Monday, July 27, 2009

On Neurotypical Privilege

Bev at Asperger Square 8* is drafting, with the help of her commenters, a list of privileges that come with being NT, along the lines of Peggy McIntosh's "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" and various online checklists dealing with male privilege, straight privilege, (temporarily) able-bodied privilege, cisgender privilege, thin privilege, Christian privilege, class privilege, etc.

Here are a few that I really like:
I can assume that police officers will not become alarmed at my natural body language, and find it necessary to subdue me in advance of any wrongdoing. (Bev)

I can reveal to my boss and coworkers that I am NT, without fear of losing my job. (Bev)

I can assume that most restaurants, theaters, stores and other places I would like to go will not be so loud or brightly lit or crowded that I will become unable to function at a basic level. (Bev)

I am never told that the fact I have a certain cognitive skill means that I am lying when I say I lack another cognitive skill. Nor am I dismissed as incapable of things I truly can do, because I lack certain cognitive skills. (Sanabituranima)

If my parents or spouse abuse me, I will not be told that my neurology drove them to do it. (Sanabituranima)

If I am murdered, my murderer will not be let off because killing someone of my neurology is an act of mercy. (Sanabituranima)

The services that I need to survive not only already exist, but even if I use those services on a 24-hour basis, I will always be considered independent. (Amanda)

If I am having a bad day or even a bad and stressful period where I am under a lot of strain, people will not say I am 'regressing' and panic, fret or automatically tell me I need medication or intensive treatment. (Norah)

My deficits are not considered deficits at all. Instead, they are considered universal faults in human cognition (even if they are not universal). And a good deal of effort is undertaken by my entire society to compensate for those deficits. (Amanda)

If it happens that I am better at something, more empathic, more sensitive, more honest or authentic, it is not considered a defect. (Anemone)

I will never have people tell me that I am a mindless waste of space and then deliberately fail to make any attempt to save my life in an emergency. (Amanda)

I have never had to use physical violence as my only means possible to communicate basic information. (Amanda)

My behaviors, abilities, and skill levels at age 2 or 3 are considered indicative of an immature phase of life that will pass naturally, not as representative of my prognosis for the rest of life. (Combative Autistic Wench)

The skills and talents at which people of my neurology tend to have an advantage, around which the system of the society in which I live is founded, are presumed to be objectively more important than those more commonly found in people of other neurological types. (Combative Autistic Wench)

If I fail, most will encourage me by telling me that I will ultimately succeed. (Wandering Jennie)

I can pursue a particular interest or hobby to my heart's content without being told that I am engaging in an unhealthy "fixation." (Sarah)

If I fail to understand autistic people, this is attributed to a deficit inherent in autistic people, rather than in me. (Amanda)

My neurology is not classified as a mental disorder. (Combative Autistic Wench)

No one sees my neurology as being in need of prevention, treatment, or cure. (Combative Autistic Wench)

If my sexual orientation, gender identity, lifestyle preferences or beliefs are deemed nonstandard, others will not suggest that I am pretending, incorrect, jumping the gun or unable to really know such things about myself because I am neurotypical. They will not use my neurotypical status as a basis for defending intolerant remarks or beliefs about any of these identities. (Pazi)
I've not had to deal with a lot of these things, fortunately; though I don't think I quite pass for "normal," I also don't read as "severely disabled," either. When I am overloaded, I don't explode in an emotional outburst; instead, I freeze and stay in one spot, silent and unmoving. I may not be capable of doing anything to get myself out of the situation, but I also do not attract any attention to myself that might get me carted off to someplace even more unpleasant. I also have the power of speech most of the time, and have been getting good at recognizing the signs of overload and asking for help, even from strangers. (I have done this in an airport, even!) Finally, I've been hugely lucky in the people I have as relatives, friends and associates. People in my life tend to listen to me, to treat my problems as real problems and offer whatever help they can, to respect my right to decide things for myself and to take my perspective into account when making group decisions.

Even with that, though, I've still experienced some of the silencing tactics listed above. I've been assumed to be incapable of knowing my own mind, my own needs, or my own feelings. I've also internalized some of this stuff: I hold myself to a fairly high evidentiary standard before self-disclosing anything "nonstandard," like bisexuality**, polyamory or (suspected) transgenderism. I do this because I suspect I will be met with an unusual amount of doubt when I try to "come out" as whatever.

I also noticed (along with Norah and Anemone) that some of these barriers and prejudices overlap with those facing people belonging to other marginalized groups.

First, the various items about needing to suppress one's natural way of moving, speaking or expressing emotion reminded me of the double standard governing women's, and people of color's, public expression of anger. If a man is assertive, a woman doing the same thing will be considered bitchy, shrill or hysterical. Similarly, a person of color speaking up, voicing disagreement, or complaining about being wronged, will be seen as much more aggressive and out of control than a white person doing the same thing would be. Black men, in particular, are always assumed to be violent thugs, even when they're just minding their own business.

Lots of the items about being pathologized also echo much of what women experience from doctors and from popular notions of female biology: if a woman is angry, or frazzled, or upset, or in any way "off," she'll probably be asked if she's menstruating. She's also held to a much higher standard in general for staying calm, civil and reasonable --- even in very heated discussions --- lest everything she says be chalked up to "hormones" and ignored.

With the specific matter of one's love life being seen as inherently pathological, there's overlap with the double standards gay and lesbian couples face. No matter how stable and healthy a gay relationship might be, it's usually judged less legitimate than even the wobbliest straight union, which feeds into double standards around marriage and adoption.

With the items relating to medical care, and having one's complaints ignored as being just part of autism, there are obvious intersections with other invisible disabilities, especially those involving chronic pain. People with chronic pain are commonly told they're imagining their pain, or that they need to suck it up and stop dwelling on it. There are also intersections with fat --- see this blog for examples of just about every serious health problem imaginable being attributed to the patient's size, and being dismissed with "Just lose some weight" --- and with femaleness and blackness.

Items about employment discrimination overlap with every other marginalized group: people of color, poor and lower-class people, fat people, ugly people, visibly disabled people, invisibly disabled people, women (in all but a few female-dominated spheres, which are usually lower-paid, or become lower-paid as they come to be feminized), trans people, gay people, and sex workers. Items dealing with anxiety over whether to disclose one's membership in these groups applies to all identities it's possible to hide --- like, say, atheism(or membership in any minority faith), being gay, being trans, or having an invisible disability.
The other items that strike me as being almost universal among marginalized groups (at least, those that currently have an active civil-rights movement) are these, which deal with speaking publicly about autism-related issues:

I am never or rarely asked to explain what it means or what it's like to be neurotypical.

I am allowed to use the word "we" without being accused of trying to speak for all neurotypical people.

People are not pre-inclined to view anything I say in certain ways because I am neurotypical.

My neurotypicality is never used as a joke.

If I achieve some sort of success (academically, professionally, socially or otherwise), I will not be patronizingly turned into an "inspiration" for other people.

If I write an autobiography, it will be labeled a book about me as an individual and/or a book about specific things I have done (acting, mountain-climbing, sport, science, music, whatever) rather than a book about neurotypicality.

...and these, about engaging with potential allies:

If I make even a half-assed attempt to look like I advocate for autistic people, I will be considered a hero, and I will not be considered to be acting out of self-interest. Autistic people will be afraid to call me out on my obvious abuses of nonautistic privilege because "beggars can't be choosers" when it comes to allies.

No one expects me to gratefully embrace them as an ally when they tell me that they support an organization that's dedicated to preventing more people like me from being born.

...and then these, about one prominent (or notorious) autistic standing in for all autistics:
People do not assume that NTs all have the same taste in food, books, music, film, television shows and similar.

People do not assume that all NTs have the same views on politics, religion or philosophy.

If a non-NT *does* say that non-NTs (or certain types of non-NTs) are better than NTs, I do not have to explain millions of times that I do not agree with this person. Nor do I have to repeatedly tell everyone that accepting my life as valuable does NOT mean assuming others are inferior.

If I tell someone my neurotype, they will not automatically assume that I must be just like another person of my neurotype that they know.
All of these things --- the need to be extra careful when speaking publicly, both to avoid seeming angry, whiny or irrational and to try to fit as many different issues and perspectives into what you say as you can, because you know you might be the only member of your group many members of the dominant group have ever encountered --- I've seen in just about every other civil-rights movement I know anything about. Some might have more of one tendency than the others --- I don't think women typically get lumped in together as some sort of hivemind --- although you could make a case that feminists do --- but one thing I do see a lot of in mainstream feminism (not so much in radical feminism, which tends to distrust men) is the extra-low standards for male allies. Mainstream feminists are often so overjoyed that a man might be interested in feminism that they're willing to praise him much more for writing, saying or doing something that would be totally unremarkable coming from a woman. The black civil-rights movement seems to have the opposite pattern: white allies do not occupy a privileged spot within their movement, as male allies seem to do in feminism, but society at large does a terrible job of seeing black people as individuals. This, despite the fact that the black civil-rights movement is one of the oldest movements in the U.S., and its leaders have been speaking --- and disagreeing --- publicly for close to a century now!

The last universal I can think of is the invisibility of people belonging to more than one category. Feminism and GLBT activism often act as though only white, able-bodied, neurotypical middle-class women's/queers'/trans people's issues are feminist/queer/trans issues, and, just as often, female, gay, trans or disabled people of color are marginalized (or oppressed --- certainly women within more conservative communities, like immigrant enclaves from patriarchal Muslim countries, are oppressed as immigrants and people of color from without and oppressed as women from within) within their communities, and, though I don't see much of this within the disability-rights movement itself, disabled people are often assumed by society at large (and doctors and caregivers in particular) never to be gay, or trans, or have an otherwise complicated identity. A lot of this is specific to sex- and gender-related stuff, as most non-disabled people think of disabled people as large children, and thus asexual and not concerned with gender identity.

*Another recent post of hers that I liked is this one, of which I was quite forcibly reminded in the comment thread on this post at Sarah's blog. When did feces-smearing become one of the Hallmarks of Actual, Real Autism, anyway?

**I didn't know I was bisexual at first; because my first serious love was a woman, and because I was generally indifferent to men at an age when most people were dating and having sex, I assumed I had to be a lesbian. Of course, later on, after I had been calling myself "lesbian" for some years, and had IDed myself as such to all of my friends, I fell in love with one man, and then another. I'm sure the ol' credibility hasn't been quite the same since then.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Today, In "Wow, That Was Uncalled-For"

Sometimes, when you're reading a book, you come across a random passage or throwaway line that's so offensive, so illogical or so factually wrong that it jars you out of your engagement with the book, like being thrown from a horse.

This is particularly annoying when you really like the book in question, except for that one tiny part that bugs the hell out of you.

I had this happen recently with Sheri S. Tepper's ecofeminist fairy tale Beauty.

In that novel, the heroine is part of a plan to avert a horrible, dystopian future and the end of all non-human (and, eventually, human) life on Earth. Because this is a fairy tale, doing this also involves protecting and conserving less concrete things like beauty and magic, which vanish from the world along with wild Nature.

Here is her appraisal of the situation at the end of the 20th century:
We have been thwarted at every turn by god. Not the real God. A false one which has been set up by man to expedite his destruction of the earth. He is the gobble-god who bids fair to swallow everything in the name of a totally selfish humanity. His ten commandments are me first (let me live as I please), humans first (let all other living things die for my benefit), sperm first (no birth control), birth first (no abortions), males first (no women's rights), my culture/tribe/language/religion first (separatism/terrorism), my race first (no human rights), my politics first (lousy liberals/rotten reactionaries), my country first (wave the flag, the flag, the flag), and, above all, profit first.

We worship the gobble-god. We burn forests in his name. We kill whales and dolphins in his name. We pave prairies in his name. We have retarded babies in his name. We sell drugs in his name. We set bombs in his name. We worship him everywhere. We call him by different titles and commit blasphemies in the name of worship.

We were given magic to use in creating wonder, and the gobble-god has sucked it dry. His followers reject mystery and madness and marvel. They cannot tolerate questions. They can believe any answer, no matter how false, so long as it is a certainty nailed firmly onto a cross of money. They yearn for the rapture to come, without knowing they have killed rapture forever.
There, you see it? Right there, in the middle of a fairly interesting attempt to connect the dots between capitalism, patriarchy, jingoism, war and ecological devastation is an unexamined ableist assumption: that, if women were free to give birth, or not, as they chose, none would choose to have a non-neurotypical or -physiotypical baby.

This, besides resting on some very ugly assumptions about what sorts of people there should be, also ignores the possibility that some of the women who give birth are themselves "abnormal" in some way, and might rather have a child who is like them than one who is not.

I also felt personally assaulted in a weird way by that line --- yes, even though I'm not intellectually disabled, I do tend to take the R-word personally; most of the teasing I would get as a child was for seeming stupid, out of it, too naive, or too "young" mentally, rather than for being weird, crazy or awkward --- and I think I reacted to it a lot more strongly in this book than if it had been in another book, a book I liked less, or that didn't speak so clearly to very deeply-held values.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Weak Signals, Lots of Noise: Problems with fMRI Brain Scanning

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: On noticing a trend in recently published research articles in social neuroscience for correlations between brain activity (observed in fMRI) and whatever behavioral or psychological variable was being looked at to be impossibly high, a group of researchers surveyed the authors of fifty-five recent fMRI studies, asking them how they chose the data points they included in their statistical analyses. Many used anatomical criteria: if their hypothesis dictated that a specific part of the brain should be active under certain conditions, they confined their analysis to those fMRI data points corresponding to where that specific brain structure would be. But most of the study's respondents said they used "functional" criteria, meaning, if it activates under the conditions they're testing, they include it in their results. This is a problem because it guarantees positive results, overselecting for data points that fit the pattern being looked for while screening out those that don't fit it.

ResearchBlogging.orgOn NPR last week, I heard about an interesting pair of articles published in May dealing with the limitations of fMRI studies in brain research.

This type of brain imaging is widely used in neuroscience, and autism research is no exception. The past decade or so has brought us lots of different hypotheses about how autistic brains work: probably the most extensively studied one I can think of is the observation that, when they're shown images of human faces, autistic people tend to activate a different part of their brains* than non-autistic people do. Functional MRI studies have also yielded a jumble of tentative observations about differences between autistic and neurotypical brain anatomy: this or that structure appears bigger or smaller on average in this or that series of brain scans.

What the authors of the second of the two studies (full text here) I linked in my first paragraph --- Edward Vul, Christine Harris, Piotr Winkielman**, and Harold Pashler --- noticed about many fMRI studies of emotion, personality and social cognition was the phenomenally high correlations between activity observed in a certain brain region in response to a given stimulus (say, images of happy, angry or frightened faces, or recordings of angry speech, or a semi-scripted interaction meant to make the subject feel lonely or rejected) and individual personality traits (empathy, say, or extraversion or anxiety).

They noticed that the correlations reported in many of these studies --- often above 0.8, on a scale of 0 to 1 --- were higher than they could be given the reliability of the tools used to measure each variable:

This, then, is the puzzle. Measures of personality and emotion evidently do not often have reliabilities greater than .8. Neuroimaging measures seem typically to be reliable at .7 or less. If we assume that a neuroimaging study is performed in a case where the underlying correlation between activation in the brain area and the individual difference measure (i.e., the correlation that would be observed if there were no measurement error) is perfect, then the highest expected correlation would be √(.8 x .7), or .74. Surprisingly, correlations exceeding this upper bound are often reported in recent fMRI studies on emotion, personality, and social cognition.
To solve this mystery, Vul et al. surveyed the authors of fifty-five recent social-neuroscience articles describing fMRI studies, asking them exactly how they settled on which values to use (out of the tens or hundreds of thousands of individual data points, or "voxels," making up each image!) in their calculations.

In the articles we are focusing on here, the final result, as we have seen, was always a correlation value --- a correlation between each person's score on some behavioral measure and some summary statistic of their brain activation. The latter summary statistic reflects the activation or activation contrast within a certain set of voxels. ... [V]oxels may be selected based on anatomical criteria [i.e., those roughly corresponding to the targeted brain structure in spatial terms], functional criteria [i.e., those determined to show activity in response to relevant but not irrelevant stimuli], or both. Within those broad options, there are a number of additional more fine-grained choices. It is hardly surprising, then, that brief method sections rarely suffice to describe how the analyses were done in adequare detail to really understand what choices were being made.
In our survey, we first inquired whether the fMRI signal measure that was correlated across subjects with a behavioral measure represented the average of some number of voxels or the activity from just one voxel that was deemed most informative (referred to as the peak voxel).

If it was the average of some number of voxels, we asked whether the voxels were selected on the basis of anatomy, or activation seen in those voxels, or both. If activation was used to select voxels, or if one voxel was determined to be most informative based on its activation, we asked what measure of activation was used. Was it the difference in activation between two task conditions computed on individual subjects, or was it a measure of how this task contrast correlated with the individual difference measure? Finally, if functional data were used to select the voxels, we asked if the same functional data were used to compute the reported correlation.
While there was a lot of diversity in the approaches respondents employed, and the distribution across the different approaches was fairly even, there was one fairly important trend that emerged.

First, to lead into what this trend was, I'd like to point out the two places where the distribution was not even: when the average of a group of voxels was used, those voxels were much more often selected using functional criteria than not --- i.e., the functional-only and mixed functional-anatomical approaches accounted for more than three-quarters of the articles (23 of 30, as opposed to only 7 studies using only anatomical criteria) --- and every study that used functional criteria to identify voxels of interest then re-used the same data they had used to select the voxels as their output measure for correlating with the behavioral data.

If your Circular-Reasoning Alarm is starting to sound, you're not alone:

The key [to explaining the "implausibly high" correlations often reported in fMRI studies] ... lies in the 53% of respondents who said that "regression across subjects" was the functional constraint used to select voxels, indicating that voxels were selected because they correlated highly with the behavioral measure of interest.

Figure 3 shows very concretely the sequence of steps that these respondents reported following when analyzing their data. A separate correlation across subjects was performed for each voxel within a specific brain region. Each correlation relates some measure of brain activity in that voxel (which might be a difference between responses in two tasks or in two conditions) with the behavioral measure for that individual. Thus, the number of correlations computed was equal to the number of voxels, meaning that thousands of correlations were computed in some cases. At the next stage, researchers selected the set of voxels for which this correlation exceeded a certain threshold, and reported the correlation within this set of voxels.
In other words, because the pool of available data points is so vast, patterns will crop up wherever you choose to look for them. This is what the study's authors term "non-independence error": using the same functional measures for data analysis that you've already used to select your data set.

This graph shows all the studies Vul et al. reviewed --- you can see, the values of the correlations each study unearthed range from about 0.25 to 1.0. The red squares represent correlations derived using non-independent analyses, and the green ones represent independent analyses. You can see that the red ones tend to have much higher values than the green ones --- most of the green ones are clustered between 0.5 and 0.65, which are well below the "upper bound" of 0.74 cited earlier.

Further reading: Mind Hacks, the Neurocritic, and the Neuroskeptic have all posted on this a while ago; also worth reading are these two posts by Andrew Gelman at Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science, this post at The Amazing World of Psychiatry, and two articles in response to Vul et al., one also published in Perspectives on Psychological Science and the other posted online as a draft.

*This would be the "fusiform face area," the existence of which was proposed in 1997 by Nancy Kanwisher and her colleagues. Kanwisher, interestingly enough, seems to be working with Ed Vul --- she co-wrote this longer article about non-independence error with him. Sadly, none of the articles Vul et al. evaluated dealt with the fusiform gyrus, face recognition, or autism, so I can't draw any conclusions about the robustness of that theory. Nor can I (right now, anyway) apply this article's findings more directly to the neuroscience of autism.

**Autism researcher!

Vul, E., Harris, C., Winkielman, P., & Pashler, H. (2009). Puzzlingly High Correlations in fMRI Studies of Emotion, Personality, and Social Cognition Perspectives on Psychological Science, 4 (3), 274-290 DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-6924.2009.01125.x

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Help Jessica Davanzo

Shiva at Biodiverse Resistance has a post up about an American-born UK resident named Jessica Davanzo, who is facing deportation from her adoptive homeland because she left her abusive, UK-citizen ex-husband before her two-year spouse visa had been renewed.

Here is her story:
I originally came to England several years ago to study sculpture....I met and fell in love with a man whom I later married on October 3rd 2006, I moved over to England as his wife on October 15th 2006 on a 2 year spouse visa...I went immediately into full time employment, contributing to the local economy and have endeavored to immerse myself in all aspects of my new life and become involved in the community....sadly just after our marriage my husband changed drastically and became controlling and abusive to the point where I feared for my life and had no other option but to leave despite the fact that I tried all forms of counseling and anything I could possibly do to save our marriage...but my fleeing our marital home came just shy of the time when my marriage visa would have been up for renewal for indefinite leave to remain....I took on a management role in a new town and began my life again.....I worked extremely hard and built a new life for myself.....Under a tremendous amount of stress and pressure of my marriage breaking down and being alone in a new town taking on a new management role... I ended up in hospital with a rare neurological disease called Guillain-Barre syndrome which left me paralysed out of work and in hospital for some time....[...] After I recovered I felt compelled to take a job working as a carer for a woman in a wheelchair who also suffered from a neurological disease, though hers [was] genetic and more severe....After going through what I did I was humbled and wanted to make a difference in someone's life...Since that time I have become deeply immersed in my employer's life ....taking part in ensuring her every day [...] needs are met as well as helping her follow her dreams....I have completely given up my life in America for the one I have here, a place I know as home...after all this time, and all the struggles, first just surviving on my own after nearly two years of abuse...then fighting for my life in hospital and finally recovering and getting back into the work force, fully supporting myself and always paying national insurance etc.....never once getting recourse to public funds or income support....things had finally turned around...I got my own house, a job and my friends and family in a place that I loved only to get a letter from the Home Office alerting me that my application had been refused with no right to appeal....I am shocked and appalled that the message sent from Lawyers and Home Office seemed to indicate that had I stayed with an abusive man and risked my life I would have been granted the"privilege" of living in England...but instead after years of making a life for myself I am now being told that I must leave the only home I know.
What's at stake here is not just the quality of Jessica's life --- disastrous though it would be for her to be compelled to leave everyone she knows, start over and rebuild her life from scratch again --- but of Roxanne's (her employer, Roxanne Homayoun) as well.

Shiva's press release explains:
Roxanne, who has physical and visual impairments and requires 24-hour assistance, and is an activist for disability rights with an MA in 20th century history, said "Jessica is such a truly positive, honest and principled person that she has helped me to see that many of my dreams are still achievable, they just need modifying. I would be absolutely devastated if Jessica is deported."
Jessica's case brings together issues of vital concern for feminists, disability rights activists and all those who support the free movement of people across borders. The UK Government's decision to demand that she leave the country shows a complete disregard for the circumstances of women fleeing abusive relationships (if she had stayed within the relationship and continued to submit to her ex-husband's violence, she would have been permitted to stay in the country - what message does that send to women trapped in such situations? This is victim-blaming at its worst - women being punished for getting out of a life-threatening situation or rewarded for staying within it) and for the incredibly important role of PAs [Personal Assistants] in maintaining disabled people's independence.

The letter Jessica received from the Home Office claims that forcing her to leave the UK is not a breach of Jessica's human rights under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. However, they have totally failed to take into consideration the human rights of her employer, Roxanne, whose physical safety, freedom of private life and ability to participate in political society would all be put in serious jeopardy by the loss of her PA, given the extreme rarity of PAs with whom disabled employers are able to build up the sort of relationship (itself arguably "family life" under Article 8 of the ECHR) enjoyed by Roxanne and Jessica.

If the UK Government cared either about women survivors of marital abuse or about disabled people who need assistance to live independently (for whom it can take an extremely long time to find a PA with the right attitude to genuinely support their human right to choice and control over their own lives, and for whom losing such a PA could easily result in risk of institutionalisation or life-threatening neglect), then it would not have threatened Jessica with deportation. Jessica Must Stay!
Without Jessica, the quality of Roxanne's life would immediately deteriorate. She'd be on her own until she could find another PA, who may or may not be willing or able to help her maintain the same way of life she had with Jessica, and who in any case will be a stranger, not a trusted friend. At worst, as Shiva mentions, she might never get another PA and be institutionalized, or she might get a PA who neglects or abuses her.

It strikes me as particularly disgusting that this relationship, from which not only both partners, but also British society in general, derive such benefit should count for nothing to the immigration officials deciding Jessica's fate, especially when her marriage would have been sufficient to keep her in England. This, it seems to me, is a double standard privileging the nuclear family over all other possible household configurations.

There's a petition online here, telling Jessica's story and asking that she be granted an appeal, and a Facebook group supporting her.

You can also email the UK Home Office at, or, if you want to go right to the source, there's the UK Border Agency's case-resolution directorate, which you can reach at

Since Jessica used to be a US citizen, and would be deported here, I might as well throw in the e-mail contact form for the US Department of State. Let's get Hillary Clinton on their case!

Good luck, Jessica.