Photo: Joshua Huston
“By the time Jackie Moffitt was 16, he had transferred schools four times and was longing for a community where he could be accepted as his authentic self — an autistic person. “Autistic people are very dehumanized in our society,” says Moffitt. “They are perceived as being incapable of emotions. People are surprised that people with autism can understand humor or love. They assume that having autism means a lack of desire to connect with other human beings.”
Seeking this connection, Moffitt discovered Theater of Possibility (TOP), a theater arts program based in Seattle and Bellevue serving kids who are “quirky, spirited, or shy or who may have Asperger’s, autism, ADHD, or other learning or ability differences,” as the demographic is described on the TOP website.
Through theater games, improvisation, and role-playing led by TOP Director Lauren Goldman Marshall, Moffitt learned to embrace many of his personal attributes like extreme extroversion and abstract thinking that he’d previously felt pressure to repress.
“A lot of times for kids with disabilities their whole life is about people telling them what they’re deficient in,” says Marshall, who co-founded TOP in the years after her own daughter was diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum. “With TOP, they are here first and foremost to have fun and create theater together. I’m definitely highlighting relationship skills, but it’s brought in more through the back door. It’s about making kids feel successful.”
Now 21, Moffitt works as a teacher’s assistant at TOP, supporting the next generation of autistic children as they learn and grow while they also reach a level of self-acceptance.
“It’s not just about autistic people needing to learn neurotypical social skills so they can pass in a world that is majority non-autistic people,” says Moffitt. “I think that neurotypical people should also learn how to empathize with autistic people’s perspective and communicate with them on their own terms.”
Officer Pat Johnson with her child, in Los Angeles 1971. Cal Montney/Getty Images
“On a Friday afternoon in a small suburb of western Cleveland, Sergeant Tanya Sirl was finishing her shift when she spotted a burglary suspect on the run. Wearing her standard police uniform, she pursued the suspect on foot, leaping over a chain link fence in the process. She succeeded in detaining him, but not before ripping open the seam of her pants. “My pants got caught on the fence because the crotch was so low,” said Sgt. Sirl. “It ripped them from appetite to asshole. Everyone got to see my hot pink thong.” She made her way back to the station holding her pants together with one hand, and writing up her report with the other.”
“In the aftermath of World War II, the USSR and the USA became locked in an ideological conflict between socialism and capitalism. Determined to demonstrate the superiority of the socialist way, the USSR launched a secret space program. Eventually a human cosmonaut would fly into outer space, but first came Laika—a dog.
Laika’s launch was kept a secret until a few days before take-off. As Russian feminist art historian Olesya Turkina explains in her book, Soviet Space Dogs, “the secrecy of the space program was justified by the notion that socialism could not be seen to fail in any of its endeavors. In this sense, space travel was the most imperative achievement of such a society.” According to the official Soviet story, the valiant little mutt launched into orbit, died a heroic death, and became the first icon of space exploration.”
Thank you to Olesya and Damon for taking the time to answer my questions and for creating such a special book. Check out FUEL Publishing’s “Soviet Space Dogs” by Olesya Turkina, published by Damon Murray and Stephen Sorrell.
“Once upon a time in the magical land of Enumclaw, Washington, there lived a beautiful Dairy Princess named Kimmi Devaney. Princess Kimmi had an encyclopedic knowledge of dairy science and spoke eloquently on the topic in public. Her loyal subjects (fairies, elves, even trolls!) followed her adventures on Kimmi’s Dairyland, a dairy-centric lifestyle blog. All dimples and charm, Princess Kimmi could just as dreamily gush about her collection of sparkly belt buckles and embroidered cowboy boots as she could break down the physics of the milking machine or nonchalantly describe how to artificially inseminate a cow.”
Thank you to Kimmi Devaney, the Wisconsin Historical Society, and the Alice in Dairyland Program for sharing your stories and photos for this article. Excited to share my latest for Racked!