What ADHD Can Look Like

It took a long time to recognize that I have ADHD.

This is not an uncommon story for women and non-men with ADHD, Autism, and a variety of spectrum disorders. Symptoms are often excused as being a lack of discipline or an influence of their gender. Interestingly, many women who are later diagnosed or discover that they are autistic get a diagnosis for ADHD fist.

In school, one of the most common complaints heard from teachers was that I was too chatty. I liked to talk a lot, and very quickly. Sometimes people couldn’t understand me because I spoke so fast, and yet I would hear time and time again how bright I was or how articulate. I would ask endless questions, of everyone. I could never seem to learn that whole “don’t talk to strangers” lesson. In fact even now I find myself talking to strangers. When I left for university, my parents were surprised by how many people around town seemed to know me. While my frequent conversations with strangers bothered my mother endlessly, even into my adult years, so often the people I talked to would end up spilling their stories to me. There are times when one question leads to me seemingly learning a person’s entire life story.

At school, my focus would begin to wander a few months into the school year. I would start of the school year strong, then plummet towards the middle of the year, and then make back some of the marks towards the end. I followed this pattern throughout all my schooling.

Homework was difficult. If it was too easy, I wouldn’t pay complete attention and make inattentive mistakes. If it was too difficult, it was hard to stay focused and still long enough to understand. The longer it took, the more anxious I would get and the more difficult it would become to focus. I felt like I was unintelligent, and often my dad helping me with certain work would turn into screaming matches until suddenly something clicked and it all made sense. (Strange confession, I actually enjoyed those screaming matches with my father, feeling a strange sort of pride that I was the only one who could make him raise his voice. Sometimes I think he enjoyed it too.)

I found a lot of the books for school extremely tedious. I remember the teachers complaining about the fact that I mentioned that I preferred English books to French books. I was at a French school, so I can see why they had a problem with that, but no one considered that my problem might not be with the language, but rather with the fact that the French material was selected for me, while the English material I got to choose myself.

The stories I chose myself were more engaging, more enjoyable. They didn’t follow the same patterns that every “learn to read” type story did. Where the story doesn’t seem to matter so much as they were looking for excuses to use specific words. (more…)

Girl Pattern, Boy Pattern

Parents who want to do right by their children have a lot on their plate, and I do not envy their task.  It is far too easy for even the best of us to end up duplicating the errors that were inflicted on us, or picking up new ones from parenting trends with little basis in reality.

One reality that many well-meaning parents don’t know how to acknowledge is how to make sure that their children don’t fear disclosing their membership in gender and sexual minorities.  This society is hideously transantagonistic, and children notice this well before they have a word for it, and that can make them scared even when they shouldn’t be.


The Most I’ve Ever Been Hurt

I learned something this week.

I learned that I can beg and plead, at the brink of tears, more emotional than you have heard or seen me in more than ten years, for over an hour, and you’ll be unmoved.

I learned that I can pour my soul out for you on the page, in the form of communication in which I’m most comfortable, and you won’t bother reading it for comprehension.

I learned that you’ll always default to trying to be my emotional inverse, calm and collected when I am urgently emotional, shrieking and yelling when I’m quiet, because you never had any higher end than trying to make me doubt my own feelings and replace them with yours.

I learned that I can make a tiny request, that means more to me than anything, and the measure of your response will be how inconvenient it is for you.


When It Crashes

Things are about to get very difficult for us.

I’m near the end of my Ph.D. studies.  What should be a time of, if not hope, at least anticipation is a period of constant dread, because of two things I’ve learned.

My supervisor is, in all likelihood, signing the form he has to deliver to the Department of Biology indicating what his financial contribution to me next semester is going to be, and everything he’s said to me since the beginning of last semester says that that amount is about to drop from about $6300 to $0.  He has “incentivized” me to get my degree this semester by hanging the specter of his half of my salary no longer showing up in my bank accounts if I take any longer than that, because the stress of homelessness and lapsed prescriptions somehow does not get between scientists and their work.  I won’t know until he tells me, or I ask the department what he sent them.

But that’s small potatoes compared to the latest development.


Your Transantagonism is also Ableist

Recently Ophelia Benson added to the TERFY hole she’s been digging by tearing into an abortion provider who chose to use inclusive language when discussing issues surrounding pregnancy and access. It’s an issue that comes up surprisingly often. The discussion around genitalia is so needlessly gendered, that people often fall into the trap of equating body parts with identity.

The equation of women with “having a uterus” or the ability to have children is obviously exclusionary to both trans men and trans women. Not everyone who can get pregnant is a woman and not every woman has the ability to get pregnant. It is also exclusionary to many of us with disabilities.

The social equation of women with having a uterus is extremely damaging to women who, for one reason or another, have lost their ovaries, or uterus. Many of them struggle with feelings of inadequacy or identity loss for this reason. Harmful concepts, like those established by patriarchy and outdated feminist concepts that reduce women to their genitalia, only make the struggle more difficult.


Art and the Robot

A few years ago, I attended an art museum with Ania and one of her friends from her hometown.  There was friction between the three of us.  Ania hadn’t been in much contact with this friend for years at this time, and importantly, had come into her atheism and become involved with me in that gap.  Her friend, in turn, was still religious.  I earned some of her friend’s future antipathy to me by being a little too insistently flirtatious, which is not a good thing for a perceived cis straight man in a relationship to be toward a woman who is clearly uninterested, but most of it preceded that unfortunate buildup.  A lot of it coalesced into a rather unfortunate turn of phrase she used during that art museum trip:

“[S]he’s not one of those atheists, is [s]he?”


A Crowbar for Normalcy

There are people out there who have a problem with “labels.”  I’ve dealt with them on several occasions, to point out that some identities cannot so easily be set aside and to point out that, a lot of the time, their pretense of being unlabeled is a front for something altogether more horrid.  There’s something else in the conversation about labels, though, something that intersects with the idea of self-identification and the idea of normalcy to show us why some words are vitally important even when no one chooses them for their own.

I bear many labels.  I am not “just a person.”  I am a Hispanic, American, transfeminine, female, atheist, ex-Catholic, D&D-player, aquarist, student, feminist, skeptic, progressive, and lots of other things, on top of being a member of Homo sapiens.  Every one of these things that give me experiences I share with some people and not with others.  Having a noun for each of these affiliations eases the task of finding those who have similar histories, values, and interests, replacing a cumbersome tangle of “I do these things” and “I know that feeling” multiplied dozens of times.  This is a natural evolution of language, at least in English, by which the Californian descendants of migrants from Oklahoma became “Okies,” aficionados of Doctor Who became “Whovians,” and those who buy binoculars and cameras to witness the behavior of wild dinosaurs became “birders.”  Other connections and similarities build around these terms and the groupings they represent, and they become identities.

This, I have learned, certain incredibly privileged people face with consternation.  They see this array of defined difference and segmented identity and see in it the seeds of future conflict.  Why do we need to be all of these other things, have all of these other affiliations, recognize ourselves as things other than “just people”?  Aren’t all these labels “divisive,” separating us from our fellow humans with a line between “us” the Hispanics, birders, otakus, sapeurs, Qizilbashi, lesbians, and liberals and “them” the white people, herpers, film geeks, goths, Uzbeks, straight women, and socialists?   Doesn’t recognizing oneself as distinct in this way automatically separate oneself from others and therefore prevent us from recognizing what we have in common with them, leading immediately to their demonization and dehumanization?  Why can’t we all be “just people”?

These are the folks who think that QUILTBAGs disappearing back into our closets would “solve” our oppression.  For if we can no longer be identified, how can we be targeted for violence and discrimination?

That is what this rhetoric is: an attempt at erasure.  This rhetoric is pointed specifically at people who differ from a perceived norm, for daring to recognize and then not be ashamed of that difference.  It is pointed even harder at people who notice that their membership in one of these minorities is related to hardships they face, because even noticing that pattern, let alone seeing it as something that ought to be addressed, requires recognizing some people as being different from others.  The endgame of this line of thinking is to erase people’s experiences of difference and especially oppression by denying them the voice and language needed to express those experiences.  It is not the majority who loses the ability to talk about itself when people with certain commonalities abandon the best linguistic tool for finding one another: it is the minorities.

When we are “all just people,” what we get is “we are all the majority.”  To bury the breadth of humanity under “we are all just people” is to pretend that the loudest of us can speak for everyone—for, if we are all just people, why would it ever matter which one we ask about something?

This brings us to a labeling bogeyman that has gotten vastly outsized attention over the past forty years: “cis” and its derivatives.