Disabled not disordered: autism and the social model

Autism through the Medium of Cats

I’ve often come across Autistic people who say, ‘I don’t see it as a disability.’

And then there are people who say they suffer from autism because they can’t get a job or they’ve been bullied.

In both cases I think the same thing: haven’t they heard of the social model? I don’t think enough people have.

The social model of disability is a way of thinking about disability in which disability results not from an individual’s neurological, physical or mental characteristics but from barriers created by society. The social model distinguishes between impairment, which is when someone has an unusually low ability to do something, and disability, which is when someone is prevented from full participation in society on the basis of an impairment. Society is built to accommodate the needs of the majority and not the needs of people with minority brains, bodies and minds. This is the…

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I hate to be a wet blanket here…

While I really do appreciate Lana coming out, and I would never be one to tell anyone where or how or when to come out, I do continue to feel there is another, more subtle message for trans woman in how this has all played out over the past 13 years:

“Get your fame, fortune, and success in early, before you transition, because there is likely little hope for trans women to do so after.”

Sure, Lana will now go on to be some sort of Golden Child.  Because now Media and HRC and all these progressives types will be able to hold her up and say “see, we have trans women too” all the ignoring the struggles of real trans women in their structures trying to even make a foothold.

I feel that Lana’s statement of coming out to inspire other aspiring trans women and girls who wish to be writers and directors is short sighted and Pollyanna.  I feel in all this, the only lessen Lana can teach is for aspiring youth to lay low, keep in the closet, and suppress their transness until they’ve achieved some level of success in their field, and then come out.

Because for real, would any of the film producers have given The Wachowski Starship the time of day if one of them was out as trans at the start of their career?  Would anyone do so today?

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I can say I got lucky… Not necessarily because of the school I attended, but because I am white, mostly able-bodied, highly functional, often granted conditional cissexual privilege, knowledgeable in certain aspects of social engineering, and skilled in navigating bureaucratic and social systems. Oh, and I was already done with some major aspects of transition (namely name change and presenting as a woman full time) prior to entering college. Lacking any of these really does make navigating academia almost nightmarish, and it pains and frustrates me when I see the struggles of friends and loved ones who are trans women.

I wonder sometimes if I have done some of them a disservice in how easily I was able to (mostly) navigate the system. I wonder if I made it look too easy.

Many of the points in this post also reiterate some of the reasons why I do want to pursue a career in academia. I know I have a long, difficult road ahead of me.

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erica, ascendant

i want us all to be strong and free.
this means no cis policing of our identities
and as importantly, no trans/genderqueer-on-trans/genderqueer policing of our identities, and also no more minimizing other trans/genderqueer people for being different from you, no matter what the provided “excuse” is.

if you want to be part of our movement, you must respect that when it comes to my body means i get to make my rules and that my life is my life. no surgery policing, no sexual orientation policing, no use of shame as a compliance or exclusion tool. no unsolicited “passing tips” which are really judgments on someone’s validity. no more “some trans people are more equal than others.” easy peasy, folks: my body, my rules, my life.

if you don’t want to be part of it, keep supporting institutions that don’t include all trans people, keep making excuses for why they…

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My second foray into Swinger Land

I have always wanted to be a bit of a slut.  I’ve always wanted to be able to celebrate the concepts of sexual freedom and sexual liberation, and be able to engage a wide range of partners freely, safely, and givingly without all the hang-ups that comes with being a child of the 80s and trans and hyper sensitive (and selective) energetically.  In fact being a generally available sexual plaything is one of the more darker and edger fantasies creeping around the outskirts of my shadow – heh, never mind needles and knives and other assorted sundries of other people’s edge play.  That stuff hardly fazes me some days.  No my edge play is actually having sex.  How fucked up is that?

And so, in because of that, and in spite of all the levels and layers of “shouldn’t’s,” and negative self-talk rattling around in my head, and straightness of it all, I periodically peek my eye over to what the swinger folks are up to.

I visited a swinger space once before.  It was a few years be, while I was in the midst of school.  I went to a place called the Scarlet Ranch when it was back in Denver.  I had to do a lot of upfront research.  They had multiple rates for visitors – one for couples, one for single women, and a special rate which required a special orientation and all for single men.  All very fucked up in a lot of ways and levels, and at the time I did not have the issue I have not with excuses and magical intent.  Anyway, I wrote to find out what rate I would find myself falling into, since I really could not foresee myself going with someone – my relationships have always been sort of complex and ambivalent about the idea of participating in the swinger scene.  I was assured that if I came presenting as a women I would be able to pay the single women’s rate.

Well, that was good enough for me, and eventually one evening when I was free – I cannot remember if it was a Thursday or Friday evening, but I think it was Friday – I screwed enough courage to venture out.  I was not sure how I would handle the potential of guys hitting on me.  I’ve always been sort of okay with guys.  Most are unimpressive and uninspiring.  Ideally in such situations I like couples.  I have played with couples before and enjoyed myself greatly.  And while I prefer girls more, I keep holding out of the occasional hope that maybe I will encounter one who has a clue or two together, has his act together, and is into trans chicks enough to enable to let down my guard a little.  And while I have very little delusion about my ability to garner conditional cis privilege (I operate under the assumption I am read easily and frequently), I figured I would explain to any guys who chatted me up that I was trans soon into the conversation.  And besides, I knew of one other trans women who frequented the space.  I am sure it must be sort of okay.

So I went.  I was given the women’s rate entering.  It was a slow night.  The space was okay.  I really did not have a plan for the night, and I was mostly there to get a feel for the place to see if I would care to return.  I did chat with a few guys.  Outed myself, with the expected result – polite wrap-up conversation.  I really did not hit it off with anyone except the couple working the bar.  But they were working the bar, so really there was nothing more we could do except chit-chat.  I hit it off well enough with them I almost considered return.  Until I was on my out the door that is.

As I was leaving, I was told there was a mistake.  That because my identification read male, next time I came back I would be charged the male rate.  I did not make a fuss.  Just said thank you and left, pretty much vowing never to return.  My suspicions have always been that it was more than just that.  That one of the male patrons actually had issue with me and raised a complaint with the management.  But I’ve never looked into it and written off my thoughts as the delusions of an occasionally paranoid mind.

So until last night, that was my one and only experience into swingerland.  Not very encouraging.  But not surprising in the least.  I mean, we can barely get the bodies and identities sexualized, gendered, and desired in queer spaces.  What should I really expect from straight space?

There is a similar story as to why I hold no hopes of finding either flings or romances in Goth space.

So last night I want to Cirque De Kink.  It caught my attention as it popped up on my friend’s feed on Fet.  A space set up specifically for the intersections of kink and sex.  I found the idea at least worth checking out.  I had not been to one of the Sanctuary kink and sex parties yet, as they always seemed to happen rather infrequently and on night when I had something else come up.  But the interplay between sexuality and kink is something I really miss in my kink.  I am tired of my spaces feeling so sterile all the time.  So this event was actually taking place on a night I was actually free.  And the cost, while on the limit of my affordability range, was still doable – as long as my paycheck check cleared so I had money.  That all said, I had not realized Cirque De Kink was actually in a swinger space.  If I had, I wonder if that would have altered my decision to consider going.

By the time Friday itself had rolled I was sort of still ambivalent.   sophi and I had gotten hold of the third season of Misfits and it was sorely tempting to spend the evening watching that.  But I had not really been out in a while.  So by the time the evening rolled around to past seven and closing in on eight, I had to decide whether to actually go out or not.  I figured I would give it a shot and I eventually motivated myself to head out.  After my prep up which consisted of trying to figure out outfit after outfit and finally settling on my first choice.  Headed out, and proceeded to drive to the far end of town – a bit later than usual but not too late.

I got to the to CDK, one of the first things I thought as I came in was that crowd looked like a very straight and very vanilla.  Realize I still had not known I was headed into a swingers club.  As I stood in line, I had a serious evaluation if I was going to actually head in or not.  I think if I had not seen a friend of mine I knew from the kink scene, just inside chatting with some people, I might have turned around and headed home.  The deal was sealed my friend spotted me in line and came over to say hello and we started chatting.

The environment was okay.  I mean the location is really nice.  A lot of devotion and passion went into the site.  I was really impressed with the setup.  But it was still straight, mostly vanilla, but with a few kinksters.  But even then, still mostly straight, and mostly male dominants at that.  And I still felt pretty much like an outsider.

I was introduced to a rather dapper, very well dressed and classically mannered gentleman.  Very much up my alley.  But as he raised my hand to his lips – I am the only other person I know of who used to do hand kissing – instead of being able to just enjoy the flirtatiousness of the moment, my mind raced into emergency alert about being unsure if this person knew if I was trans or not.  Is he trans accepting and/or attracted?  And if not to both of those, than oh shit, is he the sort of person to have a mini-freak out about finding out he kissed the hand of “a dude.”

There was also a moment where, observing a trance scene going on, I almost felt that yearning to be a submissive and slave to someone again.  But that part if an aspect I have been in the slow process of weeding, cutting, and pummeling out of myself for quite some time now.  And my perception is (and this is a wholly and admittedly assumed perception): the ones are any good at it want “real” girls, and those who want trannies are possibly a little unsafe, likely don’t know what they are doing, and just a bit creepy.

I was really grateful my friend was there.  I am not sure what I would have done without someone to chat with.  She showed me around and we had a really good conversation.  At one point we talked about the idea of a queer invasion of the space, which I think would be pretty cool, and might make a space like that a little more comfortable for me.  In a way, I really do feel the space needs to be queered and kinked up.  It would be nice see it as a space where a much wider range of sexual expression and sexual interactions.  Like a much wider range.

But the thing is, the straights are the ones who pay the bills.  It is there funds which make the space possible.  I mean, they have the decent jobs and the funds and all that.  Not like I, or any of my other queer friends, have hopes making the sort of cash the so call middle class (upper middle really) straight folks who populate.  So in a way, I can’t blame them for it being made to appeal to them.

I did see other folks I knew from the kink scene, but either they were sort of busy, or they were not people I knew very well.  I still felt very guarded over all, being hesitant to make any real eye contact with anything, least they think I was being flirtatious and since I really did not know who was “safe” and who was not.  And later in the evening, just before I was ready to head out, I did see other friendly faces, as it were.  And we chatted some.  So that was nice.

I don’t think it is a space I would feel comfortable going back with without a date of some sort.  Like any other space I happen to find myself venturing into – straight, queer, vanilla, or kinky – I do not see it as a space where I can actually expect to find and connect with a hookup.  Maybe a space to play sexually with a partner I already connect with, but definitely not a space where I feel there would be space for me.

In the end, I do not regret having gone.  Not so much for the experience, but for something else – the start of a conversation that I feel needed to happened, and to be able to help a friend.

Really, I don’t mean to sound like a sour apple or a grump.  I am sure the space is fantastic for those people who do not have to navigate a wide array of related to their social and acceptance and desirability.  I am not sure really what I even hope to accomplish going to them.   Maybe I am simply a spy and documentarian in the heteronormative mating spaces.

And if this is all starting to sound like Cotton Ceiling stuff, in a way, I guess it is.

edit 4/1/12: I forgot to mention the space was also predominantly white and able-bodied.  If there were any PoC or disabled people, I do not remember seeing them.

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WordPress Reply Blues

I am not sure if it is my layout or WordPress itself, but there seems to be an issue with replying to a comment which is third down the rung.

Oh LiveJournal, how I miss thee…

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Cotton Ceiling Experiences

For those who do not know, the Cotton Ceiling is a term developed by Drew DeVeaux to talk about the experience trans* women encounter in various queer and sexual liberation communities – while our participation in progressive communities as social and activist members is accepted (sometimes tentatively so), trans* women participation as romantic and sexual members of the community is often fraught with systematic, individual, and cultural challenges and oppressions.  As an effort to start a dialog about our experiences, Morgan M Page is hosting a conversation at an upcoming Planned Parenthood Confrence in Toronto about the Cotton Ceiling and how trans women can overcome some of the challenges facing our sexual empowerment and sexual liberation.  Of course, this desire by trans* women to engage in dialog about the cultural influences which impact our sexual agency has been taken by the anti-trans radfems to mean trans women are wanting to engage in non-consensual sex acts with their dear, precious, vulnerable cis lesbians.  But then, radfems try to equate anything trans women do to rape.

Personally, I am tired about arguing about my right to talk about certain my experiences. I am tired about arguing about my right to engage in discourse about a cultural phenomenon impacts me and my life. And I tired about trying to get a small, vocal segment of the internet community to respect the language I use for myself.

I want to actually talk about the Cotton Ceiling.  And since there is no way I can make it out to Toronto to participate in the conversation Morgan Page is planning on hosting there – being a poor, middle-aged, unknown trans woman in Denver means I never get to out to where the cool kids are doing their things – I figure I can start a conversation here.

And the only way I know how to start one is to talk about my experiences with the Cotton Ceiling, and where it has impacted my life.  So because of the Cotton Ceiling:

  • I resisted accepting a trans identity for myself for years because I knew of no examples of trans women involved with other women.
  • I have avoided participating in women’s events because I did not want to “invade.”  I have avoided them even when directly invited.  When I did participate at an event I was invited, my participation created a community wide upset and conversation about trans women’s inclusion, and what sort of trans women should be allowed.
  • I do not go to women’s bars because I assume I am not wanted there.
  • When I do go to women’s spaces or events, I make sure to only flirt ot interact with other trans women or women who came with me to the event.
  • At a recent national level conference which included a sexual liberation track, there were no trans women who were part of the presentation lineup.
  • Because of my lack of participation in women’s spaces, I do not have a very strong network with other queer activists in my communities.  I know my stuff.  I am really good at analysis and seeing the larger picture.  I am an amazing presenter and public speaker.  I know how to facilitate conversation.  And I am amazing when it comes to promoting awareness and point out issues in supportive, non-confrontational ways.  Very few people outside those I have worked, lived and been friends with know this about me.
  • I feel guilty about not finding the bodies of some trans women attractive.  I do not feel a similar guilt about not finding the bodies of some cis men, trans men, or cis women attractive.
  • I do not believe I am attractive.  I do not believe my body is desirable.  If someone finds me attractive, I have to repeatedly make sure they know I am a trans woman.  If a straight man or lesbian woman does do, I make sure they are “okay” with trans women multiple times.
  • I have allowed myself to be pressured into relationships and pressured into sexual acts because I felt at least I was desired.
  • I do not even know when someone is flirting with me anymore or simply being nice.  Because I assume I am undesirable, untouchable, and no one would care to have sex with me, I assume that no one would flirt with me.
  • I rarely approach potential sex or play partners.  When I do, I only approach people who in some way identify themselves as bisexual, pansexual or in some way not interested in exclusively one gender or “sex.”  If I do not know a person’s orientation, I will not at all.
  • If I do plan on seeing out possible long term or casual partners, I know I will have to fetishize myself and “market” myself as something exotic.
  • Because I do not want to be seen as “another one of those trans women” to people in my potential dating pool, I do my best to appear I have everything calm, collected, my life in order, and that I am without need.  I have begun to suspect this contributes to me appearing aloof and unapproachable.
  • Because of some of my experiences, I tend to be exceeding cautious when it to dealing with men expressing their attraction to me.  In the back of my mind there is the thought that they are expecting sex from me.  And some of the sex they desire and expect is not the sort of sex I want to provide.  In my mind, they always seem to come on too strong, too creepy, not strong enough, or some combination.
  • I do not see mainstream porn which features people such as myself related to topics I find most appealing.  Trans women really seem to have only two roles in porn – being anally or orally penetrated by men, or anally or orally penetrating men.
  • I do not see inclusive, queer porn which includes people I feel I can relate in terms of my body identity, at least not without expending a great deal of effort searching for it.  Even then, with the exception of two titles, I cannot simply purchase a DVD of queer porn which includes trans women.  I must sign up for a membership and download the content.  Even then, I doubt I will find kinky, BDSM, sex positive, trans porn.
  • If I question the naming choice of a certain queer porn production company or talk about its effect on trans women, I get magical intent thrown at me.
  • I do not feel like I can participate in the sex industry – films, modeling, pro domming, tantric energy work – because I feel I am too overweight and too old to be considered desirable or marketable as a trans women.  In fact, I have been told I am too fat to be marketable.
  • If I were to do porn, it would likely have to be mainstream porn, as queer, sex positive porn is only done in a few, select places, and there is little to no attempt to reach out or engage trans women talent.
  • If I decide to become a pro in any manner – pro domme, tantrika, etc. – I will likely have to accept that I will be expected to have sex with clients, even if cis women in these fields do not.  I will never be able to find a mentor because of this expectation.  And I have been told no one would hire a trans woman pro domme they could not have sex with.
  • I do not feel I have a right to my own sexual agency or own sexual liberation.
  • I did not have near this many sexual challenges or hang-ups before transition.  I was a pretty boy.  I was desired.  If it were really about access to women’s bodies, I would have never transitioned.
  • I feel my feelings are silly, overblown, unfounded, and I am being selfish and oversensitive.  I feel as though expressing them will open me up to harassment, derision and ridicule.  Or they will be used as excuses as to why trans women should be dehumanized and excluded from certain spaces.  There is part of me which feels I should keep silent least my words be used as a weapon against other trans women.
  • I feel isolated and on my own when it comes to my sexual liberation.
  • And I do not see any of this changing.

For those looking for additional dialog on the Cotton Ceiling:

Additional Reading:

x-posted to:


  • 3/27/12 – added links to the Dating from the Margins series
  • 3/28/12 – added link to Queer Feminism article on the Cotton Ceiling.
  • 4/1/12 – Added link to Thoughts on “The Cotton Ceiling”
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