Tuesday, 31 March 2015

The Hues of Autism Awareness

In two days it will be World Autism Day. In the past week I've looked over midterm marks, planned how I will celebrate World Autism Day and finalized an apology letter to the teachers back in my high school.

Apology letter? Why?

Today I'm here to tell a story. Similar to my last post, it begins with a young person by the initials FA. A young person unknowing that puzzle pieces represented incompleteness, a person unsolvable as Schrodinger's Wave Equation. A fourteen-year-old standing in her living room one night in April 2011 as her mom watched CP24 announce it was World Autism Awareness Day and her own CN Tower and Niagara Falls were lighting up blue for Autism. In excitement, at her hP laptop she Print-screen-sys-rq on CP24's website and saved the photo to her computer. Forgetting to delete it before backing up her former laptop's hard drive as it started breaking and amidst a search for a Windows 7 laptop just as Microsoft launches Windows 10, its binary digits will not be resuscitated for deletion from a 2 TB external hard drive until she finally find a Windows 7 laptop. (Yes, just as Windows 10 is being released. No wonder it is taking too long.)

Canadian Cancer Society Main Office
For those of you that know what Autism Speaks is, skip the next few sentences. For those that don't know, Autism Speaks, though told to be the largest organization worldwide for Autism, is also one of the most hurtful. It promotes that we, the Autistic, are burdens to those that we know and need our Autism removed if we shall function in today's society. For example, its founder Susan Wright compared having three million Autistic children in the United States to having three million missing children. (Shudder.) The organization released a video in 2009 called "I am Autism" in which a voice states that Autism is worse than "pediatric AIDS, cancer and diabetes combined" and that we "know no morality." But we, the Autistic, are not what Autism Speaks portrays us to be. Because I can focus deeply on my passions of global equality and the Sciences, I am succeeding in first-year Engineering with visions of leading the the renewable energy industry. My passion for social justice fuels my blog and landed me a scholarship. Surely I must not lack at least a molecule of morality? I will fundraise this April for the Canadian Cancer Society's Daffodil Days. Last year I raised $175.75 at a subway station for them and coordinated a team to raise over $300 at my high school. Does it sound worse than cancer? Surely this cannot be Autistic? Autism Speaks cannot speak for me.

Two years passed and I was an eleventh-grade student swirling sodium hydroxide flasks for my Chemistry teacher (I used to volunteer for him), urging my fellow Student Parliament members to serve halal food or at least post disclaimers at our events, celebrating my success arranging Pink Shirt Day and organizing an Autism Awareness campaign at my high school. For a week leading up to World Autism Day, I performed announcements highlighting the medical view of curing Autism and challenged the school to consider how much it hurt. If you didn't know me you wouldn't have known that "their" were based on "mine." I concluded with a final announcement on World Autism Day shouting with enthusiasm to focus on the positive in Autistic individuals. Yet my campaign was not black and white in the call to acceptance, yet rather splashed with my organized Wear-it-Blue and success for at least a third of teachers and students came that day in blue tops and hijabs.

Fast-forward a year and the twelfth-grade FA was celebrating her three early acceptances to university, stressing over a novel-sized Writer's Craft project and organizing an Autism Awareness campaign. This time I planned a single-day announcement. If you saw my previous blog (and if you didn't, don't worry) you would know that I abandoned researching Autism and spoke in pretense that I interviewed another student. (As I said, does the Autistic need Google to look up Autism?) Those that knew I had Asperger's Syndrome saw through the supposed interview. Otherwise the one with FA's initials was and was not Autistic, Schrodinger's duality. Some never suspected I didn't interview a student. My French teacher from the ninth grade complemented my announcement in the hallway. My Chemistry teacher from the eleventh grade complemented me with "Nice announcement!" smiling at me in a blue shirt. That's right. I ran Wear it Blue once again. My Physics teacher showed up in class in a blue sweater. My blue sleeve raised my hand to his questions. The only blessing in disguise was that I did not promote Wear it Blue well in advance and it was only those that I personally told to wear Blue that remembered. I had been glad seeing my teachers promoting Autism Acceptance and proud to not only hear the announcement compliments knowing that I was almost starting a revolution of Autism Acceptance. I didn't know I had to fear that I sent the wrong message or complain that I left it behind, that of all the questions I could have asked, taking up my teachers' time with them, there was one I never asked.

Albert Einstein stated, "The important thing is not to stop questioning." For three years and a half I did not question Autism's association with the colour blue. I assumed using blue for Autism awareness seldom differed from using white in the commitment to end violence against women, pink for Pink Shirt Day, the pride flag to celebrate LGBTQ individuals and yellow for cancer. I never questioned their history - who wants another Montreal Massacre? Who wants a kid bullied for wearing a pink shirt? Why should we call a person unworthy for the gender of their crush or themselves? Who wants cancer? Nobody. I didn't need to question them for I almost memorized the story of Pink Shirt Day, read in July that the late NDP leader Jack Layton begun the white ribbon campaign, discovered that the rainbow flag was started by a LGBTQ advocate and read walking through the Canadian Cancer Society's main office as an office volunteer last summer about Daffodil Days's first days. I didn't consider that Autism's association with blue had a more sinister story, a bit closer to a pink triangle than a pride flag.

Regretfully I admit that I only discovered last December 22nd as I prepared to launch Arriving at. Awetsome. the next day, carefully tailoring my Google search to uncover Autism's association with the colour blue, trying to ensure I made no mistakes in my blog. Along with Autism Speaks's official website, Google returned Why I will not light it blue on Huffington Post and other complaining Autism advocates. The passenger assistance alarm had been pulled and finally the train had stopped. Finally the flashlight revealed Autism Speaks's name beside the blue photons.

How did I get away with hosting Wear it Blue in a public institution, in a high school, moreover a high school which had a semi-segregated program specifically for Autistic students? (I didn't qualify as 'severe' enough to be in the program and therefore had an integrated experience. Meanwhile I see little difference between them, I and the school's other students.) A few teachers in my school were known Autism Speaks supporters and wouldn't have put down Wear it Blue. Yet what about the teachers that promoted a respective environment for me, from the teacher who suggested the name Awetsome for my blog to my in-school Daffodil Days supervisor to my Equity Club supervisors? How did it pass under their noses, alongside the school's at-least-thirty more staff and its Principal? They simply did not know. As the fourteen-year-old teenager watching the SONY HD on April 2nd in 2011, they inhaled the same double-standard from the media that while Autism is something to be cured, there are mathematical geniuses whose brains succeed from Autism. They, as I, had heard the voice of reporters and disappointed parents rather than the Autistic themselves. They, as I, had heard about the CN Tower and Niagara Falls shining their 475-nanometre-emmiting LEDs to raise awareness. None of us - teachers, students, community members and I alike - noticed hatred beneath the surface. I therefore am unsurprised that no one questioned my initiative. Light it Blue fooled an Autism advocate after all. If my teachers had known about Autism Speaks's devaluing work, I imagine at least five teachers potentially pulling me from class or calling me to their offices on our lunch break. Both campaigns would have ended before execution if my own Equity Club supervisors had caught me. I wouldn't have projected the colour blue to my school community, a community with Autistic students, a community where many could warm my heart in respect and excitement for difference. I wouldn't have searched for a teacher back in my high school to convey my apology to its staff. I took almost three years to notice that I had led a team into the rain without an umbrella, for I live on a planet where few notice storm clouds forming.

Some Autistic advocates argue that we do not need awareness but acceptance. I want to tailor this definition. We need awareness of the need for acceptance. We need awareness that we, the Autistic, are not your mother's troublesome child. Yes, since I was a baby I woke up my mom at 6 AM in the morning on weekends. It was just something that made me me, just as another kid points out ice cream while passing Baskin Robins in a mall. We need awareness that we, the Autistic, can turn our passions and obsessions to strengths. When I was a child I made story after story. At almost 16, I got published in a short-story contest and at 17 I earned the highest mark in my writer's craft course. When I was young I constantly touched the furniture in my relatives' houses. (They were extremely strict and so I was told off most of the time.) The same curiosity made me one of my high school's strongest Science students last year. We need awareness that there is nothing wrong with our sensitivies, or seeming lack of them. My emotional ability is strong enough that I can't watch regular movies. My emotional ability is so strong that I can blog for social justice and was once called one of the unlikeliest to become a Macbeth. We need awareness that we, Autistic individuals, are hurting. Hurting in being shuttled between therapies. Hurting in being told off for being ourselves, for doing something simply because nobody else is doing it. Hurting because those of us that are non-verbal are accused of not being able to communicate. Hurting because we are told that we shouldn't need to close our ears when an ordinary conversation almost blares. Hurting because each month I cannot survive Google without finding even the mere outline of a link against Autism. It's time we stop the hurting. It's time we stop seeking to light the CN Tower with blue quanta at 0.3 million kilometres per second and rather shine the light on Autism. Talent will glint in the pool of your flashlight if we change the direction we point them. We were never able to read books in the nighttime as long as we pointed our flashlight to the window.

If not blue on Thursday, then what colour? I heard that several Autism advocates are going red. Yet since Monday December 22nd, my mind is fixed on purple. It is my blog's colour after all. You'll see on my Twitter that I used a black permanent marker tinged with violet to write "Arriving at. Awetsome." on a piece of plastic. What better way to celebrate my own Awetsome this Thursday than violet? Yes, I'll need to work my way around wearing my blue spring jacket and still stay warm as Torontionian temperatures fluctuate between zero and ten degrees this week. Maybe I'll layer all my non-blue sweaters, transforming into an indoor sweat machine for a day? I do need to replace my running shoes's blue laces. Yet I look back at the simplicity of a blue shirt, at a blue CN Tower, blue Niagara falls and blue who-knows-what-else. Scientifically, violet light is higher-energy than blue light. It's time to challenge you to look beyond the blue, to take the extra energy to not believe the news' simple facts - and smile in the power of nuance.

- FA

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Tuesday, 24 March 2015

The Puzzle Piece: A Misconception of Incompleteness

Subway train at the end of the line
Though I remember having a jumbo ten-piece Sesame Street puzzle about fifteen years ago, I don't recall being too fond of puzzles. Rather I was interested in complex or real-life questions to be answered and challenges to pursue. For example, why are we getting on the train that just entered the station from the opposite direction? (Because not all trains reaching terminal stations go straight to the Train-yard.) What procedures do you follow when the fire alarm starts ringing? (As a child I took a liking to my then-apartment building's information guide. Not only did I learn about waving a cloth on your balcony if you can't evacuate a fire but made my sister laugh at the rule barring bringing furniture to our swimming pool.) Will Harry survive his encounter stopping Snape from snatching the Philospher's Stone? (You seldom need a spoiler alert to know one cannot survive book 6 without surviving book 1.) What mass of sodium hydroxide do you need to react one litre of 1.0 M (Moles per litre) hydrochloric acid to make salt water? (Abut 40 grams. Meanwhile I am not responsible for the result of any at-home experiments with home-grade Muriatic Acid.) What speed must the car maintain on the inclined ramp if it will stay on it? What plot will bridge my character between the first and last pages in my novel? What path does the road connecting a lecture on electric flux to fulfilling my envision of a fossil-free city take? Or, how do I stop the world in believing my worth as an incomplete jigsaw?

I don't know from where I heard it. I don't remember whether it was another person, the SONY HD crowding my living room or the screen of a Windows Vista projecting bits and binary digits from a blue Ethernet wire. Yet at a time in my life I heard that the puzzle piece symbolized Autism as a simile to that the Autistic way of seeing the world differently fits to us. Everything falls into place. Everything makes sense.

Imagine the twelve-year-old FA's perceptions. Imagine that a person having been bullied for not being able to shoot a basketball into a net and excluded for reasons I still don't understand, gaining attention for something she could do. Though I was a bit confused how everything to me fit into place, I was glad that the world gave me attention for something I could do.

Childhood innocence began to falter. I started wondering why Autism Speaks, an organization advocating to remove Autism from Society and setting its logo a blue puzzle piece, had 'abused the puzzle piece.' About a year ago, attempting an unsuccessful research for facts on Autism for my World Autism Day announcement at my school, I saw the glimpse of a person stating he wanted to find the "missing puzzle pieces." He was referring to his Autistic child. Aside from finding and distracting one of my high school's kindest teachers also on spare from a marking pile to complain to about until I felt better, I wondered why the man on the internet abused the puzzle piece sign. In fact, how were so many individuals and organizations abusing the puzzle piece sign? Had the sign but not the meaning itself become the norm in portraying Autism?

Trees in a thin soil are meant to uproot. For what it was meant, Autism Speaks, the man in the news and countless more organizations weren't abusing it. The puzzle piece was not meant to represent completeness but incompleteness. To the person that first introduced the puzzle piece idea to the human realm, I was not a person whose view fit in my own way, but one missing fundamental parts of being a person and I deserved to have my 'missing pieces found.'

Working on today's blog post
But Autistic people, including I, are not your incomplete jigsaw. We are simply those with their strengths, weaknesses, pet peeves, passions and quirks just like you. Yes, I have a hearing sensitivity which rendered sharing a bus with a group of teenagers yesterday almost impossible and sometimes has me reroute my commute. Yes, if you show me a violent movie (I'm already shuddering) I'll stay distraught for at least a few hours. But if you give me a musical keyboard, I can take advantage of my hearing sensitivity to fall into the emotion of a song. The same compassion rendering me distraught for several hours last month in leaving a lecture hall when an instructor showed a graphic video on an engineering disaster can jump in the face of inequality to offer some advocacy. Give me a Science class and my hand will almost glue to the air above it in an excitement and curiosity so extreme that in high school I had to ask all my teachers to let me answer all the questions for my birthday. Do I sound as though I'm missing anything? Therapy, perhaps? Squish a puzzle piece into the outer boundaries of a jigsaw? I think not.

It is not only with me. I have witnessed success and still see wide potential in a few other Autistic people I know or have seen. An Autistic person (that wasn't me) won my high school's Film Fest last year. This week I met two Autistic people, one a supervisor and another a Ph.D. student, in their lab lab. They showed me the diversity of their projects, toured me around their workspace, showed me a sewing machine which uses photos to embroider designs and two 3-D printers and engaged in a conversation with me about both being Autistic and their research. I come across stories of Autistic people with their talents in my twitter feed. I don't think I need to contact Hasbro. Definitely not Toys-R-Us either (with its Autism Speaks endorsement).

However ideas still persist that we, the spectrum, are incomplete. Lately I find it hard to read an online Toronto Star article without seeing an ad on the side saying "Causes of Autism" portraying the face of an angry child. (I believe I look nothing like him.) I wait for a train and a headline on the screens above me flashes an idea about Autism research or causes to me, even though I try not to look at them. Last year researching facts for my announcement had been almost impossible with the negativity swarming the internet. (It was one of the reasons I switched to faking that I had interviewed a person with Autism. But why Google Autism when you are Autistic yourself?) About two years ago, window-shopping a mall with my sister, my cousin and his grandparents, we entered Toys R Us at his insistence and I walked under a banner with the blue puzzle piece. (I believe it was I who convinced us to leave.) Even recently, without my mentioning of Autism, a person told me he didn't want to lower his voice for me so I can accustom to it and told me to keep it in mind during a job interview. (For the record a job interview yesterday mentioned nothing of it.) Plus I still remember the time my tenth-grade history teacher tried not to accommodate me, leaving me still with shudders from some of the videos that semester. These are only my experiences. Read upon E (from the Third Glance) as she tells how her parents constantly told her off for her Autistic qualities. Take a look at the Autism advocates being told by Lindt to contact Autism Speaks when asking why it supports it, as Easter approaches with its Lindt chocolate bunnies donating to Autism Speaks. We, those with Autism, need a world where our right to dignity and to be ourselves is accepted.

As World Autism Day approaches, I ask you - and urge you - to play your part in accelerating the perception shift from incompleteness to completeness, a perception shift as if we are transitioning from segregated bus seating to the first-come-first-serve-unless-you-really-need-it system on Toronto's Yonge-University-Sandwich. (Did I say sandwich? I meant Spadina.) How? The answer is simple. If you do not already defy the notion that we are incomplete, it's time to see us as complete. Have you already abandoned the incompleteness model before reading this post or never accepted it to begin with? Then congratulations. Keep it up. Look at an Autistic person through the same lens you use on your best friend, the ordinary student you teach in class, a client you serve, or the person at No Frills that pointed you to the potatoes when you couldn't find them. See us for the individuals we are rather than the stereotypes raised about us such as that we cannot have empathy (Surely an Autistic Rights blogger needs empathy to begin with?) or that we cannot communicate or that our ability to focus on our passions have no benefit. Embrace the power in our differences, the power in communicating in alternative ways when non-verbal, to demonstrate empathy while avoiding eye contact or selectively choosing those to hug, or the excitement in the stutter responding after an instructor notices my hand magnetized to the air in a 12 PM lecture. See the beauty in the power of difference.

Most importantly, do not eye me as though I am a clump of grey, painted, processed-cellulose shapes with a gap in the middle. As World Autism Day approaches on April 2nd, I will rephrase a statement trending amongst the community of Autistic advocates. I am not a puzzle piece. I am not an incomplete puzzle either. Regardless of my thought process, what better identity do I deserve than a person?

- FA

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Saturday, 21 March 2015

World Down Syndrome Day

A mother and her daughter with Down Syndrome. Taken from:
http://www.insidehalton.com/community-story/5517422-halton-down-syndrome-association-recognizes-world-down-syndrome-day/ /Screen_Shot_2015-03-20_at_12.56.19_PM___Content.jpg

Alongside the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, today is World Down Syndrome Day.

Yes, those with Down Syndrome are genetically different from those that are not. For those never touching Biology after tenth grade Science (or the highest-level Biology you were required to take where you live), the majority of the human population - most likely including you - were born with forty-six chromosomes (DNA molecules), receiving twenty-three from each parent. The majority of those with Down Syndrome are born with an extra copy of Chromosome 21 from one of their parents (Trisomy 21). There are also other types of Down Syndrome including mosaicism, a fraction of cells contain a third Chromosome 21, and Translocation, part of Chromosome 21 latching to another chromosome.

Yet with an extra chromosome, those with Down Syndrome are similar to those that are not. To summarize in a sentence, those with Down Syndrome can achieve heights and therefore live fulfilling lives on their own. Take a look at the article posted on National Geographic by Melissa Riggio on Down Syndrome before she died of Leukemia in 2008. Riggio reminded me of any other teenager. She disliked her sisters taking her CDs and she was on her school swim team. She had a tougher time at school than the average person yet it further made her human for she had her weaknesses just as the rest of us. She had her niche of writing poetry and singing too, just as we have talents and passions. I am confident she could have been anyone.

Stigma to Down Syndrome existed since those named 'mentally retarded' were institutionalized where they were mistreated or despised by doctors and therefore not operated for life-saving treatments or abandoned. It continued into the 1980s at which one would call a "Disabilities Rights Movement" gained momentum. Yet we are far from the gold - or bronze medal. Or steel or aluminum. (What, are you expecting me to rank all the known alloys and choose one?)

I want you to imagine being the person knowing that "70 and 90 percent of parents given a prenatal diagnosis opt to have an abortion" of fetuses with Down Syndrome. I want you to revisit the article in the National Geographic and read Melissa Riggio: "When I first started to work on this story, I thought maybe I shouldn’t do it. I thought you might see that I have Down syndrome, and that you wouldn’t like me." I want you recall an article on the news about children with Down Syndrome being bullied and educators dismissing the event as being outside their scope, or educators themselves imposing restrictions on children with Down Syndrome. (I would post the links but haven't been able to find them.)

I know discussing abortion rights is almost stepping into a waterpark in fifteen-degrees ambient temperature and being anti-Polar-Bear-Swim. But I must address the stigma toward those with Down Syndrome, the idea that those with Down Syndrome are challenging persons that cannot have achievements and are difficult to oversee, completely dependent, inept and costly, are still inhaled. What does the stigma do? It reaches those that know a person or people with Down Syndrome. It suggests to them that they need to be segregated or placed where they can be 'solved' for the time being. It suggests to educators to reduce expectations for a student and therefore not see what the student can achieve. It suggests to parents that their child is problematic. It suggests to doctors that they have an inept patient. What does suggest do to those that may give birth to a person with Down Syndrome? It suggests to them to fear the baby waiting, the baby waiting to be born, that any hopes of the child they wanted are gone. To some it suggests to add another fetus to the 90% of Down Syndrome fetuses being aborted. What does it to do those with Down Syndrome themselves? It nurtures an environment of low esteem and a dignity unreached, seemingly dangling at the topmost branch of a tree but the bark being too slippery to climb.

It is therefore time to build the stairway - actually ramp, to keep it accessible - to the topmost branch. It is time to reconsider the status-quo perception of those with Down Syndrome and to rebuild a new perception. It is time show that those with Down Syndrome are worth the company of their dignity and confidence. It is time to show that those with Down Syndrome are worth the company of success. Which they are.

It is simple yet difficult. To change the perceptions of multiple people is a daunting challenge. Yet it can start with and be passed on through the simple. Share positivity about those with Down Syndrome. Seek to include them and to bring out the best in them. Pass it on. We are already making several strides. Unlike searching Autism into the Google Search Bar and flooding your screen with the first page linking to Autism Speaks, other pro-cure links and stigmatizing stories from Google News, typing Down Syndrome in the Google Search Bar yields a few more positive outcomes. (I say only a few more.) Reading upon the Walrus for Writer's Craft assignments about a year ago (my Writer's Craft teacher referred us to the Walrus in multiple assignments requiring critical thinking and sophistication) I saw the photo essay of Down Syndrome and its positive portrayal as the title questioned the large number of abortions. I believe I see the steel and lumber (actually, let's choose a wood substitute. I'm almost a recycling enthusiast and want more carbon sinks than sources) needed to finish the ramp. It is time to become the toolbox.

Last, to those with Down Syndrome, I address you. I respect you and today I celebrate you. I celebrate your extra Chromosome 21 or translocated genes. I know there is nothing with you or your population. Everybody has weaknesses and everybody has strengths. You are extraordinary talented people just as the rest of us. Remember to hold onto your confidence - we'll make sure we build the ramp.

- FA

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Tuesday, 17 March 2015


I am resisting the urge to begin with Mr. Shakespeare's cliched quote. "What's in a name?" I won't discuss Montagues, Capulets and Friar Lawrences. But as we approach the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, I would like to talk about nomenclature.

If writing wasn't my passion, the frequency of Google Book and BabyCenter.ca searches for naming lists would overwhelm. Reading down a sample on Google Books several months ago, I found for my current novel Montsho which was a name from Africa. I benchmarked Syed and Hafsah off those I have personally met. But having unconsciously internalized naming my characters for their ethnic or religious background, it is more than walking out of my school at 11 AM or finally discovering the meanings to my friends' names.

Unless I am speaking to a person from a racial minority, reading a piece of nonfiction, reading a resource from another country or writing a saturated solution of words, I rarely hear the name of a person from a racial minority. In the simplest actions from display names on Best Buy catalogue-printed home phones to job interview articles I only see Anglophone names. John Smiths on handheld phones. Bobs being interviewed. Very few Aishas, Tanishes or Zhangs . I believe names of racial minorities are underrepresented in today's developed society. Furthermore, within different backgrounds' representative public populations are name misrepresentations themselves.

Since kindergarten I encountered those whose culture of their last name contrasted with the culture of their first name. Once in a while we discovered their "Chinese name" which they were called at home, knowing them for their "English name" which they were called at school. One of my sister's former friends, South-Asian-descended, had an "English name" for school and a "real name" her parents called her. When I attend events on campus or introduce myself to team members on a project I hear, "My name is -" (a name inserted) "- but you can call me -" (another name inserted). I sometimes discovered only (though suspected earlier) seeing their email address or the moment they put their real name on a group assignment paper. Beyond it I wondered why some of those that were Aboriginal had Anglophone names as surely their culture didn't event names so similar to another culture by themselves. Surely you'd need to be in Europe or have connections such as both Islam, Christianity and Judaism using the name Sara(h) to have such a similar name.

Immigrating to and being born in countries where the Anglophone or Latin-based government declares the national language a Latin-based language and Anglophone-based names such as John, Kelly or Robert are widespread, many change their names to improve their integration into their culture or better earn a living. In a study released in 2009, researchers submitted false, similarly qualified resumes, some with Anglophone names and some with non-Anglophone names. They found that an applicant who appeared to be white would "send nine applications before receiving a positive response of either an invitation to an interview or an encouraging telephone call," said the Guardian's Rajeev Sayal. "Minority candidates with the same qualifications and experience had to send 16 applications before receiving a similar response."

Don't get me wrong. I appreciate Latin-based and Anglophone names. Some of the closest people in my life have Latin-based and Anglophone names and they render me a watermelon-loving-and-engineering gratitude machine. Some even supported me as I began my blog. A dystopia I wrote a year ago therefore held my antagonist Alejandro, heir to Alexandro, meant to have a son if I had not despised his existence. Entering Torontonian street names into Google Search I found another character in my to-be-written novel, Eglantine, a type of British flower or a Biology teacher. As for my protagonist I am considering a Latin-based middle name (which, similar to a person's name I know, I shall conceal). I neither prefer nor devalue Latin-based names, including Anglophone names, to non-Latin-based names. When I write, I strive that the As, Bs and Cs on my screen flash in the As, Bs and Cs that the world's cultures and religions brought to my story setting. I believe we need both non-racial-minorities and racial minorities to understand the spectrum of nomenclature.

Whether with a monetary price tag to its head or indirect, no person's worth on this planet deserves to be based on their stereotype, the hypothetical lack of melanin in their name, than rather what they offer to success. No person deserves to be on the receiving end of the perception that that one's worth from childhood to the day one seeks a living, pays off debt and saves for retirement is based on the combination of characters in one's name rather than the combinations of the strengths in the person's character. It is time to stop weighing two pure samples of copper and assuming one is an alloy. It is time to build a system where we are measured by what we contribute rather than what evolution contributed to our skin.

When hearing "My name is -" something "- but you can call me -" another-something, professors and TAs state to "go by the name you want to be called" with little effect. Yet it is a start. What else can we do? Answers are simple. Don't comment on others' names negatively for the culture or religion they are from. Don't frown upon a person with a name representing a racial minority with none more than a few letters off an alphabet to judge. Are you an employer? Forget about what the name reminds you of. What do the qualifications suggest? If they suggest a future coworker, perhaps it is time to set up an interview. There is so much you can do in your role, whether it be a manager, an employer, a supervisor, a counsellor, a teacher, a TA, a coworker, a classmate or lecture-hall mate, a friend, a published author, a home phone marketing team member, a future author or just another person to start a culture of not tolerating, not accepting but embracing the range of human nomenclature.

- FA

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Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Fairness: The Parallel Intersection of Gender Rights

This weekend held the International Women's Day.

Movements across the world focused on women's rights. Fair wages and hiring opportunities. Eliminated violence. A woman myself, I want the gender gap smaller than a positive hydrogen atom have large ambitions in Engineering (Already I have large ambitions in sustainability) and to stay safe.

Today, though, let me highlight two ideas lingering in today's urbanized, developed-country atmosphere.

Focus on women and their stereotype. Conservative, emotional, slender and blemish-free. Flat bellies. Little fat to skin. Not a pimple to the skin. Show your feelings. Aggression like a stopped train.

Where do the statistics lead? 10 million women are unsatisfied with their bodies. Photoshopped models' photos on billboards, sometimes a noticeable ribcage. Even when the store Jacob stopped digitally editing models' photos in 2010, it would "continue to digitally even out skin tones and erase tattoos and scars." Meanwhile the average woman in Canada earns 80% of what the average Canadian man earns. This is where women's rights dangle.

Focus on men and their stereotype. Broad, muscular shoulders and chests on the replicated mannequin when passing Tommy Hilfiger. Authoritative. Computers chips. Math. Construction sites and pylons.

Where do the statistics lead? First, forty-three percent of men in the United States are "dissatisfied with their bodies." Males with an eating disorder are unlikelier to reach for help and also regularly misdiagnosed. Men's rights are also below the zenith, aren't they now?

I see a link between men's rights and women's rights. History has portrayed the man as tougher and more resilient than the woman. How many of you have seen a child flexing an arm to demonstrate their strength? How many of you blink against the tears in your eyes to yield against a non-neutral emotion, the idea lingering that emotional suppression is a sign of resilience? The idea that men are stronger than women and therefore deserve a higher level of privilege than women is, I believe, the root cause of gender inequality.

The Women's Right Movement is centered on both ending the differences in inequality between women and men and eliminating inequality altogether. We need to keep it up. Yet we must remember: Where women fall, men fall. Where men gain, we fall if women lose. Where women gain, we fall if men lose. Inequality will end when we can all gain.

- FA

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