Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Making a Mountain Out of a Molehill

When I was in kindergarten, my great grandma made me little cloth pockets that hung over the back of my walker, so I could carry things with me more easily.  I think it's safe to say that my five year old classmates had never been around someone like me.  As much as I tried to park my walker to one side, to leave the aisle clear for passing children, inevitably, first one kid, and then another, would ask, "Can I go through your mole hole?"  (It was an expected malapropism, having probably overheard the classroom teacher comment that the area between the pockets and the floor was similar to a molehill.)

Often, I said yes, eager to make friends, but unsure of how.  Maybe if I let them crawl under my walker on the way to the front of the class, they'd like me.  There were times, though, too, when I would say "no."  In my fuzzy memory of kindergarten, not one kid walked around my walker when I denied them molehill admittance.  I learned, at five, that my voice, my no didn't matter.  This was reaffirmed at various points in my life.  Other people's opinions mattered more.  So I became quiet, compliant, and reluctant to speak up.

You wanna go through my mole hole?  Sure.  You wanna call me names?  Totally used to it.  Spit a mouth full of food on me?  It's not like I can do anything to stop you...

Perhaps that's why, all these years later, I find myself less willing to bend about things that really matter.  How I identify should not be dictated by someone else.  I will insist my own language preferences be restored.  What I have to say about how I identify should not have portions redacted.

I am still quiet, but I am no longer compliant or reluctant to speak up.  If that means losing out on opportunities, then that's what it means.  These are not small issues.  These are basic.  Just as a disabled child's consent concerning their adaptive equipment should be respected at age five, a disabled adult should be heard about issues that concern them.

We are human beings.  We are complex.  We deserve to have control over our bodies and adaptive equipment.  We deserve to be viewed through more than one version of one stereotypical narrow lens.  We deserve to speak out about issues that concern us, without being ignored by classmates, or parents, or faculty.

Keep speaking out, disabled friends.  Our voices matter.

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