Gender Stories

Neuroqueer Theory with Nick Walker

October 31, 2022 Alex Iantaffi Season 4 Episode 53
Gender Stories
Neuroqueer Theory with Nick Walker
Show Notes Transcript

Nick Walker is a queer, transgender, flamingly autistic writer and educator, best known for her foundational work on the neurodiversity paradigm and Neuroqueer Theory. She is a professor of psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies, senior aikido instructor at the Aiki Arts Center in Berkeley, author of the book Neuroqueer Heresies, and co-creator of the urban fantasy webcomic Weird Luck.

 The Neuroqueer website: https://neuroqueer.com

The Weird Luck webcomic: https://weirdluck.net

My Twitter: https://twitter.com/WalkerSensei

My Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/nickwalkersensei

https://neuroqueer.com/neuroqueer-heresies/

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Hosted by Alex Iantaffi
Music by Maxwell von Raven
Logo by Lior Allen

Musical Intro:

There's a whole lotta things I want to tell you about. Adventures dangerous and queer. Some you could guess and some I've only hinted at, so please lend me your ear.

Narrator:

Everyone has a relationship with gender. What's your story? Hello and welcome to Gender stories with your host, Dr. Alex Iantaffi.

Alex Iantaffi:

Hello, and welcome to another episode of gender stories. I know I always say I'm thrilled to sit with my interviewees, but I really, really am and today I'm sitting with Nick Walker, who is a queer, transgender flamingly autistic writer and educator, best known for our foundational work on the neurodiversity paradigm, and neuro queer theory. She's a professor of psychology at the California Institute of integral studies, senior aikido instructor at the iKey Art Center in Berkeley, authored the book Neuroqueer Heresies, which is a fantastic book, and you should definitely get a hold of it. There's gonna be a link on how to order it on the episode description. And she's also the CO creator of the urban fantasy webcomic. We're in Slack, which is fantastic. And there's gonna be links to all of the amazing things that Nick does on the episode summary. So welcome, Nick is so good to have you here.

Nick Walker:

Oh, thank you so much for having me here, Alex.

Alex Iantaffi:

And so I know they took us a while to get together, but it was worth it. Because now I'm really excited about this conversation.

Nick Walker:

Me too. I'm looking forward to it.

Alex Iantaffi:

You are like multi talented. You're a scholar, your web comic writer. You've written both fiction and nonfiction. You're also professor, you're an aikido instructor. I feel less busy just reading your bio, which is great. I'll do too many things. And I was like, kindred spirit. Book is neuro queer Harris's which combines both kind of your password and your current work, I believe, right?

Nick Walker:

Yes.

Alex Iantaffi:

So yes, let's start by telling the listener What does in Europe queer means? Because, yes, I don't know if the listeners have an understanding

Nick Walker:

of what Yes. Good question. That is a good place to start. So, so yeah, I've been playing with this, what I'm calling neuro queer theory. And it's about extending the concept of queer theory into the realm of neurodiversity. And so we have my my work for many years has been around neurodiversity. And what I see as an emerging neurodiversity paradigm, sort of a cultural paradigm shift. So neuro diversity is the diversity among human minds, the way different people's minds work differently, as a concept that originally emerged in the Autistic rights movement, and has spread outward from there. And so I mean, a lot of my work is around this cultural paradigm shift from what I call the pathology paradigm, which takes says, basically, there's one normal kind of mind, and anything that diverges from normal is pathological. It's those sort of disorder or defects. And so I've seen that what what's starting to happen is a cultural paradigm shift towards this neurodiversity paradigm, which says, No, there's no such thing as a normal mind, just like there's no such thing as a normal culture or a normal ethnicity or a normal gender. And there's just diversity. And so we, we can embrace this diversity and of course, you know, we'll look at how to alleviate psychological suffering, but also not not create psychological suffering by pathologizing people simply for having minds that were differently from what what are the dominant culture says as normal? So, so I've done work around that and also, you know, being, being queer have been very into queer theory and understanding gender as a socially, a socially instilled and socially enforced performance and And so. So that's come together for me in this neuro queer theory. And what happened in 2008, I was a grad student in the field of somatic psychology, which is one of the fields that I teach and work in. And I was I was writing a paper just as a just a grad student paper for a class on this experience of having to when I was a kid, having to hide the way that I naturally moved, because I naturally move like an autistic person. And I was bullied for that, and pathologized and punished by adults for it. And so when I was a little kid, I was learning to do what's now what's now referred to as masking, hiding my natural embodiment, and putting on this performance of neuro normativity. And so I was writing about that, and it, it came to me that it was actually very similar to what I had done around gender, where, you know, I was really only recently I've I have I understood that I met a trans woman, I'm really, you know, haven't even begun to medically transition yet. But, but as a kid, definitely I was clearly gender non conforming and not playing my assigned masculine role and having to hide my femininity as a child and it got buried for a long time. And I was just seeing how those were similar and overlapped. And so neuro queer theory at its at its root has two principles. And one is that neuro normativity functions like hetero normativity as a socially learned and socially imposed and enforced performance, that just as just as the dominant culture really pervasively pushes everyone into these assigned the heteronormative binary gender roles. It also pushes people into the performance of certain ways of being normal and abnormal in, in a neurocognitive sense, act like you have a normal mind. And so that the neuro normativity functions the same way that what we call, you know, in the neurodiversity movement, people use this term neurotypical meaning people who are within the dominant, you know, the dominant performance of the normal who stay within the dominant culture standards of what it means to have a normal mind. That's called neuro typicality. But there is no such thing as a neurotypical brain. There's no, there's nobody actually it's not a type of brain that people have. It's really just, it's a way that people learn to perform. And it's a performance that fits some people better than others, just like a heteronormative binary gender role is a reasonably good fit for some people. And for some of us, it just doesn't fit at all, and we can't live inside of it. And so I was saying, so that's the first principle there was that neuro normativity works like heteronormativity and could also be queered, like hetero normativity. You we were heading activity and we can queer neuro normativity as well. By by being our own unique, peculiar selves and allowing ourselves to embody that and create neuro queer spaces and such. The second principle of neuro queer theory that was at neuro normativity and heteronormativity are actually just two facets of the same thing, that they're they're intertwined with each other and can't really be fully separated. That if you look at when, you know, when when people take autistic children and try to make them act like they're not autistic, and they try to, they say be normal. What are they they're really saying, Be athlegen Norm All heteronormative boy or act like a normal, or no bit of girl, nobody is nobody is saying act like a normal, non binary gender fluid child, it's always the neuro normativity and the heteronormativity are always mixed with each other. And so in a sense, if you queer one fine enough, you're also queering the other. So that's, that's the foundation. That's the neuro neuro queer theory that I'm playing with and just putting out into the world right now. And it's really excitedly catching on.

Alex Iantaffi:

It is it really is, I mean, I'm a mental health provider, which is so definitely I know how we're trained to like stigmatize any kind of, you know, anything that's non normative, right? You are cognitively and yes, I love the way you were describing this just spaciousness. I'm also Somatic Experiencing practitioner when you were talking. Yeah, I was thinking about all the ways in which I've written about our kind of this region, gender binary, makes us contract and just not individually, but also collectively, in our collective so much and, and as you were talking, I was like, yes, your normativity does the same thing, right. And it causes so much suffering, right? People trying to fit into neuro typicality causes so much suffering. And then when there is kind of, when I read about neuro queerness it feels so expansive. Just as you know, gender expansiveness feels so expansive and spacious and we can like, take up space. And yeah, it just feels so much freeing for everyone. Ya know, like, I feel like even neurotypical folks, whatever that means, sometimes my really benefit from some neuro queering actually will definitely benefit from some neuro creating, what do you think? Do you think that really, neuro queerness is really to the benefit of everyone? Potentially?

Nick Walker:

Yes, very much, very much. And that's a central point, I make that in that. The final section of that book, you know, so the book nuclear heresies, you know, I, a lot of the material is sort of some of it is my older work and commentary on the older work and a lot of sense about the neurodiversity paradigm and autism and autistic empowerment. And I move into this final section where I really go in depth into the neuro queer theory and put it out there and, you know, detail writing, for my first time, I'm doing that in print. And, but one of the things that I emphasize is that this is for everyone, and that this is a big shift in terms of how we consider neurodiversity. That neuro queer theory really represents a shift there, because most work on neurodiversity, you know, we have on there's a whole emerging field of neuro diversity studies and some of my years or you know, previous work has helped to lay the foundations for that. But so much of it is all of it really has been about the idea of specific types of minds, the idea that you're born, you're born neurotypical which again, there's not really such a thing as a neurotypical brain or you're born, you're born autistic, you know, which, when you know, is born autistic, autistic people are born autistic, but you know, you're born with particular, a particular like, neuro type is the idea. And I don't fully buy that, I think that's limiting in the same way, that it's liberating to say, either you're born straight, or you're born gay. It like, I mean, that's, you know, that was a necessary step in the gay rights movement to say, okay, so people can you can be born gay, and we got to accept that, that people are that way. But I think that but it was a, it's a limitation to to say people have to fit into one of those categories, because we can be queer in so many fabulous ways. And, yeah, that's the thing with, we see with hetero, when we look at heteronormativity like, even if a person is happy with their assigned gender, you know, they're cisgender and they're heterosexual. Still, the socially imposed limitations of what it means to act like have to act like a woman or act like a man you know, to follow these cultural stereotypes. We get this terrible like, you know, women's powering it so restricted and, and men are forced into this toxic masculinity where they have to constantly prove their manhood and that's a terrible way to live and so everybody benefits from a looseness. So around gender and a queering of gender and recognize, recognizing that we can, we can break out of cultural gender roles and start playing with them and getting everybody benefits from getting a little more fluid a little more queer with that stuff, even if they stay, you know, fully heterosexual and their sex lives. And the very much the same thing is the case around neuro queering, that, that neuro normativity is a is a cage like heteronormativity and it, it restricts people and everybody benefits from expanding their consciousness in in some way and being able to, you know, not having to feel constrained by having to seem normal. Yeah, people benefit. I mean, and, and I look at defining it broadly, really, it's like, if you're intentionally altering your gender performance creatively, you know, that's, that's queering and it's not about you don't have to be born gay, you can just sort of say, well, I'm not, I want to, you know, okay, you know, I've been assigned male and I feel like intersexual male, but I want to put on a dress and wear makeup, I want to not act or I want to just not enact toxic masculinity, I want to be fluid and how my role in my relationships or my my role in my sex life. And I think the same thing with neuro normativity I, you know, neuro normativity I mean, in the sense of people who are altering their consciousness with lots of psychedelics are neuro queering, you know, they're, they're really letting their letting their consciousness turned into something outside of the norm. And that, of course, historically, you know, psychedelics are illegal, because that did become so threatening to the dominant culture. And I see that as a form of queering. I also see, you know, I see my Zen practice and my Aikido practice as forms of neuro queering as well, you know, they're there. They alter the brain, they alter consciousness in a way that gets went outside of the boxes of, you know, just the ordinary cultural trance. And I think just everybody benefits from that. And we, I think we should be, you know, less concerned with types of minds and more like, well, how can you know, what, can we all learn from each other? And how can I, oh, here's a person who's whose mind works very differently from mine, and their embodiment is very different. And can I experiment with trying that out myself and see what it does to my own consciousness? Rather than having these firm lines of autistic versus neurotypical or gay versus straight?

Alex Iantaffi:

Absolutely, I love all of that. I feel like I want to say, founder different things, you know, one is like, I know one that when I was reading your book, that was one of the things I love this idea that this is really to the benefit of everybody, this is really the ride, that's very much kind of what I write in terms of gender, and that rigid gender binary is traumatic for everybody. Benefit, right from just moving away from this kind of colonial patriarchal, racist kind of model. And, you know, we've, we've been relying on biological essentialism for so long, right? This is how we are born, this is how we are. And that denies like, what we know about neuroplasticity. It denies what we know about the relationship. We are relational beings. So in relation with the environment, you know, you have been, like exploring, like, what does masking do to you, when you do it for like, 50 years, that's the conversation I'm having with my therapists like, right, how much of a master now early and also trauma contributes to that, because if there's no safety are gonna, like, hide everything that you travel, right. And so to me, this is so appealing, because there's so much healing, right? Just like in trauma healing, we want the flexibility of the nervous system and that expansion. For me, that's there's just so much healing in the study of neuro queerness. I don't know if that makes sense.

Nick Walker:

Oh, it completely. Absolutely. completely in line with my intention. And yes, absolutely. It's a wonderful as I see you, you get it, you get what

Alex Iantaffi:

sounds great. Exactly. And I know one of the things when people talk about neurodiversity, or autism, especially gender becomes a thing, right? Yeah, even when I was getting trained, like this is how autism manifests in boys. And this is how autism manifests in girls. And Nothing is a nothing is that simple be? I mean, I was very confused just by many things, including gender. But this was also confusing because I was like, well, that is that is so reductive. Yes. And so I am really interested in kind of talking about a bit more about this idea of what happens to gender in a Euro clearing paradigm. Right? Does it even matter that? Is gender even relevant anymore? Or not? Or? I'm just curious about your thoughts on this. I think

Nick Walker:

gender is very relevant, I think it is, I think that it's moving into, you know, a concept of gender that's, that moves away, as you say, it moves completely away from biological essentialism, completely uncouple it from from, you know, concepts of biological sex. And of course, we're seeing that with that the anti trans movement with the whole trend that you know, transphobic panic that's happening in in society today. That, you know, the, the transphobes are calling themselves gender critical. Now, for instance, they're, they're really what they're discovering is, you know, I mean, the whole, the whole concept of gender, as distinct from sex, they realize is more our territory than theirs, that, that, Jen because gender is so easily queer. And so it's almost like they've they've moved from trying to maintain binary gender to even just rejecting the idea of gender Oh, no, it's only biological sex, there's, there's, there's no gender just reject, because they're starting to discover the the wild the fluidity of this and that it is, it is a creative medium, and that I think, is where this is going is that gender, gender, and cognition, gender, and, you know, the realm, the realm of gender and the realm of neuro diversity are both playgrounds, they're both they're both works, media that we can work in creatively and to shape ourselves and so you talked about new neuroplasticity, you know, that's where, like, the whole neuro queer theory idea works like it doesn't maybe, you know, you're born with certain neurocognitive tendencies and proclivities. And that may be something as sharply defined as autism or something, you know, more ambiguous and something within, you know, that falls within what, you know, the dominant culture would call normal, but there's still these, whatever, however, when it's born, there still is neuroplasticity, that lets us alter our consciousness and all sorts of exciting ways and customize it. And gender also can be customized so much. And there's just and I think that's, that's what it is, this is a the combination of both cognition like the body, mind, in general, and then the, the whole realm of gender in particular, our fields of possibility and fields of creative possibility. And I'm about approaching them in a spirit of creative play.

Alex Iantaffi:

I love that because also, you know, there's all that possibility in the liminal space, too, right? Where does one identity and the one that one begin right away? My oldest kid, and I talk a lot about when dad's autism and and where do you get to become considered neurotypical? And how much of it as if you perform according to capitalist values, right? If you do well in school, and if you don't get into too much social travel, then you know, you couldn't possibly take for example, right, and if you're a certain gender, and so a lot of actually well, how we had those borders is so linked to what we believe is we should be able to do should in airports, right as humans in this kind of capitalist society, and I think that, in a way, this neuro queerness paradigm challenges that and so, I'm really interested in how you see this paradigm contributing to kind of this count, almost counter this kind of rising, re rising, I should say, fascist paradigms that we're seeing right like the gender critical folks and mean that I think that a lot of people would agree There is a rise of fascism globally. Yes. You know, maybe it's because I come from a country that was highly impacted by it. Yes. So yeah, I'm just I don't know if I'm making sense. But I'm curious about this idea of in your awareness as kind of this counter force to this kind of rising fascist paradigm,

Nick Walker:

I think very much. So not that not that we can, you know, counter fascism, just with queering, you know, countering fascism. underfoot, right? If only unfortunately, countering fascism takes really drastic measures as we did in World War Two, you know, it really it really has to be stood up to in a very direct way. But But yes, it's very much I think, I think it very clearly is part of something that's happened. And I think this neuro queer neuro queer theory, and just sort of the increase, increasing queerness, in in that we're seeing in general people being more open about the queerness, more openly transgender, in the younger generations, especially. All of this, the neurodiversity movement, I think there's something happening, there's something happening, that is the opposite end of the spectrum from fascism. And in a sense, fascism is a reaction against all of this. There. There were a bunch, after, you know, after World War Two, when World War Two had a profound impact, of course, on the field of psychology, because people wanted to ask this question, you know, how could people go along with it? How can people go along with the Holocaust? And what is it that draws people to fascism? And that's still, of course, a highly relevant question. And so there were a lot of, you know, psychologists got into that. And one of the things that theories have developed was this idea of the authoritarian personality. And what are the traits of the authoritarian personality? And the biggest feature of the authoritarian personality of you know, people who were studying it found was a fear of fear of uncertainty. Yes, they were scared, they're driven by the sphere of ambiguity. And so this this authoritarian personality, likes to read reduce things, it takes this reductionist approach, how to reduce things and keep them simple. So we can be clear about everything and not have to deal with the, the fear of ambiguity and the uncertainty that comes with it. And so that include that ends up including a fear of cultural diversity, because a lot of the fact that, you know, there's so many people with different cultures who have different ways of doing things, and you know, what is never entirely certain, you know, what's this? What is this customer here? What does it mean, when this person does this? What does that mean in their culture, there's ambiguity and uncertainty around it. And that there's just a constant uncertainty and ambiguity about human difference and navigating that field. And therein lies the opportunity for learning and creativity and but the authoritarian personalities, fears the ambiguity and uncertainty that's necessary for learning to happen. And that really shows up around gender that beta authoritarianism is a universally associated with adherence to strict gender norms and strict gender roles so that they can be certain exactly which gender box everyone fits into, and how do you prove what's the right way to perform this, who is supposed to be attracted to who and they want certainty around it and are very threatened by the uncertainty. And my colleague, alpha Alfonso Montori is one of my dear dear friends and colleagues and was chair of my doctoral dissertation committee. Montori did some lovely work on the authoritarian personality, contrasting it, seeing the the it's it's the opposite end of the spectrum for the authoritarian personalities, the creative personality, and that the creative personality is a seeks ambiguity and uncertainty because that liminal space of uncertainty is where creativity happens. And so highly creative people and cultural spaces tend to be more gender fluid and have you know, more willing to blur and crossing eliminate gender lines and play with it. And you know, the creative personality embraces cultural diversity and difference in general as Oh, this is an opportunity to to learn, wow, this is exciting. I have no idea what's going on here. I don't understand this. This culture I'm encountering at all, I don't understand this person's gender at all, what an exciting opportunity to grow. And it's the opposite reaction from the authoritarian reaction of of, I must impose certainty, I must destroy this thing that threatens my sense of certainty in in house where everything stands. So I think yeah, I mean, neurocrit theory is definitely the far end, you know, fascism is the extreme end of the authoritarian spectrum, we must crush anything that makes us feel uncertain. And the, you know, and hold on to these rigid ideological certainties, even without even examining them rationally, because even that opens up too much uncertainty. And then the opposite, and I think is all you know, the neuro queer stuff is the art represents the, the opposite end of let's continually, like, identity and culture and such, is all is all fluid and all here to creatively experiment with an explorer. And the differences between us and the, you know, this spectrum of human human diversity is a continually a place where we can learn and grow and learn from each other and borrow from each other. And, and even. I mean, the thing about neuro queer theory, and where I'm going with it, in terms of going to the opposite extreme from the from fascism, is if you look at most social justice work, it's about accepting, you know, embracing diversity, saying, you know, that words, this cosmopolitan spirit of just let us, let us embrace and accept human diversity and, you know, stop oppressing people for being different. And yea, there's lots of difference among people. I pushing it a little bit further, saying, let's not only embrace the scope of human diversity, let's expand it. Let's expand the range of possible gender expressions and possible modes of neurocognitive functioning even more than it is like let's, let's not just accept weird people. Let's How can we get weirder? How can we creatively get weirder?

Alex Iantaffi:

And how much healing possibility is in there? Right? I remember, in my advanced module for somatic experiencing, one of my teachers Kathy Cain talked about, you can tell when, you know, as we're healing from trauma, we embrace our weird, right around the class of folks during somatic training for three years. And you know, those people on their gym ball and most people like under a blanket and swaying on the side, and I'm like, yes, absolutely. As you know, that kind of flexibility of the nervous system that allows us to listen to ourselves and go, What do I need right now to be present, to be engaged or for my body to be comfortable, right? It's like that expansion into possibility of relationship with yourself and with others and with the world. And yeah, there's just so much exciting possibility. And it's it makes a lot of sense for me that Fascism is kind of aligned with this tutorial. Authoritarian authoritarians, at least, that's a really hard word with my non English as a first language, but the end is still colonial. Right? So it's about control, control of land control of bodies, you know, control, control or control. That's that and here, I'm hearing what happens if we actually don't try to control each other. Right, exactly, which is also kind of abolitionist. It is. A lot of control over the chatter happens through policing, right? Yes, there was I'm like a threat. It was a public thread on Twitter. So I don't feel that talking about it here. But like it was a queer family, you know, that encounter that really homophobic man on this train. And the first thing that people asked was, did he get arrested? And why I get that this dude was doing something terrible screaming at the Children's like, how is that the solution long term? Like, right when policing is part of the problem? Right. And so for me that I don't know, but the more I think about this, and as I'm talking to you, I'm like, Well, that's pretty abolitionist too. I don't know. Yeah. So I don't know what you think about that, or from just going off on a tangent?

Nick Walker:

Oh, no, definitely. I think I think it is. I think it definitely is. I mean, there's you know, policing as an institution. I mean, it does, it does enforce the status quo. And, you know, I mean, it's, it would be lovely, if it were like, it was on, you know, cop shows on television, where police went unsolved crimes, but that's not what policing actually does. It's like, oh, this is, this is a threat to the status quo, this is a threat to whatever our normal is, and the normal, if a normal is socio economic injustice, or the normal is, everybody walks and publicly behaves in a certain normative fashion, then the police become a threat to, you know, anyone who wants to be outside of those boxes. So yeah, I mean, I think I'm very much you know, about liberation in, in a very non abstract, you know, concrete way, because, like you, you know, and I must somatics person, so as we all should be because we all our bodies, so I'm so, so, so, so to me, you know, neuro Korean is very much an embodied process. And when I talk about, you know, breaking out of the boxes of neuro normativity and heteronormativity, it's very much an embodied process, you know, that, that gender is an embodied performance and, and neuro normativity is an embodied performance and queering is something that is done bodily, bodily acts of bodily expression, and who, how we embody ourselves in the world. And I think that, you know, institutions like policing in prisons, you know, they they imprison and regiment bodies. And so, you know, I think that necessarily there's an, there's an abolitionism, you know, and that that applies, I think, also just to you know, I mean structures of capitalism, where so many people are forced to, you know, forced to labor in dehumanizing repetitive jobs, just to avoid starving. You know, that that is, that's a coercive system, you know, Captain policed by policing and that not only, you know, I think there's so yeah, there's all of these, all of these drives, of course, colonialism in a big way, you know, is about imposing colonial you know, imposing the colonizers norms on the bodies. Really, you really is really coming into sharp focus in the US history with the Indian schools, right. You know, indigenous American children were separated from, you know, separated from their native culture and had really the colonizers ways of moving and embodiment posts on them, it was very much a disciplining of bodies. And so, so yeah, all I think this necessarily, you know, to speak of neuro queering as a good thing, it's a liberating thing we say liberated, liberated from what you know, and it's, it necessarily involves a liberation from policing or liberation from prisons or liberation from structures of forced labor and imposed poverty, liberation from colonialism. So yeah, all of those things, you know, because similarly, you know, I think that I've really focused my work, just coming from my own experience being autistic and trans and queer. So I've tended to focus on to gender and how, you know, the normativity that the neuro normativity that's imposed on autistic children and other neurodivergent children is a heteronormativity. But of course, it's also, you know, colonialist, it's also a white woman tivity you know, you put up a black autistic child and behavior therapy, the behaviorist is not is, is teaching them, you know, when they havior says, I'm going to teach your child to act like a normal child, they mean a heteronormative child and also a white heteronormative child, that there's a there's absolutely so implicit cultural values of normativity that are insidiously in the dominant culture. And I sort of I leave that for, you know, people of color to write about the increasingly that's, that's happening, and we're hearing more, you know, from from non autistic, from, from from, from non white autistic people about their experiences and how, you know, the the neuro normativity and racist and colonial colonialist structures intersect. So, yeah, I think that all of these different axes of imposed normativity ultimately, interconnect and liberation, you know, it comes back to, you know, Martin Martin Luther King's saying, you know, injustice everywhere is injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, it just anywhere, like it's fine, there's one, one group or one person is oppressed, no one is really free, because all of these systems do intersect. And so there's this, there's this. Like, okay, I'm gonna make as much space in my own life individually to liberate myself as possible. But in the process, I'm also looking at, you know, how can we spread that liberation around two? How can we like, okay, there's people who are, you know, there's people who if they queer themselves as visibly as as, as you and I are in positions where they're going to be shot for it. And so, how do we change that as well? And so, it's almost like, I don't even see because, you know, I'm really just, you know, largely, you know, a somatic psychologist and queer theorists and just into playing with this stuff creatively. I don't, I don't think of my work as social justice work necessarily. At the same time, I see that when I put my writing out there, it gets brought into social justice work and liberation work. And that's, you know, that's, that's what I hope for that, okay. We, on the one hand, it's like, what are what are the extremes of freedom that we can explore? And then there's, how can we? How can we make this more and more available to everyone?

Alex Iantaffi:

Exactly. And that's what I love about your work as well, that it's not just kind of individualized by in rugged individualist, individual freedom, right? It's the paradigm and there cannot be that kind of neuro queer creativity and expansion without collective change. Right? Because and that's, I love that. I feel like, again, I'm having like, fats pop all over the place. But as you were talking, there's so many connection, you know, as you were saying that, you know, when therapists or educators work with autistic kids, right, they're imposing as this era normative white standards, right? Child, regardless about their racialized or their gendered, right, like Rasma mannequins work that taught in my grandmother's hands, talking about the white bodies, the standard, you know, in a way that I love that there's so much work coming out of somatic approaches, that really is about this weaving of expansiveness as I see it, right? Like, how can we really heal from all this contracting of colonialism, racism, all the systems and come into this place of spaciousness, expansiveness, cultural change, so that the world is safer for as many people as possible, right?

Nick Walker:

Yeah, absolutely.

Alex Iantaffi:

So exciting. about this for a long time, but I want to be respectful of your time. And plush. One question I always ask at the end is, is there anything we haven't talked about that you would love to share with the gender stories listeners?

Nick Walker:

Oh, that's how A Wonderful question to ask. I.

Alex Iantaffi:

And I'm sorry, I always put people on the spot for this one. So I love it.

Nick Walker:

I love it. I would say I would say a couple of things. One is, you know, we've talked here a little bit about policing as an institution and such. But I think one thing that I one thing that I talked about in my book, too, is this idea. Not just about, you know, the oppressive nature of policing as a social institution, but also that we shouldn't police each other. Yes. And I think that's important that when I see people policing each other's identities a lot, and I, including, you know, I put the term neuro queer out into the world. And people started claiming it as an identity label and then trying to tell other people, they couldn't use them as an identity label. Like, no, no, you're missing the point here. And so that authoritarian impulse can come up and everyone in the sense of people often wanting to stay alienated, you know, that sometimes identity politics causes people to say, Okay, well, this is, this is our group, and that's your group and don't cross the line between us. And I think that that's, that's just more policing and more of the authoritarian impulse to certainty. And I'm really on about blurring those lines and saying, No, anyone can engage in neuro queering. Let's, let's, let's get rid of normativity. Let's, let's get rid of, you know, neurotypical reality is, is not a state that people are born in, and it's something that we can eliminate, nobody has to be normal. Let's eliminate the whole the whole idea and you know, just recognize it as such a social construct that we can diverge from freely. And so I think that the authoritarian impulse comes up even in people doing social justice, where a comes up around identity politics, I see people. More mistake, hybridity for cultural appropriation, for instance. So, you know, the idea of cultural appropriation originally as a concept was like, Oh, well, you know, don't, don't, you know, don't, don't rip off the cultures, oppress and colonize people and make a buck off them. And that's, that's good. But it's gotten to the point where I see people say that, you know, any sort of creative cultural hybridity becomes a cultural appropriation, like everybody has to stay within their own little cultural boundaries, but historically, called the cultural hybridity. And the way that cultures influence and learn from each other and pick things up from each other is a huge source of creativity, it has given us most of the world's you know, great music and cuisine and sciences. It's all and so I think it's important to recognize, you know, there's to look at the the non oppressive ways that people can blur the lines and pick things up from each other and hybridize and collectively and individually mutate. And so that's, yeah, that's one thing that I would emphasize is just avoiding that authoritarian impulse or the, the, the identity politics that makes anybody get into into an enemy. And I think that's that's one thing and the other thing that I would bring into this conversation here is creative work. Just you know, I mean, I think that I like gender as a creative Canvas, you know, and the mind you know, neuroplasticity means the brain itself is something that is, we can, we can sculpt and play with. But also, so much The I prefer reading fiction and comics to writing nonfiction, it's more fun. But so much of the work that I see is very neuro queer is happening in the realm of fiction. And so I really I really love that I really hope that people will look at you know, the, the writing I do, you know, the fiction writing, I do the comics writing I do and the writing being done by other people, you know, we have, I'm involved in the annual spoon knife anthology, which is a neuro queer, multi genre lit anthology, and sort of a way to get introduced to a lot of authors who are playing in that territory, there's just some lovely, wonderfully queer thing that's happening in, in the realm of fiction and storytelling that I think it's, it's easy to overlook, it's easy to get caught up in all the things that are wrong and and or focus on the the mainstream, sort of the sameness. Oh, got another, another TV show with the same stereotypes and all, but there is so much wildly queer, creative work happening, that. And even though the world is imperfect, still, and even though there's oppression everywhere, in a sense, not only are we still allowed to enjoy ourselves, and enjoy a good book, and enjoy the picture and be creative, but also, we need to we need to remind ourselves what we're working for, and not make our entire lives about fighting against something, but also what, what positive things are we creating, and that really involves keeping the creative imagination alive. So I think I want to close with that.

Alex Iantaffi:

That is so beautiful. I love that because I actually find fiction and even TV and sound so rejuvenating. Yeah, and I think there is so much you know, when I was a teenager, Alex and Flashdance was the clearest character there was. Because she was a dancer and a welder, right? And I was like, look at that challenging of gender stereotypes. And now you know, my oldest kid can be like, yeah, if it if it's not clear, then want to watch it. Or don't because there's so much out there. So yes, I love ending on that note of creativity. And also just hope, right? That creativity, there is hope it's so it's kind of hard to hold on to hope sometimes in this moment in this in this times. And so I love that. Thank you so much. This was so wonderful. I feel like we haven't even talked about all the other things you do. You know, this is a tiny piece of work usually important, but just one part of who you are. So thank you for coming on to the show. Wish we had more time to talk about all the other things you do and for your listeners. If you do want to find out all the wonderful things that Nick does, you can find links to all of our work in the episode summary and so go explore all the links for read the webcomic buy the book, of course. NeuroCare Harris's in thank you so much for listening, and I hope that you will play with your own kind of neuro landscape and your own gender, landscape and keep creating. Until next time