Wednesday, August 03, 2011

out-rageously out

Have you ever noticed that the really, truly, cool people on this earth are always completely 'out'? They are simply who they are. There is not shyness, or coyness, or need to mask their identity behind pretence. They don't need the approval of others because, simply, they approve of themselves. They wear their 'am-ness' on their sleeve. These are the people who live as I aspire to live, with flagrant self worth but without arrogance.

Every single person with Down Syndrome, or any other intellectual disability for that matter, who is completely and truly happy, are those who know who they are, know what that means, and have incorporated their 'am-ness' into their self esteem. They understand that the source of staring is not their difference but the reaction to their difference. In fact, they get that their different is different but they know and understand that different is only different - not lesser. Those who stare label themselves by their behaviour, they don't label their eyes target with their judgement because they've identified themselves as someone with shallow judgement. This knowledge about the difference between behaviour and identity, makes a space for 'coolness' with 'am-ness' to exist.

Every single person with a physical disability, that I have ever met, who is truly and completely at peace with themselves has a fully incorporated sense of self. They move in their bodies both with self-awareness and with self assurance. They don't do the 'glances' for approval, or use their eyes like radar looking for disapproval. Their 'am-ness' is both a repudiation of the definition of 'norm' and proposes that 'difference is the norm' by behaviour not by debate. Tiny acts of revolution simply in managing to confront bias through being out, no, more by being out-rageous. They are the ones that I aspire to, they do not inspire the masses - they challenge them. (Non-disabled people are always inspired by people who they see to have 'over-come' disability by some act of normalcy or some heroic act - like climbing up Everest on finger tips with a wheelchair tucked under arm. "That's something I couldn't do," they say, knowing that they didn't want to do it in the first place and feeling that Everest was climbed on fingertips with a wheelchair under the arm simply to get the approval of those that would never want to even walk to the nearest convenience store.) No they don't inspire, their 'am-ness' seems to offend as it challenges hierarchy - the privileged only like the disenfranchised when they seem to wish to 'ape their betters'.

All this today because I saw a foot.

We were going down to meet friends for dinner. As we passed the Hard Rock Cafe, with its windows open to the street, I saw a foot hanging out off of the lip of the floor length window. The foot was at an odd angle, kind of like it had become detached from the leg and fell, naturally at right angles to it. As I passed I looked in and saw a guy, a handsome dude, sitting in a restaurant chair with his wheelchair folded up and resting against the table. He was chatting with a woman who was laughing at what he was saying. An ordinary scene made noticeable only because a foot was hanging out from the window. It wasn't tucked away, hiding in shame, it was just 'out there' being 'out'.

I liked it in the same way I liked it when I first came to Toronto and saw a man wearing a pink triangle on his lapel on the bus. Or when, indeed, I met anyone who was who they were. Bone deep 'am-ness,' I'm guessing comes with time and practice. I'm guessing there are more dangers along the way than a trip up Everest, on finger tips, with a wheelchair under the arm. But man oh man, do I want, one day, to be fully incorporated, completely out-rageously full of 'am-ness' ... so much so that I don't even notice any more. The view from the top only recognizes that 'hey, I'm not at the bottom.'


Just Jess for now said...

Really well put. I've been blind for so long that I don't even think about the stares anymore. That said, perhaps being blind has been a blessing because you-or at least I-just stopped caring that people were staring because...well, I didn't notice; which in turn lead me to not caring. :)

Meriah said...

So well put. Oops, I see that "Jess and Glacier" has already stated that. How about I say instead - "succinctly stated".

And it's true.

ms kitty said...

this made me giggle with joy this morning...

i am a 48 year old short round woman. i have a very small canine service animal. i also have shockingly bright pink hair.

i get looks. i get people (mostly young-ish men, early 20's or so) yelling "great hair!" and giving me the thumbs up. i get woman looking around furtively telling me "i love your hair! i wish i had the courage to do that!"

and i have my husband, who indulgently asks me "what color are you going to do next?" i am ME. and i'm ok with it. :D

lillytigre said...

Oh Dave you came to my rescue today and didn't even know you were doing it. I have a neighbor who finds great joy in gossiping about me, my guy,my service dog really whatever she sees me doing or thinks I am doing is fair game. I have been so angry about it. This lead to an entire long winded lecture about how I need to learn not to be an angry disabled woman. Insert eye roll here.... You know what my anger with the woman has nothing to do with my disability. For her it has to do with my disability because she sees me as different. for me it's just bad manners So I said to her the just last night that it was time for her to keep her nose out of my business. She yelled at me, accused me of not respecting her because she's old. Excuse me I am not five and you are rude and pushy!!!! Reading your blog helped me to realize. I need to continue walking with my head held high. I was raised in a time when people with disabilities were meant to be quiet and grateful for the act of being "included" So though I am in my late 30's I am just learning how to stand up for myself in a way that is heard. Read not with a lot of yelling or tears. I'm proud that I finally told her where she could stick her opinions and I am proud I did it without being rude to her. Even though that's how she heard it!

Courtney said...

I can't thank you enough for sharing this. "Am-ness" what a wonderful thing to strive for.