dear diezel


Toni Braxton, a Grammy award-winning singer who had an abortion a decade ago, pined in her recently released memoir that perhaps God punished her for the procedure by inflicting her second-born son with autism.

She said the guilty feeling stems from a strict Christian upbringing that required her to memorize 26 Bible passages each week — sometimes in place of doing school work — and banned her from even wearing pants, the New York Daily News reported.

She penned her thoughts, regarding 11-year-old son Diezel’s autism, in her just-released “Unbreak My Heart” memoir: “Is God punishing me for that abortion? … [Perhaps it’s] God’s payback to give my son autism.”

– From Cheryl K Chumley’s article in the Washington Times, writing about revelations from Toni Braxton’s new book, Unbreak My Heart.

Link to Ms Braxton repeating that refrain on The View yesterday – *PLEASE DO NOT VIEW WITH CHILDREN*

What follows is my letter to Ms. Braxton’s son.

Dear Diezel,

Hi, kiddo. I know you don’t know me, but I have kids that are almost the exact same ages as you and your brother. And my youngest, Brooke, is autistic, just like you. As a matter of fact, you and Brooke were born on precisely the same day – March 31st, 2003! I know, that’s pretty cool, right? So even though we don’t know each other, we do have a couple of things in common. So I hope – like really, really hope, that you’ll listen to me when I tell you this.

I need you to know something, kiddo. I need you to know that neither you nor the autism that is part of what makes you who you are is a “punishment” for anything. I can only imagine how scary and confusing it must be to hear your own mama, who loves you so much, say that she has wondered if your autism was “God’s payback,” to her or if who you are was God “punishing [her for having an] abortion.”

You, my sweet boy, are not a “punishment” for anything. The way that your brain works, the way that you filter experiences and process sensory input and interact with the world, is not “payback.” All of it – all of you — is beautiful and perfect and, if it’s anything, it’s proof of God’s glory and infinite love. It’s YOU. Human beings are not punishments for others’ past acts; they are celebrations of the present and the future – of life and hope.

YOU are a celebration. Everything that you are, everything that you will be.

I don’t doubt that your mama loves you. That she deeply and truly loves you. Believe her when she tells you that she does. But please, Diezel, please, please don’t believe for even the most fleeting of seconds that you, or anything that contributes to making you who you are, is worthy of being called a punishment.

Your mom’s new book is named after her song, Unbreak My Heart. Please know that YOU are not broken, sweet child. That neither you nor any part of you are – could ever be — payback. Know that you, just like my daughter Brooke, the incredible girl who shares your birthday, are a perfect gift from God, exactly as you are, exactly as you were meant to be.

With love, 


(Brooke and Katie’s mom)

16 thoughts on “dear diezel

  1. I saw the headline yesterday and it made me sick. I don’t understand how a parent could say what she said and know that it is in the public domain. Thanks for posting this. I hope Diezel reads your letter and knows that there is a community ready to embrace him.

    • Dawn, I can’t damn her for it, as I’ve very recently put things that I’ve said into the public domain that were hurtful as well. I just pray that diezel knows that neither he, nor any part of him is anyone’s punishment, ever.

      • It’s easy to forget that outside of the still relatively small world of neurodiversity thought…what she said is entirely in line with the way that most people think about autism…that it MUST be something inflicted on an innocent, secretly “normal” child.

        I was in a Facebook conversation recently with someone who I wrongly presumed would know better by now, who repeated the myth of disability masking the true person underneath.

        It’s frustrating and hurtful, but I have a hard time damning parents who probably have still never been challenged to think differently. I hope she’ll read some of the responses asking her to.

      • Chavisory, thank you for your words. I always wonder, how do you approach this type of thing when it seems to come from people who don’t KNOW, who haven’t found you or Diary or so many others? How do you get them on that path without make them more entrenched in their current beliefs? Sigh.

  2. I love this letter. Yesterday the tv was on and we heard a bit of her interview. It literally made me cringe and then start trying to explain it to my son. Hopefully she will start to get it.

  3. I am shocked and saddened. It is one thing to have thoughts in the deepest, darkest parts of ourselves, but to give voice to those thoughts, particularly when it hurts another human, is just cold-hearted and selfish. Thank you for your beautiful letter to Diezel. I hope he gets to hear your words and feel the love that they hold.

    • trured – i reiterate what i said above … I can’t damn her for it, as I’ve very recently put things that I’ve said into the public domain that were hurtful as well and regretted it deeply thereafter. I just pray that diezel knows that neither he, nor any part of him is anyone’s punishment, ever.

  4. It’s so sad all around. Pain spreads and colors everything when you can’t get out of it. The malignent pain of guilt is worse – I think it warps perceptions about everything. I really hope she gets help to deal with this, because she and Diezel don’t deserve to live with this kind of pain covering their lives.

  5. I can’t fault her for feeling that way, and it is not about whether it is accurate or not-it is about the fact that during her strict christian upbringing she was brainwashed to the point of believing that anything perceived as negative is surely punishment from God.
    And that is exactly what those who vehemently oppose abortion rights for women are trying to do.On one hand they painting children who live with ASD as burdens, as broken or as punishment-on the other hand the mother surely is at fault because she had/did ________(fill in the blank).These type of scare tactics disrespect children and people who are neither broken nor punishments, and it potentially turns mothers against those very children that need their love and support.

  6. This letter is wonderful. It’s difficult to believe anyone would ever say that about a child. A child is never a punishment for anything. Thank you for writing it, Jess.

    Love you,

  7. I guess she needed attention, maybe thinking that her fans have forgotten about her. Maybe in her mind, any attention, good or bad is enough to get her name out there. Even if it hurts the ones you love. Shame on her! Great letter Jess. Way to say it for everyone out there who loves their children and know they are “gifts” from God.

  8. What isn’t grabbing headlines is the part of the article where Braxton notes that she has lupus, an autoimmune disease that may likely be a factor. But that doesn’t sell magazines, or have as much appeal to those who oppose choice.

  9. Great letter. I cannot believe an organization like Autism Speaks would have Toni Braxton as a spokesperson (well, actually I can), and I cannot imagine living in her son’s shoes. That has got to be degrading. Braxton’s views merely objectify her son and alienate the autism community.

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