Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Othering In"

This poem came out of the April 7, 2015 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] siliconshaman and LJ user Ng_moonmoth. It also fills "The Company of Strangers" square in my 3-16-15 card for the [community profile] genprompt_bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by [personal profile] librarygeek for April being Autism Awareness Month. It belongs to the series An Army of One: The Autistic Secession in Space.

"Othering In"

Astin had never quite trusted language
in the way that other people seemed to do,
because it left no space for xyr between
the categories of "male" and "female."

Astin was always something else,
always other than expected,
never fitting in no matter
how hard xe tried.

It itched in ways
that xe could not describe.

In the Lacuna, though, everything changed.

There Astin found people who agreed
that if the box on the form was inaccurate
and the options were incomplete
then of course it was the paperwork
that needed to be changed

instead of Astin.

Just like that, Other became an option,
an inclusion rather than an exclusion,
a lacuna between male and female
where Astin fit quite comfortably.

So too, the people of the Lacuna decided
that they were not freaks or crazies
but shadow-soldiers, specialists,
experts with valuable skills that
should be respected instead of
taken for granted.

The ones who spoke with Operetta
about their mental and physical needs
called themselves psychiatric survivors
instead of noncompliant patients.

Operetta hummed off-key and wrote out
requests for supplies that might work better.

It was Hootowl who declared that neurodiversity
was an asset, not a liability -- that the people
in the Lacuna mostly differed from those
in the galactic Arms and that was okay.

Backup confided to his brothers that he was
tired of being talked about as a disorder
since he liked the way he was and it
wasn't hurting him any, nevermind
what his father used to say.

They decided that it was a mental variability
instead of a mental disability, and that was fine.

The language was evolving along with the culture,
expanding to create a space in which new voices
could speak and be heard as clearly as the old,
where Backup's repetitions and Shakespeare's quotes
commanded equal respect with Router's careful orders.

The fresh phrases settled in alongside
the body language of hand-flapping and
a general distaste for too much eye contact,
framing and embracing the relationships
through which people interacted.

Most were perfectly content to socialize
across the vast black ballroom of space
instead of trying to cram everyone together
into a single habitat -- they had Sargasso Base
and Supply Base Bounty 3D3N, and that was
enough for those who wished to mingle.

They were strange.
They were strangers.

These were good things
in contrast to the old familiar conflicts
which they had discarded in favor
of this far-flung camaraderie,
othering in toward belonging.

Astin had never felt so comfortable,
so utterly at home, as xe did now
in the company of strangers.

* * *


Genderqueer identity and glossary are complex, spanning a wide range of everything outside the masculine male and feminine female categories. While often classed as gender identity disorder or gender dysphoria, this is not accurate for everyone. Some, like Astin, would just really like everyone to stop trying to make them be the gender that their sex implies; it's not necessarily about change but about acceptance. Pathologizing the situation does not help. The problem isn't caused by gender variation, but by gender policing.

A more positive mental vocabulary helps too. It is harmful to scapegoat neurovariant or mentally ill people. Also, this is from a reference on multiple personalities, but in general people do like like being called a disorder. Further consider that some disorders, such as homosexuality, have come and gone as people realized it was not the trait causing the problem but the surrounding society.  Childhood is not a disorder, neither is neurdiversity, and people should be free to choose their own labels.  Being different or being rejected by society doesn't mean you have a problem; having difficulty with your everyday life or mental focus is the kind of thing you might want help for, but even then sometimes external accommodations work better for some folks than trying to change themselves.

And of course, for autism awareness, here's a pointer to the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network. An Army of One is compatible with the autistic inclusion pledge, with some poems being prompted by people on the spectrum. Others have been prompted by friends and family of neurovariant folks, or other neurotypical readers following up on interesting threads.</user></user></user>
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fishbowl, linguistics, poem, poetry, reading, science fiction, weblit, writing

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