Tuesday, February 20, 2007

What Part of All

She came straight up to me.


Said 'Hello'.

Smiled again.

I was just about to give a half day lecture and she was sitting up front. As a deaf woman she needed to be able to see the interpreters who were going to get a workout translating my rapid talk into sign. She spoke well and clearly, though she had the 'accent' of a deaf person speaking. Right off, upon seeing me, she was in her element. She came up and talked about going to conferences about disability and being the only one there with one. Here she was at a conference and the speaker was in a chair.

"About time," she said.

We talked a couple of times during breaks and I liked her politics and I liked her.

She told me of being at a conference, I believe in New York state, where her interpreter had said how nice it was to sign for a 'high functioning deaf person'. She shot back that it would be nice to meet a high functioning hearing person. I laughed. I got it. She liked that I got it.

It was great watching her during my lecture. The signers were good and kept up almost word for word with me. She smiled at all the right places, got the jokes that went over the heads of many in the audience and most importantly she laughed - out loud - a couple of times.

I was reminded of seeing the movie Smoke Signals when it openned in Toronto. It was a movie with an all Native Canadian cast. It's very very funny. We were there in the audience of primarily Native Canadians. A couple of times they laughed at things we did not get. Even in the dark I caught them glancing at each other in recognition of something on the screen. They knew when it was real.

So did she.

It was a kind of validation.

And it felt good.

For a second I understood something new. I've written here a lot about disability and isolation about the prejudice and disphobia of the 'typical' community. In my mind I have always equated disability and difference in general with 'outsider' status. But in that moment that we connected as two disabled amongst the 'many' I understood that the 'outsider' is determined only by who draws the circle.

It is entirely possible for 'us' to draw the circle and for you to become 'them'. I should have got this a long time ago. I remember a guy with a disability who, when talking about staff said to me 'Your people's problem ...' He understood that there was a 'them' and 'us'. But I didn't really get it because and only because I considered him 'them' and me 'us'.

But the shoe is on the other foot.

I am 'them' now.

For a few days it was nice to consider disability as 'insider' status. Ha, so there.

Last night, though, talking with friends all different and unique. Nothing dividing us but skin and air it was nice to envision a world of ...

'All In'.

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