Letter to Toni Braxton Regarding Diezel’s Autism Status

Letter to Toni Braxton Regarding Diezel’s Autism Status
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Toni Braxton with Diezel at the premiere of “Motown: The Musical.” Courtesy: Essence

Dear Toni Braxton,

Recently, you have announced in an interview with Access Hollywood that your youngest son, Diezel, “is no longer autistic,” giving credit to Suzanne Wright–in light of her death from pancreatic cancer–for his ability to “overcome his diagnosis.” I’m sorry to have to say this as a fan of your music, but…

Wave LMETYWTBS
Wave the Swallow resting on her hoverboard in issue #22 of “Sonic Universe.” The original speech caption, “LOOKS LIKE MY SENSORS WERE RIGHT AFTER ALL!” has been edited to be replaced with, “LET ME EXPLAIN TO YOU WHY THAT IS BULLSHIT.” Courtesy: Archie Comics

To say that your son is “showing no signs of autism” is to say that he has been taught to mask every trait that comprises his neurology in order to pass as a normal, average person. In other words, you and the therapists Wright referred him to have taught him that being autistic is frowned upon by society–and it shouldn’t be. Diezel may be a social butterfly now thanks to the speech and language therapy he received in school, assuming he wasn’t referred to a therapist outside of an academic facility, but that does not stipulate that he’s transformed into a neurotypical person.
Oh, and the “my son Diezel suffered from autism” line? The word “suffered” should only apply to cancer patients, NEVER autistic kids. God only gifted Diezel with the ability to think differently from everyone else.

I know all of this from my experience as an autistic woman–or an Aspie, as I like to address myself. At 18 months old, I was diagnosed with PDD-NOS. Translation: Autistic. Most boys are given a specific autism diagnosis, like Asperger’s syndrome or severe autism. Since I was a girl, the doctors didn’t know which end of the spectrum to place me, so they slapped PDD-NOS on my psychological record. I was enrolled in special education classes and mainstreamed from kindergarten until 3rd Grade, when the powers that be decided that I was intelligent enough to attend regular classes. However, I walked back and forth between my regular class and a special ed class for extra help in math until the 5th Grade. I maintained average to above-average grades, but I was forced to repeat the 3rd Grade based on my low scores on the standardized test formerly known as the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT). I even had to go to a speech and language therapist until the 8th Grade, although I didn’t attend a lot of sessions in 6th Grade. My teachers treated me with the utmost respect, but how my peers treated me was a different matter. While some kids were friendly with me, others just bullied and teased me for exhibiting some of the traits that came with my autistic brain, such as taking their jokes too literal, expressing interest in things that either everyone else has supposedly outgrown by the 5th Grade or earlier is strange to them, and attaining a higher GPA than most students in my class. To put it lightly, I was a glutton for verbal punishment. I even thought of being autistic as a curse because of everything I did–singing and listening to J-Pop songs, whispering to myself (both privately and publicly), expressing my love for the Sonic the Hedgehog video game franchise despite all the production problems some its games endured, and avoiding school dances (even prom, but that’s another story). Eventually, I learned that if other people don’t respect my interests, then that’s their loss.

I may have received help in learning to be sociable, but that doesn’t mean I’m “cured of autism.” Absolutely not. Society shouldn’t expect me to be less autistic, nor should they punish me for living my life differently. Just because I show some of the aforementioned quirks, doesn’t make me a bad person. My family and friends love me unconditionally for who I am. I expect you do the same for Diezel.

And for the love of God, stop supporting and working for Autism Speaks. Suzanne Wright may be gone, but the organization’s mission is still a gargantuan farce.

 

Your fan,

Cristina Alexander

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Eulogy for the Ableist

I know all of you religious folk are expecting me to read a verse from the Bible. As much as I would love to read such words of inspiration written by the hands of God, today I would like read a quote from a whole different source and explain why I chose such a quote for your dearly departed Suzanne as theologically as possible.

“Darkness sleeps in every heart, no matter how pure. Given the chance, the smallest drop can spread and swallow the heart.”
Anybody wanna guess where this quote came from? Anyone?
Since no one has the slightest clue who said this, I will tell you that the philosopher who wrote this originated from a work of fiction. Not a novel, but rather a video game produced by none other than Disney and Square Enix, called Kingdom Hearts. One of the main characters, Ansem, is the fictional philosopher in question who wrote the same words I recited to you earlier in one of his reports regarding his studies of the darkness of the heart.

Suzanne Werner-Wright, like most people, was born with a pure heart–a heart that saw no imperfections in anyone, even if they saw themselves or others as imperfect in any way. But as soon as one of her grandchildren became autistic, Wright struggled to prevent darkness from unleashing itself inside her heart. The more imperfections she saw in her grandson, the more darkness had taken hold of her heart and drove her to stomp out people with the neurology under the guise of charity.

Instead of providing us autistic people the supports and accommodations we felt were appropriate, Suzanne did us a grave disservice by stigmatizing our neurology through advertisements claiming that autism is a disease that spreads faster than cancer, diabetes, and AIDS combined; that we contribute to the 50% divorce rate in this country; and that our behaviors, intentional or otherwise, bring shame and embarrassment to our families in public places.

Instead of focusing on the positive aspects of autism–high IQs, intense focus on fields interesting to us (be it STEM, arts and literature, video games, music, or even history), enhanced vocabularies–Suzanne scrutinized the complications autism brings–anxiety, meltdowns, and speech impairments–and referred our families to mental facilities notorious for abusive practices, like applied behavioral analysis (ABA) and electric shock therapy, she believes are designed to eliminate our behaviors and, ultimately, cure autism.

Despite her best intentions, Suzanne NEVER advocated for the acceptance of autistic people. All she’s done in her last 11 years of life was encourage the wider society to tell us over and over again that being autistic is not okay, therefore we should be punished, or even killed if need be.

Eulogy for the Ableist caption
Black and red grunge texture wallpaper bearing the sentence, “Suzanne did us a grave disservice by stigmatizing our neurology through advertisements claiming that autism is a disease that spreads faster than cancer, diabetes, and AIDS combined; that we contribute to the 50% divorce rate in this country; and that our behaviors, intentional or otherwise, bring shame and embarrassment to our families in public places.”

Take a look at me. I’ve been autistic for most of my 22 years on this earth, and I know a lot about the life of an autistic person ten times better than Suzanne has. Did I cause my parents’ divorce when I was almost 2? No. Have I ever embarrassed my family in public in any way? Maybe, but I don’t remember exactly what I did to embarrass them. Does the fact that I received speech and language therapy and acquired social skills from pre-K to 8th Grade mean that I’m no longer autistic? ABSOLUTELY NOT. I only attended one Autism Speaks walk in my sophomore year of high school, and I never went back. Suzanne’s “Call to Action” speech in Washington, D.C. two years later confirmed my decision to not walk for the organization since she deemed us and our families “not living.” Upon hearing this from John Elder Robison, who resigned from the Autism Speaks Board of Science, I plucked the two puzzle piece bracelets I got from the Autism Speaks walk out of my purse and threw them in the trash, ultimately renouncing my support for the organization.

I’m proud to be autistic, and I’m glad that I’ve met people who are on the same boat as me. Together, we are working and/or have worked to defeat every demeaning autism stereotype in Suzanne’s book. She said that we will never attend college and graduate with a degree; we are, and we have–because we have every right to an education. She said we will never leave our parents’ homes and find jobs we’ll be successful in; we are, and we have–because we have every right to live independently. She said we’ll never find love, get married, and raise children (if we so choose); we are, and we have–because we have every right to be in loving relationships.

About Suzanne’s claim that autism is like cancer–the joke’s on her. Darkness had spread everywhere in her body and consumed her before she even had the slightest decency to apologize to all of us for saying such lies about us. I understand that where she will go from here depends on the Lord’s judgment, but because she has promoted ableism against us all these years, I believe she does not deserve to spend eternity in Heaven.

If I ever have children and any of them turn out to be autistic–which is likely due to genetics–I will treat them with bountiful love and respect, and raise them to advocate for their human rights if anyone ever tells them their lives and their contributions to society don’t matter. I will never subject them to any abusive therapies and treatments Suzanne and other so-called “autism warrior parents” swear by to change them. Don’t agree with me? Then I have a special guest here to sing a song dedicated to you and all those who have supported Suzanne’s ableist endeavors.

Ladies and gentlemen, here’s Disturbed performing “Who Taught You How to Hate” from their latest album, Immortalized.

Good night, everybody.

 

GameStop and Autism Speaks: An Unholy Union 2.0

It’s times like this when I wish I didn’t have to go on the Internet on my phone every ten minutes, with or without Wi-Fi, like everybody else.

GameStop has become the second video game company after Activision to form an alliance with Autism Speaks to raise funds for their Light It Up Blue campaign during Autism Awareness Month. At point-of-sale, employees at GameStop and it’s subsidiaries Think Geek, Spring Mobile, Cricket Wireless, and Simply Mac will ask customers if they wish to donate $1 to the organization, most specifically their Family Services iPad Grant program, in which autistic children and adults living in poverty receive iPads. Only 4,000 iPads have been donated throughout the U.S. since 2012. (Really?)

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Courtesy: Gamespot

Upon hearing this news on Twitter yesterday, my anxiety levels shot through the roof. My stomach was in flames, and I felt like my heart and brain were gonna explode on me. I was too pissed off to even write about it.

I’ve been shopping in GameStop for as long as I can remember–playing demos, reading Game Informer, even talking to some employees about the latest games (mostly Sonic the Hedgehog, Kingdom Hearts, and recently Pokémon). Funny enough, I wanted to talk to some of the GameStop employees I know at the mall about this damning partnership, but they were either off or too busy stocking up on the new games that came out this week, so I left them to their devices until next time.

Aside from books, video games have always been a safe haven for me to run away from all the bullying I was subjected to in both elementary and middle school (and at some points in high school). The characters from every game I have played assured me that I can accomplish anything I want regardless of what offensive bullshit other people say to me, even if I take such bullshit to heart. Playing in the worlds of both Sonic and Sora (since Kingdom Hearts II) made me feel loved, accepted, and that I could beat all the odds. GameStop and other retailers, i.e. Walmart, Target and Best Buy, provided all that. Now, to have my favorite video game retailer associate themselves with an organization that dehumanizes the very group of people who call the virtual world a safe haven [without even so much as to conduct research on them and their cruel objective]…

I just want to scream loud enough to rip a hole in the space-time continuum. I’m heartbroken times ten.

Autism Speaks has hit WAAYYY TOO CLOSE to home this time. I won’t have it.

 

Why I #BoycottAutismSpeaks

I’ve written about Autism Speaks twice in the two months I’ve been on WordPress, calling them the Nazi Party of the 21st century and ranting at my favorite magazine, PEOPLE, for secretly betraying me by interviewing Bob and Suzanne Wright for their Heroes Among Us panel in one of their recent issues (you know the one with the Kennedys on the cover?). Today, I’m gonna tell you exactly the reason why I boycott Autism Speaks.

It was my freshman year of college, and I was sitting outside of my campus library waiting for my mom to pick me up after I finished my Algebra tutoring session. It was Thursday, November 14, 2013.
I was scrolling through my Twitter feed when I came across John Elder Robison’s tweet with a link to his blog post regarding his resignation from Autism Speaks’s science board that he wrote the day before. His reason?
Two days earlier, Suzanne Wright published a damning op-ed piece in which she voiced her over-dramatic and hateful views on autism to Washington, D.C., saying that we autistic people are causing so much trouble for our families financially, physically, and emotionally .
After reading Robison’s resignation post, which included a letter to Autism Speaks president Liz Feld, my jaw dropped. Holy shit! No wonder I was verbally bullied constantly in grade school, I thought to myself. I guess I should’ve paid close attention to the sentence ‘Autism spreads faster than cancer, diabetes, and AIDS combined’ in their advertisements.
In my purse, I carried two adjusting bracelets bearing the wooden light blue puzzle piece logo from the Autism Speaks walk I attended at Nova University with my stepdad when I was a Sophomore in high school, a walk I now regret attending to this very day. I held both of the bracelets in my hands–I was going to give one to my mom, because she loves me, and the other to my boyfriend (at the time) Jack, because I loved him. Now my view of the light blue puzzle piece shifted from a symbol of hope to a sigil of hatred and discrimination against me and everyone else on the autism spectrum. I had no choice but to throw the bracelets in the trash. I shouldn’t have gone to the Autism Speaks walk had I figured out earlier that the organization’s only goal is to drive me and my people to extinction.

Here’s a playlist of songs that best describes my anger towards Autism Speaks and how much I want them to go out of business for persecuting me and my autistic friends via their Nazi-esque propaganda brainwashing our neurotypical friends, families, and health care providers–not to mention some of our favorite celebrities–into believing that autism is a disease when it actually isn’t.

1. “Call Me When You’re Sober” by Evanescence

2. “The Phoenix” by Fall Out Boy

3. “Haunted” by Disturbed

4. “Oceans” by Evanescence

5. “Black Water” by Nobuo Uematsu [from Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children]

6. “Edge Of A Revolution” by Nickelback

7. “Awake and Alive” by Skillet

8. “Colors of the Heart” by UVERworld

9. “Don’t Say Nuthin'” by The Roots

10. “Freak On a Leash (2006 MTV Unplugged version)” by KoRn ft. Amy Lee

11. “The Night” by Disturbed

12. “Headstrong” by Trapt

13. “His World (E3 2006 version)” by Crush 40 [from Sonic the Hedgehog 2006]

14. “This War Is Ours” by Escape the Fate

15. “Breakn’ a Sweat” by Skrillex and The Doors

16. “Numb” by Linkin Park

17. “Meant to Live” by Switchfoot

18. “Bring Me to Life” by Evanescence

19. “Shadows” by Red

20. “Shatter Me” by Lindsey Stirling ft. Lzzy Hale)

21. “Scream” by Michael Jackson ft. Janet Jackson

22. “Massacre” by Escape the Fate

23. “All Hail Shadow” by Magna-Fi [from Shadow the Hedgehog]

24. “Simple and Clean (PLANITb Remix)” by Utada Hikaru [from the Kingdom Hearts series]

25. “Going Under” by Evanescence

26. “99 Problems” by Jay-Z

27. “Devil’s Cry (Shall Never Surrender)” by Bentley Jones [cover song from Devil May Cry 4]

28. “Faint” by Linkin Park

29. “Don’t Stay” by Linkin Park

30. “Tony’s Theme” by Giorgio Moroder [from Scarface]

31. “Stronger” by Kanye West

32. “From Yesterday” by 30 Seconds to Mars

33. “Question!” by System of a Down

34. “Vim and Vigor” by Yoko Shimomura [from Kingdom Hearts II]

35. “The Way I Am” by Eminem

These days, every time I think about Autism Speaks I fantasize about grabbing my Keyblade and fighting Suzanne and Bob Wright–especially Suzanne–for broadcasting such propaganda about autism and for researching ways to rid the world of us autistics, who have actually done a much better job at improving society than the Wrights ever did. They have no right to tell us that we’re broken, diseased, and unintelligent because we’re actually very gifted people. Autism Speaks has been spreading fear, hate, and injustice to us for the past decade, and they need to be stopped.

I hope my mom will understand what I’ve been trying to tell her about Autism Speaks’s wrongdoings against my kind when she reads this and other posts about my views on the organization in the foreseeable future. Or, rather, when I read them to her as the circumstance may warrant.