"I'm just so quirky."
"I'm just so off beat."
"I'm just so wildly unique."
Many people love the idea that they are completely and amazingly different from others. I had a friend once who went to a psychologist with a concern, he was told that it was 'entirely normal'. He said that he left not feeling comforted but almost insulted. As if the mere idea that what he thought was idiosyncratic was just plain common had brought him down not up.
"I'm just like everyone else."
"We're all the same."
"Cut me, do I not bleed?"
Then there are those who are truly different, who want to be seen as simply normal. That they are, under the skin, the same as everyone else. That the difference they experience does not make them different as people.
I had another friend who summed up this dilemma for herself by saying, "When people focus on my disability, it pisses me off. When people refuse to note my disability, it pisses me off. I live in a constant state of being pissed off."
Am I different?
Am I the same?
Perhaps, then, its normal to be different. Maybe that's where all this intersects. All this so far is me trying to sum up my reaction when people use the term 'differently abled'. It's a term that makes me squirm. I really don't like it. I like the intent but not the outcome. What on earth does 'differently abled' mean anyways and what's wrong with the word 'disabled'. I'm totally OK with being a disabled guy. I don't even much like 'person first' language in every situation. I don't like hearing 'down syndrome kid' or 'that cerebral palsy guy'. But when it comes to the word disability it seems different. Like it's OK to followed 'disabled' with 'person'. We don't use 'person first' language constantly with anyone else. I've never heard someone say, of me, that 'he's a person who is gay'. I've never heard 'a person who is a woman.' It seems labourious. It also seems to suggest that 'personhood' needs to be attached to disability because it is just not readily apparent.
But, that's not what I want to write about. 'Differently abled,' rankles me. I read it on a blog recently that I visit in secret. It's written by someone who scares me because of the level of anger she expresses. She holds others to a standard that, I believe, she does not herself bother to maintain. No, I won't tell you. She used this term recently and I sat there wanting to make a comment but knowing I would be stalked and attacked. So I didn't. Ha Ha, I have my own blog and can say what I want. Ha Ha, I have readers that will discuss with me and who are not afraid to challenge me, but do not often bloody me.
I think what gets me about 'differently abled' is 'different from what' or 'different from whom'. The term assumes a norm and then gives that norm power. It isn't 'normal' to live without disabilities, it isn't a 'desired state' to which all aspire. I think one of the biggest problems is that the majority thinks that it's the norm. It ain't normal to be white, it's normal to have a skin tone. To think that 'whiteness' is normal is to make everything else in comparison to it, everything else valuing itself in relation to 'whiteness'. It makes 'whiteness' superior. To refer to someone as 'differently skin toned' would be, I believe insulting.
Too, my abilities are never much different than anyone else's abilities. They are just abilities. I may get to where I'm going in a different bus but when I get there I do what everyone else does. In my own way, in my own time but it's pretty much the same. I think Spider Man is 'differently abled'. I don't think I am. My abilities are pretty much in the 'normal' range no matter how much I like to think otherwise sometimes.
So here's me. Wanting to be different while living an ordinary life. Just like everyone else. I'm uniquely me while being pretty much the same as my neighbours. I guess I'm just ordinarily different. But what ever I am, I'm just not 'differently abled'. I don't think anyone else is either.
Except, of course, Spider Man.