Disability and Pornography

I WOULD LIKE TO SHARE MY THOUGHTS ON WHY PORNOGRAPHY IS A BENEFIT TO SOCIETY. FOR THIS TO BE PORTRAYED, I WOULD LIKE YOU TO ENVISION WHAT IT IS LIKE TO BE A PERSON WITH A DISABILITY. YOU HAVE MANY CHALLENGES, AND WORST OF ALL, NO ONE FINDS YOU ATTRACTIVE. AS A PERSON WITH A DISABILITY, YOU ARE DENIED THE APPEARANCE OF HAVING SEXUAL FEELINGS OR DESIRING ANOTHER PERSON. ALL YOU CAN DO IS USE WHAT IS THAT YOUR DISPOSAL – THE INTERNET. AFTER ALL, IT’S AVAILABLE TO EVERYONE, AND IS CONSTANTLY CHANGING AND EXPANDING. IF YOU IMAGINE WHAT THAT WOULD BE LIKE AND FOUND IT LACKING, THEN YOU WOULD NO DOUBT UNDERSTAND WHY I AM IN SUPPORT OF PORN.

FOR EXAMPLE, RESEARCH HAS SHOWN THAT PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES ARE AT MUCH HIGHER RISK OF BEING SEXUALLY ASSAULTED IN THEIR LIFETIMES THAN NON-DISABLED PEOPLE. IT COMES FROM OUR SOCIETY’S VIEW THAT PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES ARE HELPLESS AND DON’T KNOW ANY DIFFERENT. IT ALSO COMES FROM AN ABLEIST ATTITUDE OF THEM BEING LESS DESERVING OF THE THINGS OTHERS TAKE FOR GRANTED. I WOULD ARGUE THAT PORN COULD TEACH PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES ABOUT CONSENT AND WHEN SEX IS HEALTHY, SO THAT THEY CAN BE MORE EMPOWERED ABOUT EXPLORING THEIR SEXUAL SELVES.

GETTING ACCESS TO THIS KIND OF CONTENT IS IMPORTANT, AND SHOULD BE PART OF SOME SEX ED CURRICULUM. A LOT OF PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES DON’T EVEN HAVE ACCESS TO THE MOST BASIC SEX ED AT SCHOOL, AND THAT IS WRONG. ALL OF THEM ARE HUMANS WITH BASIC NEEDS LIKE EVERYONE HAS: TO BE LOVED, TO BE TOUCHED, TO EXPERIENCE THE DEEP CONNECTIONS THAT FUEL LOVE SONGS.

BELIEVE IT OR NOT, THESE DREAMS ARE BEING PORTRAYED IN CERTAIN REALMS OF ALT-PORN. THERE IS A PORN STAR WITH CEREBRAL PALSY WHO HAS BEEN INTERVIEWED ABOUT HIS EXPERIENCE. HE SAID IT WAS ONE OF THE MOST POSITIVE EXPERIENCES IN HIS LIFE BECAUSE IT HELPED HIM ACCEPT HIS BODY AND REPRESENT PEOPLE WITH DIFFERENT BODIES AND EXPERIENCES. REPRESENTATION IS UNDOUBTEDLY THE MOST TELLING REASON FOR SUPPORTING PORN. THIS CAN LOOK DIFFERENTLY FOR MANY PEOPLE, BUT THE MAIN GIST IS JUST SHOWING PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES ENJOYING THEMSELVES SEXUALLY AND BEING FOUND ATTRACTIVE TO PEOPLE WITHOUT DISABILITIES.

WHAT MAKES PORN ACCESSIBLE TO SOME BUT NOT OTHERS? REALLY, IT IS AN ISSUE OF ONE’S MOTOR SKILLS AND ABILITY TO HAVE ONE’S BODY ACCESSIBLE. THOSE CAN BE HUGE BARRIERS FOR MANY PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES. IN THESE CASES, PARENTS AND EDUCATORS SHOULD CONSIDER HAVING PART OF THEIR CURRICULUM COVER OPTIONS FOR THESE YOUNG PEOPLE. AFTER ALL, EVEN STEPHEN HAWKINS ENJOYS THE OCCASIONAL STRIP CLUB!

IN ADDITION, SOME PORN SITES HAVE BEGUN ADDING CLOSED CAPTIONING FOR VISUALLY IMPAIRED PEOPLE. OTHERS ARE INCLUDING MORE PEOPLE WHO HAVE NON-TRADITIONAL BODIES AND ABILITIES TO THEIR OFFERINGS. BY HAVING BETTER REPRESENTATION, THEY ARE CREATING A NEW NORMAL THAT IS MORE INCLUSIVE AND REALISTIC.

IN CONCLUSION, HAVING PORN AVAILABLE IS ONE WAY OF SUPPORTING PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES, AND IT HELPS NORMALIZE THEIR SEXUALITY. WHILE THERE WAS A LOT – A LOT – OF STEREOTYPICAL PORN OUT THERE, THERE ARE DIRECTORS WHO SEEK TO REPRESENT THE SEX LIVES OF PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES ACCURATELY AND RESPECTFULLY. BY SUPPORTING THEIR WORK FINANCIALLY, WE CAN CHANGE THE WAY DISABILITY IS VIEWED BY NON-DISABLED PEOPLE.

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Response to IACC meeting

I’D LIKE TO RESPOND TO THIS ARTICLE (“AUTISTIC ADVOCATES CLASH WITH AUTISM PARENTS AT GOVERNMENT COMMITTEE MEETING”) BY SAYING THIS: NO ONE, AND I MEAN NO ONE, SHOULD BE TALKING ABOUT WHAT’S BEST FOR ME BESIDES ME. YES, MY PARENTS KNOW ME BEST IN THE WORLD, BUT THAT DOESN’T MEAN THEY KNOW BETTER. IT PERPLEXES ME THAT WE ARE HAVING THIS DEBATE STILL, AND PEOPLE DON’T SEE HOW LUDICROUS IT IS TO HAVE AN AUTISTIC GROUP REPRESENTED BY NON-AUTISTICS. IMAGINE THE NAACP REPRESENTED BY WHITES. RECALL THAT IMAGE OF A GROUP OF WHITE MEN SIGNING LEGISLATION LIMITING WOMEN’S BIRTH CONTROL… YET IT IS TOTALLY OKAY FOR MANY AUTISTICS TO BE AFFECTED BY THE WILL OF NT’S.

I SIMPLY SAY THIS: IF YOU WANT THE VIEWS OF NONVERBAL AUTISTICS TO BE HEARD, INVITE THEM TO THE TABLE. MAKE SURE THEY CAN ACCESS THE MEETING WITH THE SUPPORT THEY NEED. SEEK OUT AUTISTIC PEOPLE WHO ARE NONVERBAL, AND LISTEN TO WHAT THEY HAVE TO SAY. LET YOUR EXPERIENCE OF HOW YOU RAISED A PERSON WHO IS AUTISTIC BE SHADOWED BY THE AUTISTIC PERSON’S EXPERIENCE OF NOT FITTING IN A WORLD THAT THINKS HE IS BROKEN.

RIGHT NOW, THE BIGGEST HURDLES WE FACE ARE THE ATTITUDES OF COMMUNITY MEMBERS AND THE IMPOSED LIMITS OF PARENTS. LET YOURSELF ABSTAIN FROM THE PITY PARTY THAT SEEMS TO BE SO MUCH A PART OF THE AUTISM COMMUNITY, AND BELIEVE THAT YOUR CHILD WILL CONTINUE TO DEVELOP AND GAIN NEW SKILLS. MOST OF ALL, GIVE THEM THE CHANCE TO HAVE WHAT WE EACH ASPIRE TO: AN INDEPENDENT LIFE, LOVE, HOUSING THAT SUPPORTS THEIR VISION OF WHAT THEY WANT, A CHANCE TO WORK, MAKE A DECENT LIVING, AND FIND SATISFACTION IN THEIR DAILY LIFE. BESIDES THAT, THEY WANT TO BE ACCEPTED FOR WHO THEY ARE OR KNOW THAT IF THEY NEED SUPPORT, THEY CAN GET IT. FOR ME, THIS IS WHAT OUR RESEARCH DOLLARS SHOULD BE SPENT ON. GIVE AUTISTICS THE MAJORITY PLACE AT THE IACC, AND I GUARANTEE YOU WILL SEE THESE THINGS GET ADRESSED IN A WAY THAT MAKES SENSE FOR US.

#IACC

All The Pretty Things

THIS WEEK HAS BEEN A BIT OF A CLUSTERF#*%€. MY PARA WAS SICK, AND IT THREW EVERYTHING INTO TURMOIL. I’M LUCKY BECAUSE THERE’S ANOTHER PARA WHO LETTERBOARDS WITH ME, BUT THAT MEANS HER STUDENT HAS TO HAVE A SUB. THAT DOESN’T FEEL GOOD TO ME EITHER. I WISH THERE WAS A MAGIC WAND THAT I COULD WAVE, AND WE ALL GET THE PRETTY THINGS.

Believe

NEVER LET SOMEONE TELL YOU THAT YOU CAN’T ACHIEVE THE IMPOSSIBLE. KEEP TRYING TO FIND THAT ONE PERSON WHO BELIEVES IN YOU AND THE VISION YOU HAVE FOR YOUR LIFE. IT MAY HAPPEN FAST, OR YOU MAY WAIT YEARS LIKE I DID. JUST KEEP BELIEVING IN YOURSELF.

Should I open a school just for people who use RPM?

“I have a dream to open a charter school [in Oregon] to teach RPM. I work with people with autism and feel that the special education doesn’t give them an adequate voice or mastery of language. What do you think?

Do you think a school is possible?”

THANK YOU FOR WRITING. YOU RAISE AN INTERESTING QUESTION. CHECKING MY BIAS AT THE DOOR, I WOULD UNEQUIVOCALLY STATE THAT SPECIAL EDUCATION LEAVES KIDS LIKE ME ON THE SIDELINES A MAJORITY OF THE TIME.

GOING TO SCHOOL AS A PERSON WHO CAN’T COMMUNICATE IS AWFUL. I WAS TREATED LIKE A STUPID PERSON, BUT NO NEEDLESS EFFORT WAS MADE TO HELP ME FIND MY VOICE. ONCE I HAD A WAY OF COMMUNICATING, HOWEVER, IT TOTALLY CHANGED, AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, I MADE FRIENDS.

I DON’T ADVOCATE FOR SPECIAL SCHOOLS OR SPECIAL PROGRAMS – INSTEAD, I BELIEVE PEOPLE BELONG TOGETHER WITH DIFFERENT HARDSHIPS AND ABILITIES, BACKGROUNDS AND RACES, ECONOMIC LEVELS AND GENDER IDENTITIES, SEXUAL ORIENTATIONS AND FAVORITE POLITICIANS.

I THINK THAT KIND OF SCHOOL IS POSSIBLE, BUT I DON’T THINK IT’S NECESSARY. I BELIEVE IT WOULD MAKE MORE SENSE TO REALIZE THAT VISION IN ONE’S NEIGHBORHOOD SCHOOL. I WOULD RATHER SPEND MY ENERGY TRYING TO CHANGE PERSPECTIVES OF SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS AND TEACHERS RATHER THAN REINVENT THE WHEEL.

I KNOW I AM VERY LUCKY TO BE ABLE TO ATTEND A PUBLIC SCHOOL – BUT MORE PEOPLE NEED TO CLAIM THEIR PLACE RATHER THAN LEAVE ALTOGETHER. BELIEVE ME, IT’S POSSIBLE FOR MORE PEOPLE LIKE ME TO BE IN GENERAL EDUCATION – WE JUST NEED A CHANCE TO TRY.

HOW I CAME TO UNDERSTAND THE IMPORTANCE OF PLAY

KIMG1460~2REMEMBERING THE PAST HAS NEVER BEEN A PROBLEM FOR ME. THERE ARE THINGS I WOULD RATHER NOT RELATE TO YOU, LIKE THE LONG HOURS WHERE I SPENT TIME WITH A SPEECH THERAPIST IN THE TINY ROOM. OR THE HOURS MY MOM SPENT DRIVING ME FROM ONE APPOINTMENT TO ANOTHER, TRYING TO FIND A WAY INTO MY WORLD. HOW SHE TRIED SO MANY GOOFY THINGS, YOU CAN’T IMAGINE! ALL THAT TIME WAS SPENT TRYING TO FIX ME WHEN I WASN’T BROKEN IN THE FIRST PLACE. BUT IT TOOK SOME TIME FOR MY PARENTS TO REALIZE THAT.

WHERE THEY GOT IT RIGHT WAS IN THEIR ATTITUDE ABOUT PLAY. PLAY WAS A WAY IN. PLAY LET ME BE MYSELF, AND I FELT ACCEPTED FOR WHO I WAS RATHER THAN FOR EVERYTHING I WAS NOT. GETTING THAT VALIDATION WAS THE MOST IMPORTANT FEELING I EXPERIENCED IN MY SHORT LIFE.

PLAY LET ME BE MYSELF, AND I FELT ACCEPTED FOR WHO I WAS RATHER THAN FOR EVERYTHING I WAS NOT.

HOW I PLAYED AS A CHILD WAS SO DIFFERENT FROM OTHER KIDS THAT NO MATTER HOW I TRIED, I JUST COULDN’T DO IT THE NORMAL WAY. TAKE, FOR EXAMPLE, SKATEBOARDS. THE ONLY THING I WOULD EVER WANT TO DO IS SPIN THE WHEELS AND WATCH THE PATTERNS THEY MADE ON THE AIR CURRENTS AROUND THEM. OR ANOTHER FAVORITE: MAGIC SAND. HOW I LOVED TO DRIZZLE IT IN FRONT OF MY EYES, AND WATCH THE INDIVIDUAL PIECES OF SAND FALLING AS A PART OF AN EVER-CHANGING MASS. REMARKABLE! GETTING THAT IN MY HAIR WAS A PLUS BECAUSE I GOT TO FEEL THAT GRITTINESS OF THE SAND ON MY SKIN. ALL I KNOW IS THAT I FELT SO GROUNDED AFTER I PLAYED WITH IT, AND AM SO GRATEFUL THAT MY PARENTS DIDN’T MAKE ME STOP.

LOOKING BACK, MY MEMORIES ARE DIVIDED INTO TWO PERIODS: BEFORE PLAY AND AFTER GETTING FREE OF THERAPY. AFTER GETTING LESS THERAPY, HAVING RELATIONSHIPS WITH OTHERS FEELS MORE NATURAL. FRIENDS AREN’T USUALLY PAID TO HANG OUT WITH YOU, AFTER ALL. THEY AREN’T SUPPOSED TO BE ADULTS TO WRITE NOTES ON A CLIPBOARD ON TRACK YOUR EYE CONTACT. ALL I EVER WANTED WAS TO FIND A WAY TO CONNECT WITH OTHER KIDS AND NOT BE JUDGED.

LEARNING TO LETTERBOARD WAS ANOTHER WAY FOR ME TO GAIN A FOOTHOLD INTO A WORLD THAT WAS CONFUSING AND FOREIGN TO ME. FOR EXAMPLE, MY SENSORY SYSTEM IS PERCEPTIVE IN WAYS THAT HAVEN’T BEEN ACKNOWLEDGED BY EDUCATORS OR PROFESSIONALS THAT STUDY AUTISM. MANY BELIEVE THAT AUTISTICS CAN’T EMPATHIZE WITH OTHERS AND FUNCTION LIKE ROBOTS. THAT COULDN’T BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH.

MY PROBLEM IS THAT I FEEL TOO MUCH. AUTISM HAS MADE IT SO THAT I CAN PICK UP ON SO MANY OTHER VIBRATIONS THAT NEUROTYPICALS DON’T EVEN REGISTER. FOR EXAMPLE, I USED TO GET TOTALLY OVERWHELMED BY ALL THE SOUNDS OF A CLASSROOM. WHEN I THINK BACK, I CAN RELATE TO THE IMAGE OF AN AUTISTIC KID HIDING IN THE CORNER AND LINING UP HIS TOY CARS, BECAUSE THAT WAS THE ONLY THING I COULD CONTROL. I COULDN’T DO ANYTHING ABOUT A CACOPHONY OF SENSORY INPUT I WAS GOING THROUGH, SO I CONTROLLED WHAT I COULD. ALL THOSE YEARS, I WAS TRYING TO KEEP IT TOGETHER AND MAKE SENSE OF IT ALL. EVENTUALLY, I WAS BETTER ABLE TO SORT THROUGH THE SOUNDS AROUND ME AND MAKE REALISTIC ADJUSTMENTS OF WHAT I NEEDED TO DO TO FUNCTION IN ANY GIVEN SITUATION. IN SCHOOL, I KNOW I WILL NEED REGULAR BREAKS TO CLEAR MY HEAD, AND SOME TIME TO LISTEN TO MUSIC. AT HOME, MY FAVORITE ACTIVITY TO RELAX IS CUTTING PAPER, AND MY FAMILY KNOWS TO LEAVE ME ALONE FOR AN HOUR AFTER SCHOOL SO I CAN HAVE SOME DOWN TIME.

A SENSE OF COMMUNITY RUNS THROUGH OUR VERY BEING, AND IS AS INTRINSIC TO HUMANS AS BREATHING.

NOW I’M ABLE TO SHARE MY THOUGHTS AND CONNECT WITH PEOPLE WITHOUT HAVING TO RELY ON MY MOM OR MY PARAEDUCATOR AT SCHOOL. ALL I EVER WANTED WAS TO BELONG, AND NOW I DO. A SENSE OF COMMUNITY RUNS THROUGH OUR VERY BEING, AND IS AS INTRINSIC TO HUMANS AS BREATHING. IT IS A FORM OF LOVE THAT FEEDS OUR SOULS, AND BRINGS OUT THE VERY BEST IN US WHEN IT SEEMS LIKE THE WORLD IS GOING MAD. VERY LITTLE GOOD BEGINS IN CHAOS. IT IS WHEN WE COME TOGETHER AND LOVE EACH OTHER THAT GOODNESS PREVAILS.

TONIGHT, I WANT TO ASK EACH OF YOU TO APPEAL TO THE CHILD INSIDE YOU, AND BE A LITTLE PLAYFUL WITH EACH OTHER. LAUGH A LOT AND DROWN OUT THE RHETORIC THAT IS FLOODING THE NEWS. FIND WAYS TO PLAY MORE AND COMPLAIN LESS. BELIEVE IN THE POWER OF BEING SILLY AND FUNNY WHEN THE MOOD STRIKES, AND LETTING YOUR TEARS FLOW WHEN YOU ARE SAD. FIND COMFORT IN EACH OTHER AT THOSE TIMES LIKE A CHILD DOES WHEN THEY SCRAPE THEIR KNEE. ABOVE ALL, ACCEPT THAT WE ALL BELONG TOGETHER, WHETHER THAT’S ON THE BUS OR IN THE CLASSROOM OR ON THE PLAYGROUND.

PLEASE SUPPORT HARPER’S PLAYGROUND, AND HELP THEM CREATE MORE PLACES WHERE EVERYONE CAN PLAY TOGETHER!

A BIGGER MOVEMENT

Niko in front of the White House

Niko in front of the White House

(Originally published by Disability Rights Oregon)

Sixteen-year old Niko Boskovic won first place in a prestigious essay contest, and was selected as a delegate to an annual educational program. 

But, the program sponsor, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, withdrew his prize after learning Niko experiences autism and uses a letter board to communicate.

Our attorneys worked with Niko and his family to protest his treatment. In the end, the national board reversed its decision and allowed Niko to participate in the trip.

By: Niko Boskovic

We flew out of Portland on a very early flight, which got us into Philadelphia late Saturday evening. That evening, we started to experience that East coast heat I had heard about, and it never let up until we got back to Portland.

Young People from Across the World

The trip was a bit of a whirlwind! It started off as a group of Oregon and Washington delegates, and eventually grew to over 150 youth from all over the world. There were people from Norway, Finland, Sweden, Canada, and the U.S.

It was interesting to see so many young people in one place with one purpose: to represent the values of the Odd Fellows on a national scale. Over the course of 11 days, we did so many things, from visiting historic sites to touring the United Nations’ main chambers.

As we learned about the history of the U.N.’s policies and actions throughout the world, I was struck by how many of its policies will affect the futures of so many countries.

Now I know that means I need to speak publicly about our struggles and our gifts; about our hopes and dreams for the future; about our intrinsic right to dignity and an independent future.

Speech Contest

My fellow delegates and I also participated in a speech contest.  We spent hours working on our speeches. Then, we presented them before a panel of judges.

I really liked the speech of the young woman from Washington who spoke so passionately about science. All of the finalists were remarkable because of their desire to make a difference in the world.

Niko in front of a U.N. banner about including people with disabilities in UN development goals.

Niko in front of a U.N. banner.

Historical Landmarks

The fact that we got to see so many landmarks was a bonus. Awesome sites like the view from the observation deck of the Empire State Building, or the New York City skyline as you approach it by bus.

I’ll always remember the way I felt when I was standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial with all those people, and yet that moment felt so private.

I remember the way the water from the World War II fountain felt so good on my feet on that hot, muggy afternoon, and how the chatter from the girls I was hanging out with tickled my ears. The entire trip was a sensory feast, and I couldn’t get enough.

After spending so much time with this group of young people, I walked away feeling like I was part of a bigger movement, one that will make a difference in the world.

A Bigger Movement

After spending so much time with this group of young people, I walked away feeling like I was part of a bigger movement, one that will make a difference in the world.

The thing is, I already knew I wanted to fight for the rights of people with disabilities. I just couldn’t picture what that would look like.

Now I know that means I need to speak publicly about our struggles and our gifts; about our hopes and dreams for the future; about our intrinsic right to dignity and an independent future.

I am so incredibly thankful to the Odd Fellows Lodge that selected me for this opportunity and to Disability Rights Oregon for its help.