I don't think I'm one of them either. I'm one of mine.

Category: Interpersonal Violence

OK, you’ve sold me on abolition

(CW: rape, murder, child abuse)

I was ambivalent before, mostly because of violent crimes like murder and rape. (Also, a lot of abolitionist writing is heavy-heavy-heavy on the jargon, which makes me grit my teeth even as I cheer the writers on.) But I’ve done more reading into what prison abolition actually means—it doesn’t just mean letting violent criminals walk around killing and assaulting people. It means providing the resources people need so that they never commit crimes in the first place. It’s a gradual process, not an immediate “let’s get rid of all the prisons” demand. It’s not incrementalist in the sense that it upholds current systems with piecemeal tweaks here and there; it’s a ground-up rethinking of how we prevent harm and move toward a better, safer society.

Abolition calls for accountability without using the prison system to punish and isolate, or simply “cancelling” or shunning the harm-doer. This isn’t to say that everyone needs to become BFFs with Bob the Axe Murderer (and especially not his victims’ relatives or friends). It means that you need a way to prevent Bob from becoming an axe murderer, or figuring out what he needs to put down the axe and become a functioning member of society again. And incarceration isn’t going to stop the violence; instead, it will just perpetuate the cycle.

I have read restorative- and transformative-justice stories about incestuous child molesters being rehabilitated. Hands-on parent–child sexual abuse is probably the most horrific thing I can think of—and I should know. I would be open to reconciling with my parents if they actually took responsibility for what they did. (I’ve never confronted them about the sexual abuse; I hadn’t contextualised the abuse when I was still in contact with them. But I knew about their emotional and physical abuse.) The problem is that they refuse to be accountable for their actions. Other survivors may not agree with me about reconciliation, and it’s not their job to. There’s a hotline, A Call for Change, designed to reach people either before or after they’ve abused their partners. ReSpec, operated by a former staff member at Feminist Frequency, is a monthly support and accountability group for people who have caused harm, whether that’s harassment, sexual assault, or something else. Circles of Support and Accountability surround recently released sex offenders and provide them with a community that makes them less likely to offend.There are organisations like Stop It Now! that provide confidential support to get people to stop using child sexual abuse material. These groups let people know what they’re doing is wrong before matters get worse, and there needs to be more of them.

People who cause harm may do so for complex reasons. Yes, even murderers, domestic abusers, and rapists. That doesn’t excuse their actions in the slightest; it just means that there are ways these crimes could have been intercepted without the involvement of police and prisons. We put a stop to rape when we teach people not to objectify each other and dispel the notion that people owe each other sex. We stop child abuse when we remind adults that kids are somebody and not something. We stop murder when we learn that we cannot take others’ lives to settle scores or remove obstacles. Prisons don’t teach any of those lessons, since policing and prisons themselves are violent. They lock people up, sometimes for life, instead of teaching them values.

I can understand the need for restorative justice in my own life. I’ve fucked up. I’ve never assaulted or murdered anyone. But I have said horrific, despicable, wildly out-of-character things I regret and can never take back because of untreated bipolar disorder (which can result in poor impulse control, grandiosity, and straight-up delusions and psychosis). These things haunt me to this very day, even though I don’t say anything destructive when I’m taking medication for my mood episodes. But even though I wasn’t in my right mind, the things I said still caused harm. They still ruptured relationships, either temporarily or permanently. They distorted the truth. They were cruel, distorted, vile. You could be possessed and swing around an axe without intending to hurt anyone, but an axe is still an axe. The blade still cuts.

Prison abolition teaches that “we are more than the worst things we’ve done.” And that’s why I’m an abolitionist.

The unholy marriage of sexism and anti-intellectualism in the autism community (CW: rape/child sexual abuse)

I find it really fucking infuriating when highly intelligent autistic people attribute every single positive trait or ability of theirs to autism. Typically, these people are women or AFAB nonbinary, which gives it a weirdly sexist feel. Admittedly, this fury is personal and is connected to old, deep trauma.

(I’ve been talking about myself a lot more lately, mostly because I’ve been processing over three decades’ worth of trauma, and it’s inextricably tied to my beliefs.)

My father lived in a 1950s time warp, where women were supposed to be quiet, tidy, somewhat dull, subservient, mousy, and unambitious. The idea of having a loud, intelligent, brash, creative, dreamy, transmasculine child was anathema to him.

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Conversion therapy is bullshit

(These are old memories, once thought to be lost, but they’re back again. Trauma tends to do that to people.)

I’m a survivor of conversion therapy.

No, I wasn’t diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder, but I did have a childhood diagnosis of Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), otherwise known as atypical autism. And it was the PDD-NOS diagnosis that my family used to suppress anything that was “abnormal,” including my gender dysphoria. They used Applied Behavioural Analysis, which uses operant conditioning (aka the methods used in dog training) to get people to conform to a particular behaviour pattern. If I did anything that was “for boys,” I’d be punished with an aversive stimulus, like having water sprayed in my face or forcing my hands to touch glue. (I’m transmasculine.) The goal was to get me to act traditionally feminine, even though I’d been androgynous or masculine before then. I’d never really liked dolls or anything like that before ABA. But after that, I was showered with doll after doll after doll on Christmas and birthdays. I did end up liking dolls after a while, but they were mostly characters for me to enact stories with, not a thing to enjoy in themselves. (I kept getting into trouble for giving them weird haircuts and drawing tattoos on them anyway.) If it wasn’t normative, if it wasn’t prissy, if it wasn’t cutesy, it had to be stamped out.

Everything was treated like a symptom, and therefore invalid and in need of cure. Of course, every single bit of the conversion therapy washed out. I was still masculine. I still preferred to play with other boys, since girls were socialised to be dainty and refuse to blow things up or get dirty. I still preferred to run out and play in the mud instead of have tea parties. When Mattel came out with Flying Hero Barbie, I was disappointed that she was rescuing cats from trees instead of beating up supervillains. (Not long before that, I’d drafted a letter to Mattel asking to create a superhero Barbie who defeated gun-toting evildoers. My mom confiscated it for her own amusement.) And whenever I imitated voices on TV, they were virtually always those of deep-voiced men. Of course, tomboys exist, but I wasn’t a tomboy. When I was much younger, I could tell that I wanted to be like the deep-voiced, flat-chested adults who were called “he.” Everything else matched that.

But nobody affirmed my gender identity and expression, and the only thing that changed when the conversion therapy wore off and I came out at 20 was that they were blaming Satan instead of autism, thanks to years of right-wing evangelical radicalisation. Regardless of whether it was Satan or autism, they saw it as a matter of behaviour that could be changed, not something integral to me and who I was. (Anti-gay conversion therapists think the same way. Virtually all sexists see gender nonconformity as correctable behaviour, not anything connected with a true self.)

I wasn’t even a person to them, just a flesh robot to be programmed. That’s what happens when you have a weird kid and want them to look normal and be compliant instead of wanting them to be happy. This is what happens when J.K. Rowling is connecting autism with trans self-discovery among youth. Leelah Alcorn’s suicide is what happens when you refuse to acknowledge who a trans youth is. And it’s what’s happening when Donald Trump and Marjorie Taylor Greene make trans youth a political football in the run-up to this year’s elections.

But there is a word for parents who don’t care about their child’s happiness. And that word is “abuser.”

Conversion therapy is abuse.


Beware of anyone who harps on about false memories

(rare content warning for child sexual abuse and incest)

This isn’t to say that people’s memories are infallible, or that some people don’t confabulate memories of abuse. But these cases are rare; most false accusations of child sexual abuse come from adults in their lives (e.g., unscrupulous therapists or aggrieved parents who want to frame their exes) rather than the victims themselves. It is rare for someone to fabricate multiple memories of sexual abuse, especially something like incest.

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