I do not quite yet have the words to fluidly articulate the decades of damage that I need to get off my chest, so this may be a ramble-y, unpolished post – and I do not apologise for this. It is 4am on a Monday and I am exhausted by life.
Tonight (or in the early hours of this morning, rather) I was aimlessly scrolling through my twitter feed and saw multiple instances of ableism – someone being compared to a disabled person in order to insult them, another person mocking the body of someone who actually has a history of medical trauma and physical impairment, mental illness shaming, a tweet highlighting the horrifically ableist policies being fought against in the United States, and a despicable headline from BBC News titled “Is having a disabled partner a burden?” – which apparently centres the opinions of three non-disabled women.
I say ‘apparently’ because I did not click on the link itself. I cannot click on links like these. Reading the headline alone triggered an emotional response in me that I would like to say is rare but is in fact a regular occurrence in my life, and has been for decades. That triggering is a regular cause of insomnia, as I stay awake trying with all my might to halt the angry and sad tears involuntarily erupting from my body, in conjunction with memories of the ableist damage my mind, body and soul has been subjected to for most of my life.
Despite a pretty amazing ability to suppress my own emotions in front of people, I read a headline like that (or hear a comment from someone along those lines) and in an instant a barrage of pain memories erupt within me. The pain of being abandoned by a long term partner just a week after declaring an intention to spend life with me, because he could not bear the thought of being with a woman in a wheelchair – prior to the surgery that resulted in me needing one. The pain of being rejected for ableist reasons but simultaneously used, time and time again, by people who have been content to use my life energy to power their own, leaving me empty and further wounded. The pain of accepting abusive and unequal love relationships because I internalised the ableist idea that I could not expect any better.
The pain of being bullied at school because of my physical impairments and trauma. The pain of endless job discrimination and resulting poverty because of my physical impairments and trauma. The pain of traveling for 3 hours in a frail and ailing body with a clinically depressed mind to study at institutions, but being forced out of them because of lack of educational support for my physical impairments and trauma. The pain of being forced out of education because of a lack of accessible public transport and lack of funds for alternative transport because… aforementioned employment discrimination.
The pain of everyone who claims to love you actually being ableist and not giving a fuck nor making any effort to educate themselves about the ableism you face. The pain of supposed allies being so only in word, not in consistent action. The pain of having to constantly ask people to consider not discriminating against you because making something accessible is seen as a charitable optional act rather than the recognition of your basic human right. The pain of being shamed, tone policed and further marginalised by the non-disabled when you have the audacity to express sincere emotions about how awful their ableism is. The pain of all this being preceded by multiple instances of medical malpractice, for which I will never be compensated and for which no apologies were ever offered.
And a thousand other pains I do not yet have the ability to name.
When your mind and body is ill, ALL OF SOCIETY rejects you, over and over. This has been my experience of the disability intersection of my identity – it of course intersects with being a Black woman, being queer, being poor (which for me is directly connected to being disabled, having physical impairments, an interrupted education, and psychological trauma). Navigating a world that tacitly accepts the idea of your inferiority and undesirability is really, really fucking hard. It takes an emotional toll that no amount of super human positive thinking can overcome. And when the people who purport to care about you are ableist too, what are you to do? How do you survive?
I am trying to figure that out.
It’s been a long minute since I posted here. That hiatus ends this week. My intention is to publish a post every weekend going forward. I’m also trying to find a way to make this blog more accessible to people with some kinds of disabilities – without changing my writing style. I will be making changes gradually as time progresses and I figure these things out.
Since being away I have been making some lifestyle changes, grounding myself and finding new direction. Soon I will be writing here about some events and initiatives I have been blessed to be a part of or witness here in Naarm (Melbourne, Australia).
Until then, I thought I’d share some clips of one of my new Sheroes below 🙂
I started 2018 at the local gym, working on my new years resolution to make the foundation of my day to day life taking care of and loving this body. The reason for this, other than the fact that I am physically disabled, is that I have spent a large portion of my life so far hating and seriously abusing this body through both active harm and neglect.
Now in my third decade of what I know will be a very long life, it is important for me to make physical self care, which I have always struggled with, a habit. I have gone to the gym almost 5 days a week, every week. I am going again tomorrow. A close friend of mine is generously training me and I envision a time when I will be strong enough and motivated enough to train solo on days when there is no one available to assist me with my program.
Ultimately, I would love to be like this Woman right here – meet 80 year old Ernestine Shepherd:
She is goals AF:
Cried the first time I watched the above clip. May I continue to build this foundation so that my core, my body, my mind and my spirit are as whole, strong, and peaceful as Ernestine’s appears to be. Let it be so.
Good morning. I have finally updated and renewed the blog! And changed the appearance of it.
Please have a look at the new pages (top menu bar). I will have a brand new post up later next week.
Here’s the new look:
Highly recommend watching and absorbing the knowledge Harsha Walia shares in this – it will take just 13 and a half minutes out of your day:
I love and relate to this! Here’s to activating Black spaces in a white colony!
I was just having a conversation with a friend (a fellow Black person) yesterday about the importance of Black spaces and (self) representation: of ourselves. of our stories, of our images, of our art. And then I came across performance poet Manal Younus’ TEDxAdelaide Talk on Facebook.
I had the good fortune of meeting this trail blazing woman last year. Manal Younus is a writer, performance artist and creative producer in Adelaide. As a Muslim with Eritrean origins living in Australia, Manal has used her work to spark discussion amongst audiences and communities.
Manal has performed around Australia including at the Sydney Opera House, featured on ABC television’s Q&A program and was a finalist for Young South Australian of the year in 2016. Manal released ‘Reap’, her self-published book of poetry in 2015. You can purchase it HERE.
In thisTEDxAdelaide Talk, Manal Younus explores the importance of ownership, representation and creating spaces where people of colour can discover themselves away from the white gaze. Basically, she breaks down for white folk why we need our own spaces, by us and for us, in order to be whole, healthy people in the world.
(The African-run space Manal talks about in the talk – the one that nourished her soul and inspired her – inspired me in the same way. How I wish I had had a space like that when I was an isolated and damaged teenager.)
Some words from Angela Davis, about the goal for the next few years:
Get woke, stay woke, and with a heart of love and righteous rage, stay ACTIVE.