Several days ago I wrote a post about the guys who had gone to a strip club in British Columbia and the ensuing national upset about their choice of Friday night entertainment. If you remember, their trip to the club ended up in the national papers as well as on national talk shows. Well, I met one of those guys in Oliver and I talked with staff from the agency that had supported them (by providing transportation).
He was an interesting guy to talk to, he was clearly angry about what had happened, angry that his private life had become public. As far as he was concerned only two things mattered, first it was nobodies business, second, he had the same rights as everyone else. He was clear on these two points. I asked him if it hurt to have his choices discussed simply because he had a disability, his voice faltered and he said simply, "Yes."
I realized that for an instant the media, the talk shows, the country stood up and called him, "Retard". Those who were upset about him going to the club were clearly acting out of prejudice and ignorance - it's like calling him a name, it's like stereotyping him as something less because he's something more, it's like a slap in the face. Do you realize that there are probably people out there who wish they could surgically remove his right to choice. His right to adulthood. Thank heavens he escaped the tyranny of 'those who know better'.
But he was still hurt by all of this. Yes, actions have consequences.
All that happened here this guy went out with a few friends for a beer to a strip joint. How does that make him different than thousands of others doing the same thing across the country - maybe for him it was more than a beer - maybe it was a statement of independance and adulthood. But maybe that's the problem, he was just a wee bit too much like you and I, and maybe people wanted to slap down an uppity disabled guy who thought he could make the same choices as we do.
The ED of the agency and one of the managers involved were resolute. I was so pleased. Often a media attack like that leaves us scurrying like rats for the boat - but not here. There was a realization that all they were doing was their job, that others had the problem. I love people in human services that have the backbone to do what's right. Let others have opinions, let people with disabilities have rights.
There are costs to our principles and sometimes we have to stand up and be counted. To indicate clearly to people in care 'we are on your side' ... this agency did. The guy with a disability knew it.