student newspaper, did write an article on the lecture. (For the record, I don't remember ever using the word "affliction," but, okay.)

After that, I made a brief trip to the College of New Rochelle in New York State (Westchester, to be exact, definitely not the actual NYC) to participate in a panel on "Perspectives on Autism Advocacy." They had a pretty spiffy poster, too, though:

The image description for this would actually be incredibly long, so I'm placing it at the bottom of the entire post after everything else. 

This panel was recorded, so you can find the entire one hour and fifty minute video on YouTube. (I've asked two awesome Autistic friends who're actually good at transcribing to transcribe the entire video so it can be accessible to more people, so will post again when that's up.) The lighting quality isn't that great, but it's audible for hearing folks. The folks from left to right in the video are Jennifer Scuro (Associate Professor of Philosophy), me, Lisa Quintones-Fontanez, Marjorie St. Hilaire, and Edie Barasch.

At the event, I actually ran into an old friend from the New England Young Writers Conference at Breadloaf (from 2010, seriously), who happened to be taking the philosophy of education course taught by the professor responsible for organizing the panel. Go figure, small world. (Yes, she was there to attend the panel.)

In any case, I traveled at the end of the month to Seattle to deliver an invited lecture at the University of Washington for the D Center (disability and deaf cultural center) on the same topic as the paper I presented at the Debilitating Queerness symposium here at the University of Maryland, College Park. Titled "Deconstructing Rhetoric on Disabled (A)Sexuality," I discussed the compounded oppressions faced by folks who identify on the asexual spectrum, especially if they are also disabled, and advanced the argument that asexuality should be reconsidered in light of critical queer and disability theory. (The D Center attempted to film the talk, but there's still doubt over whether or not the footage will be usable, though they did have it CART-captioned, and are working on the transcription. I'll be sure to post that when it's available.)

I couldn't find any photos from the event, even though I know they were taken (hint, hint!), but I do have a few photos from the rest of the Seattle-trip-that-turned-into-a-Portland-trip.

Here's one of Shain Neumeier and I the night I arrived in Seattle, after being thoroughly confused and disoriented by Seattle's incredibly cognitively inaccessible "public transportation system." We're sitting in Il Fornaio, a restaurant serving delicious Italian food. This was actually a horrible photo taken on my phone, so I attempted to use some Photoshop on it.

Image description: Two people facing the camera photographed from about headshot view. The one on the left is a young Asian woman with short black hair curling around her chin, wearing glasses and a dark-colored lanyard over an orange t-shirt as she smiles toothily at the camera. The person next to her is leaning on her shoulder, and is a young white person with short blond hair and black-rimmed glasses, also smiling, wearing a white t-shirt. Behind them are stylized light fixtures in box shapes, and a bar with a waiter wearing white very far in the background. 

Before leaving Seattle for Portland, we grabbed this photo of myself at a fountain, which I admittedly wanted solely to have a pretty photo for Facebook. Vain and trivial, I know.

Image description: The photo is centered on a young Asian woman crouching atop the flat surface of a stone with water over its top. Her black hair is almost shoulder length and curves around her face. She has dark eyes and glasses and is crooking a smile that reveals part of her teeth. Her head is slightly tilted as she faces the camera. Her hands are loosely clasped with elbows resting on her thighs as she crouches. She is wearing a maroon t-shirt with a graphic in white ink and text that isn't actually legible. (It says "Organizing autistic people is like herding cats" and "Autreat 2004 making connections.") She's also wearing a black-colored fleece with a zipper but unzipped, blue jeans, black socks, and worn black loafers. She's crouched on one gray stone of many of varying heights, all with flat surfaces in varying stages of wet, in a circular formation around a fountain and pool with two oblong-ish sculptures that sort of resemble towers but with weird angles and curves not quite straight, where the water flows from. This is in an outdoor area with some shrubbery visible behind the fountain along with a Starbucks.

Then Shain and I obtained sourdough starter and baked our own gorgeous and gigantic loaf. It's beautiful. It also tasted beautiful.

Image description: It's a photograph centered on a round metal pan mostly overshadowed by the gigantic round loaf of bread, sitting on top of a beige and speckled marble counter, with the edge of a pink box visible on the left and a black coffeemaker and glass kettle in the top left corner, and various other implements unidentifiable behind that.

And finally, we made a visit to the famous Powell's Books!

Shain wrote this about our visit (and also wrote the following image description):

Lydia and I went to Powell's Books while she was out here. After dorking out in the huge sci-fi/fantasy part of the store, we decided we should check out how awful the autism-related books were (bad sign: they're all in the parenting and psychology sections. Because of course it's not like they're going to have a disability rights, culture or identity section or anything). The intent was to find pretty awful books and get them out of there before some unsuspecting parent, professional, spouse or other nonautistic person could come across them and rely on them. Thing was, there were too many of them for us to afford by the end of it (and these are only the MOST awful ones that are depicted here). The awfulness ranged from inspiration porn to woo-woo dietary and anti-vaxxer stuff to books that included how to chelate your child. We ended up buying about 6 of the very worst of the worst. (Hey, at least they're used! Well, most of them...).

Image description: A young Asian female-presenting person with short straight black hair, small square-ish glasses with black frames, a blue tee-shirt, black pants and black close-toed shoes lies on her side between two brown book shelves with a number of books of different sizes and colors on them. She is smiling upwards at the camera but also flipping it off with both middle fingers. She is lying behind 38 books lined up in rows (of 9, 8, 9, 8 and 4, from back to front) books about autism. The titles of the books are difficult to read, but they include: The Age of Autism, Preventing Autism, The Soul of Autism, The Autism Puzzle, Autism Heroes, The Empty Fortress by Bruno Bettelheim, A Real Boy, Mental Retardation: Nature, Cause and Management, My Friend Has Autism, Without Reason: Mother Warriors by Jenny McCarthy, Personality Development in People with Mental Retardation, In-Home ABA Programs, Finding Ben, The Only Boy in the World, and Dietary Interventions for Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Yes, seriously, they had Bruno Bettelheim and Jenny McCarthy in here. Yes. Seriously.

And yes, that is a picture of me flipping off the ableist bullshit and woo.

And now, in the absence of a transcript from Seattle or a transcribed video from New Rochelle, both of which I promise to post when available, it's time to return to finals hell.


Here's the missing image description for the CNR panel poster (and yes, I promised this was long:

It's a white poster designed for regular letter-sized paper. At the top there is a horizontal purple box with white font that says "The College of New Rochelle" in mixed case on the first line, followed by "Autism Education Week" also in mixed case on the second line, followed by "April 24-26, 2013" in mixed case and a smaller font on the third line, all center-aligned. Below this box in black all-caps font, it reads "WEDNESDAY, APRIL 24, 2013." Below that in a larger purple mixed-case font, it reads "Panel: Perspectives on Autism Advocacy," and below that in black mixed-case smaller font, "Romita Auditorium, Mooney Center @ 6:30 p.m." 

After that, there's a right aligned framed photograph with text to the left. The photograph is a small square outlined with a thick purple line, and is a headshot of a young Asian woman with short black hair and glasses, faced slightly to the right, mouth open in speech, wearing a dark blue woolen coat with wide collar, a beige suit jacket, a cobalt-blue lanyard, and an ochre (dark orange) shirt. She also has a round sticker with white background and indiscernible design on her right lapel. The text to the left is headed by a purple mixed-case font that says "Lydia Brown / autistichoya.com" and smaller mixed-case font beneath that reading "is an Autistic and multiply-disabled disability rights activist, scholar, and writer. She is a Project Assistant for the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, and serves as Undersecretary for Disability Affairs at Georgetown University’s student government executive branch. She is also a member of the Board of Directors of TASH New England, the National Council on Independent Living Youth Caucus, and the Georgetown University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities Consumer Advisory Council."

After that, there's a left aligned framed photograph with text to the right. The photograph is a small rectangle, close to square-dimensions, outlined with a thick purple line, and is a headshot of two smiling people leaning in toward each other and the camera. On the left is a young boy, possibly Latino, with short brown hair wearing an orange false turtleneck or cowl neck shirt. On the right is a young Latina-presenting woman, much older than the boy, with dark brown hair swept back, wearing a denim collared shirt and hammered steel earrings in the shape of leaves. The text to the right is headed by a purple mixed-case font that says "Lisa Quinones-Fontanez / autismwonderland.com" and smaller mixed-case font beneath that reading "is a secretary by day, grad student/blogger by night and Warrior Mami round the clock. She blogs regularly on babble.com and on her blog, autismwonderland.com. She was recently nominated for Yahoo’s Women who Shine Award and was named LATISM’s 2012 Best Health Blogger. AutismWonderland is one of Babble’s Top 30 Autism Blogs for Parents for 2012."

After that, there's a right aligned framed photograph with text to the left. The photograph is a small square outlined with a thick purple line, and is a headshot in black and white of a middle-aged Black woman with short hair and small metal ring earrings, wearing a sleeveless shirt with ruffles all around the collar as she smiles at the camera. The text to the left is headed by a purple mixed-cased font that says "Marjorie St. Hilaire" and smaller mixed-case font beneath that reading "is a certified school psychologist and New Rochelle resident who has been working with ASD youngsters since beginning of her career. In addition to bridging the home and school to help support “the whole child,” her knowledge with this population ranges from preschool to adolescent. Her role within the school system is to increase awareness of this population within the mainstream school environment, advocate and implement best practices, and to optimize the student with ASD to his or her fullest potential."

After that is center aligned text in the same purple mixed-cased font that reads "with Edie Barasch, Chairperson," with only the word "with" appearing in black, followed by purple text reading "Committee on Preschool Special Education, City School District of New Rochelle," and on the same line, gray text reading "an early childhood special educator, educational leader, and parent of an adult child with autism. She was an adjunct instructor at the CNR Graduate School on subjects related to special education and disabilities from 2002-2004, an active member of the New Rochelle SEPTA, and co-founded the “We Are One” Award." 

After that is center-aligned text in mixed-case gray letters that reads "Hosted by the Provost of The College of New Rochelle" on one line and "For more information, please contact Jennifer Scuro (jscuro@cnr.edu) or Ruth Zealand (rzealand@cnr.edu)" on the following line. Below that is larger mixed-case black font that says "Free and open to the public. Light refreshments at 8:45 p.m." Below that is another purple box with white font inside that reads in mixed-case  "The College of New Rochelle, 29 Castle Place, New Rochelle, NY 10805 • www.cnr.edu • info@cnr.edu"

I told you it was an obscenely long image description. 


  1. Joshua RayfieldMay 7, 2013 at 9:54 PM

    Hi Lydia----I understand how you feel and I agree with you completely. I am anti-vaccine, anti-Autism Speaks and Anti-Cure Autism Now. I think that what the Judge Rottenberg center has done is evil. That being said, I agree with how you feel. I do have one question for you. Was holding up your middle fingers really necessary? I understand why you did it and I support your decision to do it but in the long run do you think that it will have any lasting impact or really accomplish anything positive? Just sayin!

    ---------Joshua Rayfield

  2. Hi there! I don't usually comment on your blog, because you're so many light years ahead of me on the advocacy and activism front that I really haven't anything constructive to add. Just leaving a note to say I love your work. Good luck with finals!

  3. Hey that's my school! (William & Mary)
    Hope you enjoyed your time here and thanks again so much for coming to speak and also for your helpful reading recommendations over email.
    Best of luck with everything!

  4. I am not really clear on what you mean by "woo-woo dietary" books, I just have one question though, which is how long did you try a GFCF diet? because it does take up to a year to make a difference - of course everyone is different.

  5. hi Lydia! i just discovered your blog today but i think it's awesome already. i go to william and mary - hope you had fun there, i wish i had heard you speak!