CN: Unedited stream of consciousness.
I am terrified of appropriation.
I don’t mean that in the sense of say using AAVE, although there is an element of that. I don’t mean that I’m scared to be called a hipster or a fake whatever. I’m not even scared of claiming my own at times, when I need to.
I am scared that my identities, who I am, the ways I define myself, are costumes. Illusions so clever, so complete, that I managed to fool myself as well as others with them.
I’ve mentioned this before when discussing my own gender feels. Life hasn’t stood still long enough for me to really examine my feelings further regarding that aspect of things. I’m lucky enough to have surrounded myself with a community who will support me no matter what my ultimate gender identity ends up being and if feel the need to do a thorough examination sooner rather than later, so for now I can wait. Or is this just the excuse I tell myself as I avoid my fear of taking on a label, an identity, until I am completely sure that it belongs to me.
To my knowledge, I’ve never taken on an identity that didn’t belong to me.
I’ve been curious about my past heritage, but I don’t think it entitles me to claiming those cultural identities and is rather an interest in knowing my history. I discovered my ADHD before diagnosis, but even if I was able to fool the doctors and the tests, I can’t fake my reaction to the meds. There are enough people among my friend-list who would think nothing of tearing me to shreds, were I in the wrong, to act as a safeguard. I know all this.
CN: Discussion of Ableism, Mental Health, and Suicide
If you suffer from Anxiety or Depression, or have friends and family who do, you may be familiar with the concept of troll brain. It is the thought manifestations of your disorders: lies your own brain tells you in order to prey on your fears and insecurities. Part of learning to cope with anxiety and depression is learning to recognize those thoughts that are lies, which are your brain trolling you, and separating them from your real thoughts. It’s not easy, especially since your brain obviously knows you better than anyone else. It’s the manifestation of all of your fears. That you are worthless. That no one loves you.
But what happens when society reinforces the same ideas as your troll brain? What happens when the message you are given everywhere you look reminds you that the vast majority of society agrees with the lies your brain tells you. This is the reality for many disabled people. In some cases it is a contributory cause of their depression and anxiety.
While we were at the DMV, a man was visibly stimming by chewing on his shirt, and readjusting it often. He was awkward and drew some attention and stares. He was also wearing an oversized shirt and shorts that made it look like he wasn’t wearing pants. The police were called.
He showed them the shorts he was wearing, but that wasn’t enough. They stayed with him while he was waiting to get his information. Throughout it all the police were drawing attention to themselves and him. Finally, tired of waiting, they got him bumped up. Then when he was done, loudly asked if anyone would give him a ride somewhere, then laughing when the people who were stuck waiting in line couldn’t.
When the police were first called to the scene, most people were pretty entertained by the idea of a man at the DMV not wearing pants. Was it a protest of no shoes, no shirt, no service? Did he just forget? Nothing was hanging out, he just didn’t seem to be wearing pants. When the joke was broken and the tiny shorts revealed, most felt that that should have been the end of it. It was funny, but it wasn’t criminal.
The cops continued presence, and the way that they kept drawing everyone’s attention, however, soon made everyone uncomfortable. It’s one thing to respond when there is the potential of inappropriate nudity, but when it turns out that that is not the case, the continued mockery is just plain cruelty. What we were witnessing was a man with a presumed mental illness and/or cognitive disability, who was being tormented for being different.
We thought that was the end of it, until we left an hour later and saw him walking with his big bag trying to get to a bus stop.
We pulled over hoping to give him a ride somewhere, upset with how the cops had treated them. Just as I got to him and asked him if I could drive him somewhere, two police cars showed up. I had been in the process of walking away because he had said he was ok, but when I saw the cops, I hesitated and waited.
They asked if I was with him. He looked at me pleadingly while saying yes, so I answered that we had been together at the DMV, leaving it just ambiguous enough in case I was pressed for information. The young one got on his case again about his pants, telling him to pull them down and mocking him for wearing such small shorts. Uncomfortable, the man asked me if I would drive him, but the young cop cut him off saying that “the nice young lady isn’t going to want someone like you in her car.”
I started saying that actually I had just offered him a ride, but they had moved on to grilling him about why he was using a “stolen” Walmart shopping cart to carry his bags, and generally being unpleasant. The man insisted that he just wanted to get to the bus stop and then he would sit down and no one would notice him. The older one finally intervened and let him go while taking the attention of the younger one away from him.
I once again offered him a ride where he was going so he wouldn’t have to deal with the cops again. He said it was ok. Concerned but respecting his boundaries, I waved goodbye. At this point the older cop started lecturing me about offering rides to “people like that”. Seriously pissed and annoyed at this point, I pointed out that his behaviour at the DMV and on the way suggested the potential of autism spectrum disorder (specifically the stimming, the difficulty processing in the face of aggression, etc) and that people with autism or someone with a mental health issue were more likely to be victims of violence than aggressors. I was safer offering a ride to him, than an abled man.
The cop looked displeased and pointed out that he had been attacked by the very same type of people who he was trying to protect and they were mentally ill. To which I retorted that that was probably because they had bad associations with people in authority. Finally, not wanting to make him decide to go after me I smiled and said I guess I was just too Canadian for my own good, nodded to him and went back to the car. In the time I was talking to the cops, the harassed gentleman made it to the bus stop, hopefully not to be harassed again.
I left feeling extremely uncomfortable. Rather than being helpful, such as potentially by offering the man a ride to his destination. Or by telling the dispatch simply to let people know that he was in fact wearing shorts, or even just providing him an additional police escort just to show people that they are aware of the situation. There were a myriad of options open to them to solve the issue. Instead they actively got in the way of someone else trying to be helpful, created a shaming environment and openly mocked the situation. They were provoking him and looking for a reason to arrest him for the crime of being weird in public.
If I hadn’t been there what would have happened? If he didn’t have someone there to help act as a shield and step in front when they moved aggressively towards him, would he have been provoked in such a way as to create the perception of an excuse to take him down?
What makes this even more perverse, is that these men weren’t bad cops. The older one, in his misguided way had tried to look out for me. He probably didn’t realize all the ways in which he was making the situation worse.
The younger one was simply arrogant. Confident in his perception that he was the “better man”. How much of that act might have even been macho showing off in front of the “female”. His actions were creating a dangerous situation. He was actively provoking this other man. He was looking for any excuse to harass him further.
This is the world that people with disabilities, and especially neurodivergent people grow up in. One where they are not who the police are protecting, but who they are protecting others from, even though violence is much more common in the other direction. A world where being weird is a crime.