It's camp which I would like to discuss now. I go to a camp for physically challenged kids*. It is one of the most amazing places in the world, and this is my fourth year there. Every year there are new counselors, new campers, and new experiences. One of my favorite parts of camp is seeing the transformation in the counselors and teaching them about our crippled world. I could go on for hours about camp, but I'm going to split my musings into different posts.
One of my counselors this year was very adament about the word "crippled". She prefered to use the phrase "physically limited". I tried to explain to her, several times, why I use the word crippled as I do, as a term of pride. I knew why the word "crippled" bothered her so much: it has such negative connotations to it. What I couldn't figure out for the longest time was why "physically limited" bothered me almost as much as "crippled" bothered her. Finally I figured it out: to me, the phrase "physically limited" is yet another attempt to "normalize" us.
What exactly is "normalizing"? It's an attempt by a "normal" person to fit crippled people into the "normal" mold, to make us less disabled, because we're not supposed to be disabled. It's an effort to make us closer to what we're supposed to be. But as we all know, me and most of my crippled brethren do not like being ordinary. Most people try to "normalize" us without even realizing it, round off our square corners, because anything different scares them. And it's normalizing that has really begun to bother me in the last few months. Let me say it straight out, for anyone who might've missed it: I. DO NOT. WANT. TO. BE. NORMAL. I am very happy the way I am. I am a crip, and don't try and deny it, or sugarcoat it. I LIKE being a crip. I LIKE being different, and I LIKE not fitting into any sort of mold or stereotype. I'm a square peg trying to fit in a round hole, and it's not gonna work. I like standing out. And sometimes, standing out scares people, whether they know it or not. And sometimes standing out is harder than fitting in. But I'd rather risk it all to stand out, then to be boring and fit in all my life. I will not stand to be normalized. I will die before I let someone normalize me. Don't be ashamed of your crippled culture. Say it loud: I'm crippled and proud!
"To be fearless when I'm scared to move
Daring to be different
To scream yes, yeah I'm awake
I will not break
Daring to, daring to be different"
-Daring to Be Different by Everlife
*if anyone would like more information on my camp, feel free to contact me privately