Crack my head open
On your kitchen floor
To prove to you that I have brains
– Alkaline Trio
When you are disabled, much of your life is spent proving your humanity to others. Too often, disabled people are objects; objects of your pity, objects of your existential strife, objects that someone needs to care for, objects of your inspiration, I could go on. Objects are acted on and not interacted with. And when we get too comfortable with our illusion of humanity, someone will always be there to shatter it. Someone, so graciously, reminded me of my objectified existence today. They really deserve a medal for preventing this disabled chick from using her own brain.
The thing is, she meant well. Most people do. Long story short, plans were unnecessarily changed in order to accommodate my disability. No one asked me. They gave me a vague reason for the change. I was living in ignorant bliss until today. Then someone opened their big mouth and said “well, we changed the plan for you, because you know, your disability.” When I explained that the change was unnecessary, she replied “I guess we should have asked.” Nailed it! You definitely should have asked! You see, we could chalk this up to a learning experience and call it a day. That’s a part of what I will do. The other part is that I will do my best to explain to you, dear reader, why this is fucked up. I want you to be better than that.
These people forgot that I am a human! I am not a delicate flower. I will not whither if you offend me. I will not be crushed by your carelessness. And you are not an almighty force that makes or breaks me. We are 2 fellow humans so let’s treat one another as such.
Fear also factors into this. They were afraid of offending me. Maybe they were afraid of needing to help me. Maybe they were afraid of the discomfort of watching me do something in my own way. Who knows! The point is, YOU ARE BRAVER THAN THAT!
Through my time working in community mental health, I have learned a few things.
1. We are all just a few intensely shitty experiences away from the things we fear the most… Maybe that is living on the streets, or becoming terminally ill, dyeing, becoming disabled, etc.
2. People experience intense discomfort when faced with this concept.
I get it! It makes me pretty uncomfortable too. So what do we do? Truthfully, I do not know. But one thing we can do is BE BRAVE and remember one another’s humanity.
To illustrate my complicity, here is a story. I was on the bus the other day when a young guy in a wheel chair gets on. He started talking about how he was pretty newly disabled from a traumatic event. When he was sharing his story, I felt really emotional. I was faced with those really common/pesky existential concerns. I felt really bad for the dude. But I think what I did wrong here is that I made his stuff about me. I was not brave. I made him an object.I think it would be pretty accurate to assume that he has no interest in my pity. He is probably interested in being treated like a resilient human who went through some rough shit. He probably has lots of opinions, and favorite movies/bands/books, and hobbies. He is more than that disability. He is complex. We are all complex.
TLDR: Objectification is easy and weak. Be brave and recognize humans for humans.