On the Subject of Trans Women, Refuges + Terf Dogwhistles

Featured image description: Rows of makeshift beds in a large, well-lit room. The duvets are in are various colours.

CN for transphobia, terf discussion – including direct quotes from a terf blogpost, domestic abuse, trauma, death mention, detransition rhetoric, ableism, gaslighting, toxic masculinity

Hi all, 

Today is going to be quite a long post for many reasons. Mainly that I’m going to address the elephant in the room in the eyes of terfs – about trans women accessing “single-sex spaces” – including women’s refuges. This is from the perspective of somebody who got barred from one when feeling domestic abuse. I am now only just able to start coming to terms with this as I finally escaped my abusers. Furthermore, with the recent news that the UK government plan to roll back trans rights this year (starting with trans kids), I feel now is the time to publish this.

This is a lengthy blogpost as I’m going to detail things extensively – not just my personal experiences. There are also screenshots and quotes from transphobes – because yes, despite what people want to claim transphobia is still an issue in women’s refuges. While there are women’s refuges that are inclusive of trans people, there are a lot who aren’t.  

My escape was a long time coming due to many systematic barriers I faced. Here is a link to that post, so I don’t have to go into detail again here.  

So why am I writing a blog post on this specifically? Well, it’s for two reasons – firstly, so myself and others can source this article where appropriate because the voices of trans women are being silenced (ironically from those complaining they are being silenced, which is nonsense).

Secondly, because I wish to elaborate on the above a bit more as it was only through time that I was able to accept that I was rejected on the grounds of transphobia. I had previously thought it was just because they didn’t feel they could support me for any other reasons. This post also clarifies a lot of the dog whistles transphobes use – whether they are terfs or just random people spreading rhetoric they don’t understand.  

That said, the refuge as well as the staff I engaged with there are kept anonymous in this piece.  

The critical thing to remember is the trans women’s needs are often similar to cis women’s  

There is much misunderstanding about the needs of trans women and what being trans is. Hence a lot of beliefs services users have are rooted in transphobia whether they realise it or not.  

Trans feminine people generally wish to be treated like cis women. This is because the way wider society perceives us means that we are victims of systematic sexism and misogyny from those around us. This often includes years of mistreatment from cis men – often for prolonged periods of time in very similar aspects that cis women face – especially when other marginalisations are involved ie. Disability and race.  

This is something that affects all feminine presenting people, especially those that “pass” as a cis woman. Here is what I mean: 

Image is of an email from a worker at the refuge sent on Thursday August 8th 2019 at 12:03pm. Parts of the email have been censored to protect privacy. The rest of the text says:

“Hi Milla,
 
Please can you email me the information we discussed yesterday. It may not be appropriate to see you at the centre but I am looking into further support for you.
Kind regards,
[redacted], Liason Worker”

“It may not be appropriate to see you at the centre” is vague and was probably said to try to hedge the bad news. This was the first red flag, hence I enquired.

Image is of an email from a worker at the refuge sent on Thursday August 8th 2019 at 20:06pm. Parts of the email have been censored to protect privacy. The rest of the text says:

Hi [Liason Worker],

I have attached two files – a copy of [redacted] as well as a log of all the recent things that have happened, updated to today.
 
Could you please explain to me what you mean by “it may not be appropriate to see you at the centre?”
 
Kind regards,
Milla [redacted]

Note that I am supplying sensitive information, including logs – one of the critical things domestic abuse survivors have to compile. How exactly is it “inappropriate” that a trans woman is trying to access support?  

This person then replied with the following:  

Image is of an email from a worker at the refuge sent on Friday August 9th 2019 at 2:05pm. Parts of the email have been censored to protect privacy. The rest of the text says:

“Hi Milla,
 
Thank you for the information I will look at it and discuss the best course of action in conjunction with our Advice Worker. Our transgender policy states that we can only engage face to face contact with a women who is past the surgical stage of her transition. This said I am very concerned about the information you have shared with me and feel you need more support. We will be able to offer phone support and possible sign posting to another agency. We have no intention in giving up on your case but your situation is unique to us and we need to offer you the most appropriate support possible.
 
I will be in touch soon
 
Kind regards
[redacted], Liason Worker”

I would like to draw particular attention to this quote – “Our transgender policy states we can only engage face-to-face contact with a women who is past the surgical stage of her transition.”  

This is why the refuge rejected me. It wasn’t a case of “may not” – it was “was not,” but I had to push for an answer. The problems with this policy – assuming it’s genuine – is that it’s completely unrealistic only to accept post-op trans people. Somebody’s genitals don’t come into this frankly unless people know about it – or suspect that somebody is trans even though said judgements are often very inaccurate. It is a de-facto benchmark for what many think qualifies someone as transgender – and frankly, this obsession with what genitals a trans person has by cis people is quite creepy.  

In reality, it is not a realistic benchmark to maintain even on a purely practical level. For example, in the UK, trans people have to wait years before they can even have an initial appointment, let alone a surgery consultation. This is because of the long waiting times, horrendous gatekeeping that leads to wasted appointments and the overall administrative nightmare that system is. The only real way to get medical treatment in the UK promptly and safely is to go private. In the case of surgery, this usually means going abroad. For many trans people – especially those from poorer backgrounds – going private isn’t an option. I did call this out (though not in much detail). 

Image is of an email from a worker at the refuge sent on Friday August 9th 2019 at 2:05pm. Parts of the email have been censored to protect privacy. The rest of the text says:

Hello [redacted],
 
Thank you for getting back to me.
 
I am really confused as to why this policy is in place. It’s not my fault I haven’t even had the opportunity to discuss surgery with a professional (and won’t for at least 4-5 years unless I go private) and would also discriminate against me if I decided against surgery. This policy also discriminates against intersex people who happen to present feminine/grow up feminine and have a penis.
 
I know this is legal under the Equality Act (so long as the purpose is to achieve a “legitimate aim” which I assume is the case here) so I am not surprised that this has come up. I would appreciate an explanation to calm my anxiety. I’m worried if I am kicked out of my home I may have to go somewhere where predatory cis men are such as mixed gender homeless shelters (and that would be genuinely dangerous for me because [redacted].
 
I would be and feel safest within a women’s refuge especially as I want and need to be treated like a cis woman as much as possible. Is this kind of policy typical for women’s refuges? If I was on hormones already, could fully pass as a cis woman and had breasts as a result of HRT I probably would never have disclosed I’m trans in light of this.
 
I also would find traveling to a refuge further away difficult especially if I’m in a meltdown which is what would most likely happen if I am kicked out of [redacted] before I have somewhere to go. [rest of this paragraph has been redacted].
 
Am I right in assuming the appointment I booked for [redacted] is cancelled as a result? I see no point keeping it if I would not be allowed into the refuge to talk face-to-face due to this policy.
 
Apologies for all of the questions and the bombardment of my anxiety-ridden thoughts. I also apologise if there are contractual obligations in place that mean you aren’t able to provide me with answers in depth or at all. Feel free to ignore certain questions if you can’t answer them.
 
Kind regards,
Milla [redacted]

I was a bit of a trauma mess with this response as I wasn’t fully processing what was going on. Primarily because – at the time – I was not used to travelling extensively across the UK, and I feared what would happen if I had to leave (see the fourth paragraph). But I was quite clear I was scared and reading this back it’s heartbreaking. Though for anybody trying to access services, oversharing fears, intimate details and triggers are essential to get taken seriously.  Here is their final reply to me:

Image is of an email from a worker at the refuge sent on Friday August 9th 2019 at 2:05pm. Parts of the email have been censored to protect privacy. The rest of the text says:

“Hi Milla,

My colleague is currently reading your information. We agree that we need to complete a DASH ( a risk assessment on your safety) which we will do over the phone. Once this is completed, we will know where to refer you to. We are thinking [redacted] who can offer outreach support.
 
Anyone going to refuge would need to move out of area which I know will not work for you. Sadly, refuges are biologically gender specific for safety reasons.
 
As a women’s centre we are only funded to work with biological women but we are more than willing to support you over the phone as we will not turn away an individual who needs help. We are approaching your case with sensitivity and are trying to offer you as much support as we are able.
 
Are you willing to complete a risk assessment over the phone? We offer this service to women so we are not discriminating against you or offering you a lesser service. My colleague [redacted] is able to offer you a phone appointment on [redacted]. This would be in place of the scheduled face to face appointment next Friday.
 
I have left a voice mail with [redacted] but have not heard anything back. I will chase them again next week. If you hear from them please let us know.
 
I hope this answers some of your questions.
 
Kind regards,
[redacted], Liaison Worker

They offered the risk assessment – but I never emailed them again after this because I was devastated. Hence, I didn’t have the assessment, and subsequently, my escape is now even further away. It was not long after this that I felt I needed to look for a job to escape of which I did get one. But I was ultimately let go from the job which was inevitable.  

There are also mentions in here about biology and safety, which are no doubt rooted in believing myths about trans people. For example:  

“Sadly, refuges are biologically gender specific for safety reasons.”  

“As a women’s centre we are only funded to work with biological women”  

Here are some articles that debunk the gender binary and the idea that they “biological men/women” myths, because they are not accurate. Many people who believe in the gender binary are uninformed due to what they are taught in school but don’t care. However, there are people that use the myth as an argument to roll back trans rights and enforce strict gender rules. This is ultimately the goal of transphobes – whom are mainly conservative people.  

Article 1: https://qz.com/1007198/the-myth-that-gender-is-binary-is-perpetuated-by-a-flawed-education-system/   

Article 2: https://medium.com/@QSE/the-xx-xy-lie-our-social-construction-of-a-sex-and-gender-binary-4eed1e60e615  

It’s examples like this that support the reality that the majority of cis women support trans women but lack the understanding to provide proper support. Perhaps if service staff had improved training, then they would feel more able to deal with trans women as many do not need as much specialist support as people think. This is what I initially thought – as it is not incorrect – and used to justify to myself why the refuge excluded me as there was no more evidence either way. 

I will further discuss this on page 2.

On COVID-19, Home Working and Internalised Ableism

Content warning for: internalised ableism, COVID-19

Hi all,

In this post, I’m gonna talk a bit about the coronavirus and work today. The reason why is that the way employers have handled the coronavirus is both a source of frustration and opportunity for disabled people. I am going to reference my experience with my last employer to help illustrate this point.

My past experience

I had found out a few weeks ago my former employer is now working from home as a response to the coronavirus outbreak. All the team would not be in the office and could only be contacted through written mediums (or Zoom if they needed a meeting).

Yet when I worked there, I was never able to get any regular time out of the office to work privately in a quiet environment. This was an accommodation I needed for my sensory needs. The office is very overstimulating as a lot happens day to day, so even working outside the office elsewhere would have been OK. But I truly needed to be able to work from home at least two days a week.

I was not able to deal with the multitasking of various work and dealing with clients and an overstimulating. Not always being in the office to work would have taken the pressure off me. They felt it was “integral to the role” that I was in the office to answer questions even in an unsuitable environment.

Yet in light of COVID-19, the idea that my presence is “integral” to the role is nonsense. If I still worked for them, I would now be working from home too. My part was very similar to theirs. I would have worked from home in an environment that suited me, and I could regulate when I talk to people on my terms. Yet I wasn’t able to have this when I worked for them as a reasonable adjustment? Even Occupational Health agreed – their report was useless from my perspective. This doesn’t make sense, right? Well actually, it does.

I have no personal grief towards my former employer about anything. Even if they did accommodate me in this way, I still would have lost the job as it was unsuitable for me for many other reasons. However, these anti-home working attitudes are the kind of thinking that employers have systematically – even inclusive ones. I’m now going to explain what’s wrong with it and what employers can do to get around it.

Ableist expectations

There is the ableist expectation regarding work that employees must have a physical presence in the workplace period. There is this expectation that workers should be expected to relocated for all roles hence there are countries like the UK where the economy is centralised to a few specific regions. In the UK, the region is mainly London and the surrounding counties.

These expectations are so deep that employers – even genuinely inclusive ones that do try their best – do not realise the true extent. The foundations they use for employee expectations are rooted in ableism that harms disabled people. This is systematic ableism – namely that the design of the capitalist workplace itself discriminates against disabled people.

Abled employers barring disabled people from working – but then changing their minds when it affects them – is a blatant double standard. Yet when you point this out, many people will have no idea and cite the “extraordinary circumstances” of the virus. Yet they do not realise that disabled people have been dealing with these “extraordinary circumstances” for decades. Here’s what I mean:

  • We’ve learnt not to expect public services to help us correctly, and we have to fight for access.
  • We’ve learnt that communicating over the internet is more accessible for us than in-person events because we often can’t attend them.
  • We’ve learnt the importance of self-care and curating our environments, so we don’t force ourselves to tolerate an unhealthy environment that worsens our disabilities.
  • We’ve learnt to take extra steps to look after ourselves medically – whether that be medication, extra caution in daily life or allowing our bodies to rest when it tells us.
  • We’ve learnt to expect to be failed by the world of work repeatedly – bracing for the worst whenever we work for a new employer and being genuinely surprised when we find a genuinely inclusive one.
  • We’ve learnt to deal with a social security system that would rather deprive us of all support than give us what we’re entitled to.
  • We’ve accepted deep down we will have structural societal barriers to overcome, and we have to learn to deal with an inaccessible world that doesn’t value our lives.

Many disabled people accept that reality, but others don’t. Others continue to push their boundaries and force themselves to fit into the mould of broader society, even if deep down, they feel like a burden. And they know that the ableds around them mostly see them as a burden too – especially financially.

This is called internalised ableism – learned ableist messages from broader society. It’s not anyone’s fault for internalising them – whether it be disabled jobseekers or abled employers. Still, it does mean they need to take steps to unlearn it. This is because systematic ableism is underpinned by internalised ableism of most of those that participate in it.

I genuinely believe that there are employers out there that do embrace inclusivity. They do sincerely try to recruit staff from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences. However, to be genuinely inclusive, it also means unlearning the ableism that has impacted their thinking towards work. This means unlearning internalised ableism as it benefits everyone.

How to be genuinely inclusive

This means redesigning jobs so that if ableds can suddenly work from home in the event of an emergency, disabled people can do so at all times so we can manage our conditions. For most office-based jobs, this will be possible. This means ditching the expectations of having to relocate staff unless it’s necessary.

In the UK, graduates shouldn’t have to move to London or a select number of other places just to get jobs that are right for their skills. People shouldn’t have to rely on jobs available in person because big employers will not offer home working. This is even when their response to coronavirus proves they can.

In my case, it meant that I didn’t truly need to be in the office the whole time. I knew that from the beginning. I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle it all the time. Yet they saw it as “integral to the role”. Hence, I had to either fit into what the employer wanted or eventually get let go. Quitting wasn’t an option for various reasons.

The results of not accommodating disabled people are apparent to those that pay attention. Alongside disabled people being out of work, many of us are highlighting the hypocritical behaviour of many employers now becoming blatantly clear due to the outbreak. Many of us are at best, annoyed or at worst, angry. Though bitterness is more often than not what people see.

The feeling of seeing yet again how accommodations are only consistently given to employees when ableds need it. However, when disabled people need it, they are denied, even when it’s against the law. That’s why it takes longer for us to get jobs generally and struggle to maintain them. That’s why many of us go self-employed or hide our diagnoses at work. Because it is often safer for us to do so – whether it to manage our quality of life generally or simply make working possible.

For any disabled people out there who can work reading this – take note. You now have a powerful argument to the state to employers to get you the accommodations that you are entitled to.

Good employers should accept this reality and work to further accommodate disabled staff. Whereas bad faith employers have expertly played themselves, and now it will be harder for them to deny accommodations. The evidence will be out there for all to find over an internet search (like this).

The future is homeworking – not just for disabled people can we can actually work, but also for ableds to improve their quality of life too. It benefits everyone – and it starts by learning the lessons from coronavirus. The world of work doesn’t have to be the way it is now. It doesn’t have to go back to old habits once the coronavirus is no longer a threat. Work can be better. It must be.

That’s all,

Milla xx

The Case for Not Giving Unsolicited Advice

Content note: examples of ableism and transphobia used to support arguments

Hi all,

One of the things that have been an issue as of late for me is something that marginalised people typically face when trying to improve a situation. I’m talking about unsolicited advice. Today I’m gonna explain in this blogpost why people really need to lay off with advice when it’s not explicitly sought. To provide supporting examples, I’m going to use my ongoing homelessness situation as it is an example of a situation where unsolicited advice is not helpful.

It’s not helpful

A lot of people who give unsolicited advice often do not understand the complexities of a situation. This comes from two angles. Firstly, the individual. Each person has their own individual circumstances that mean their case is unique in the eyes of professionals. While there are common themes in people’s stories, there are personal stories and access needs that make each case different. For some people, this makes their matters more complicated. For many, this also makes their cases sensitive hence details aren’t disclosed readily. This means that many people who other help do not know these complexities, which means their advice is unhelpful – despite good intentions.

The second angle is that many people do not realise how government policy – especially by capitalist, right-wing governments – has led to services being underfunded and understaffed. Hence demand often outstripping supply. So things are going to take longer because there isn’t enough money or people available to help. Furthermore, a lot of privileged people will not see this reality because they haven’t experienced it. Many people don’t have supportive family or friends nor the money and privilege to buy support quickly. Furthermore, many people get gatekept by professionals for who they are – such as trans people getting barred from single-gender spaces because they are trans.

The same things are said over and over again

Remember, when I said there are common themes providers find when people are close to getting the support they need? One of them is that they have been failed by services repeatedly. People expect solutions to be simple and happen instantly hence make things sound so easy – and this gets upsetting. I’ve had multiple people tell me to “get [my] housing sorted first” before doing anything else. One person even cited Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

These people do not understand the systematic barriers I’ve faced and the fact I need a lot of support to do this – something which I’ve only started to get after moving halfway across the UK (aka drastic action). It’s very unsettling that people act it is that simple for everyone. Still, for many in complex situations like mine, it merely isn’t, and it feels dismissive to have it oversimplified in this way. This is often done repeatedly, by well-meaning sources who don’t know each other so cannot discuss cases in depth.

Frequently hearing the same advice is demoralising and eventually becomes grating. They are scripts – often used to mock neurodivergent people when they are using them – yet ableds seem to get away with using them. It’s a double standard that impacts neurodivergent people in general, but it’s particularly noticeable here.

People feel an obligation to help, even when they can’t

I’ve found when I’ve talked to people, they do sincerely mean well and want to help. And that is a good thing and they deserve credit for that. But in many cases, they can’t and therefore give advice because they feel a social obligation to be helpful. Hence they provide the information to ease this pressure on themselves.

When people vent, they are often not asking for help. Yes, we’ve likely tried what you think is obvious and for many reasons, we haven’t got anywhere. You don’t have an obligation to help us a lot of the time. And if you do, we will often ask directly. Sometimes the best thing you can do is to listen and let us vent. That is more helpful than any advice nine times out of ten.

Sometimes we are gatekept, other times there are genuine access needs or extra barriers that we can’t overcome. A good example is how many services only offer a telephone contact method which is not accessible for many people. Therefore, a lot of emergency/crisis support is not accessible, like support lines. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been given crisis lines by people trying to support me only for me to explain that I can’t access it. I’ve had to start preemptively telling people not to offer them which has finally got people to back off.

Asserting needs is key for people in complex situations

Marginalised people have to assert their needs preemptively a lot – if it is even safe to do so. We aren’t “typical clients” – we are people dealing with the most challenging periods of our lives and we have additional support needs. So yes, that means telling providers not to contact people via the phone in advance before they suggest it if possible. It means telling providers what our triggers are in advance, so they aren’t likely to set them off by mistake. Sometimes it means not saying anything at all about certain aspects if possible. To give one example, trans people who have passing privilege are usually better off not disclosing to services they are transgender as it risks discrimination.

Good people will accommodate our needs. Good people will respect our boundaries. Good people will understand that unsolicited advice is often counterproductive. Good people that don’t understand any of this yet will take the time to learn and help their staff be better at supporting vulnerable people. If you’ve read this article, that’s an excellent sign. The world needs good people and active support networks. One way to do that is understanding the lived experience of service users. Hopefully, this post has gone a little way towards this goal.

That’s all for today,
Milla xx

For Trans People, Legal Recognition is Important. Here’s Why

Featured image description: A variety of colourful passports for many different countries including the UK, Switzerland, Japan, South Korea, the United States and Denmark.

CN in blog post for misgendering, transphobia discussion

Hi all,

Today is gonna be a fairly short post compared to normal a few reasons – one of which is my personal situation, but also because…

…I am finally legally female on my passport.

This is a really big deal for me for a few reasons as now the gender marker on it matches how I present. But to help others understand the importance of this I’m gonna explain a bit more on a general level in today’s post before I go and celebrate.

So why are legally correct documents like passports a big deal for a trans person?

Safety

This is the obvious one. Somebody who has to supply ID for anything can now show a document without the worry of being outed. It’s a form of protection as many cis people place great importance on what documents say. It is part of the quick judgements that people make when they serve people in a shop – such as when checking ID to buy age-restricted products.

Other people use it as an argument to invalidate people’s gender identities and by being able to change it makes their argument completely null. This is because many cis people would otherwise agree as they place great importance on cis people recognising somebody being trans (which isn’t ok but is a whole other thing).

Ability to travel more easily

Another reason is being able to travel abroad and emigrate more easily as a correctly gendered passport is less likely to cause issues when trying to get through customs control. This means travelling becomes a lot more viable for trans people again as before the options were limited to domestic travel as well as certain other legal arrangements where border checks are reduced (ie. Within the EU).

If the gender marker matches how somebody presents, customs officers are much more likely to let people through without any issues. Whereas if somebody presents a passport with a marker that doesn’t match how they present (ie. A trans woman with a passport that says M under sex/gender), they will likely run into issues including having to out themselves to strangers.

Of course, this issue does not apply where transphobia is widespread and/or has been illegalised in law even for those that have fully transitioned – however, most trans people wouldn’t risk going to many of these places (ie. The Middle East) anyway.

That said, the exception of this relates to for the nonbinary X gender marker in countries that aren’t super LGBTQ+ friendly and gender diversity is embraced. For this reason, I personally wouldn’t get one despite identifying as non-binary. However, the option should be made available because for some this is not something they can overlook.

To overcome systematic barriers

Additionally, and most importantly, a correctly gendered passport can allow for some of the barriers trans people face being systematically overcome. For me, I am now finally able to move forward with my homelessness situation as my misgendered passport was only one of many systematic barriers I was facing. The anxiety it caused stopped me from getting anywhere with housing.

It also depends on the laws of individual countries. In the UK, the path to getting a passport’s gender marker legally changed is much easier than getting a Gender Recognition Certificate. For the former, you only need a specifically worded doctor’s letter as evidence, whereas the latter needs considerably more documents. It was why there were previous plans to reform the Gender Recognition Act.

As I write this, the GRA reforms in the UK have been stalled outside of Scotland so it is unlikely the process for getting a GRC will be made any easier. However, in practice, few situations will ever require somebody to show their birth certificate when an updated passport or driving license will be sufficient instead. So as long as trans people in the UK can find a doctor willing to write them this letter, they have a way to go around most of the barriers an incorrect birth certificate will cause. This is in the UK, I can’t speak for other countries where the processes are different.

Hence, in conclusion

Being able to change gender markers on legal documents is life-saving. This means that the processes in each country must be made more accommodating for others, including trans youth as well as for non-binary identities. And by extension for foreigners too including those seeking naturalisation or even just to visit as tourists.

For me personally, my legal transition is effectively complete aside from the GRC which I may return to in the future if I do need to get it but in day to day life I’m covered at this point. The right for somebody to have documents that match the life they live is everyone’s right.

That’s all for today,

Milla xx (now legally female as of 07/02/2020)

Featured image source: In the image on top right corner naming Shuttlestock account CNN Money

Leave A Light On – A Brexit Day Ramble

(Featured image description: A candle burning.)

Content warnings for: mention of abusive UK government policies, mentions of, including a list, of various forms of bigotry (no detail), colonialism, fascism

Hi all,

Today the UK will officially leave the EU. I’ve had a lot of feelings over it all – mainly bitterness most recently which led to my writer’s block. I’m gonna elaborate on my thoughts a bit more – firstly because of self-care but also to hopefully illustrate those outside the UK just how dire the situation is.

There were many reasons why – and I try not to get political in my blog outside of my main topics – but I’d like to elaborate now that the time is right.

Confirmation of many forms of internalised bigotry

Brexit from the start is a far-right project being pushed by bigots and vulture capitalists hoping to asset strip a ruined UK. This only became more obvious over time as the racists came out of the woodwork and the country became more toxic. The most obvious targets for this are anybody deemed seen as foreign but this especially applies to:

  • People of colour (points at Windrush)
  • EU/EEA citizens
  • Women
  • LGBTQ+ people
  • Trans people (points at UK mainstream media and GIC waiting times)
  • Disabled people (points at UN report of Tory austerity)
  • Autistic people (points at ATU crisis)
  • Jewish people
  • Muslims
  • Anyone else who supports globalism and progressive politicxs

For the world, this brought to the centre what many had long believed – that the UK is a deeply bigoted country that won’t come to terms with this reality. This especially applies to racism and the UK’s history as a colonial power which also isn’t taught in schools here. However other systematic biases like sexism and ableism are also ignored.

Many British people are also implicitly xenophobic having closed their minds off to other cultures and backgrounds – even on their own continent. This clearly shows how fewer people in the UK take advantage of the many freedoms globalisation has to offer when they can get access to it.

It is also equally baffling to outsiders because they can see things clearly where British people can’t. It’s similar to American gun culture where the world sees the lack of gun control in the USA as a problem and many Americans themselves do not. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had conversations with people from around the world about Brexit with them making comments implying confusion at what we’ve voted for. Brexit destroys the positive image the UK once had and overall this is a very good thing. Because now it means British people can start cleaning up their act which leads me to…

Most people were not informed enough

This is by far the biggest source of frustration for me. You’d think after four years people would have woke up and realised that the Brexit they were promised is all lies, but no far from it. Many people refuse to accept they are misinformed and in my experience has led to a lot of ad hominem attacks and a lot of stress.

Thing is, I’m not even mad at more informed people who voted Leave in 2016 by default because there are valid criticisms of the EU (such as it’s racist immigration policy towards refugees as well as how they handled Greece’s financial woes). There are legit reasons to want to leave the EU not based on lies and anybody claiming the EU is perfect is lying.

Hence I can forgive those who voted Leave in 2016 and even endorsed it up till 2018. However, I find it difficult to comprehend why people continue to endorse them even now. This showed in 2019 the election win by the now fascist Conservative party having been massively endorsed across the country including former Labour seats. The various domestic issues blamed on the EU by the Tories/media were not caused by them but by the various failures of right-wing governments over the last 40 years but especially those in power since 2010.

I’d go as far as to argue that the 2016 referendum should never have happened because the average person didn’t know enough about the EU and all other relevant fields to have a credible opinion. An uninformed electorate is dangerous because they are easy to manipulate and that is exactly what happened.

People like to think they know more about something than they actually do. Only when they are actually sat down and forced to engage with said info do they begin to understand. This isn’t their fault that this hadn’t happened to them when they were in school but it is their responsibility to do so now. Thing is few people realised this back then including myself – and if I did I’d advocate the same thing then.

The faults of the left

I do think the other parties share some of the blame though – specifically for not forming a temporary alliance that could have helped salvage seats, stop Brexit democratically (or enable a more humane one) and implement electoral reform. However, I also feel the left should have adopted a more simplistic message that the average person can understand easily, rote learn and then pass onto the others. This is the same tactic the right does and it clearly works. The only difference the left has to do is base this in truth. And by truth, I mean to simplify the messages we’ve been trying to communicate for years.

From my autistic ass of a perspective, I find this frustrating to admit. Like, don’t people want to inform themselves of the facts and be lifelong learners? Autistic people love learning in-depth – this is the foundation of what doctors label our passions as “special interests.” There is a reason that our passion is belittled in this way and I’ll explain it because, alongside internalised ableism, there’s another reason too.

The fact is though most people – especially non-autistic people and the politically apathetic in general – will not learn about things in depth. They don’t want to research deeply. They don’t want to think critically. They don’t want to do any of that – if anything they like doing the bare minimum if not anything at all. Whatever you think of Jeremy Corbyn, he embodied this approach in how he does politics and it’s one reason why he could never get into number 10. I loved it, many others loved it especially those who agreed with him.

However British people don’t want this style of politics. They want oversimplified narratives they can rote learn. They don’t want masses of information. They don’t want to feel uncomfortable at being held to account because they like feeling comfortable with what they believe in. They see such extensive research as a sign of difference as well as being unnecessary. For the left to win, they need to pander to this to an extent. Obviously, it will not be possible to not make them uncomfortable – nor should it – but relying on good faith and the willingness to learn will not work. It never did – especially to the anti-SJWs already on the verge of becoming fascists.

The needs of minorities have been repeatedly ignored

Additionally, as marginalised people, our needs are even less likely to get met. Being out of the EU means we will be even further impacted by Brexit particularly through divergence in standards, higher costs and further human rights losses. And under a far-right government who has already gone a decade without being held accountable for killing off large proportions of the poor and minorities through their policies, this is a terrible prospect indeed. Many people who endorse Brexit won’t accept that this has been happening and disability rights groups have been saying this for years. Seeing as people won’t accept the reality that Brexit brings on everyone due to what I mentioned already, what chances do marginalised people have?

This is before factoring in how they intersect. For example, many disabled people will no longer be able to travel to the EU because it will just be too expensive as all travellers will now have to buy travel insurance before leaving the country. It is also even less likely anybody diagnosed with a disability will be able to permanently live abroad now freedom of movement will end which is something that upsets me the most as that has been a lifelong dream of mine. This is before mentioning how it makes things harder for LGBTQ+ people as most EU countries are largely LGBT friendly thus ruling out a lot of safe destinations.

The end of the Union

This is inevitable at this point because the interests of the rest of the UK have been ignored with Westminster overriding everything. In the UK, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all have devolved administrations who have been shut out of the approval process and gone as far to vote formally showing disapproval of the exit deal. It has no legal bearing but it’s symbolic.

With a border going down in the Irish Sea it means Northern Ireland is now economically closer to the Republic of Ireland than the rest of the UK. It’s a mess and it risks flaring up past tensions the island faces especially when hard borders are put in place. That will make the case for reunification difficult to ignore. The history behind this is colonial related so again the average English person has no idea of the history here.

The SNP (Scotland’s most popular party) are also pushing hard in Scotland for another independence referendum because the circumstances have clearly changed. Scotland voted to stay in the Union in 2014 due to promises of having access to the EU. Scotland also voted to remain in 2016. Obviously, this is no longer the case hence there is the democratic case to try again. Whether this will lead to independence sooner or later is what the question is now.

The effect on me – lots and lots of self-care

As a young person, I feel that my life chances have been scuppered by bigots that won’t accept that globalism is the future and are the values that my generation and younger have grown up with. We will lose the most and it is tragic that so many simply do not know what they’ve endorsed. We want to travel and see the world and now it has become so much harder. Like many British people, I don’t have dual citizenship and I wish I did. Unless you are born into a rich, privileged family who can afford to relocate there is so much that is now lost.

I’m at the point where I’m having to exercise a lot of self-care. I can’t keep engaging with diehard Leavers for the sake of my mental health. I’m putting myself first for the most part – which means getting my life back on track so I can get out of England and hopefully the UK in the next couple of years once the Union falls apart. Marginalised people moving out of England prior to this may be the only way they will be able to escape the Tories in Westminster.

The other exception to this is through supporting and showing solidarity with those who didn’t vote for this and especially have the most to lose. I hope people understand why I am taking this approach – especially due to my current personal circumstances.

This is the start of the UK’s path to rejoining the EU

Alongside the part I mentioned earlier about the world seeing the UK’s internalised bigotry, the other thing that will lead to rejoining becoming popular would be the English at large finding out first hand what leaving the EU as of now actually means. I say English, particularly because a lot of the denial comes from the English because they voted for this. They will have to experience first hand what people were trying to warn would happen. This includes the possible implementation of chlorinated chicken, a privatised NHS and other unpopular policies.

The second thing would be the implementation of the proposed European associate citizenship scheme which would ease tensions. This means British people will have the choice as to whether to keep the rights and freedoms of the EU and not have rights taken away that they didn’t consent to.

I for one would be more willing to accept Brexit if a pathway becomes available for me to keep European citizenship rights and be able to travel and attempt to live, work and retire in 27 other countries as I do now. Additionally, young people like myself will eventually lead the charge for the UK rejoining the EU when the time is right.

I’ll stop there for today but I hope people now understand a bit more. I’m gonna go out tonight and distract myself from the sadness that is leaving, but until then please leave a light on for the UK, fellow Europeans?

Milla xx

When You’re Trans, Autistic and Homeless, Finding a Place to Live is Almost Impossible

CN for transphobia, ableism, abuse, legal discrimination, intrusive questions, executive function

Hi all,

Apologies for the inactivity on here for the last several weeks. Today I’m going to talk a bit about the issues I’ve had accessing housing – which is something I’ve had to deal with extensively over the last several months. In short, my living situation at home with my parents became toxic (mainly due to blatant transphobia, ableism and overall abuse, but that’s for another time). The major reason it took me so long to leave home were because I am hitting systematic barriers that makes it difficult for me to access any form of help. That’s not just my words. It’s the words of one of many housing support staff I’ve been in contact with. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here.

I’m going address them one by one:

Fear of the unknown:

One of the major things that stopped me from leaving sooner was the anxiety caused by the uncertainty of what would happen next once I leave. Where would I go and who would I stay with? How would I be able to cope on the streets if that came to pass? In a way, staying in the toxic household is better due to the routine and certainty of having a place to sleep. This is one reason autistic people find it difficult to escape abusive situations in general.

Most housing services have inaccessible contact methods:

Due to all the stress my functioning ability had decreased significantly. One way this showed is that I could no longer use the phone even to call people I had called before already. This meant I could not access emergency accommodation in my area for one as all of them had phone numbers only and email addresses are harder to find if they are publically available.

Additionally, when I did email housing services they are either slow to reply or don’t reply at all. This included a UK LGBT housing charity I referred myself to in good faith they’d get back to me but they never did. If a housing provider does not offer an accessible contact method they are from the fact excluding those with disabilities from applying to their services and condemning them to their deaths as a result.

Additionally, emergency accommodation is potentially unsafe for marginalised people because of the chances of being trapped in an even more toxic environment. This applies to the physical environment as well as potentially the people staying there. Hence not being able to verify this in advance means it’s a no-go for many people.

Women’s refuge services have transphobic policies:

Here is a bit of a sticky topic. In the UK’s Equality Act 2010, there are legitimate exceptions in the Act that let services to discriminate against minorities if it’s a “proportionate means to achieve a legitimate aim.” This includes potential discrimination against trans people when accessing refuges on the grounds of their gender. Or more specifically, their genitals. When i tried to get access to a women’s refuge in the summer, I visited once to sign up, but I had to disclose I’m transgender in part because the form required it – but also because I did not fully pass at the time and there was no way I could have gotten away with lying on the form.

As a result, I got barred from face to face contact with the refuge as a result due to the fact I’m pre-op (irrespective of the facts that many trans people don’t have surgery and that surgery isn’t something I could get access to for years if at all). They did offer signposting and limited telephone/email support but it upset me so much I am turned off refuges for life. They told me that this is due to their policy which ended up being based on reasons relating to biological differences and safety concerns which shows fundamental misunderstanding of trans issues at best and bad faith transphobia at worst.

Not able to rent privately:

There are a few reasons for this and many of them relate to personal circumstances which I will not elaborate on. However, I will detail some notable issues that affect people like me in general. the biggest reason is because I was trying to hold down a full-time job. I gave up on getting help to escape in the summer so I ended up banking on the money from a job to help me move however this was not possible long-term.
I did not have the energy or executive function to juggle trying to find a room as well as full-time work with a commute. It was too much for me having had to spend my lunch breaks and much of my non-working hours recovering. This meant I could not view rooms and thus could not make any progress.

Other access issues are that I could not work out what listings on the housing sites like Spare Room were legitimate plus many landowners specifically ask people to call them to enquire. This meant I had a lot of access issues even finding places to view so contacting them were largely inaccessible just like housing services. That plus the ensuring anxiety and lack of support meant processing the listings for red flags became very difficult. Same applies for finding houses that are trans friendly.

Finally, there is another legal loophole that meant many more listings weren’t accessible to me. Many of the listings were by live-in landlords and if the “small premises exception” applies they can discriminate on all minority characteristics (bar race) under the guise of a “preference.”
The conditions where this applies are the following (based on the info here):

  • The landlord or a relative of theirs will be living in another part of the same property and intend to continue living there
  • The landowner (or their relative) share part of the property with the other residents. This doesn’t include common accessways (like corridors and stairs) and common storage areas
  • The most likely shared parts will be kitchens or bathrooms; and either:
  • The property includes accommodation for at least one other household, which is separately let, but cannot accommodate more than two other separately let households; or
  • The property is not normally sufficient to provide residential accommodation for more than six people (in addition to the landowner or their relative and their household members)

Seeing as many of the listings I found fit into those categories – alongside the fact I couldn’t pass fully then – meant that I had to rule out a lot of listings. As many landowners are older, more privileged cis people and thus more likely to misunderstand, I did not feel safe putting myself into that situation which is before considering my autism-related needs. I very highly doubt I am alone in this although I can’t confirm personally.

The system for finding accommodation for housing related support:

The current system in the UK for someone who needs housing support to fill out a form via the council stating the needs people have and where they’d like to stay. Then housing providers can view applications on their systems so that if they can contact the applicant to request an interview. I haven’t been to an interview so I don’t know how that goes down, just the initial application meeting for one provider. In that meeting I was asked more about my needs as well as what steps I’ve took to undergo transitioning which includes social, legal and medical. I didn’t particularly want to give any details on the medical side – and the person I saw was very apologetic about having to ask it – but I believe that is a requirement too. Regardless, in the end that didn’t go anywhere as they didn’t have room for me either. However that was only one provider so hopefully there are more out there.

Being declared as unintentionally homeless:

The gist of this is that if I’m declared as intentionally homeless, the council would not help me and this would affect what support I’d get. It’s the same for any homeless person even though the circumstances will be different each time. My circumstances of fleeing abuse is one of a few instances where somebody leaving home when they aren’t being kicked out is not becoming intentionally homeless. It did mean that me and my parents had to meet with a council rep to have some kind of “mediation” even though I knew going in it wasn’t going to be feasible. It was annoying but I entertained the mediation idea and it paid off.

Wider political context:

There is a housing shortage in the UK and has been for some time thanks to the Conservative party. Nowhere near enough affordable social housing exists as the demand for that considerably outstrips supply. The same also applies to supported housing and other types of accommodation. Additionally, there is a lot of homes that are lying empty due to being owned by the mega rich and not occupied. Hence even if I was not marginalised I would still have some problems.

With all the above said, the only option left for me for now is to sofa surf and frankly if I didn’t have friends to help I would have been in a seriously bad place. And being autistic and trans even having friends is a privilege because social anxiety and dysphoria makes it hard for friendships to form.

In some ways, my experiences with my friends the past couple of months have somewhat restored my faith in humanity because it shows that people will step up where they can. However, it also shouldn’t be this way and that’s sad. It’s one reason I’ve written this post because it’s this kind of first hand testimony that spreads awareness of these issues so legal reform can be done. Most people are not even aware of these issues in any real detail especially if they are not involved in the disability, LGBTQ+ or housing communities. Hence I am providing some of the detail.

For me personally, I don’t know what the future holds. I’m hoping to no longer be homeless by the end of this year but I really can’t say for sure yet. Regardless, hopefully 2020 will be a happier, more prosperous year for me. Happy New Year to you all and hopefully 2020 is just as prosperous for you too.

Kind regards,
Milla xx

What I’ve Learned About Social Expectations At Work Since Starting My Job

(Featured image description: Multiple shots of people working at computer desks.)

Hi all,

I’m sure you are all aware of the problems autistic people face with employment. A major reason is the social aspect of the role – such as the unwritten rules in the workplace.

Without going into too much detail, my workplace is one of the more accommodating ones in the UK. However, it is also one of the more chaotic workplaces which means that I have had a lot of challenges to deal with. Fortunately, it is starting to get easier for me so I am going to spread the love.

Here is a list of what I’ve learned this week – with the help of my line manager who communicated this to me – so that other autistic people can better understand some of the unwritten workplace rules out there.

Rules won’t always be followed

This is a big one. Even in the most structured of workplaces – the rules and procedures in place often serve as guidelines rather than hard and fast rules (unless they are legal or health and safety-related). Rules will be bent depending on business need so it means that people cannot strictly enforce them as doing so risks making the business look bad.

An example I was given refers to whether figures of influence are involved. This can include company directors to celebrities and political/religious figures. In other words, rules are often bent so that the company or organisation save face. Did somebody submit something a bit late? Well depending on who the guests are that work will be prioritised.

An individual’s actions have wide-reaching consequences on the whole team

This is important to understand because this is something that managers and other staff pick up on even if the individual concerned doesn’t. This is also used to factor in things like performance reviews. In other words, the bigger picture is something that all members of the team need to understand.

For me, I am currently not fully trained in my role and because of this other members of my team are picking up some of the things that I am supposed to be doing. Yet I had absolutely no idea until this was communicated to me directly. I only fully understood once I was given a concrete example of something, I should be doing but I’ve not been trained on yet.

Initiative is expected

By this, I mean that workers are expected to be able to think for themselves on how to solve situations and not ask too many questions. Initially, this was quite confusing for me because I thought that if I don’t know what to do, I should be asking questions? Yet apparently, I was asking too many questions because it meant that my colleague was basically doing my work (and I was just typing it).

I think this stems in part due to how much support autistic people have or not. For example, for the few autistic people in school that got proper support from a young age may have been constantly handheld and not fully developed the initiative required for many jobs.

Social anxiety and a fear of making mistakes also play a part here. One reason for this is that many autistic people have learned over the years that their judgement for social situations is incorrect hence their judgement is not trustworthy. When I say “incorrect,” I mean that as a value judgement as to how an NT would see things. When it comes to other autistic/neurodivergent people, more people are likely to see the judgement as correct (or at least something they would do).

Meetings should always be prioritised

This section can be summarised in a few simple points. The first is that if somebody invites somebody else to a work-related meeting they are expected to attend. This applies regardless of the context from verbal agreements to Outlook invites. This also applies if the meeting sounds informal and/or optional such as a “coffee with [senior director].” I had a meltdown that day and was volatile so I thought as this coffee meeting was optional hence, I didn’t have to go so I didn’t. I ended up getting told off for it.

Additionally, the individual employee is also expected to take responsibility for their own timetable. One reason why is because other staff have their own workloads so cannot be responsible for others too. Fortunately, Outlook has aids that can help with executive functioning such as alarms and reminders. This is not so helpful for making sure employees remember meetings first thing in the morning so other reminders (ie. Using tools like Amazon Alexa) as well as a daily reminder to check the calendar is what helps me.

It’s impossible to understand everything that’s happening

In the world of work, so much goes on that unless somebody is senior management, it is impossible to know everything that goes on and how people are expected to behave. Part of this is due to confidentiality obligations however it can also be down to the fact that things are generally communicated on a “need-to-know” basis.

Hence a skill that will be expected of staff is to know when to ask for more information and when to just accept what you’ve been told. Usually, when someone says that “it’s private and/or confidential” or “only senior staff have access” that is a clear sign that lower-level staff are not to dig. Even many autism-friendly workplaces have these expectations.

This also applies to social situations. Yes, some managers may make decisions that seem strange but if they have a track record of meaning well and aren’t trying to be malicious their advice is worth following. Not just because they are the manager but also because they understand better how everything works.

The line manager acts as a communicator for any problems

One thing I’ve greatly struggled with over the years is that people won’t talk to me directly about the problems they have with me or my behaviour. For personal relationships, this is obviously a serious issue however this is not the case for workplace relationships in many contexts.

This is because the role of the line manager is considered important. Basically, subordinates tell their line managers anything that is bothering them. This includes how other employees are negatively impacting on them. This doesn’t just include the usual bad things but also includes things that are causing them to have difficulties doing their work such as asking too many questions that I mentioned earlier.

This is nothing personal. It is not a personal failure or anything like that. It is because this is the unwritten social rule of many workplaces that employees are taught to follow. Additionally, line managers often undergo specific training on management that lower-level staff often do not.

The boundaries blur a bit more when it is a personal relationship of some sort. Usually, this applies if somebody knows them outside of work or the colleagues have worked together for a long time. Hence colleagues may talk to each other directly rather than going to the line manager.

So in other words, these are some of the many ways that work relationships are different from personal relationships. Hence autistic people can’t simply cut and paste expectations from personal relationships into a workplace context even though that is the logical thing an autistic person may do. That’s all for today. I hope to be able to share more tips like this soon.

Milla xx

What Gender Euphoria Feels Like

(Featured image description: A blue sky with clouds and the word “happy” written in it. Below is a smile.)

Hi all, 

Today I’d like to talk about something that is poorly understood about transitioning gender. Simply put, I’d like to talk a bit about gender euphoria. 

Gender euphoria, as defined by the Urban Dictionary, offers a few different meanings: 

The feeling a trans person gets when he/she/they can start presenting as the gender they identify as and people start treating them accordingly.

Or this one:

The opposite of gender dysphoria. Of a cisgender person, it is a state of happiness about being male or female and having the associated gender roles and body parts.  Of a transgender person, it refers to feeling great about living as your desired gender. 

(There is a third meaning on the page, but it’s nonsense clearly submitted by somebody with no clue. Hence it has been mass downvoted so I won’t include it here.)

So how would I define it for me? I would define it as some kind of buzz I get when I am embracing my true gender role – that of a woman. But I also define it as an affirmation that transitioning was the right thing for me. 

The buzz is hard to describe. It’s kind of like – a deep feeling of happiness that overcomes me. It can feel like I have goosebumps but not in a bad way as it greatly lifts my mood. 

I got this feeling initially through things like shaving my body hair, trying on women’s clothes as well as putting on makeup. This is although I would not pass in any capacity back then as I would have to learn how to do it all properly and appropriately. This progressed to times when I am correctly gendered by strangers in public and weirdly when I am wolf-whistled by creepy dudes on the other side of the road. Which putting aside the fact that is wrong and does also make me uncomfortable, it’s affirming in its own weird way. 

People in my life to this day still believe I am confused about my gender because I am not presenting in a way they deem to be feminine. Yes, I look feminine but some of my movements may appear masculine (thanks to gendered socialisation and also because I’m openly autistic, which is seen as a cis male-only thing still by many). However, they are wrong, and gender euphoria is how I know why. Gender euphoria that occurs specifically in trans people is something that cis people will never truly understand first hand, even if they are very supportive of trans rights. That is ok – especially as they are often the enablers of the trans person feeling euphoria in the first place. 

Even now, I still sometimes get that sense of euphoria when I see a good view of myself when I’m out and about or I notice some other positive change with my body or health. I have spent the last two years growing out my hair for instance and now it is up to a length that I am happy with. I also started an internship recently and I put on my work badges to help me communicate my needs (alongside other badges that reflect things about me).

I ended up taking a picture as I had one of the most genuinely happy smiles on my face that I haven’t had for some time, maybe ever. It didn’t look feminine at all but I couldn’t stop myself from smiling in such a way as it was completely natural and completely me. I felt happy as I was finally being true to myself and expressing myself openly as the woman I really am. I’ve been full time for a few months at least now and have no intentions of stopping that any time soon.

I do not think this will be the last time either especially as I will continue to experience new things now, I feel I am reborn again. One instance will be when I am eventually on HRT and can start undergoing my second puberty and hopefully grow breasts. I don’t want to dwell on the access issues I’ll have to get this – not today anyway – because I am working on that. But in the meantime, I’ll continue to enjoy the new life I have while working towards all of my goals, one day at a time. 

Even if that means capturing memories of even the most random of euphoric times like the photo below one morning on my way to work. 

Image description: Selfie of Milla, a young woman with shoulder length curly brown hair, posing for a mirror selfie in a disabled toilet. She is wearing vintage glasses and a white coat.

Here’s to many more years of happiness.

Milla xx 

As A Marginalised Person, Politics Is Frustrating. Here’s Why.

(Featured image description: A group of anti-Brexit protestors posing for a group selfie. Many of them are white people wearing blue clothing and waving the flag representing the European Union.)

(CN for ableism, ableist slurs, fascism, voter suppression and te*f mentions to support arguments, no detail for last few)

Hi all,

I’m going to start today’s post with a strong assertion – when you are a marginalised person, politics is frustrating. It is definitely the case for me. The reasons why are simple to state, but complex and difficult to elaborate on Many are based on my own personal experiences but also due to recent history. They are:

  • Mainstream political discourse excludes marginalised groups both explicitly and implicitly
  • Most people will not listen to other people’s arguments, even in good faith
  • Most people lack sufficient knowledge to make an informed political decision – which isn’t their fault.

Let’s pick them apart, one at a time:

Mainstream political discourse excludes marginalised groups both explicitly and implicitly

Politics as a whole is largely inaccessible to disabled people because political organisations, by and large, do not make their events accessible for all types of disabilities. This includes debates to voting itself. Yet in-person participation is seen as the only “acceptable” form of political participation according to mainstream discourse. If a disabled person can’t access real-life political discourse, then their views are ignored by the mainstream. This is true even though online activism is sometimes the only way people can participate. Some examples include how disabilities like autism and chronic fatigue can stop people from being able to go to events.

This is, of course, an ableist stance to take but I can understand why online discourse is stigmatised to a point. The discourse is toxic and often the bigoted political extremes can be lured out and appear powerful. For example, this is why it is unsafe to be openly trans on Twitter even though the opinions of TE*Fs are not representative of real life. Offline, the discourse is considerably less toxic presumably because of the increased level of accountability somebody has for their actions. You have a real name and a face attached to somebody’s opinions – not an anime avatar and an obvious pseudonym.

From personal experience, I have found political participation to be quite difficult. I can get overwhelmed with debates easily and find them hard to follow, especially in real life. Online discourse is more accessible for me to understand but the toxicity of others affects my conduct. I do want to participate in real life more because it is the only way I will get taken seriously.

For example, recently I went to a local protest concerning the current constitutional crisis facing the UK. I got overwhelmed quite quickly as it was besides a major road and there was nobody I knew there – mainly older people. I struggled to work out the social aspects of everything and soon my anxiety eventually got so bad I had to leave and go home. It all got too much for me.

It’s also worth noting that many marginalised people are also politically homeless because they don’t feel any political party speaks for them. Any marginalised person supporting the UK Tories is figuratively signing their own suicide note for obvious reasons however other parties each have their own drawbacks that turn people off. TE*Fs are an example as there are TE*Fs in the SNP that haven’t been kicked out for instance. Likewise voter suppression is also a popular tactic used against marginalised groups as they are less likely to be able to meet the requirements to vote (such as having voter ID).

Many people will not listen to other people’s arguments, even in good faith

If there’s one thing I’ve come to realise about people – especially privileged cishet, abled white people – is that many have strong opinions about subjects they know little about. Furthermore, they will take no steps to listen to other people’s arguments especially from those with lived experience.

In other words, they believe that their view is the correct one and not listen to opposing views. This is fine when it applies to harmless personal preferences like hobbies or sports. However, when it applies to politics this is a problem. This is because harmful ideologies like the gender critical movement and curing autism are innately dangerous and will harm minorities in particular. Hence, they cannot be platformed and it’s therefore important that people listen to others as to why these viewpoints are harmful.

Privileged people will also fall back on arguments like “There are two sides” and “free speech” thinking that they apply here when in reality using these arguments gives permission for bigotry to spread. This is why those with lived experience need to be prioritised when it comes to these issues and privileged people need to sit down, listen then boost our voices. This includes not smearing people with strawmen like “SJW” as this proves they are not engaging in good faith. Or even worse – platforming marginalised people who have internalised their bigoted views than using them to discredit the whole communities fight for rights.

Most people lack sufficient knowledge to make an informed political decision – which isn’t their fault.

This is a reason where I am a bit more sympathetic to others. Most people, at least in the UK, do not undergo formal political education in school. This means they lack the skills to see through far-right bullshit and are more likely to become radicalised. This varies from being an “anti-SJW/anti-feminist” to being a full-on Nazi. To a lesser extent, this also applies to being brainwashed by right-wing media to believe false narratives about the political situations in their own or other countries.

This means they have to educate themselves about politics which is where the risks of being radicalised or brainwashed. Many people, especially social media savvy young people, are fortunately seeing through much of it as corporate media is becoming less popular. Many young people go on to study politics courses at school or university whereas other people educate themselves through self-study as I have over the years. Overall, there as hope, especially as young people in particular are becoming more aware of marginalised identities as those people became able to express themselves over the internet.

However, there is still a risk of others, especially older people, remaining attached to harmful beliefs, as well as kids brought up in conservative households or consume fascist media (like with the videos platformed on YouTube’s algorithm). It is these people that primarily push harmful beliefs like gender critical feminism – and on a more political scale – Brexit.

Brexit is a good example to support this example because in 2016 almost nobody in the UK knew enough about the European Union to make an informed vote on whether we should stay or leave. This isn’t a dig at Leavers or Remainers because this applies to everyone. The issue was too complex to be put to a binary referendum in part because it wasn’t well understood how Brexit would affect marginalised groups (which is a result of the first two reasons outlined here). I raise my hand and admit I knew little about the EU back then – even though I did study it as part of a business course in high school.

A lot of people also will not accept that they lack this knowledge. Whenever I’ve said this to people many have said I am calling them stupid when this is not the case. Putting aside why ableist slurs like stupid are harmful and should be eliminated, even people that are considered “smart” can be radicalised. Intelligence doesn’t come into this. It has taken me a long time to process this and understand why this is the case and I am worried that people will read this and think I am talking down to them. So I’m going to try to explain better.

If anything, there are likely two reasons – the first is that people don’t like to admit their opinions and facts are wrong. It’s human nature. Humans like to be right and we hate to have to admit we aren’t. Secondly, this could partially be a result of autistic/NT communication mismatch, where NTs read between the lines and apply their own meanings to what is said even when such meanings aren’t there. This is human nature too and this is before considering cultural differences.

If somebody isn’t a person of colour, disabled, trans, closely involved in certain companies/systems being discussed etc. they won’t have the lived experience to truly understand – which isn’t their fault. None of the reasons why people generally have inaccurate knowledge on politics are the fault of the people unless it’s willful ignorance (ie. “I don’t do politics”) or having to protect themselves for the sake of their mental health. We can’t all be experts at everything – it’s simply not possible.

There is no easy solution to this other than to take the time to explain to people gently why political participation and engagement is so important. This is so most people will become a politics expert by choice and avoid things like the UK’s current Brexit crisis. Hence, people will make more informed political decisions. This is something I am still working on in real life because sometimes being direct is not appropriate for these kinds of conversations.

In conclusion

With all this said in mind, this is why politics is frustrating. Change can and must happen, but there are a lot of barriers in the way. There is no easy solution to this other than to take the time to explain to people gently why political participation and engagement is so important so everybody can become a politics expert and avoid things like the UK’s current Brexit crisis. This is something I am still working on in real life because sometimes being direct and/or blunt is not always appropriate for these kinds of conversations.

There isn’t an easy solution to this and sometimes it feels hopeless and despairing. However, one thing that people can do to help to believe the lived experiences of others and boost our views during discussions – as well as share other correct, credible information. On the whole, though, the world is slowly becoming more inclusive and accepting on a variety of fronts especially in Western territories. Hopefully, as time goes by this trend will continue and the far right will lose again.

That’s all for today,

Milla x

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Transitioning Into Work When You’re Autistic Is Doable, But It’s Harder Than It Should Be

Hi all, 

Apologies for the lack of activity as of late – I’ve had a lot to deal with, but one of the most important things that have come from that is the following. I’ve got an internship starting next week! I’m happy and excited as a result for the most part but I’m gonna blog a bit about my thoughts from a disability perspective. Part of the reason why is that most of my backlogged posts are quite serious so a more lighthearted approach will be needed for this one. 

Earning money is important 

I will soon be earning my own money and that makes me very happy for a few reasons. The first is that I will be able to meet something that all disabled people should have the opportunity to do (if they can) is to earn an income. Another reason is that I need to start medically transitioning privately. In the UK, waiting lists for trans medical care on the NHS are years long and are not sustainable so the recommended advice is to go private during the wait.

A supportive environment is more likely to exist than people think 

As an autistic person, one of the biggest things that myself and others like me have to look for is whether a workplace is supportive of our needs. Fortunately, the push by companies to recruit more autistic employees is increasingly popular so it is more likely that we will get the support we need. Of course, some companies do indeed sign up to schemes that are flawed just to appear supportive like “Disability Confident” in the UK (here are several articles about it, CW ableism) so it is a minefield and there is still some way to go. However, things are still better than before. 

I am not as clued up on trans related employment issues however things are faring somewhat better there even though trans people are more likely to be unemployed than cis people. Hence I don’t address trans related issues in this article. The employer I will be working for I feel is a good fit for me and will help me meet my needs through reasonable adjustment which greatly helps my confidence. 

New pathways may open up 

Once somebody gets their foot in the door workwise, multiple pathways can open up depending on the situation. But a lot of it comes down to gathering experience. Doing a job is one way that employers will judge their employees. If somebody can do their job well, that is a great start. Of course, many opportunities would require some level of networking and skill, however, supportive environments may be more willing to overlook weaker social skills if somebody’s strengths exceed elsewhere. 

However, there are other pathways to work such as self-employment which is an increasingly popular option for disabled workers due to the added flexibility. Hence, in a way, many disabled workers can create a supportive environment themselves. Being disabled makes working harder, but it doesn’t always make it impossible. 

Of course, challenges persist 

I know that I am in the minority for my community, especially as so many people who are autistic cannot access work for many different reasons. This is why it’s so important that acceptance of our identities is pushed out there so we can be better accommodated in the world around us.

A lot of people, including many of my relatives, have a lot of negative opinions about whether people like me would be able to find and keep a job. I can only speak for myself when I say this but I am determined to prove those detractors wrong because I know their pessimism is unrealistic and based on outdated views of the workplace (and assumes all bosses are assholes).

Anyone who has additional supports or marginalisations is worth a fair shot at the world of work – end of. It is quite telling – and sad – that many people disagree and will actively take steps to harm the careers of disabled professionals. It’s important to discuss positive stories of disabled people succeeding in work without falling back on inspiration porn-based narratives or centring nondisabled perspectives and change the narrative. Hence there will be more disabled people in work achieving their goals. 

And finally, it is also important to ditch the idea that disabled people have to be in work to have a fulfilling life because in reality work is not an indicator of somebody’s worth. It is just that the current state of capitalism has convinced the average person otherwise, including many disabled people. Hence there would be better social and financial support for those disabled people that cannot work so they can live equally fulfilling lives. 

That’s all for today. 

Milla xx

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