I just now finished doing a bullying and teasing workshop for people with disabilities. There is an hour break before I do a workshop for carers and other concerned groups. During that wait, I found a computer tucked away in the corner of the room in which I am teaching. So, I decided to use this time to write away my feelings.
Doing workshops for people with intellectual disabilities who suffer routine social violence is so emotionally difficult. Firstly, I identify with their experience at a deep level. A fat guy in a wheelchair, I expect that every time I go out I will encounter a socially negative experience. Pointing, staring, laughing, ... kids making pig faces ... adults doing fat faces ... all of it. So it's hard to spend time hearing that it happens to others, and it happens all the time. I like to tell myself that what happens to me is unique, not because I want to be the supreme victim, but because I just never want what happens to me to happen to others.
Too, as I am bullied because I am me, then the bullies won't bully those who aren't me. Well, this is so patently not true. Bullies know that I will hold myself responsible so they do too. I tell myself, I'm bullied because I'm (pick one) fat, disabled, gay, bald. So when they are asked why they bullied me, they will say, in an incredible ironic agreement, Well, he's (pick one) fat, disabled, gay, bald. So the bullying becomes just a meeting point between self hatred and another's bigotry.
Secondly, I find this hard because the stories that are told in these workshops are so incredibly painful. Words are flung, words have stung, people radiate pain. They live smaller and smaller lives. Going out less. Going fewer places. Living in rather than living out. Real lives living in captivity.
But today, in this group. When we talked about solutions. Many had some. They began to share and talk amongst each other. Giving ideas, good ones. Strategies, effective ones. Mostly, they realized that they were not alone. Me, too, there was a moment for me, like the others that we looked around and realized that we were all safe and that we were all understood.
'It's good when it's like this,' one fellow said.
One man spoke, quietly, that he wishes for just a few moments where he could live without fear, where he could go out and not anticipate violence. Just a few minutes.
Why is that too much to ask for?
I'm not sure, but right now, in the world we live in, it seems to be.