As the past two entries might cause you to surmise, last week I had more than my fair share of crap landing on me because I’m blind. I knew it was getting to me, but truly didn’t understand how much until I bit someone’s head off.
I went to a discussion group on transgendered women’s issues that, from my previous experience, is essentially a fascinating discussion of gender with lovely servings of race, class, and sexual orientation politics added to the stew. The facilitator has always been extremely open to disability issues going so far as to send me an article ahead of time so I could read it and fully participate in the conversation.
Maybe my expectations were too high. Maybe my frustration level was at the boil over threshold. Maybe I’m just human and like any member of a marginalized group sometimes want to not have to educate or explain, rather having everything simply be done the “right” way. Whatever the case, I lost it.
First, in trying to make a point about something being both intellectual and emotional, a person must have tapped their head and chest. It wasn’t clear initially, but through context I sorted it out. Then someone made reference to how they look. I didn’t understand her point because I had no way of knowing she has masculine traits. When the same person started telling a story using facial expressions that conveyed crucial information, I put up my hand and stopped her. The conversation then went something like this:
“Hang on a second. Could you please, please stop assuming everyone in this room is sighted. It’s pissing me off.”
She replied, “I didn’t know.”
“The dog under the table didn’t tell you?” I asked.
“I didn’t know what the dog was for.”
I said, “I know I don’t look blind, but still. You can’t just assume everyone here can see.”
She said, “My bad.”
It was awkward, I was intense in how I presented my point, and the entire room was silent for that moment afterwards that tells you everyone is uncomfortable with how someone behaved. And by someone, in this case I mean me.
I’m not even going to explain why I was justified in being upset because clearly I had good reason. I did not, however, have reason to be rude. I simply lost my cool after a week of being hemmed in by a world that assumes sight and cannot manage to think outside that particular box. I wish my ire had been directed at those who truly deserved it. Then again, when it’s an entire social structure to blame, how do you vent at the appropriate entity?

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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.

6 thoughts on “Chomp

  1. As I mentioned earlier, your frustration was absolutly justified. And when we ‘blow up’ so to speak, as marginalized people we often blame ourselves for not being able to rise above the frustration. But, I think this comes from the institutionalized pressures people put on us. We are expected to be perfectly polite and not show anger and frustration. We are expected to educate with an inhuman grace that no one should be expected to possess.

  2. What! Your not superhuman? I’ve always admired your superhuman abilities to manage without full sensory input. Human nature is a strong quality too. Thanks for sharing… :-Dan

  3. Liz,

    The biggest problem I had with my own behavior was that I unfairly allowed my Really Bad Week to come into play. Normally, I would have handled it better. I would have made my point with less frustration. The person in question didn’t deserve to be at the receiving end of upset caused by other’s stupidity.

  4. Dan,

    I am so not super human and would hate to be. I’m just me living my life.

    Please, please tell me you were kidding about “admiring my super human abilities to manage.” If I made a list of the top 500 things I wanted to be admired for, my ability to cope with lack of sensory input would not even be on it.

    and I don’t think I quite understand “human nature is a strong quality too,” though I really want to because it intrigues me.

    Some might say I overshare, so thanks for appreciating it.

  5. I was the person who tapped her chest and head. I didn’t catch myself until after the meeting was over. And I really want to thank you for saying something, because if you hadn’t spoken, I probably wouldn’t have done even that. I was being thoughtless. But I am glad that now I have a new way to be more mindful about how I communicate.

    I really appreciate not just the content of what you said, but the emotion, because it really drives home for me how important things like this are. I think sometimes there is this idea that we have to be calm all the time. But I think that it shows trust when we share our emotions, even if they are raw and leave some discomfort in the room.

  6. Haven,

    I really appreciated your comments, especially the last part about how discomfort isn’t necessarily the end of the world. I sometimes forget that and I very much needed reminding. Between you and Liz, I’m officially done beating myself up for this.


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