Social Violence. That's what I call the day to day interactions with bullies and bigots and big mouths. Those people who intrude into my day to make comment on my body, my disability, and my way of being in the world. It's a daily occurrence that I could do without. But, I realized only recently that somethings changed in me.
I've been teaching people with intellectual disabilities about their inner voice and the power they have to down out the sounds of social violence with their own thoughts, their own perceptions and thereby become their own master. They can school themselves about who they are. Often I have had to teach about language of self-positivity to people who are used to reinforcement and praise for behaviour but have not idea about the need we all have for personal acknowledgement. There is a difference. I love teaching this. I love watching the effect of new language on old wounds. I love seeing, sometimes, and almost miraculous response to the training.
I've been teaching this, because I've been doing this for years. Intentionally responding to hateful comments, to words that violate boundaries regarding language of the body, to the purposeful, targeted, attacks in regards to both difference and disability, with new words, different words, coming from a different voice - my own. That voice started out with the volume turned down. It was if I was afraid to wake the anger that grew inside of me, so affirmations were whispered. But now, that voice has become strong enough to do it's job.
The words of others no longer teach me who I am. I had let that happen. I had let them tell me that I was ugly and stupid and fat and useless, and I accepted those words for what they seemed to be - information for me to process. Declarations, in absolute terms, of how I should see myself. Those words did not wound me, they described me, they gave me a language with which I could refer to myself. It was only later, when they coalesced into something dangerous, that I understood the mistake I had made.
The view of other no longer instruct me about what I need to do and who I need to be. I had let that happen. I had tried to fit in. I had tried to blend in with the bland and tone my difference down. I had tried to walk the path set before me and in doing so lost my way. But now, I need no instructor, I alone see my path and I alone determine the speed at which I travel.
This Christmas, out doing shopping and other holiday things, I keep hearing the words and the comments made. The social violence is still attempted. But I am not longer tempted, even slightly, to listen.
I am not done yet.
But I am me, and I have arrived at a stage in my life when that's good enough.
I am not done yet.
But I alone know what needs to be worked on, the goals I have for myself.
Let the bigots and the bullies and the bigmouths have at it, the community is mine too, I cede no space and no territory. You can't drive me into hiding. I am OUT and now understand exactly what that means. It means that the world is mine as much as it is anyone else's.
And for what they have to say, STFU, no one's listening any more.