Comments by Margin Tianya Zheng

Showing 5 of 5 comments.

  • Larry, I really appreciate your emphasis on the wholeness of human, which really cannot and should not be pinned down by words. Words are such imperfect tools for understanding and expressing ourselves. As a musician, I find the imprecise yet expressive nature of sound a little more freeing than the pretense of precision that language presents, but even music can only be a time-bound, linear representation of complexly non-linear being.

    Growing up, I despised identity politics, feeling that my spirituality and fluid nature of being was far more important than social labels. I still am critical of identity politics and would never define myself *in essence* as queer, non-binary, Mad, Chinese-American, or the like. Yet those words do describe me, and I live in a society in which even if I personally shirk from social identity labels, such labels will be applied to me by others, often in incorrect and uncomfortable ways. I hate to define my gender as anything, even under such a broad “non-label” of a label as “non-binary,” for a label it still is. But currently in our society, the socially enforced default label is “cisgender,” and I do not wish to be assigned to such a default. To name myself as non-binary is thus an act that empowers me to create a space for myself where, despite the profusion of labels in our society, I can strive to be simply myself.

    It is precisely because of my disdain for labels that I have returned to my childhood language of my yin and yang. For that was my native language of fathoming my ever-dynamic self, and it grounds me in my deep sense of spirituality. Yinyang ren is not merely a social label; it is a personal and spiritual aspiration. This is why I write this in my essay:

    “[F]or me, a person of multifaceted, fluid polarities, [the term] means so much more. I am yinyang ren: non-binary, Mad, neuroqueer, Han Chinese, an analytical and creative being, a deeply spiritual soul. I have always been, and I am always becoming.”

    Yinyang ren is a language that allows me to function to some degree within a society obsessed with social categorizations (and the discrimination against persons of particular categorizations) yet also remain in touch with what I know is my true essence, which is unspeakable. I am never fully yin or fully yang: I am always flowing something in between, the precise point unmeasurable and unknowable. I can only strive to be, and more importantly, to be always becoming.

    Report comment

  • I agree that the concept of “normal” is problematic and that ideally we’d just all be people with all sorts of idiosyncrasies that are universally accepted. That’s why personally I wouldn’t say that any person is actually “neurotypical,” but I would say that society is designed with neurotypicality as an *imposed* norm (rather than a naturally occurring one; as an analogy, think of the social construct of race and how whiteness is made to be a norm). No one actually fits in with all of society’s norms, but some people certainly feel harmed or excluded by those norms to a greater degree than others. I think neurodivergence is more of a subjective experience of clashing frequently with social expectations rather than an objective measure of how “different” someone is from a particular norm. So yeah, I agree with you that people shouldn’t gatekeep others from claiming the identity of neurodivergence for themselves or try to determine a list of objective criteria for identifying as neurodivergent. As I wrote in my essay, I find it meaningful for me to identify as neurodivergent without being entirely sure of what diagnoses, if any, my experience best maps to. It is a social identity that can sometimes interact with biomedical or even bioessentialist conceptions, but it does not have to. I do agree that the word “neurodivergent” can sound like it implies a statistical or bioessentialist framework, and I would welcome alternatives that don’t have such connotations!

    Report comment

  • I am sorry to have offended you in my usage of that word. People’s feelings towards words vary, and certain words may feel empowering to some and be an offensive slur to others. The word “queer” is one example of this. A large number of people have reclaimed the term, which not so long ago was only used as a slur, to describe their identity in an empowering way. Thus “queer” is nowadays frequently used, especially among younger people, as an umbrella term for all gender and sexual minorities. But there are still many people who do not and cannot identify themselves as “queer,” preferring terms like “gay” (which can describe a specific sexual orientation or can be an umbrella term), for to them, “queer” may still be a slur that might have been personally used against them, or it might just simply not resonate with them as an identity. That is valid, and others should respect that and use the identity language that those people prefer. Similarly, although to my knowledge “neurodivergent” has not been commonly used as a slur, it can certainly have negative and offensive connotations for some people. However, it is a term that originated in the Autistic community as a way with which some people felt empowered to describe themselves, since unlike the language of “disorders,” it does not point to something that is “wrong” or “defective” about a person, but rather simply says that they “diverge” from socially-imposed norms. Autistic people have generally given permission for people who are not Autistic, but who also identify with experiences of conflicting with socially-imposed norms, to use the term to describe themselves as well. This certainly does not mean that every person with such experiences or even every Autistic person specifically must identify as neurodivergent, but many people do, and that is just as valid as your personal discomfort with that term. If you are comfortable with sharing, what language do you use to describe yourself? Perhaps there can be alternatives to the word “neurodivergent” that people like you may popularize. Language evolves, so who knows, maybe in 10 or so years “neurodivergent” becomes phased out and your own preferred language becomes what is commonly used. Either way, your feelings and preferences are valid!

    Report comment