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Jul 7, 2013 seanchai commented on Savage Love.
Late to the thread, but for SCWLW and anyone else who is a devotee:

The most important thing you can do is *disclose*. Disclose early, forthrightly, and the same way you would disclose any other kink (As Dan says, it's not cancer, it's kink.) Yes, disclosure *will* cause some gimps to run for the hills. (I am one of them.) Here is the thing, though - you don't want to date me any more than I want to date you, because I am not onboard with your kink. You want a gimp who is down with that, right? Right. So don't get all hung up on the guys who go "oh, whoa, hell no, not my thing, sorry, bye."

Here's why disclosing a devotee fetish is different from (and more vital than) disclosing, say, a rope fetish. I love rope, but if I'm with someone who doesn't, I can go fulfill that elsewhere; I wouldn't wait and bide my time and then secretly tie my lover to the ceiling after they've already explicitly told me they weren't into rope, cause that would be creepy and abusive. So taking the rope elsewhere and doing it with other people is both an option and the right thing to do.

If you, as a devotee, date *me*, you can't "take that elsewhere"... you are, by definition, attracted to objectifying me. And that's okay, *as long as* the gimp in question is down with that. If they're not, you are, by definition, *non-consensually* involving them in your kink.

Devotees who *do not* disclose, and who stalk disabled gatherings to the point where my beloved camps and conferences had to tighten security and require medical proof of gimpdom to attend, etc, are why I won't ever date a devotee. I know not all of you are dishonest creepers who do shit like hide my car keys on top of the fridge so that I have to ask you for them and thereby get you hot and wet when I'm just trying to go get a gallon of milk... but the shit like that is the shit most of us see. People like that, who seek us out to *furtively* objectify, are what has made it hard for you to find those athletic, awesome gimps that you don't think exist. Guys like us go the fuck to *ground* because the majority of people *we* know who identify as "devotees" are creepy as fuck.

That isn't your fault, but if you want a healthy, happy relationship:

1) Don't stalk, don't infiltrate, don't crash gatherings that are specifically by and for disabled people. Those are our safe spaces, and because many/most of us have bad experiences with devotees, the quickest way to make us feel threatened is to be sneaky. To be clear, it's fine if you want to go to a *public event* where there are gimps, e.g. a wheelchair basketball game. But a *private event*, or any event where you're misrepresenting your intentions (e.g. "Hi, I'd like to be a camp counselor for disabled kids, cause I love kids!") is not okay.

2)Disclose early. Provided you have a record of non-creepy behavior, it's totally okay to bring up said record, e.g. "I think guys/girls with CP are totally hot, but I know that squicks some people so I do my best to respect boundaries." (If you were talking to me and you said something like that, I would probably still politely decline a date, but not before saying "Your kinks are not for me but I respect your integrity! I'm not up for dating you but I'm happy to meet you for coffee if you find yourself in a situation where you want to run it by a gimp to figure out how to navigate it."

Which brings me to:

3) Educate yourself. I don't mean "look us up on Web MD and jerk off"... you can do that too, it's no skin off my ass, but if you want guys with CP to give you a chance, you need to know about guys with CP as *people*... including the fact that we're just like other guys. It's already been stated here that we can do everything you can do. Not all of us *choose* to be that active or outdoorsy, but not all ablebodied people choose to be that active or outdoorsy either. And I guarantee you, the quickest way to drive away an otherwise fantastic, accepting of your kink, outdoorsy guy with CP will be to say "I like travel, sports, my bike, camping, overseas disaster aid, and a whole load of other things that are made either difficult or impossible when you can't walk." They will say "Er... what? Seriously? I do all those things, is that not why you're attracted to me?"

Read up on little things like the Paralympics (not to be confused with the Special Olympics, which is very different), go to a roadrace and watch the wheelchair division (usually leaves the starting line 20-30 minutes before the bipeds, because we're quicker than the bipeds and we don't want to accidentally clip ankles) rent Murderball, read John Hockenberry's book... *educate* yourself. You will not find many guys who even want a quickie with you if you expect them to have to put up with well-meaning but ignorant statements like "it's difficult to impossible for people like you to be as active as an ablebodied person."

The ones who *will* put up with those foot-in-mouth moments will largely be self-pitying gimps who are depressing as hell to be around, and you will feel dirty when you leave, because self-pitying gimps manage to make *even other gimps* feel like they are horrible uncompassionate people who are somehow "using" the self-pityers.

It's totally okay to seek out guys with CP for just sex... we're people, just like you, and some of us are cool with hookups. But even for the guys who like hookups, it's usually only okay if you're doing it *for the right reasons*, i.e. you want a hookup - not because you're laboring under the delusion that we're not relationship material *solely* because of your own misconceptions about what it is to be disabled.

I know this is stupidly long, but I really do want to help the non-creepy devotees out there.

Signed, A wheelchair athlete since age 4 with CP... whose ablebodied friends *refuse* to play against me, because I will wipe the floor with them.
Nov 7, 2012 seanchai commented on Family Fights for Control of Mentally-Disabled Woman's Uterus.
@24, I feel for you. My sister functions *just* high enough that on a good day, we can discuss these things with her and be sure of her ability to comprehend her options and the consequences thereof. The only reason we're not both in a group home already is my (elderly, in poor health) mother, who is, at the moment, still able to care for us - I'm pretty independent around the house, but I can't drive or work, and my sister would probably do quite well in an independent living program with close supervision (such as a personal care attendant cum roommate), but no such animal exists in our state... so I live in absolute terror of what will happen to both of us when Mom goes (while scrambling to find better options, having had a few close calls). Group home placement, aside from being entirely inappropriate for both of us - though for different reasons - would almost certainly wind up in pregnancy for my sister eventually... so we have regular talks about sterilization. She's not only on the fence, she doesn't qualify to have one done, because she's just high functioning enough (on a good day) for insurance to claim she can't have one till she's 35, in case she changes her mind between now and then. And the whole "in case you change your mind!" clause is *why* she's on the fence.... she thinks "in case you change your mind" means "you WILL change your mind," so it creates a vicious circle of indecision out of what would otherwise be an easy call for her. Meanwhile, all three of us have to pray that in the meantime she won't be raped, coerced (very easy to do, just tell her you're her friend!), bribed, etc. Perfect example of well intentioned laws resulting from horrifying history, that are unwittingly creating a horrifying present. Best of luck to you.
Nov 7, 2012 seanchai commented on Family Fights for Control of Mentally-Disabled Woman's Uterus.
Situations like this are why certain aspects of the Community Care Act - meant to keep disabled people out of nursing homes - need to be looked at very closely. I'm physically disabled, my sister is physically and mentally disabled (with a functional level roughly equivalent to the woman in this story). As written, the CCA encourages group home placement over nursing home placement... that's fine. It saves money, in most cases it's more appropriate, and it does allow disabled people to be more involved in their local communities.

The problem is, many if not most group homes are underfunded and understaffed, and as a result, they're forced to house people with vastly different disabilities under the same roof - so, for example, a person with cerebral palsy with an average degree of mental acuity and no behavioral problems, a person with an average degree of mental acuity and a seizure disorder and no behavioral problems, a person with autism with a lower degree of mental acuity and some minor behavioral problems, and a person with schizophrenia and a low degree of mental acuity with severe behavioral problems, might all be housed together (examples pulled and combined at random, not meant to insinuate that a person with cerebral palsy can't have behavioral problems, that people with autism can't have a high degree of mental acuity, or that a person with schizophrenia can't behave themselves perfectly well).

In a nutshell, because people in group homes aren't "sorted" into "those who need a lot of staff" (either for mobility/medical need, supervision, or safety of themselves or others) and "those who need minimal staff"... or into "those who are disabled but high functioning," and "those who are disabled and not as high functioning" - it's incredibly common for someone who needs more supervision than they're getting to slip through the cracks. All it takes is for someone to "go into behavior" (as it's called in group home parlance), and the staff has their hands entirely full, leaving other people to go unsupervised or with basic needs unmet until order is restored.

That's not to say that group homes don't have their place - for some people, it's truly the only safe place for them (and I have friends in group homes who can and do tell me that themselves). But if we're going to push to offer more people a group home setting instead of institutionalization, then the funding, the staff, and a basic discussion of *which* group home would be the best placement for each individual person has to happen. At the moment, that conversation isn't happening on any level, and it leads to terrible situations like this, wherein something happens at the group home for which there is no contingency plan, and the disabled person's thoughts regarding those kinds of situations are rarely, if ever, solicited. (Depending on the situation, the disabled person may or may not be able to make the decision by themselves, either due to inability to understand their choices or inability to articulate their ideas; there is no absolute solution here. But whenever possible, their opinion should be given serious consideration.)
Jun 7, 2011 seanchai commented on When Can a Drug be Advertised as "Safe for Mother and Child"?.
Wow, I guess I'm a "memory" now. I'm 29, my sister is 26, and we both have cerebral palsy, due to DES. The fact of the matter is, even though we're *third* generation DESers - i.e., it was my grandmother who was given the drug, while pregnant with my mother, to "make the pregnancy more normal," - which caused my mother's reproductive system to develop incorrectly, a fact which she didn't discover (and which, in fact, was hotly denied by any doctor she asked) until the premature birth of her second child. "You have a better chance of being struck by lightning than having another child with cerebral palsy," she was told upon trying to get to the bottom of how in the hell I was born 4 1/2 months premature... Thirty years later, give or take, we still don't know jack shit about DES. I've had two ovarian cancer scares, PCOS, and have a handful of other reproductive oddities. DES related? We don't fucking know. My sister was born with malformed genitals that required surgical correction (no "construction" or "assigning," thank god - regardless of what one's genitals look like, urine has to have a way to exit.) For the record, my sister reports no particular trauma related to her configuration - she doesn't remember the surgery, nothing got chopped off or altered (which I think if we're honest would be the main cause of trauma), and she was raised with frank, age appropriate discussions re why she looked "different," so it's never been a thing for her, or, to the best of my knowledge, anyone she's dated. Is her intersexed presentation DES related? Probably, but again, we don't know. And if it is related - if, in other words, the DES is affecting *us*, instead of just having affected the circumstances of our births - that means DES is still affecting people, two generations down and *almost 60 years* after the initial exposure. A staggering number of my fellow friends and acquaintances with cerebral palsy remember stories about their grandmothers being given "an injection to make the pregnancy more normal" - Eli Lilly's tagline and rationale.

And *that* is the danger of repeating our mistakes with dex... the possibility, however remote, that the effects won't just be around for the duration of the pregnancy. It's simply gross irresponsibility to promote the use of any drug when the long term effects haven't been studied - with the possible, *very* occasional exception made for those conditions where "long term effects" are less important than saving a patient from immediate death. As this isn't the case here, history's quite blatantly repeating itself... and as with DES, most people will never know, or know that they might have been given a "just in case, except we don't really know what it does" kind of drug.

I think this CAH/dex issue is a whole lot less about "healthy babies" and a whole lot more about "keeping 'normal' parents and 'normal' people comfortable by making sure they don't have to deal with a baby with anything at all non-standard or problematic in any possible way... except oh wait, their kid will still have CAH, but at least no one will have to KNOW because being different equals being DIRTY." Not unlike friends of mine with CP who were raised to "walk, walk, walk, screw how painful or impractical it may be, I don't care if you (literally) *snap your tendons*, because damn it, there's NOTHING WRONG WITH ANY CHILD OF MINE and if you just walk MORE, you'll magically walk *correctly*.... what do you mean what's wrong with you, nothing is wrong." I pity those kids, and all of them to come, no matter what the diagnosis is.... to have parents who are in vicious, bizarre denial is far worse than having any condition, itself.

By the way, I ID as transmasculine and my sister, the one with the "nonstandard" genitals, is bi, intellectually disabled, and, shall we say, has a lot more fun than I do... and that's with us both being wheelchair users, which causes an inordinate number of people to go "ewwwww who'd want to have sex with someone who *needs help with things*?" (which I've never understood. I help ablebodied friends with all kinds of shit, but I don't go "I fixed your computer/wrote your business proposal/cleaned you up after you had one too many last night, so now you're unfuckable." Ablebodied people are fucking weird.) I mention this because I can't shake the feeling that there's an undercurrent of "if we make them look normal, we can make them *normative* (i.e. hetero identified), and, well.... a) wow and b) it doesn't work like that, thank whatever one would like to thank.

Also, just as an fyi, DES is currently being used to treat certain types of pediatric cancer.... so it's entirely possible that twenty or thirty years from now, whole new generations will be dealing with brain damage and cancer scares, and once again, may or may not have any idea why.

And yes, I know I'm late to the party and most people will never read this, but what the hell.
Dec 30, 2010 seanchai commented on Virginia Textbooks Claim Blacks Fought For Confederacy, Slavery Not Cause of War, Riddled With Other Factual Errors.
@Fnarf re: 68 - I've lived near the podunk Georgia town I mentioned above for over 20 years now. When I moved here from Michigan as a child, one of the things that was considered a selling point - I'll repeat that, a *selling point* - was that the town in question is considered the site of the last "real hanging", i.e. in the late 1960s, two black men were publicly hanged, at the courthouse, in broad daylight, with a picnic and the mayor and a proclamation and the whole shebang. There were (and, very occasionally, still are, god help us) other hangings, but people who are natives of this town still mourn that they can't have *official* hangings and "hanging picnics" anymore. One of my mother's coworkers still proudly shows off the photo of herself at the last "hanging picnic" as a teenager (which, combined with some books on local history, is how I know this isn't just some wild, racist, bizarre rumor). Needless to say, I feel a little sick whenever I pass the courthouse. The local KKK branch still gets together just outside of town. Not often - once a year or so - but said gatherings are neither wizened old men from another era nor young skinheads playing around.... they're people I pass at the grocery store, people I went to school with, people that fix my car, people that I've done work for. Anyone who thinks that the South's practices and attitudes would have just "died out" or "evolved" hasn't actually lived down here. It's alive, well, and utterly fucking terrifying.... and I'm a little white crip whom they have no particular "interest" in one way or another. I still lock all my doors and remind myself of my to-do list for getting the hell out of here.
Dec 30, 2010 seanchai commented on Virginia Textbooks Claim Blacks Fought For Confederacy, Slavery Not Cause of War, Riddled With Other Factual Errors.
I'd like to thank my history teacher, a good old white boy from Alabama, whose parents marched at Selma, and who grew up to teach high school in a podunk Georgia town, where he ran through all the bullshit equivalences and waffling in the (Texas produced) textbook, and then closed the book and said, "There, I've now satisfied the state requirements, and if anybody asks you, you can tell them all the reasons for the Civil War according to your text. Now we're going to start the real unit, because if you think the Civil War wasn't about slavery, you're fooling yourselves. Here are your six supplemental texts. Tomorrow, I want a paper on the many social, economic, and cultural reasons why the South wanted to continue to be allowed to *own other people*. Spelling counts."

I can't name him here, because he's still teaching... but I'm grateful for him, all the same.
Dec 29, 2010 seanchai commented on SL Letter of the Day: Can't Help You.
First things first - I think the letter writer is young, confused, and trying to lay hands on some terminology that fits what's going on in her head. It's easy to say labels don't mean anything and to just "be yourself," but when you're not *sure* what the fuck you are, labels can be helpful in terms of organizing what's going on in your *own* brain.... "I don't know what I *am*, but I don't think I'm X, Y, or Z (right now)." And, of course, when you're young and confused and start out by trying to rule out what you're *not,* eventually you start making declarative statements about what you *are* that might be true and might just be erroneous conclusions. In other words, for this particular person, "queer" seems to be a misnomer based on the information given, and "cisgender" is irrelevant.

Re: queer and cis/trans however, for those who are more toward the trans end of the spectrum, "queer" can be a handy, and accurate, word. When a person's gender either doesn't match their physical body, or is just generally in flux or set to neutral, it screws with our commonly held definitions of sexuality, too. For example, a person who was assigned female at birth (has female "parts", if you like) who identifies as male, is taking testosterone, maybe even looks male "downstairs" (testosterone does that), *but* who, due to dress or behavior or some quirk of genetics, still gets "read" as female. If this person dates men, are they a gay man? A straight "woman" (the answer to this is of course "no", but I mention it to debunk the obvious, and to acknowledge that when one is indeed read that way, it does send a different message and carry a different weight, even if the person hates it). Do we call that person "a FTM transgender person who's attracted to men"? Just "queer"? What *is* that orientation called, when the gender - the yardstick by which we define sexual orientation - is no longer considered an obvious or even necessarily a constant? The fairest answer is that it's called whatever that particular person wants it to be called, which would (again) of course not be "straight woman" in this particular example. But if we take "straight woman" off the table (and we should) then we're talking about.... man, who likes men, but gets *read* as a straight woman, and... well, that's the kind of situation where queer can be both handy and accurate - depending on the person, of course, and their preference.
Oct 22, 2010 seanchai commented on Control Tower.
Great column. As usual in these conversations, it makes me wish there was a word for "I'm sexually monogamous, but I'll do various forms of kinky shit with anyone whose company I enjoy (and who enjoys mine)." I know, I know, labels invite just the kind of confusion and oneupping and purer than thou crap that MM describes, but it's nice to be able to have language to start from. I usually use "sexually monogamous, kink poly," which seems to do the trick, I suppose.

Also, @ Sergei, "I know most fetishists are dour and humorless"... Are you serious? Man, that's the best joke I've heard all day.
Oct 18, 2010 seanchai commented on Buttsore Bible College Student to Dan: Hurting My Feelings Is Unconstitutional!.
@122, here (Atlanta area, as some perhaps have surmised), it's definitely "love the sinner, hate the sin," in terms of the coded language. This leaves them some wiggle room when questioned... "Oh really? What do you mean?" "Well, like if I lusted in my heart, that's a sin, but my family should still love *me*." Alrighty Jimmy Carter.

(I've actually met Jimmy Carter - which is not terribly hard to do if you live in the Atlanta area and are even loosely allied with the Democratic party, since there are approximately 8.5 Democrats in Georgia - and I like him, but I think it's pretty telling that *decades* after Carter got made fun of for that ill-advised comment, the Southern Baptists still use it.... with a *straight face*. You think they'd reword it for dignity's sake.)
Oct 17, 2010 seanchai commented on Buttsore Bible College Student to Dan: Hurting My Feelings Is Unconstitutional!.
@112, well, I'm lucky in that I was raised UCC (so I never got any of that crap from my family or my church, growing up) and UCC in particular doesn't give me *any* kind of crap for being disabled (or queer, or kinky, or anything else). They're a *rare* denomination that way, admittedly. I spent some time in the Catholic church (long story) and *very* quickly realized the discrimination and general hate most churches embody. It freaked me out, cause my experiences with church prior to that had always been so welcoming and slightly hippie-trippy that I didn't really believe a church could *actually* sanction hatred, or keying my vehicle or leaving me nasty notes for being pro gay marriage and pro-choice ( When I took it to the priest, his reply was "I'm not here to referee." I responded: "You're not here to referee *property damage* Father? I bet you'd 'referee' property damage if my car had been keyed for an *anti* gay marriage sticker..." He sputtered, I left. My mother still intermittently tells me I am "being unreasonable." I don't think she really means it, since she's the one who raised me to be a treehugging hippie liberal. ;) )

Unfortunately, going back to UCC doesn't do anything about the general "bless your heart" crap I get just walking around in the Deep South, but that's why I'm doing my best to get the hell out of the Deep South as soon as humanly possible.

Funnily enough, the day I realized I wouldn't be able to stay in this area indefinitely was one day - many years ago, now - when a bunch of friends and I went from the UCC church down to the AIDS walk... this was back when straight-people-and-children didn't participate in "gay" things like the AIDS walk (how ya doin', Carl Palladino? Enjoying the 1980s? Good times, good times...) and my friends and I were between about ten and eighteen. There were around seven of us, as I recall. As we were walking to the start, a woman stood right in my way on the footpath and blurted out: "God will heal you!"
Me: Um... I'm with my church youth group, actually, thanks.
Her: But, God will make you walk, if you believe!
Me: I can walk already. It's a miracle. Scuse me.
Her: But, but, what do you have?
Me: Excuse me.
Her: Wait! I have a chiropractor who can heal you!
At this point, one of my buddies, who was Deaf, made a "what the hell?" face and signed to me fairly discreetly, CHIROPRACTOR-GOD? (As in, "her god is a chiropractor? This'll be good.")
Me (deciding to see where this goes): Chiropractor, huh?
Lady: Yes! He's good with all kinds of spinal injuries!
Me: Really... so he regenerates spinal cords?
Lady: Oh, yes.
Me: Wow, he sounds like quite a guy.
Lady: Oh yes. I've *never* seen him not cure a disabled person.
Me: Well, I might be his first, since there's nothing wrong with my spine.
Her: Wh... what do you mean?
Me: I have congenital brain damage. And I'm not really interested in a cure. 'Scuse me, we're trying to get to the walk.
Her: You have *brain* damage? But you can talk!
Me (finally deciding to offroad it through the grass): How about that?
My Deaf buddy (deciding to join the fun): Hey, I can talk too!
Woman (with faint horror): Is he.... deaf?
Me: Yep.
Her: But... brain damage... deaf...

Figuring she was just one of those people who has trouble processing that disabled people have brains, we ignored it and kept going, and just as one of my friends was giving me a shove to help me get back onto the pavement, the woman *yelled* across the park, "So were you kids *born* with AIDS, or are you prostitutes? I can call the police for you, if you need help..."

Somehow, in her little mind, the *only* reason a group of kids would be going to the AIDS walk would be if we *had AIDS*, and when she found out two of us were disabled, well, we must be disabled and Deaf *from AIDS*. When we got done laughing, we sat there wondering why the hell *she* was there, since it probably wasn't for the AIDS walk. Only thing we could figure was that she'd gone hoping to witness to all the poor poor gay men, and then lost her nerve when she saw that there were women and children there, too, and that it wasn't a super secret den of iniquity in the middle of Piedmont Park.

Swear to God, true story.