The Employment Dilemma for Trans + Disabled People

Featured image description: The default featured image for Trans Autistic Feminist blogposts, with a pink background on the left and blog logo on the right. The white text on the left says the blog title “The Employment Dilemma for Trans + Disabled People”.

Content warning: ableism, transphobia, masking, ABA mention

Hi all, 

I’ve had a lot to process regarding employment as of late, so I will be writing a bit about what’s on my mind so other people can understand the dilemmas of disabled and/or trans people entering employment. Despite having the time and willpower to work, it’s a lot easier said than done. 

As a disabled person, I have to ensure whatever career move I take next is suitable for me. While I’m not sure of the exact area I want to work in, I am pretty open to anything as long as it’s accessible for me. So, in other words, an office job I can do from home at least part-time and where I don’t have to talk to people much.

Note that the disability angle will mainly focus on autism as that is my lived experience, but there will be a lot of overlap with other disabilities and mental illnesses.

To disclose or not to disclose? 

This is the first issue. This question can be broken down even more to the following sub-questions:

  • Is the workplace safe to be openly trans and/or autistic?
  • How much does somebody have to disclose to employers to be able to work the job? 
  • How much is OK to share in general? 

More specifically, when it comes to disability, the main issue is accommodations. The more somebody can conceal their support needs, the fewer problems at work they may have to deal with (including being fired and/or not hired). This can also include coping with trauma and mental health triggers, which will often have negative consequences for the person’s career – even if they don’t harm anyone. 

A lot of disabled people hide their disabilities from employers as a result and advise others do the same – as employers can quickly get away with being ableist, despite initiatives. For example, the UK’s Disability Confident scheme is widely discredited in the disability community, partially because the guarantee of an interview to all disabled people who meet the criteria isn’t enforced. Additionally, all a company has to do if they don’t want to hire a disabled person is to claim that “they’ve found somebody who is a better cultural fit” and move on. 

If a disabled person does try to hold their employer to account – whether during recruitment or unfair dismissal – the odds are stacked against them. This is partially due to a lack of legal aid, but also because it risks them being blacklisted from other firms. Employers don’t want people that they think would cause them hassle, and sharing too much is not a good idea, as it can be used against them later. 

Of course, hiding disabilities is only really possible for those with invisible disabilities – as, for people with visible disabilities who need aids, this isn’t an option for them. 

Work relationships vs personal relationships boundaries: 

This is something else I have also struggled to understand. What is appropriate for what relationship? When is it OK to move people from colleagues to friends? How do you deal with social media? What is “professionalism?” 

There are no fixed rules regarding this that people follow aside from vague generalisations that depend on culture and industry contexts. There are also general business expectations of behaviour (like relying on Outlook) that employees are expected to instinctively pick up, which is impossible for any autistic people to do (I will return to this later). 

The other expectation is for people that can act as neurotypical as possible (aka so they see you as pleasant and can collaborate with them). All of this can be very difficult for autistic people to pick up. Likewise, things like networking and people to avoid working with are usually found out via the grapevine (especially for abusers). The grapevine is something autistic people find difficult to access. I started to learn some of these things myself before being let go from my last internship, even though a lot of this stuff (in hindsight) feels like things all autistic people should directly be told years before starting work. 

I say this from the perspective of somebody who has unintentionally self-sabotaged career opportunities due to not knowing social rules or accidentally blundering when trying to talk to people regarding work opportunities. The fear I have about this is that I feel I risk being blacklisted by others on ableist grounds then not finding out why until many months later – if at all. Even then, once a person or organisation is blacklisted, it’s very likely the blacklisting will not be reversed for years if at all as there is often no chance of appeal. 

Yet, nobody has ever been able to offer advice for dealing with this, so the only conclusion I could think of is to strictly partition work relationships from personal relationships unless certain circumstances mean it’s a good idea to cross them over. For example, if a personal friend helps someone get a job, they start a business venture together, or somebody makes a genuine friend at work that they get along with over a sustained period. This includes social media.

The minefield of inclusivity 

While there are genuinely inclusive and supportive employers out there, the reality is that it is a minefield and often the most challenging part of employment is sustaining it, not getting it. There is no real way for disabled employees to know which employers genuinely care about inclusivity and diversity – or only get the credentials for PR purposes (such as the very organisers of the Disability Confident scheme themselves). Hence, many disabled people go freelance and/or unemployed, so they can work while also accommodating their support needs as best as they can. 

A lot of inclusivity issues also stem from not understanding how mainstream office culture can cause problems for autistic people. For example, I saw this article today (“Will young workers be the victims of the decline in the office?” 13/09/2020) in The Independent, which discusses whether young people will be the victims of the declining office. It’s an article that argues yes, but completely omits the experiences of disabled adults. 

One example is the following belief, something that is impossible for many autistic and other neurodivergent people to do without direct communication: 

“There are also lots of benefits to informal interaction – something a prearranged video call cannot replicate,” he says, pointing to the ability of new employees in an office to directly observe how colleagues behave, pick up important information, absorb the unwritten rules of the organisation and even its ethical values.” 

Another example is this, something that can lead to discrimination towards women and marginalised groups in the right environment, as well as forcing out disabled people who cannot participate in office politics or social culture.

“Gosling is more concerned about the challenge of retaining the benefits from the social aspects of traditional office life – the gossip, the chats, the collective visits to the pub.” 

In essence, the inaccessibility and deeply rooted ableism in office life already claimed tens of millions of disabled people at some point.

In a way, getting a career going forward will now be more accessible thanks to neurotypicals finally understanding the benefits of working from home. This was thanks to a pandemic, even though they should have listened to disabled people years ago.

Personally, I am incredibly thrilled office culture will never be the same again and is declining. Hence employment will now be easier for neurodivergent people to access. However, employers need to understand they must not force neurotypical abled standards on employees. They still need to listen to disabled people. I am happy to help people I’d work with down the line to a point, but a lot of it is on them. And not knowing what the reaction will be till I’m in the role is a massive source of anxiety. 

Here is an article I wrote back in April 2020 about COVID-19, home working and ableism. 

To go stealth or not go stealth? 

The other issue that is noticeable for trans people is about transitioning and how to balance that around employers. A lot of trans people often prepare to change jobs when they come out, so future employers aren’t aware that they have a trans employee. Many trans people also aren’t able to work as a result of untreated dysphoria and/or transphobia from employers, thus are stuck in the trap of not having the money required to transition. 

Hence, many trans people choose to be stealth at work – especially those with passing privilege – for their own safety and so they can get the money to transition. When it comes to medical appointments and other transition-related care, they may choose to lie or omit information about why they need time off. They may also not speak about their personal lives much to avoid outing themselves by mistake. 

There is also the whole issue regarding surgery and taking time off for that, though I don’t know enough about this to discuss that here.

Additionally, there are two legal barriers in the UK regarding transgender employees I’d like to highlight as they are also factoring into my thinking (and will also be variants of this issue worldwide): 

No GRC means trans people in the UK have to out themselves to HR 

This is because of two reasons: 

Firstly, if a trans person hasn’t updated their documents or they are coming out at their current job, their team will know. This includes HR and other staff who see misgendered/deadnamed documents as part of ID verification. Passport/driving licenses are what is asked at interviews, and this can be updated with each respective office using a different process. This doesn’t mean a trans person won’t be outed to their employer, though. 

This is because the legal gender at HMRC can only be changed with a gender recognition certificate, and there is nothing a trans person without a GRC and/or unable to get one can do. At my last job, when I had to fill in a form for my employer to log my info into HMRC with, I initially put down F because that’s who I am. LI later got summoned to HR, and they told me that they had to change the gender marker to M as my F marker doesn’t match what is on the database. Hence, I had to change it back so it could be submitted to HMRC so I could get paid. It was demoralising for me, but my employer knew I am trans already and was discreet about it, so no harm was done in my case. But that isn’t the case for everyone. 

This is a problem that all trans people in the UK face unless they get a GRC, which is one of many reasons there were calls to reform the GRA (where have we heard this before?). 

No GRC means trans people starting their own companies is also risky 

Yes, there is a loophole with self-employment too. The following applies to trans people who start their own company and become a company director or majority shareholder (referred to in UK law as “People with Significant Control”). This is because the current procedures mean trans people legally have to be outed by Companies House upon request due to an obscure legal loophole. This is explained by the following quote from page 59 of the 2019 Corporate Transparency and Register Reform consultation document

“The Companies Act 2006 requires any change of a director’s name to be notified to Companies House and made publicly available on the register. This also applies to [People with Significant Control] (PSC). This includes cases where the person’s name changes as a result of a change in gender. Section 22 of the Gender Recognition Act 2004 makes it an offence to disclose information about the gender history of transgender people who have legally changed their gender through obtaining a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) where this information has been acquired in an official capacity. However, section 22(4)(j) provides an exemption where the disclosure is made under another enactment. Companies House is exempt from this general prohibition because it makes information public in accordance with the Companies Act 2006.” 

One of the many proposed reforms in the 2019 Corporate Transparency and Register Reform that would allow trans directors and PSCs to apply to have their name hidden. But as of September 2020, the consultation still hasn’t had its results released. Sounds familiar, even though this is the only mention in the entire document. The loophole around this is to become a sole trader, although this does bring the risk of unlimited liability. Which in the world where anti-trans bigots threaten to sue people who call them out often forces trans folk into silence. 

Additionally, for transgender people who are in work, many also intend to pass as cis as part of maintaining a working relationship. Because while cis men do not take cis women and cis passing trans people seriously, they take non-cis passing trans people even less seriously.

Hence this is a scenario where the transgender concept of passing and the autism concept of masking overlap – and both of these issues will take its toll on trans and autistic employees. I also wrote about this ages ago, here is a relevant extract. Note that body language and presentation are two things considered very important in the world of work, and women have it particularly hard. The world of work – without relevant adjustments – also enforces the narrative mentioned in the last paragraph.

Firstly, with being autistic I am not always aware how I come across. So, if my body language doesn’t appear feminine, I likely have no idea that’s the case. Furthermore, even when I try to present feminine it will be very hard to maintain the image as I fundamentally can’t mask.

Additionally, executive dysfunction may also get in the way which may make daily feminine tasks difficult, such as doing makeup to cover up facial hair and shaving body hair. Plus, I have seen cis autistic women that find it difficult to meet these standards or choose not to. It would be very unfair on them to be judged by these same arbitrary standards. 

However, I then realised how much this is similar to masking – and how there is still the widespread ableist assumption that autistic people need to mask to be accepted in wider society. I have talked about this before. We see this pervasive attitude in wider culture and through how ABA is being forced on autistic children from a young age in an attempt to “normalise” them with no regard for their mental wellbeing. 

And the reason why both passing and masking are problematic is because they blame the autistic trans person for their own differences. Basically, the narrative says that both autistic people and trans people alike (regardless of whether they are both autistic and trans) aren’t good enough as they are. In other words, the narrative says they are not who they identify as, they are what other people decide they are.

My personal, less objective, conclusion

The conclusions I’ve tentatively come to is that it is very tempting to conceal my gender and disability-related support needs as much as possible. I don’t like the thought of having to go stealth at work about these aside from: 

  • HMRC stuff as outlined above 
  • Any time off requests for medical transition appointments 
  • accommodations that aren’t vital for the job 
  • Anything else that my employer needs to know and that I can’t get away with not disclosing. 

Bear in mind much of this stems from avoidable trauma I got from people I have disclosed and been open to. And frankly, I do not have the energy to deal with that going forward, despite the thick skin I developed from it. While I am moving on and slowly mitigating the trauma, trying to mitigate further harm and obstacles is very important to me. However, I am hoping that as time goes by I will feel more able to take the risk of disclosing my needs again and being open like before (but not too open as oversharing is also something I did at my last role).

I know that masking in work like that would likely be very damaging for me as it is for many autistic people, and being myself is vital for motivation. I love who I am and am proud of myself and everything I have achieved, and I shouldn’t have to hide that. 

In hindsight, I overshared at my last role about said issues – again, partially due to trauma and disassociation – which may have factored in being let go. I am grateful to my previous employer for treating me as well as they did because I could have been treated a lot worse. 

I am still contemplating self-employment. As much as I’d like to be self-employed, that could take years to become sustainable enough to migrate, so I may end up having to do a Masters just to help me get out of England. Which in all honesty isn’t a good enough reason by itself, but depending on what I do may be useful in other ways too. Fortunately, I am open to pretty much anything work-wise I can do.  

Regardless of what I decide to do, I just want to get this employment dilemma worked out and mastered so I can medically transition, get my life stabilised and get out of this country for good. I don’t regret being open to the extent I was – and I’m glad I was as it was the right thing to do at the time.

The more objective conclusion

In short, there are a lot of structural barriers to work that have been touched on in this piece. Some of them can be helped by the world of work – to any employers reading this, please listen to your disabled staff and work to make your workplace genuinely inclusive. Please do not follow the same mindset like the person from the Independent article. Please allow form policies allowing trans people to take the time off they need for essential appointments, and do not allow transphobia to take hold in your organisation.

Hopefully, anybody who has taken the time to read this now understands many of the systematic barriers that trans and/or disabled people face regarding re-entering employment. Despite my personal anxieties, I am confident I can find a way forward, and I believe I’ll be in a much better position next year. 

Milla xx 

PS I recently set up a crowd funder to help kickstart my medical transition privately. Please consider donating to it if you have something to spare. You can view it here. If not, no worries. Thank you so much for reading! 

What to Know When Accessing Services for the First Time

Featured image description: White text on a pink background that says: “What to Know When Accessing Services for the First Time”. The words “Accessing Services” are larger and curved upwards like a smile. On the right is the a logo for the blog ,”Trans Autistic Feminist” (a gold neurodiversity helix on a black trans symbol) with the blog name in purple.

Content warning for discussion of systematic ableism, gaslighting

Hi all,

Navigating services in 2020 is a huge challenge, as people who have been following politics and issues concerning marginalised people will be aware of. Here are some things to know when navigating services as a multiply marginalised person. This article is aimed primarily at people who need to access support for the first time and have no previous experience dealing with it first hand.

Know what you are getting yourself into.

People who engage services often have no other choice. Hence, due to how dire the situation is with services, it is often seen as a last resort. This will affect how much of a priority you are seen as by services – and this is even further complicated by those with additional support needs or marginalisations. Hence, you need to do research in relation to how said services treat people who fit your marginalisations. This is so you know where to go and where to avoid. Likewise, research local laws such as the UK’s Equality Act 2010 so you can understand your rights regarding what you need help with.

Sites of large organisations are a good place to start, as they explain relevant laws and concepts in plain English and other language equivalents. However, other recommend sources are actually service users as well as user-led organisations. This is because they can explain the situation on the ground away from positive marketing and any secret backroom deals major funders may place on services (this is one reason the UK’s largest disability charities do not hold the DWP to account properly).

There will be a lot of waiting and a lot of rejections

Before I go on, I want to clarify that the behaviours outlined by services below is NOTHING personal against the users by the service providers in many cases. Many staff members want to help, but the awful process of accessing support is the result of government policy that forces them to make difficult decisions on who gets help. It also means they often wait until peoples circumstances get worse before they will help. Service users basically need to answer the following question implicitly asked by each service:

“Why do we have to help? Why can’t anybody else?”

It will be a fight to get anywhere. This will drag out far longer than necessary, so don’t set yourself an expectation of a date where you hope you have what you need. This is because it is very likely what you need won’t happen promptly at best.

Why do services reject people?

Services will often reject people for many reasons. A lot of it will come down to trying to reduce their workload so they don’t have to deal with as many people as the funding they have doesn’t allow it. Hence service users need to keep persisting as much as possible. Rejections usually despite good intentions as often services just cannot help somebody properly, however bigotry is sometimes the case. Some ways these rejections happen include:

  • Misinterpreting the law on purpose to justify gatekeeping – this is where services relying on service users not understanding the law or having the energy to fight back even when they do understand it. One example is not giving somebody the correct priority for a service, such as denying emergency accommodation to somebody that is sofa surfing and could be on the streets at anytime.
  • Citing requirements not made clear before initial contact – This is where sometimes a service user discloses something that leads the service to state that they can’t help someone regardless of how true it is. This is even when conversations initially go well, and support is promised. I had this happen repeatedly when I tried to access services, usually after I disclosed that I was homeless. Another scenario is when your eligibility criteria is changed over time, following a separate or related appointment that someone is told to report feedback on. This also happened to me. It was not made clear to me that anything said at the appointment could affect my elgibility. Because it was, I was ejected from the service with no chance of appeal. Services can get around this by being more clear at the beginning at the request, however I suspect they don’t do this partially because the ambiguity allows them to dodge accountability.
  • Nitpicking – this is where they purposely reject people for very minor reasons or for how they think could react in situations very unlikely to happen. Or if they do, they do not consider that people already have action plans to counteract them nor attempt to find out before rejection.
  • Nonsense – this is basically where services can make up reasons to justify their rejections that is legal to do, but is obviously nonsense to the service user. One example is blaming an autistic person’s mental illness on them being autistic to deny counselling and discharge them, when this is untrue. They know it doesn’t matter if its lies, as long as it’s legal to do so they will get away with it.
  • Not responding to initial contact or following up (ie. A callback) – I am told this is essentially a face-saving act for the service, so that services indirectly let people down rather than have to deal with bad reactions from people when they know they are not eligible. Other times emails, calls etc. are genuinely forgotten about due to workload, but then by the time people find it again, they decide its not worth addressing due to how long it has sat there.

Accessibility needs will often not be met

Services will wrongly assume that every person can use the phone and act accordingly. That means some of the most vulnerable people will struggle to access services. You will often have to repeat your access needs to people countless times before they finally understand and respect them. This is discrimination but like with rejections, services will often get away with it. What I did to mitigate this was write multiple paragraphs in my email signature to pre-emptively stop these conversations. While nobody should have to take steps like this, it works.

You will be forced to repeat your history which each new service you talk to

Many services will have their own assessment proceedures that staff at these services have to follow, which at best is incredibly annoying. This is because the assessments between each service are broadly the same in content, even though what each service provides can differ significantly especially when services are specifially for certain groups (ie. Many services for people my age will often have the following specialisms – Young people, Women, LGBTQ+, Trans-only, People of Colour, Asian, Muslims, Disability, Neurodivergent).

Unfortunately, a major downside of this means reliving trauma as people will not simply just reuse existing information for their own, they must follow the proceedures they have and ask for entirely new recounts of the same information. What I did to help mitigate this was to write an extensive summary of my situation and supplied that to help me communicate what I needed to and give them evidence to use for their assessment.

A lot of mainstream advice is cookie cutter, irrespective of marginalisations and individual needs

Systematic bigotry exists everywhere and default advice in the Western world centres the perspectives of white abled neurotypical cishet men. This is subconscious, because most people are uninformed on how suitable or not their advice. Usually it is because they are trained to give said stock advice and signposting . Hence, be prepared to hear the same well-meaning advice from services and for them to be unable to help you when you point out how it isn’t suitable. At it’s worst, it is unsolicited advice that is both deeply triggering and unsuitable especially as trauma stacks up over time. It is also often done when people are being rejected from services.

Some examples:

  • Telling a homeless people who has never managed a tenancy before they can go private as an option and enclosing a bunch of documents meant to help them on their way, but not helping them understand
  • Sending a list of phone numbers to call regarding mental health support, even though this doesn’t work for everyone and isn’t accessible
  • Urging people to contact the police so they can deal with abusers criminally, even though for many minority groups especially black people, this is not viable.
  • Telling disabled people to “chase up” services, even though said service contact methods are inaccessible and people there don’t respond to messages or call back
  • Encouraging autistic and LGBTQ+ people to “change who they are,” thinking it will help, despite lots of evidence to the contrary

This is why I mentioned getting facts from service users and user led orgs earlier as part of your research.

Some services gaslight to ignore systematic barriers

This is likely the most triggering pat of the article for many, so this is it’s own section. Services can also act in a way that is dismissive of legitimate systematic barriers towards marginalised groups when said cookie cutter advice from above is challenged. This is when services dismiss real and valid issues that affect a whole group as somebody’s personal fears or anxiety. Examples include:

  • Why BAME and black people do not trust the police and avoid all non-essential engagement
  • Why disabled people do not trust social security offices or doctors, so often do not get what they’re entitled to to survive
  • Why reaching out for mental health support can be dangerous for autistic and other neurodivergent people
  • Why a trans person outing themselves to single gender services like refuges can be dangerous

The way services will say it indirectly is “You feel that [this systematic barrier/danger] is an issue, but we don’t accept this. We will claim that all users are required to engage with [said systematic barrier/danger] regardless of personal or systematic barriers.” This is an attempt to absolve themselves of any responsibility of educating themselves and addressing their unconscious biases, but in reality signifies to service users they are not to be trusted. It is a warning sign of bad support. Do not engage services that do this where possible.

You may have to take drastic action upon being failed, including relocation to places where specialist support is

Outside of major cities (Like London, Glasgow and Manchester in the UK), there is little support for marginalised groups. Some support exists almost everywhere in developed countries, but in more rural, right-wing areas it is next to nonexistant. Only a few places exist across those areas and with very limited supply. This also factors into the gatekeeping and barriers marginalised people face in these areas, where service staff tend to believe myths perpetrated by the right. Hence, vulnerable people are not taken seriously and trauma is often compounded. Sometimes situations become unsustainable like mine was and disengaging from local services and/or relocating to try elsewhere are the only viable options left. Only once marginalised people move to a more understanding area after being badly failed, do they close in on the help they need. This is something I anecdotally heard is very common from providers regarding housing and LGBTQ+ support.

Do not face this alone

Trying to access services is EXHAUSTING. I almost gave up a few times myself, but managed to keep at it due to seeking help, such as:

  • Peer support from friends, both in person and over the internet. This can be directly elated to solving the situation or moral support.
  • Advocacy services. Many organisations do this in somecapacity such as Shelter, the LGBT Foundation and many user led groups have professionals that will help advocate for you for free.
  • Mental health support, mostly self-help support and techniques while more proper support is put in place, such as writing and gaming.

Self care is so important

It’s OK to disengage from the situation sometimes. It’s OK to take steps to look after yourself, such as engaging in a hobby sometimes. It is OK to buy yourself some treats when and where you have the money. It’s OK if you have to give up with or disengage from certain organisations that harm where it is feasible. You will get there.

I hope this series of tips will help you navigate the mess that are services.

Milla xx

P.S. If you enjoyed this post and have the financial means to do so, please consider sending a donation to me on my Ko-fi to help me stabilise my life and start my medical transition. If not, no worries. Thank you so much for reading!

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

A Change of Approach

Hi all,

In today’s post, I would like to talk a bit about changing approaches to situations which is something that I’ve had to deal with lately hence the inspiration for this post.

A bit of background info regarding my inspiration. I have been busy preparing for the second half of my year abroad which has been very demanding on me. I had returned to the UK for the winter (instead of traveling or attending the optional Winter School) as I realised beforehand that I wasn’t able to handle a whole year abroad out there in one go.

The first term I did last year led to an autistic burnout. This was due to struggling with the different educational and cultural differences in that country (which I have touched on before*). The causes included things from the academic workload to the social pressure to travel the region by my international peers. Now I’ll be going back for the second term – essentially being a do-over in some respects. By do-over I mean there is an opportunity to take what I’ve learned so far to (hopefully) cope better and not have as bad of a burnout.

A do-over can be an opportunity to grow as a person while also building on the foundations that already exist. It is also the chance to go down paths that could not be followed the first time around. For instance – is there a social or academic opportunity that couldn’t be followed the first time? It may be possible to pursue it the second time around (or even something else entirely!).

Aspects of personal development that can help include self-awareness as well as learning limitations – both of which for me have been greatly aided by my study abroad experience as well as joining the online disability community. Both personal development characteristics that were mentioned above are much easier said than done. However, they do come with maturity and life experience so it is worth noting.

“A change of approach shows maturity, integrity and that determination within someone is there.”

A change of approach can be used to learn from past experiences and try to think what could be done differently. There is usually something that can be learnt even if small. For example, is there a situation that could have been done differently? Are there any limits that could potentially be overcome on the do-over (that are within reach)? There’s no shame in admitting that the first attempt may have had flawed decision making/reasoning behind it or anything else that puts the original decision in question.

Being disabled and/or neurodiverse (ND) brings unique challenges to changing approaches. They include that someone may have to change approaches to achieve things that many non-disabled peers consider “normal” or can be easily done by them. The fact that certain approaches will be off-limits due to physical or mental limitations. On the flipside, new approaches not considered by non-disabled peers open up due to being disabled and/or ND. Plus the right people will appreciate the additional hurdles that disabled and/or ND people have to hop over to achieve their goals. Those people are to be treasured.

In short – it is not easy. However, deciding on a change of approach shows maturity, integrity and that determination within someone is there. Coming up with a solid plan (or at least the foundation for an approach) helps formulate structure and resolve. Furthermore, it may better allow someone to better cope with the situation at hand knowing that they’ve thought it through.

A change of approach can be the difference between doing something well or not so well after all.

That’s all for today.

Best wishes,

Subtle

(@subtle_writes)

*Note that when I had originally written this I had omitted any mention of my year abroad so it is missing a lot of contextual information and rather discusses university in general. I may revisit this topic in the future.
Featured image screencapped from video clip by MaddTroysStudioX