Last week, George Hodgins, an autistic adult living in Sunnyvale, CA,
was murdered by his own mother. In the aftermath of his death, much of the
public discussion surrounding his killing focused on expressing sympathy for his
killer. ASAN Member Zoe Gross of Oakland, CA objected to this and helped
organize a candlelit vigil in memory of George and all disabled people who have
been murdered by their family members. The vigil will take place tonight at 6 PM
PST, rain or shine, in front of the Sunnyvale City Hall building. Details can be
found here: http://www.facebook.com/events/199680943470301/.
We urge supporters of disability rights and neurodiversity to join Zoe
and other local Autistic people and allies in the California bay area in
remembering George this evening. For those who can not make it, we are printing
Zoe's prepared remarks below:
Last Tuesday, George Hodgins was shot
and killed by his mother, who then killed herself. George lived here in
Sunnyvale and he was 22 years old. I didn't know George, but I can't stop
thinking about him. Maybe it's because we have a lot in common - we lived near
each other, we were the same age, we're both autistic, although we led very
different lives. I would like to have met George, but I can only mourn him. And
I can try to make sure that his story isn't forgotten.
wake of this tragedy, I read a lot of articles that asked the readers to imagine
how George's mother must have felt. But I didn't see a single article that asked
the reader to empathize for George, to imagine how it feels to see your mother
point a gun at you. I've seen a lot of people talking about how hard it must be
to live with an autistic relative, but I didn't see anyone talking about how
terrible it be to die knowing that your parent, who you love and depend on, has
decided to hurt and kill you.
Because he was autistic, George is
being erased from the story of his own murder.
The story of
George Hodgins's death is being discussed and presented as a story of a mother
who snapped, and the story of other parents who have felt the same way. It's
being told as a story about a lack of services for families with special-needs
children, as though a lack of services is a justification for
When disabled people are murdered by their families,
this is the story people want to hear. It's the same story that we saw in
newspapers after Katie McCarron was murdered, and after Jeremy Fraser was
murdered, and after Glenn Freaney was murdered, and after Zain and Faryaal
Akhter were murdered. The story goes like this: it is understandable
that someone would kill their disabled relative if they don't get help to care
I don't think this is a true
Why is the story being told this way? Because we live in
a world that doesn't acknowledge the value of our lives as disabled people.
Because so many people in our society can't imagine a disabled person living a
fulfilling life, so they don't see the tragedy and the wasted potential when one
of our lives is cut short.
As disabled people, we have to take a
stand against this kind of thinking. We have to get the word out that our lives
matter, tha tour lives are our own stories and not just the stories of our
non-disabled parents and relatives and caretakers. We have to let people know
that they are missing part of the story.
Because the story of
George Hodgins's murder is also the story of the disabled community losing one
of our own. It's the story of the other disabled people who were murdered by
their family members, and it's the story of the society that thinks so little of
people with disabilities that these murders are all too often justified as
"understandable." Most of all, it's George's story - the story of a young man
who enjoyed hiking, who was always looking to learn new skills, who had his
whole life in front of him.
Now George is gone, and only his
memory remains, and already that memory is being distorted by people who want to
tell his story and leave him out. That's not going to happen tonight. We're here
to remember the real story.