When I was growing up I had a sense, very early on, that I was different from other boys. I didn't have a word for it then, I just knew that I wasn't like them. Feeling set apart from peers, I think, is a fairly common experience. The separation that I found most painful, was from my family. Not a separation imposed by them in any overt way - but the separation that was caused by knowing that I was different and knowing, without question, that I could not voice that difference. Being gay means, for many, growing up "different" from one's own family. Separate. Set apart. Solitary.
There are those, within the disability community, that suggest that the gay community and the disabled community are twin communities. That both are born into families who would wish them different if they could. Please don't hit me with howls of outrage at this suggestion ... I said this once at a conference and a mother of a gay son attacked me with violence. She said she loved her boy and wouldn't wish him different. I asked her how she felt when she first found out - she said that that didnt' matter, what she felt now mattered. I respectfully disagreed. I know that most parents love their kids with disabilities and their gay kids but I also know that there's a bit more of a journey involved. The statement of 'wishing different' isn't a condemnation of parents, even though it might sound such.
When I first read, and I wish I could remember which academician with a disability wrote about the 'twin communities' so I could give her credit here, I was deeply moved as it spoke to my experience of experiencing an isolation that dare not speak it's name. I think this is why when Joe and I first moved to Toronto we lived in the heart of the gay community, we went only to gay bars, read only gay novels, interacted socially primarily with gay people. I remember the first time I took Joe to a work event, having decided that 'out' was better than 'in' .. and he said about meeting my straight co-workers, "What do you talk to them about?" He was only partially joking, at that point in our lives we were marinating in gay culture, trying to soften up after years and years and years and years of isolation.
I feel much the same about the disability community. I find that the 'loss of aloneness' experienced within that community is a powerful draw. It's nice to simply have one's feelings validated or to share and learn solutions to issues and concerns. I like the humour within the disability community - I like the sense of camaraderie that comes from being 'out' and disabled. So, while browsing around the disability blogosphere I found a blog post recently that I powerfully related to ... I left a comment there and then decided, this morning, that I think many of you might like the post as well. So, I'm linking here to Rollercoaster Parenting, imagining that a public blog wouldn't mind me doing so. (I did manage to get permission.) Her description of shopping on a Saturday Morning with her daughter, who is a wheelchair user, had me saying 'YES' out loud to what she described. Joe, himself, hates those Saturdays where we need to shop for many of the reasons she lays out in her blog.
I read it.
I felt less alone.
That's why we have community. That's why we have blogs. That's why I think it's important that children with disabilities no be denied community by parents or professionals who believe that integration and inclusion means never, ever, ever, having time with other kids with disabilities. That's why I think it's vital that we look at building a home community from which we can challenge the broader community. The loss of aloneness - that's a powerful experience. I wished for it as a child. I have it as an adult.