Saturday, March 07, 2015

I Am It

Someone sent me this quote the other day thinking that I would like it. I understand the sentiment behind it but I don't actually like the idea at all. I don't like the subtle suggestion that the erasure of identity or difference will allow for a complete assimilation into broader society. I am gay. I am a person. I am totally good with both being recognized and when someone says something like, "Dave's the gay person at the office right?" I wouldn't want someone to correct them and say, "No, Dave's a person at the office." Uh, Uh. Nope. My status as a gay person or my status as a disabled person or my status as a fat person are all things that I identify with, all things that are part of who I am and how I experience the world. I do not crave erasure of any of them.

My being disabled, in language that describes me, allows me to be an activist in language. "Dave is the disabled guy who travels internationally and lectures, right?" There was a time where the word 'disabled' would not have been in that sentence. Not because there weren't those who could have, and did do it, just that, if they did their disability would have either been trumpeted or hidden in some way, it wouldn't have shared equal billing with humanity. I want it in the sentence. "Dave is the gay guy who has been in a relationship for 45 years, right?" Gay would not have been in that sentence even 15 years ago. Not that people weren't in relationships, it just wasn't talked about.

I want to be out. To be visible. To exist in life and in language. I want adjectival change. I want 'disability' in reference to me or any other person to become a descriptor not a diminisher. I can do that by having 'disability' as the adjective person as the noun and both used with a whack of other, completely surprising to some, verbs.

So do me no favours. I suspect that many would like to not use the words, gay, or fat, or disabled not so much as a sign that they consider me completely a part of 'people' but because then they don't have to say words that fit uncomfortably in their mouths.

I am it.

Say it.

I believe that I advocate for change every time I walk down the street. I believe I advocate for change every time someone describes me going down the street. Use whatever freaking adjective you want, with whatever kind of emphasis, because no matter what or how you say those words, in the end, I'm still on the street, still in the world, still challenging you to see what you see.

I am it.

Say it.


Just Heidi said...

Well said Dave!!! :) From your straight, fat, mom of a disabled child- friend :)

liebjabberings said...

Dave is fat, gay, disabled, older, and CANADIAN - I told my husband the other day - and he does this amazing job of writing a blog every day.

One that has educated, charmed, and disarmed me since I found it.


clairesmum said...

language is tricky...and in an effort to be sure words don't come out of my mouth and cause harm, i do try not to use words that are often used with the intent to harm or diminish a person. I wouldn't refer to someone as 'gay' or 'fat' or 'disabled' unless I knew him or her well enough to be sure that the words I chose would not offend.
your writing often challenges me to think..

B. said...

... so, at least, around you I don't have to use 'challenged' with so many adjectives now. Thank goodness. Thanks, Dave.

Anonymous said...

I don't think these kind of sayings are trying to erase specific parts of people or negate them. I think what these kind of sayings are trying to do is get people to embrace others as everything they are and not just as one specific thing. I think if someone constantly identified you as my fat friend or my gay friend you might start to dislike it. I have no problem identifying my son as disabled when speaking of him as in did you see a kid in a green power chair go by, however when I think of him I think of him as the whole person he is and when I talk about him I use his name and hardly mention his disability unless that's the issue I am discussing.

Emily @ Words I Wheel By said...

I agree completely - hence my firm advocacy for the use of identity-first language instead of person-first. Disability is an identity, a descriptor. Not a negative, derogatory word.