There are moments that I'm just really proud to be a member of the disability community. Really proud. When I mentioned this to a non-disabled co-worker she assumed that my pride came from the 'insperational' stories. The 'I climbed Mount Everest! If I can do it, you can do it!' kind of thing - which I hate holus bolus.
What moves me into a state of awe is when I see generous kindness from someone with a disability, to anyone, but also to others with disabilities. It seems that there can be a hierarchy within the disability community - I care about my access, not yours! I care about my liberation, not yours? There can be as much prejudice directed at one part of the disability from another part of that same community as there is from the general populace.
So when spontaneous acts of solidarity happen, I am moved.
This morning I was moved.
Andrea had left a comment on my blog about the radio program that I appeared on. She asked if there was a transcript that she'd be able to read. I admitted that there was not, I had in mind to ask someone to make a transcript so that I cold post it. Then, this morning in my email, from one of my readers, was the full transcript, it came with a request that I send it on to Andrea. I did so immediately.
I decided that I wanted to write about this and wrote to the person who'd emailed me the transcription. They wanted, needed, no acknowledgement.
So, for those who needed the transcript, here it is ...
David Hingsburger on CBC Radio Interview on The Confessional, Episode Five - "Faking It" edition.
Interviewer: You're listening to the Faking It edition of The Confessional on CBC radio One and across North America on Sirius satellite radio. I'm Chrissy Holmes.
Interviewer: Dave Hingsburger is an advocate and spokesperson for people with disabilities. In public seminars he teaches others how to stand up for themselves, but Dave confesses that a three-year-old girl named Ruby made him realize that he'd been faking a big part of his personality for years.
Dave said it all started at a poolside table at a resort in Walt Disney World, alongside his young friend.
Dave Hingsburger: So she came back to the table and I gave her a towel, and during the period of time that they would have been in the pool, another family had come and they were seated maybe four or five tables off to the side. And there was a mom and dad, and there was a young teenage boy, and then there was a little girl of around Ruby's age. And Ruby noticed that little girl, and she's very social, and she was glancing over at her, and she started making her way over. And as she did I had noticed that they have been talking and laughing but I hadn't been really paying much attention to it. As she was getting closer I was listening and I realized that what they were talking and laughing about, was me.
They were making fun of my weight; they were making fun of the wheelchair; they were using words that I had heard my entire life: fatso, lard ass, pig face; they were making pig sounds. And they were finding it very, very funny.
Interviewer: So what happened when Ruby went over there?
Dave Hingsburger: As she got closer, and they saw her come from my table, they didn't stop. As a matter of fact I think they picked up a little bit. So when Ruby got close enough, she heard the words for the first time. And she looked over at me, and there were tears in her eyes, but I was very, very pleased she didn't cry. And she looked at them, and I, and she just planted herself to the ground. And she took a breath and she said, "Dave!" And then there was a pause, so she took a breath again and she said, "Dave," and she pointed at me and said, "Dave, Mine!" she said.
And in that moment she just, she claimed me. And she claimed me knowing who I was, but also knowing how I was seen by others. And she ran back to me and I gave her a big hug and I was crying. And it had some profound changes in my life and even in how I present myself to the world.
Interviewer: How did she make you feel in that moment?
Dave Hingsburger: I've been fat my entire life and I'm not just fat, like you know, when people say, "Gosh, I feel so fat," and really they just need to burp. Like I'm actually truly extraordinarily fat. Okay? And I'm also a wheelchair user. It's interesting people make a connection between the two, but there is no connection between the two.
Every single time I go out into the community, every single time, I receive staring, people make remarks. Total strangers do remarkably cruel things to me, including today on the way to the studio. And to a certain degree you grow a bit numb to that.
I guess when that happened, and she said what she said, I understood that not only was it possible for Ruby to claim me, it was possible for me to claim me, in a different way.
Interviewer: Now, people who know you might be very surprised to hear that you were so deeply affected by this. Tell us why that is.
Dave Hingsburger: Well, I think it's a bit because of what I do. I have worked in the disability industry for very long time. And I work with people who have intellectual disabilities not so much people who have physician disabilities; I have published several papers; and I have written several books; and I give lectures on an international level. I think a lot of people who see me assume that there are certain things that are true because of what I do. And that is that I must be full of self-confidence, and that I must be full of self-esteem, and I must have those magical ingredients that apparently you are supposed to have if you put yourself in front of people.
And I don't think that most people know the degree to which it's a battle for me. I have extreme anxiety, particularly when I'm going to be lecturing in a place where I've never been before, because I know the moment that people come into the room and they see a fat guy about to give a lecture there is an expectation that it's going to be bad.
Interviewer: Do you feel that you'd been faking your confidence a bit?
Dave Hingsburger: Oh gosh! I still do, but less so.
Interviewer: How did that moment change you? What did you realize about yourself after that happened?
Dave Hingsburger: Let me answer that in a little story.
Two days later, I needed to buy some, some clothes, because I need lecture clothes. So I went to a Mr. Big And Tall. So I got in my wheelchair just in the door, and they had a bunch of the kinds of shirts that I wanted to buy hanging up on the wall. And, and the fella said well just point to the ones that you wanted. So fat people know how to dress. I mean we wear black, and we wear dark brown, and we wear dark green, and we wear dark gray. Fat people wear dark colors, and I've been told that my entire life. And that's all I have ever worn. And there was a bright, bright yellow shirt. And I asked the fellow if they had it in my size, and he said that they did. And he actually came all the way across the store, all the way across the store, and leaned down and whispered to me. He said, " It's yellow." And I'm like, "Yeah, I know." You know? So I bought the yellow shirt. I didn't think I'd ever, ever wear it. And then, when I was back home, I was going to be telling some people the story about Ruby and what happened. And I wanted her to hear me tell the story. So I wore the yellow shirt that day. And when I finished the story, she came and gave me a big hug. And she said, "It's like being hugged by the sun!"
And you know I now dress exactly the way that I want. I'm wearing a shirt today that actually has yellow in it. I don't care so much. You know I mean? I think, now I'm totally okay with being seen. You know? I'm loved. I'm claimed. And it was wonderful that Ruby claimed me, but the next step was for me to claim me, and that's sort of what happened.
Interviewer: Dave Hingsburger lives in Toronto.