I admire Susan Boyle. Not for the obvious reasons. Sure, I loved watching her sing, watching her easily jump over expectations of failure. I loved her humble interviews. I loved the dignity with which she carries herself as a world cheers an 'ugly' woman with a 'beautiful' voice.
At breakfast the other day a man walked by my table and looked down at her picture and said, 'I don't see how they can call her ugly, she looks just like my mom and all my mom's friends. When did everyone but a few become ugly?" He looked at me and said, 'I just don't get it.'
I don't either and obviously neither does Susan, because she continues to look like a woman her age. She continues to simply be who she was before.
What I admire about Susan is that she is 'out' with her disability. She doesn't hide the fact that she has a learning disability (British for Intellectual Disability). She talks about her difficulties in school. She talks about suffering at the hands of bullies because of her learning problems.
She could have chosen to 'pass' as a plain and simple woman, but she did something much braver. She came out. She said, 'Thank you for your praise, I'll take now what I didn't get then, but never you forget that I still am and always will be a woman with a disability.
I know a man with Spina Bifida who refuses to be part of the disability community, gets angry when his disability is noticed or accomidated for, he is NOT DISABLED.
I know a woman with one leg who refuses to be part of the disability community, she sees adaption as weakness and can get almost abusive if referred to as having a disability.
I know that disability has low status. And with that comes even lower expectations. But I also know that Susan Boyle can sing, Gretchen Josephson can write poetry, Raymond Hu can paint, Hikari Oe can compose ...
Disability. We're here. We're off kilter. Get used to it.