When I say this in common conversation, it usually elicits gasps and a swarm of people rushing to reassure me that of course I'm not a cripple! Oh, no, no, no, not me! I'm just different, you know? Certainly not crippled.
I don't know why people are so quick to tell me I'm not a cripple, and yet turn around and use that word to make a joke. We've all seen it. A kid in school breaks his leg and suddenly everyone's going "HAR HAR HAR, YOU'RE A CRIPPLE, DUDE!!!". The assumptions laden in that are that cripples are incapable, not to mention some other species of person.
Ableist slurs like cripple, spaz, crazy, and most infamously of all, retard, Other us. Cripples, spazzes, crazies, retards, aren't people we know, people who live and work and cry and laugh just like any other person. They are some distant ideas of people, fear-mongering shadows that lurk in the corners of our society to steal our children away.
I'm crazy. I have mental illnesses for which I am currently on medication. According to some states, I should not have the right to vote. And according to President Obama, who specifically said in the second to last debate that "we need to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill", I should not be permitted to own a gun. Even if that gun is the only means of defending myself I have. (Regardless of that statement, I'm still voting for Obama, because as a woman and a disabled person, Romney absolutely terrifies me. But this is not a post about politics.)
Why don't you think of me when you think "spaz" or "cripple" or "crazy" or "retard"? Because I go to college? Because I write a blog? Because I speak at conferences? Because I'm your friend?
Well, I'm here to put a face on those words you toss around so carelessly. When you say those words, you are attacking me. Not somebody's fictional idea of what those people should be. Me. The college student, future teacher, Trekkie, activist, and whatever the h*ll else I am. Your words hurt me, and regardless of how flippantly you tossed those words out, they stick with me. For days, weeks, months, years.
I am a cripple.
I am a spaz.
I am crazy.
And I am not the butt of your jokes.