Monday, April 6, 2009

Ableism Impacts Queer Folk, Too

This is from Jenny Morris’ poem, “Pride Against Prejudice”:

“That if we are not married or in a long-term relationship it is because no one wants us and not through our personal choice to remain single or live alone.

That if we do not have a child it must be the cause of abject sorrow to us and likewise never through choice.

That any able-bodied person who married us must have done so for one of the following suspicious motives and never through love: desire to hide his/her own inadequacies in the disable partner’s obvious ones; an altruistic and saintly desire to sacrifice their lives to our care; neurosis of some sort, or plain old fashioned fortune-hunting.

That if we have a partner who is also disabled, we chose each other for no other reason, and not for any other qualities we might possess. When we choose ‘our own kind’ in this way the able-bodied world feels relieved, until of course we wish to have children; then we’re seen as irresponsible.” (Shakespeare, 1996)

This poem reflects a lot of the stereotypes I somehow know. I don’t’ specifically remember people telling me to believe these things, but they were assumed through glances, side comments, and pointed fingers. Over the last few weeks I’ve been reading “Queer Crips” and “Restricted Access,” books about Gay Men and Lesbians with disabilities respectively. They are creative narratives and poems about real people’s experiences. They broke down a lot of the stereotypes I had and helped me realize the paternalism that bombards people with disabilities (PWDs).
I used the word “Crip” in my paper instead of PWDs because it sounds like a reclamation term akin to “Queer.” This is how I defined it based on my readings:

“Crip” is used as a reclamation term to represent the identities developed around disability status. An underlying philosophy of Crip identity is the negation of the disempowering biological determinism behind the word “disability.” The word, “impairment,” refers to a physical barrier in one’s ability to do something, whereas “disability” refers to the social difficulties created by being a physically, mentally, or emotionally marginalized or a part of a socially disadvantaged group (Shakespeare, 1996).

The social movement to enrich Crip identity and opportunity has largely emerged from the U.K. via a small circle of authors, activists, and organizations. One of the first hurdles in confronting stereotypes about Queer Crip folk is the desexualization/ asexualization that comes from paternalism aimed at PWDs. Crips are portrayed as weak, dependant, and many of the stereotypes touched on in Morris’ poem. Perpetuating these stereotypes lead to prejudgment of people that fit these stereotypes (a.k.a. prejudice), acting on that prejudice (a.k.a. discrimination), and socio-politically institutionalizing that discrimination (a.k.a. oppression).

There were times when I felt really good about myself for walking a blind student to class, like I had helped the helpless. Then I started working with Deaf kids and realized they’re just as wild and hilarious as hearing kids. Just because someone experiences life in a differently tangible way, doesn’t make them “less than” or dependant on my altruism. I am privileged to live a world created to benefit me. The social structures created to suit non-Crips limit access to Crips. When those structures privilege Hetero non-Crips, the Queer Crip life gets even more difficult.

No comments:

Post a Comment