18 June 2013

I am not afraid.

Trigger warning: Violence, murder, mention of rape and torture, ableism, profanity.

1. Another autistic is dead, and what can I say? I'm not surprised. This is business as usual.

2. People like me are routinely murdered, raped, tortured, and abused because we've committed the unforgivable crime of inhabiting atypical bodies and minds.

3. Movement differences, communication differences, learning differences. Those of us who are disabled by our functional abilities/impairments, by perceptions of and presumptions about our bodies/minds, by our appearances, by our speech -- when we are marked as disabled, we lose the right to be afforded even bare, minimal human decency.

4. It was a strange, almost liberating feeling when I realized that I am a non-person, a sub-human suffered to live by the overwhelming generosity of abled people. I am a citizen only in the most technical legal sense.

5. I will not be entitled to zealous advocacy if I am murdered by someone responsible for supporting me.

6. I am presumed to be deficient in empathy. I find this fucking hilarious.

7. You can pass all the laws you want, and sure, that's a good start, a nice gesture, a sometimes condescending, sometimes reticent, sometimes begrudging acknowledgement that we exist. But laws won't do shit to change attitudes, to inform paradigm shifts and changes in society and culture.

Because murder is illegal.

But that doesn't stop people from murdering us.

8. Alex Spourdalakis is not dead because of abusive restraints.

(His mother and caregiver stabbed him to death.)

He is not dead because of a lack of services.

(Illinois offered services and his mother declined.)

He is not dead because his mother might have a psychiatric disability.

(She planned and executed his murder because he was autistic.)

He is not dead because being autistic can be hard.

(Autism doesn't cause death, but hatred of our kind can certainly motivate murder.)

He is not dead because he was a "burden" on his family.

(His burden was living in a home and society where his life -- instead of his murder -- can be written off as the tragedy.)

He is not dead because his family had mercy on him and wanted to end his suffering.

(Murder is no mercy, and autism is not suffering.)

9. I started to write this post and had to stop a week ago because I was fighting to keep from crying and words wouldn't fucking come. How can they say we lack empathy when every part of me, my existence, my consciousness, aches for someone I've never met?

I slipped out from the office and sat in the back of a courtroom as defense counsel questioned a prosecution expert witness in a murder trial where the defendant was using the "not guilty by reason of insanity" defense.

And all I could think about was the fact that someone who should have been part of my community was dead.


You can't take that back.

You can never, ever take that back.

It's over.

It's done.

He's dead and you murdered him.

10. Who will be next?

My heart will never stop aching, never stop breaking, never stop saying, "and there's another one gone."

11. There was another essay on another website about Alex's murder that I thought was incredibly well-written until the author declared it had to have been Dorothy Spourdalakis's "mental illness," and let me tell you, other than the murder itself, nothing has infuriated me as much as the insinuation that only mentally ill, psychiatrically disabled people commit murder.

The same sentence appears in the first chapter of The Thinking Person's Guide to Autism -- "That's not autism. That's mental illness."


Fighting ableism with ableism doesn't fucking work, and it's so ironic and hypocritical that it's almost hilarious, except that it's not and it can never be.

How can you respond to a disability hate crime with disability hate speech?

Nothing could be more disrespectful to Alex Spourdalakis, not coming from someone who in the same breath claims to fight the ableism that justifies and exculpates murderers of autistics.


12. You think you'll get tired. Where's the strength to be angry all the time? Too many fucking times, and somehow it's still rage gnawing at the ragged edge of emotion.

But mostly it's emptiness.

13. The Autistic Self Advocacy Network released a statement urging the Department of Justice to prosecute Alex's murder as a hate crime under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act.

14. I'm terrified that the onslaught will keep marching on because Alex is certainly not the first and I know, I know, I  know, he will not be the last.

15. I am not afraid to keep on living.

I am not afraid to keep on fighting.


  1. I cried while reading this

  2. Thank you Lydia. When I started looking from my own experience into the incidence of abuse of disabled people 25 years ago, I hoped that raising awareness would help stop the problem. It hasn't. When I documented the lenient treatment parents who kill their disabled children by the criminal justice system 15 years ago, I hoped that bringing the disparity to light would improve the situation, but it hasn't. The best thing that's happened in that time is that autistic people have found their pride and their voice, and are working to solve the same problems. Take care of yourself so we can continue the fight together.

  3. Nothing adequate to say. Thank you for point 11 especially. And thanks for the expenditure of however much time/ energy/ strength it took to write this. It sucks having to use up spoons to say things that wouldn't need to be said if the world were halfway decent.
    *offers consolation/commiseration/hugs if wanted/thumbs up if not*

  4. Yes! Messages like this need to be heard by the media, by the nation at large. To achieve #7.....a paradigm shift....where to start? I'm trying to shift a single school culture and it's been impossible. How do we shift a society? Is it a bottom up or top down approach?
    Is it getting this recognized as a civil rights movement, and as yet to be recognized by mainstream society?
    I really don't know.....


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