we will not resolve
neuroqueer reading/writing tactics in a time of quantification
I read and write a lot. I often get messages about it. Mostly messages like, how do you [read/write] so much? For the last few years, I’ve been trying to get my head around how to give advice –– neuroqueer advice, which destabilizes straight, teleological, and/as abled norms! –– on reading and writing. With 2023 around the corner, I’ve decided to wrangle a little experience, a little advice, and a little/a lot of verbal meandering into a post about (non)resolutions to carry into the new year.
When I was little, writing hurt. It didn’t only hurt, and it didn’t exactly always hurt, but when my four-year-old hand was fitted to the pencil in its “proper” grip, I found myself having to choose again and again and again between intolerable pain and near-illegible handwriting, and tolerable pain and even more illegible handwriting. There were no words available to me / for why this may be the case, other than Bad and Difficult. I was informed by a particularly hostile teachers’ aide, Mrs. Walker, that I was misbehaving on purpose. It certainly wouldn’t have been outside the realm of possibility, but in this case, the ways my classmates seemed effortlessly to hold their pencils, make the words I too could read in near-perfect iterations down the dotted page, were mysterious. While I was punished for my perpetual insufficiency, others were rewarded for being full, “complete,” and advanced writers.
For me, “correct” writing was unattainable and bewildering enough to lead me to occupational therapy, where I was not allowed to see my parents until I produced enough correctly-shaped letters, until I won a set number of games designed to assess my motor skills. I was taken away from the normal kids, and then returned with special fat pencils with strangely-shaped grips. While the rest filled their on-desk pencil cups with themed writing utensils of their choice, I was relegated to one single, thick, yellow #2 pencil with a navy blue grip. Every day, when it was time for language arts, I was to pull out my one garish pencil and fail, repeatedly, to write the way my classmates did. The girls beside me wrote with a Helvetica-like consistency, an assured roundness, and I watched them, mystified as I ever was.
Of course at the time, I did not know the word “trans,” or “queer,” and I did not know “neurodivergent” or “dysgraphic.” I did not know that what I was experiencing was epistemic injustice, nor that there were resources out there to read, write, and think against these strategic erasures of neuroqueer being. I knew, however, that I was trapped in a war of words, denied not only access to language accurate to my experience of the world, but, on an every day level, sufficient access to the written word, a tool vital to all, but particularly critical to my survival as a storyteller.
This is not a typical literacy narrative. My goal isn’t to story my triumph over ableism, my joy and relief at finally being able to type. It’s certainly true that I am fortunate to live in a still-nascent age where access to writing is not contingent on one’s ability to hold a pencil for long periods of time, we also know that difficulties with writing, with turning notion to language, neither begin nor end with the act of pencil-holding. The reality of these difficulties, it seems, become especially acute near the end of the year, the beginning of a new one, as we are hit with the demand to resolve.
But what does it mean to read and write more, or better?
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