Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I'll Take Diversity, Alex

The other day we were watching Jeopardy on television and one of the contestants, during the discussion with Alex, made reference that made it clear that he was gay. It was just a nice little comment that came out naturally and signified how easy it is to come out naturally. Joe and I perked up and watched the show with just a little bit more interest. It was nice to see someone like us, not a movie star, not a celebrity, just a contestant on a game show.

Equally, I watched Testify (captions are available) on YouTube ... featuring the San Francisco Gay Men's choir, and in watching it saw a fellow, part of the choir, sitting in a wheelchair. Seeing him there meant so much to me. Seeing him simply be part of something so communal stirred my heart.

It is important to me to see human diversity on display. It is important to me because it makes me feel less alone. That young man on Jeopardy must have made a decision to answer the way he did ... he decided to be honest. I'm sure too that in making that decision he thought about the importance of honesty, of being there, of representing the breadth of diversity.

I believe that man sitting with the choir made a decision too. I spoke with a woman, once, who wrestled with  performing with her choir. She felt that the fat that she sat down 'ruined the line and the look' of the choir. She felt that maybe her desire to perform was selfish. But, in the end she made the decision because, simply, she WAS part of the choir. Her participation was truth. She also thought that maybe it would be important for parents of kids with disabilities to see her there, and that maybe it would be even more important for those with disabilities that she do what she does the way she does it.

For me, these two events mattered.

Therefore it mattered when I was told the other day, by a staff who worked at a venue that I spoke at, that she was shocked to come into a room and see a man in a wheelchair with the microphone. Shocked to see that hundreds of eyes looked in my direction. Her son is a wheelchair user. She told me that she was going home to tell him what she'd seen. She got teary eyed and rushed away from me.

But this post isn't about that moment.

This post is to remind us all how important it is that we live our lives openly, that we do what we do in full view. Every time you go shopping, every time you sit in a park and read, every time you are you doing what you are doing, you are demonstrating something important.

We have lives.

All of us.

Disability pride.

Like every kind of pride it is evidenced best not by the extraordinary accomplishments ...

but by living the ordinary ones with joy.


Susan said...

Blog posts should have "like" buttons. Nothing profound to say -just that I "like" what you said!

Colleen said...

I would be clicking that like button too.

Anonymous said...



Anonymous said...

If this were Wordpress, it's possible to set up a "like" button there!
Thanks for alerting us to the captions, I watched the video and liked it also.
Andrea S.

Rachel in Idaho said...

Wow, before my first concert with my choir I didn't even have to ask for a chair; it was known that I would need one and there is was. I sing not because I am amazing (I am not, though I will say I am not bad but nowhere near professional) but because I love it. I never thought of it as a disability pride thing, but if somebody takes that away from me being there, great, I guess. I honestly hadn't thought about it. It's just too much fun for me to miss out on!

Anonymous said...

Not even disability pride, but the ability to be what we are - completely normal - without anyone else having the right - or the wish - to comment on whichever special accommodations we might need.

I stand for parts of our little choir's singing, short parts; sit for most of them, and for most of the Mass - because otherwise the energy isn't there for me to do it at all - and no longer feel I even have to comment about it.

I used to feel GUILTY about not being like everyone else. I don't even think about that anymore in places where they know me.

When we become 'just like anyone else' the world will be a better place.

Anonymous said...

Yes! I sometimes feel that just being me is a revolutionary act. You're xxxx? and xxxx? I didn't know that xxxx xxxx existed. And you're also xxxx? wow!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this balancing reminder, Dave.

Certainly every day I encounter one or six little barriers, and sometimes I regret going out into the world.

But the effort is worth it! We lead by our example: we make the world that works for us by being in the world we have now.