Saturday, June 19, 2010
Helen Keller Mythbusting Blogswarm
The man who almost married Helen Keller. The man who ran headlong into the complex mixture of power, opinion and prejudice as it relates to the sexuality of someone with a disability. The man who saw Helen as a woman, not as a child, not as a product, not as a disability, but as a woman. His name is never mentioned. Their love story is never told.
Yet the experience of people with disabilities, through all history, is replete with stories of forbidden love, ruined relationships and the icy cold grip of another's control. The first time I was ever asked to break up a relationship between two people with disabilities who had fallen in love, I was astonished that someone thought that this was my job. Many people with disabilities do not love freely. They love under the approval or disapproval of care providers. They love when committees meet, when teams agree, when plans allow. They love, sometimes only in secret, hidden ways.
Helen and Peter met and fell in love. They knew to keep their passion a secret. They knew that others would disapprove. Peter slipped away to get a marriage licence and suddenly the private was public. Helen was kidnapped, by an angry mother and a controlling care provider. Peter was sent away. Their love, ultimately, died. Annie Sullivan may have taught the word water but she wanted nothing to do with the word love. Helen wrote about her desire for love but it would be forbidden to her.
The hardest question I have ever been asked by someone with a disability was 'Is it OK for me to love?'
I knew his parents disapproved.
I knew his agency would throw a fit.
I knew they system would go into apoplexy.
But I said, 'Yes ... but ...'
Helen Keller, we all remember the little girl with her hands under the tap. We need, now to remember her as a woman with her heart under wrap.
(This post is written as part of the Helen Keller Mythbusting Blogswarm, which you can read about by clicking here. I could find no photo of him, but if anyone can Penny Richards can.)