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Gordon's D-Zone Arcive (2006-2014)

Saturday, July 07, 2007


No, I’m not bursting into song right now, or am I listening to “The Sound of Music”. I’ve been thinking a lot lately over the issue of where I exactly do I belong in society in the present. Following the last post, I have received questions and feedback that have set me thinking once again on the path ahead. And to me, the name I call myself – or the group I would like to be identified with – is important as it says a lot about me.

Left: A picture of a white swan trying to touch its own reflection with its beak. I drew this one using my computer. And granted I’m no artist… There will be more of these coming up… as well as photos!

And yes, there was a time when I didn’t want to be called ‘disabled’ r having anyone suggest that. Why? Because I felt ashamed to be identified as not ‘normal’, as for me ‘disability’ was synonymous with ‘abnormality’ and pathetic existences. But now, I find that far from shameful or 'defeatist', calling myself ‘disabled’ implies that I recognise that the problems I face in being part of society are not justified by my ‘impairment’ but that society should take into account who I am and accept my difference.

However, calling me ‘disabled’ does not simply mean I am making a statement to society. It means that I am saying that I share with other disabled people in their exclusion and in the distortion of our life. The story about disabled people, as I speak, is being mostly written by non-disabled people who interpret our experiences unrealistically and interpret every choice we make based on our impairment. By defining myself as ‘disabled’, I am writing my own story.

But isn’t the word ‘disabled’ divisive? Doesn’t it distinguish between non-disabled people and disabled people in such a way that puts them at opposite ends of the debate?

I’ve thought about those questions and think that the fact is that non-disabled people have separated us from the community for centuries. We have been and still are institutionalised, our life stories have been analysed. Our voices have seldom been heard except to be used to evoke pity and a false sense of charity. By naming ourselves, we are claiming who we are.

We are saying that we are not a blob of individuals without our own opinions. We are saying that the standards by which ‘normalcy’ is assessed are flawed and incorrect as we are not part of that measure. In human terms, we are also saying that dismissing our realities is denying that we are human. Dismissing our humanity can happen by pathologising our experience or even by making moral judgements about our life because of our ‘impairments’.

Dismissing our humanity is also saying that we do not belong here. That if we are accepted it is only because non-disabled people are ‘kind’ enough to allow us to participate. It is contradicting the reality that we have emotions, thoughts and feelings that arise out of our humanity. And yet, we must call ourselves ‘disabled’ first because we are still not proud of who we are. We must be aware of that. No sooner do we turn on radio, TV or read a book that when disability surfaces, our humanity is sacrificed by either becoming superhuman or by becoming subhuman and dismal.

And that is one of the names I choose to call myself. Not because I have anything against non-disabled people. Or because I want to distance myself from others (well, I applied to become a hermit but was turned down because of health reasons) … it is because I want to be part of human society on my own terms and with my impairments included in the deal.

To read more about how we may be perceived by non-disabled others and to find out about the oppression caused by ‘pity’ visit a blog by Andrea, an ‘insect psychologist’:
Games People Play (off and on the court)

From: Andrea’s Buzzing About

PS: Things here at the summer place have finally settled down. And yes, that means I've got my old internet connection here once again. But it was a hell of a week!!!


Philip. said...

A thought provoking post!

I'm disabled too and don;t care who knows!

GordonGT said...

I can't really hide the fact that I've got an impairment. That said, I think it was important for me to recognise it as part of me into my understanding of the creation of 'disability'.

I don't mean that I announce the fact I'm disabled on rooftopps (if I could, which I cannot) but it is more of recognition that my exclusion is not my own fault!