Sunday, February 28, 2010

I am not "just like you".

Sooooo....haven't updated since May. Good to be back. Hope someone's actually reading this. And while you're at it, check out my new website, Mosaic Webzine. It's a monthly/sort of monthly webzine dedicated to disability culture, pride, and empowerment. Sort of like this blog, except the difference is on Mosaic other people actually write stuff, and it's not just me going on about myself all the time.

So, this is my first post for the disability blog carnival. I've never done it before, just because I've never really had the time. But when I saw this carnival's theme, inspiration kicked me in the stomach, and I came up with this. Hope you enjoy!

The theme is: "If you had the chance to strike down one stereotype, which one would it be and why?"

Much of the mainstream disability rights movement and disability based organizations in particular seem keen on promoting the “I’m just like YOU!” factor. Well, here’s a news flash for you: I’m not just like you.

We have things in common, sure. We both like to read, we both go to school, and we both are intelligent people. We both might have the same political beliefs, or we might both want to go to college. But I am not just like you. From the moment of my birth, I was not just like you. From the second my life began, I traveled a different path. I have had cerebral palsy all my life, and it is that that has made me a different person.

I have known hardships that you have never known. I have known discrimination; I have known pain of all kinds. I have known what it is like to be an unperson. I have known the struggle that comes every day from simply trying to do things that you take for granted.

But I have also known the particular joy that comes with being with my people, my brothers, my sisters, who can understand my unique experience in a way that you never will. You may understand it in your own way, you may accept it, you may even embrace it. But you will never understand like they do. And I know that, and that’s okay with me.

We are different. But aren’t we all different? Shouldn’t we encourage diversity and acceptance of each

unique individual experience? We should value each person for who they are, instead of trying to make them fit this mythical mold of “normal” that everybody thinks we should strive for. Instead of “I’m just like you” we should be saying “I’m different – and that’s okay.”

*disclaimer: I am not trying to reverse-discriminate against Abs, nor am I trying to dramatize and exaggerate my own circumstances. I am just stating simple fact. Just because I am different does not mean that I cannot be friends with ABs, or that I have some sort of hatred towards ABs. I am just trying to illuminate how the “I’m just like you” stereotype is flawed and inaccurate. The “unperson” is a reference to Amanda Baggs’ video “Being An Unperson”. Although not all of the experiences of being an nonperson she describes apply to my particular experience, a lot of them do, and just because I am considered “mildly” disabled does not mean that I have not been an unperson.