Have you ever noticed that the really, truly, cool people on this earth are always completely 'out'? They are simply who they are. There is not shyness, or coyness, or need to mask their identity behind pretence. They don't need the approval of others because, simply, they approve of themselves. They wear their 'am-ness' on their sleeve. These are the people who live as I aspire to live, with flagrant self worth but without arrogance.
Every single person with Down Syndrome, or any other intellectual disability for that matter, who is completely and truly happy, are those who know who they are, know what that means, and have incorporated their 'am-ness' into their self esteem. They understand that the source of staring is not their difference but the reaction to their difference. In fact, they get that their different is different but they know and understand that different is only different - not lesser. Those who stare label themselves by their behaviour, they don't label their eyes target with their judgement because they've identified themselves as someone with shallow judgement. This knowledge about the difference between behaviour and identity, makes a space for 'coolness' with 'am-ness' to exist.
Every single person with a physical disability, that I have ever met, who is truly and completely at peace with themselves has a fully incorporated sense of self. They move in their bodies both with self-awareness and with self assurance. They don't do the 'glances' for approval, or use their eyes like radar looking for disapproval. Their 'am-ness' is both a repudiation of the definition of 'norm' and proposes that 'difference is the norm' by behaviour not by debate. Tiny acts of revolution simply in managing to confront bias through being out, no, more by being out-rageous. They are the ones that I aspire to, they do not inspire the masses - they challenge them. (Non-disabled people are always inspired by people who they see to have 'over-come' disability by some act of normalcy or some heroic act - like climbing up Everest on finger tips with a wheelchair tucked under arm. "That's something I couldn't do," they say, knowing that they didn't want to do it in the first place and feeling that Everest was climbed on fingertips with a wheelchair under the arm simply to get the approval of those that would never want to even walk to the nearest convenience store.) No they don't inspire, their 'am-ness' seems to offend as it challenges hierarchy - the privileged only like the disenfranchised when they seem to wish to 'ape their betters'.
All this today because I saw a foot.
We were going down to meet friends for dinner. As we passed the Hard Rock Cafe, with its windows open to the street, I saw a foot hanging out off of the lip of the floor length window. The foot was at an odd angle, kind of like it had become detached from the leg and fell, naturally at right angles to it. As I passed I looked in and saw a guy, a handsome dude, sitting in a restaurant chair with his wheelchair folded up and resting against the table. He was chatting with a woman who was laughing at what he was saying. An ordinary scene made noticeable only because a foot was hanging out from the window. It wasn't tucked away, hiding in shame, it was just 'out there' being 'out'.
I liked it in the same way I liked it when I first came to Toronto and saw a man wearing a pink triangle on his lapel on the bus. Or when, indeed, I met anyone who was who they were. Bone deep 'am-ness,' I'm guessing comes with time and practice. I'm guessing there are more dangers along the way than a trip up Everest, on finger tips, with a wheelchair under the arm. But man oh man, do I want, one day, to be fully incorporated, completely out-rageously full of 'am-ness' ... so much so that I don't even notice any more. The view from the top only recognizes that 'hey, I'm not at the bottom.'