AAC, queerness


That’s what you are, but they don’t call you that. They say you can’t pronounce s’s and z’s right. You can’t pronounce your own name right, whatever you name is at the time.

They make a plan for you. It involves a level of surveillance that your peers are not, by and large, subjected to. They’ll listen in on you at recess and make sure you’re pronouncing your words right. Make sure you’re not slipping into the comfy th-zone you’ve known your whole life.

It doesn’t matter to you. You can’t tell the difference. But they tell you it matters to other people. Not people in your life now, of course. But it will later, they say. You won’t be able to get a good job if you lisp, they say.

You’re bullied for your lisp. They are ineffective at controlling the bully.

It is years of speech therapy. Years, until you’re old enough to say “no!” loudly and clearly. Years, until you’re too big to control. Years, until they realize you’re not going to conform, no matter what.

You get to middle school. They give up.

You grow up. They warned you about your lisp when they say you as this wispy little white-blonde hair, blue eyes girl. But you are not that, you are not a girl, you are not a woman. You grow up. You grow up into a stereotype. A lisping unapologetic queer, how about that.

Elementary-school you would be so proud.

Miracle of miracles with a side of heavy sarcasm cream sauce, you graduate. Thrice. Twice virtually. You manage a graduate degree and later a full-time job.

You slowly lose and find your voice. Your alternative communication is a speech generating device. You seek out the artificial voices that have lisps. Few do, because artificial voices are meant to be perfect, free of flaws or impediments. But still, you find one that lisps.

Your voice was always perfect. They wanted to shape it into something else – for what? Nobody ever explained that to you. They lied and said you couldn’t attend your IEP meetings. They lied and said you’d never be successful with a lisp.

But here you are.


being non-speaking

you can’t tell

just from reading my posts

that i decided to stop speaking

there are circuits in my brain

stitched on a backpiece of linen mounted on steel frame

and two circuits here are important:

the one that makes language in my brain

the one that makes my mouth move

these are different but

both are needed to make my spoken words

i watched a friend recite his ASL poetry

hands flapping in rhythmic motion

in the middle of a blocked-off, art fair street in san jose


i sat with him and listened to his voice on his talker,

which he posted recently that anthem will pay for part of

(hopefully medi-cal will pay for the rest),

and wondered if i could ever be like that.

there’s a divide where someone forgot to make the stitches,

a divide where my mouth flaps endlessly

caught up in sounds that nobody else understands

where i know what i want to say

but i can’t say it

where i feel the words inside of me

but my mouth won’t make them

there are endless metaphors i could use –

if my goal was to make non-autistics more comfortable –

and that i won’t use because this isn’t about making anyone comfortable

except me

i use the limited words i have

on the people i know don’t understand

everyone else gets the robot

(can i call myself a cyborg now?)

everyone else can still listen

i make rules

don’t look over my shoulder

don’t try to guess what i’m gonna say

don’t pander

don’t coddle

i’m 20 years old

treat me like an adult

my friend

(not the one from the art fair in san jose)

told me a story about an autistic man who,

when given a letter board for the first time at 20,

spelled out F-U-C-K Y-O-U.

that’s what you get for not presuming competence

for making an adult watch PBS Kids

just because they can’t talk.

“can you talk? say something!”

yeah, how about,

piss off!

go fuck yourself!

i went to a party and said hello to everyone on my phone,

and most people didn’t blink.

one guy kept asking,

“what’s wrong? are you sick?”

and i kept telling him,

it’s a long story.

because where do you start,

when a lifetime of meltdowns and overloads and social hell,

when a lifetime of sensory seeking,

when a lifetime of useless knowledge & special interests,

when a lifetime of being autistic

(on top of all the other illnesses and trauma)

begins to make sense?

and then slowly,


you begin to realize that it’s not you,

it’s the rest of the world,

and it’s not your fault for needing help,

and it’s not your fault for being different,

and it’s not your fault for being autistic.

there are no rules here

only people refusing to understand

and when there are no rules

there is only room to grow.

I wrote this from the iPad I bought specifically to use as an AAC/text-to-speech device. The exact app I use is called Speech Assistant and is available for Android and iOS for $10. It’s a great customizable app for someone who is able to type and use text phrases without pictures.

I wanted to write about being non/semi-speaking because it isn’t apparent from the way I write that I don’t speak. This is true of many people who use AAC. It’s often also a complaint in autistic circles in general: that non-autistic people don’t think we’re autistic because we look too “normal” from the way we type or write online. (The difference between online communication and in-person communication is massive, to say the least.)

I still can speak but I choose not to. It’s so draining to have to speak and if I have to choose between speaking and ending the day too tired to do much of anything and not speaking and ending the day with energy to enjoy myself, I’d rather have energy. I like communicating. People are nice to be around (some people; some of the time). But speaking is hard.

And, finally, I learned a lot about AAC and being autistic as a participant in the Autism Campus Inclusion program sponsored by the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network. I spent a week in DC with about 20 other autistic people and I was so impressed by how quickly we bonded as a group (especially since autistic people, by nature, are not very social). This poem is for everyone at ACI 2018 – you know who you are.



I’m donnie. I write things. Sometimes I write long things. Sometimes I knit. Sometimes I sell the things I knit.

I use they/them and xe/xem pronouns and I alternate them when talking about myself. I won’t, however, use both sets in the same paragraph because every time I see that, my brain decides to take the rest of the day off and I’m left high and dry. (I’m only sort of joking.)

This is all a very unimpressive introduction. I have an About page on this blog, which probably tells you more than you want to know. I also have a Contact page and a page where I list all the things I’ve written.

Here is a picture of me:

Image Description: a selfie of Donnie taken in a mirror. Xe is wearing a red and white shirt and a black skirt with flowers sewn on it. Xe is also wearing a blue, white, and pink flower crown. Xyr phone is in a purple and black case and xe has many rubber bracelets around xyr right wrist.

My activism centers in sexual and reproductive health care for marginalized groups; in particular, gender and sexual minorities and disabled people. One of my goals is to break down the image that only able-bodied, neurotypical, cisgender heterosexual women need reproductive health care. I also want to break down the image that reproductive health care is only about having children (or the prevention of having children) and that sexual health care is only about STIs. I also want to work towards a model of sexual and reproductive health care where the two are related but not inherently entwined. There are lots of people out there who may not need to access sexual health care if they are not sexually active but still need reproductive health care.

In short, I want to make sexual and reproductive health care more accessible, more open, and more welcoming to everyone. I believe one of the biggest factors in people not accessing health care (aside from cost and physical accessibility) is the stigma and judgment people face and the lack of understanding practitioners have around minority communities. I want a world where nobody suffers needlessly or lives with illness because they were unable to access health care.

(I’m one of those damned leftist pie-in-the-sky young people, too.)

So, yeah, that’s about it. I’m working on a much longer piece right now and just got some edits back on it so I should publish it … soon.