So, I don’t see myself as disabled because I can do most things without assistance and in the society in which I live, disabled is interpreted as not able to do some/most things without help from someone else.
It is not that I see disabled as less than, although I know many do. I am autistic, though in the eyes of some the fact that I work and speak means I cannot possibly really be autistic.
It is down to that internalised ableism that I and many others have. Mine looks like me not allowing myself to be authentically me 100% of the time assuming, possibly wrongly, that if I do I will lose the respect of others and lose any ideas of capability that they currently have.
This is known as masking, where autistics behave in ways that are not natural to them but mimic those around in order to fit in, to be seen as acceptable. I cannot mask or prevent my tics and the responses of others when I tic are interesting. Some are concerned or worried, others fine it strange or bizarre. Some tell me to stop it, whilst others start timing it in case it is a seizure.
Why should it matter how people move their bodies. And then it struck me whilst watching someone walking down the street with an unbalanced gait. We are used to villains and those with mental illness being portrayed with atypical body movements, bad or mad.
I do not think mental illness is easy, it sucks, but having a mental illness does not make you less than someone who is lucky enough to have mental health. Mental illness does not equate to villainy either, though many movies and stories may have you believe that. How can we combat ableism that perceives difference as less than at best and totally under desirable at worst.
Feeling that others see you as less than is not just disenfranchising, it is exhausting. Smart, funny, kind people getting exhausted because their bodies or communication or skin colour is different from the majority. How is this ok? How can we change it. How do we say, enough is enough. Ableism is just another bigoted opinion like homophobia, racism or sexism. No bigotry is ever ok and when we are steeped in any form of bigotry from all around us, of course we internalise some of it.
I am stroppy, I have been called arrogant because I believe I am of equal worth to everyone else in the world. Bizarre that wanting to be equal is arrogant. Why and how?! Because I am supposed to be less than and grateful to be at the table with others. This does not come from my family who brought me up to respect the cultures, values and languages of the people around us. To be kind and respectful to all.
This comes from media, from popular culture and from the current power brokers in society who don’t want to share power in the form of equality because by definition that will diminish their power. But will it? Does everyone having equality take from some? If it does is that a good thing, bad thing or neutral?
And do I mean equality of equity? Why can’t friends who use wheelchairs move around the city as easily as I? Why make curbs with big drops and not sloping edges?
I am who I am. I am good at some things and rubbish at others. I’d bet all the money in the world that this is the case for every single living person. We need each other and if we could collaborate in an equitable and respectful manner, then the world would probably be in a much better state than it is.
Enough with ideologies of hate and bigotry. Let’s stop with internalised and systemic ableism and just agree people are people amd that we all have strengths and support needs. Amd then let’s support each other with kindness and respect. That’s your challenge for this month.