Monday, January 09, 2017

Memo

Memo to Two Disabled Women:

All I was doing was being friendly. I had caught your eye as I entered and I nodded to you as I rolled by. The two of you were stopped and had pulled your power wheelchairs off to the side. You weren't talking, it looked like you were waiting. My nod was greeted harshly and then, you, the one in the light pink parka, said that "We don't acknowledge lifestyle disabilities." Turning your chair away from me was your way to put an exclamation mark on that statement.

I've not heard the term 'lifestyle disability' before, and I don't know exactly what you meant by it, but my guess is that you were making reference to my weight. And if you were you'd be mistaken, my weight is what most people connect to my disability and most people would be wrong. My disability is a result of a catastrophic illness which led to several surgeries. But, I really don't think that matters.

Let me say that again: I don't think that matters.

I agree that the disability community is a community as diverse as it can possibly be. I also agree that it's not so diverse as to include everyone. I abhor the 'We all have a disability in some way' sentiment as it's intended to be a mark of humility but it's simply a means to disavow privilege. I see our diversity as a strength of our community, I see it as a challenge for all of us to open our hearts really, really, wide. I see it as a potential source of incredible strength, and power and knowledge and insight. You're disavowal of me as a member of that community based on your own set of prejudices, saddens me. And, yes, if you meant to, and I know you did, it hurt.

This is not the first time this has happened to me. Several years ago, maybe two years into being disabled, I won a Canadian Blog award and then was attacked by one of the other nominees who thought I should get an award in the 'fat' category not the 'disabled' category and she stated, clearly, that she did not think that disability status should be given to those who choose to be disabled. She was angry.

Luckily, I haven't had this experience often. And perhaps that's why your words cut me so much. I didn't expect anything back from you, I didn't expect a nod or a greeting, I just acknowledged you and left it up to your will as to any kind of nod back. I don't just nod to people with disabilities, I should say, I nod to people who catch my eye, all of them, it's habit.

You lashed out at me with such anger. You wanted me to know that your community doesn't include me. Well, okay, forgive me for being really good with that. But, I'm sorry to tell you, you aren't the gatekeepers to this community, and like it or not, I'm in.

Dave

7 comments:

Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt said...

Just because haters are in wheelchairs doesn't make them good people.

These two obviously had some hierarchy in mind, with 'deserving' disabled people like them on top, and people like you not allowed in.

What tiny, petty minds! Want to bet they resent being disabled, and try to pretend they are not? Because then they'd be normal, and that is even higher in the hierarchy.

If they only knew who you are!

Yeah, we fat people choose to be fat, because it gets us so much! Like the lovely attention from these ladies.

And because we could get rid of the avoirdupois overnight if we just wished hard enough. Did it occur to them that the more disabled you are, the harder it is to exercise, and the more often your body thinks it can get some quick energy by eating something?

Frank_V said...

Snobbery and exclusion exists even within our own community of folks with disabilities. There is this twisted "My disability trumps yours" attitude that reeks.

The fact is, many of us have weight issues because we are not as mobile. Other lifestyle choices are often caused by our disabilities. For example: People criticize me for being a hermit, a recluse, all without even caring that I can't do stairs anymore. REALLY?

In my solitude and limited mobility, I'm much less disabled than these judgemental jerks!

Unknown said...

Yikes, that was mean! shows that the human nature to divide into categories and assign the least desirable ones to anyone who you perceive as a threat to you in some way is a very pervasive trait...probably was a survival mechanism, in the early days of mankind....but definitely not KIND!
clairesmum

SammE said...

Oh my. People who act like those two, disabled or not, are not my kind of people. You, Dave, are definitely my kind of people, you and Joe, and a lot of folks disabled and not.
When I was in high school (in the stone ages!) my elderly English teacher assigned me to a debate regarding Native Canadians. I was to defend the statement that we should love and admire these people simply because they ARE Native Canadians. This was one of her favorite soapboxes. I couldn't do it. I just could not! The only point I had to offer was that I would admire and care for people who treated me in the same manner, not because of their ethnicity only. Something like that. :) Flunked that debate, but meant what I said. For some reason your post today reminded me of that teacher and that debate. I still believe that people are mostly good, and I will treat them the best I can. But those who do not treat others well are not people I wish to be around.
Your writings make me wish I could meet you and Joe, and have a tea and talk about life. :) And if we ever get that opportunity, please bring Ruby and Sadie! :) As I have written here before, your writings always make me think, and sometimes change how I think. That is one of the most valuable things anyone ever does for me. Thank you. :) samm in welland

Liz Miller said...

A co-worker once made a disparaging remark about a fat person in a wheel chair and I pointed out that a) perhaps the disability came first and b) what business of it was theirs what weight someone else was at.

Carol Landaverde said...

Dave I'm sorry to hear that you had to experience that. It seems that no matter what group you align with or are part of there is unfortunately discrimination. It baffles me in some ways but in others I'm not surprised.

Sherry-Lynn K said...

You're right...you're not "one of them"...you're not an asshole.