Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Power, Disability,Sexuality: The Courage of 14 Million People

In an article on Gay Star News, one of three sites I go to for news about LGBT issues, Shannon Power wrote an article on Churches in India writing an open letter calling for the decriminalization of homosexuality. She wrote that: "The National Council of Churches in India represents about 14 million people." I know it's odd to hear of support from Churches for the inclusion and welcome of LGBT people. However, in their letter they said something that applies directly to people with intellectual disabilities who live in service systems. The beauty and power of the words had a profound effect on me.

Here's what they said: "This repressive legal code further reduces human body and sexuality into 'colonies' that can be invaded, tamed, and redeemed with the display of abusive power."

KAPOW! Doesn't that hit the mark?

This is such a description of the experience of so many people with disabilities. The tyranny and colonization of the body and sexuality, the utter control sought over the heart, mind, soul, and sexuality is clearly an abuse of power and abuse at the highest level. And this abuse is often built right into policy. The 'system' has the ability to criminalize and punish health sexual expression.

I remember a man with a disability who had been 'caught' with his boyfriend and was punished so severely that he never, ever, recovered. He thought himself dirty. He thought his desires sinful. He thought that his desire to touch was evidence of Satan in his life. No matter how much work was done, nothing could shift those views. He lives a desperately sad and lonely life.

I remember a woman with a disability who, when she was discovered in a relationship with a fellow that she'd met at the sheltered industry (as they existed back then) she was attacked and called the names expressly used against women with sexual agency, and now sees that, and this is a direct quote: Love is wrong, people hurt you for it."

I remember the guy whose mother burned his fingers on the stove to punish him for masturbation. His fear is deep and his fear is legitimate.

I know that this article was about the decriminalization of homosexuality, something that a gay man really matters to me (and it should you too if you believe in freedom and equality) but it also gives a language to what was done with our power. What was done to people with intellectual disabilities. It reminds us when we believe that service systems, or parents, or guardians, or any other person believes that they have the right of ownership over another persons body, another persons heart and another persons choices.

"This repressive legal code further reduces human body and sexuality into 'colonies' that can be invaded, tamed, and redeemed with the display of abusive power."

4 comments:

clairesmum said...

Wow....that's a great piece of writing and of truth.

As a nurse I think of colonization as how certain germs can 'colonize' something, such as a wound.
Similar to a parasite, one life for 'stealing' resources from another life form, in order to survive.
Some trees get covered by an invasive vine that kills the tree in the process of ensuring the spread of the vine.

Diversion of the life energy/spirit of another person in order to meet the needs of another person/system, in a way that depletes and destroys the spirit/body of the individual who has been 'colonized'.

Good metaphor/imagery works on many levels...this one starts as a socioeconomic and human rights application and is equally applicable to the natural world...
And as a survivor of abuse, the idea that my resources were stolen by my abuser in order to 'feed' his own needs is absolutely spot-on!
thanks, Dave, this is not material i would have seen if not for you. and thanks to the original author.

Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt said...

Sexuality is as much a right as breathing.

All those people who teach children and those who need care longer should be teaching responsibility for one's actions, and safe alternatives - they are failing badly at the task. And be prepared for failure ('normal' teens don't get pregnant? Is this what they believe?).

Humans fail.

Thanks for continuing to point out abuse of power.

Ron Arnold said...

Sexuality in the "system" can be viewed by those who work within the system as aberrant. Mostly because the system is aberrant. In the past, I've worked with adolescent males labeled as predators because they've had sexual encounters with other males on their residential units and it wasn't "allowed." So - here are kids, blooming in their sexuality seizing an opportunity for companionship that has been artificially constricted in an institutional setting and THEY are being labeled as aberrant and dangerous.

Stays in the file don't ya know . . .

I loathe systems of control (though I am ok with systems that can help folks learn self-control). And it's the forces of benevolent tyranny within those systems that I loathe most. A bunch of Delores Umbridge (from Harry Potter) types who use safety and care as a pretext for riding roughshod over individuality, self-expression, and opportunity.

Loathe . . . utterly loathe.

I applaud those folks in India by the way. I hope their their petition does some good. In a nation over over a billion - the collective voice of 14 million might have some import.

Girl on wheels said...

I trained as a paediatric nurse and I saw staff and parents treat the children in their care like there was something wrong with them once the child started developing romantic/sexual feelings. They often frame is as not wanting the child to be hurt or protecting them from abuse, but it was always ignorance and prejudice. Sometimes they treated the child’s relationship like it was cute, which I suppose was a bit better but not really. Disability, whether physical or intellectual or both, does not stop puberty happening. It does not stop loneliness happening, or the child wanting what they see other teenagers having. We expect abled children to date, even if there is a lot of sexist bullshit attached to it, why shouldn’t we also expect disabled children to have romantic relationships? Don’t get me started on the same crap happening in elderly care, it’s mortifying when some 20 year old carer treats a 75 year old like a child who doesn’t know what sex is! I worked in a home that had a married couple living in it, they were given separate rooms and were not allowed to be alone together.