A Hostile Letter to the Non-Disabled

Dear Temporarily Able Bodied person,

 

I have recently gotten in touch with my anger toward you. It isn’t enough that you feel sorry for me. And it isn’t enough that you assume my incompetence. It’s also not enough that you expect me to be gracious and grateful and polite no matter what you say or do. It’s even not enough that you consider my fate worse than death. I could live with all that if necessary. Unfortunately, you seem to insist upon engaging in beliefs and perpetuating a society that literally keeps me from what I want. You, in the form of this society, even taught me that it is what I should want.

This world you’ve created teaches little girls to want families and encourages grown ups to find their life partner. At the same time, you school everyone in the fact that I’m helpless, dependent and pitiable. I should want home and hearth. I should just be fine without ever actually getting it.

When it comes to accommodations like accessible formats, audible crosswalks, and Braille on elevators, I can at least comprehend the obstacle created by having to take that extra step, to make the effort. You need to think that someone blind might want to read the menu, cross a street, or go to the eighth floor of a building and do something about it. The additional thought and exertion necessary is, well, work.

What effort or energy does it take to stop feeling sorry for me? To cease expecting my politeness in the face of insult? To desist in assuming I’m not competent? There’s no effort. It’s not a Herculean task. It’s a simple act of not….

Instead, these negative beliefs become the armor you use to protect yourself from the distress of my existence making it easier to feel pity rather than trying to understand, to offer supposed compliments in place of questioning the underlying insulting assumptions and to dismiss me as a substitute for perceiving my value. It’s more comfortable when you don’t actually perceive me as a person. My personhood comes entirely too close to you having to consider what your life would be like if you became me. Mustn’t contemplate that possibility.

So, to make your life all comfy, safe, and easy, you keep me from what I want. You make me an undesirable mate and nothing I say or do can in fact remove that stigma from myself. I have Hester Prin’s scarlet letter tattooed on my forehead only nothing I did put it there and nothing I do can remove it.

My anger at you knows no bounds. I’d scream, but I’d become hoarse long before I had even begun to express my fury. Becoming a hermit would work except for the fact that modern society makes us all interdependent – a fact you conveniently forget. I only wish I could morph my personality into one that would welcome your pity, low expectations, and devaluation with gratitude because at least then it wouldn’t add to my misery. Instead, I get to be full of rage in a way beyond my ability to express and beyond my ability to change.

Ironically, frustratingly and ridiculously, the fixing of it is left to you who could care less that your unthinking assumptions deny not only me but an entire class of people something you proclaim necessary for happiness. I didn’t choose disability to be a part of my life, but I did do everything in my power to make my life work. What, exactly, have you done except get in my way?

 

Respectfully,

Jen

This entry was posted in The Messy Side and tagged , , , by Jen. Bookmark the permalink.

About Jen

After acquiring a degree from Vassar College in psychology, I moved to Western Mass where I ran a peer mentoring network for disabled college students as well as activism and organizing around disability issues. I also conducted research on disabled women’s body image. An Upstate New York native, I eventually followed my heliotropic nature to the sun of Southern California. I divide my time between writing (disability fiction and essays) along with moderating San Diego Bisexual Forum which is one of the oldest groups of its kind in the country. In my off hours I can often be found in my neighborhood live music venue enjoying our local talent.

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