"Tell the truth," I was challenged, "there are times that you wish you weren't disabled."
I had been trying to explain the concept of 'disability pride' to someone who was determined not to understand. I kept getting hit with things like, "What about Fetal Alcohol Syndrome? Are you supposed to be proud that your mother was a drunk?" Beyond the offensive nature of that statement and others that followed, I'd somehow been sucked into a conversation I didn't want with some one I didn't like and ended without an exit ramp from the topic.
Finally, after explaining, for was I had determined to be the very last time, that being proud of a community, proud of overcoming history, proud of the 'fully incorporated me' ... I was hit with the big question that lingers around in the minds of others - about all minorities. "I'll bet black people sometimes wish they were white, don't they? I"ll bet gay people sometimes with they were straight, don't they? I'll bet women sometimes wish they were men, don't they?" It's the trump question that doesn't get asked as often as it's thought. I was stunned by the question and angered by the flash of 'Ah, ha! I've got him,' in her eyes.
I sat back in my wheelchair to decide if I'd continue or just say 'to hell with it' and return to my tea. But, the gauntlet had been thrown. I said, evenly, not wanted to sound as angry as I was. "Yes, of course, I've wished to be different than I am. I've wished to be without disability, without any difference at all. I've wished away my birth into the life of diversity that I've lived almost since my first cry. And those wishes are meaningless. I would never have wished away my 'sissy ways' if I hadn't been subject to brutality. I would never have wished away my 'attractions' if I hadn't been in fear for my life and livelihood. I would never have wished away my disability if I hadn't been constantly subject to pitying stares and withering glances. It takes time, you see, to understand that I was wishing away the wrong thing. I should have been wishing away bigotry and hatred and self righteousness. I should have been wishing away conversations like this one - that tell me that pride in myself is a foolish idea. I should have been wishing away a lifetime of discrimination. I wished away, not who I was, but how others reacted to who I was. I wished away, not selfhood, but the actions of hoodlums. I wished away pain inflected, not identity experienced."
And let's be honest. I've wished away a lot of stuff over the years. I've wished away the need to work for a living. I've wished away parents who weren't born royal. I've wished away cars that didn't start on cold mornings. I've wished away the concept of calories in cakes. I've wished it all away. Isn't that part of human nature. Isn't that what it is to respond to frustrations. Let's be clear a moments wishing, an instant of imagining isn't real - it's just what it is, a safety valve. A place for rage to go. A place for a moments rest in a difficult world. A place, visited only for an instant, and then fled from. Though I sometimes wish to be different than different, I don't desire it. I don't long for it. I don't dream of it at night.
She left feeling that she had offended me. And, indeed she had. I think partly because I know that she thinks of me as wishing that I could walk out that door like she does, that she thinks I spend my life wishing to be more like her ... when in fact ...
I'll let you finish that yourself.