The title of this article probably isn’t about what you think it is.
This title refers to a couple of events that made me think about how we should never assume that ableism is something pervasive only in non-disabled circles.
I am talking about more than internalized ableism, the need some disabled people have to distance themselves from disabled people they consider not worthy of any respect. I am talking about ableism that easily resembles, sometimes becomes, hate.
I recently experienced this kind of ableism. It was hurtful, and it got worse than I described in my previous post, “Bigots“.
I know that there is a lot of ableism in the disability community. I have seen and experienced physically disabled people being dismissive of developmentally disabled people.
I have seen intellectually disabled people being shunned by other disabled people, the ones who believe “intelligence” is what makes a person worthy of respect.
What was new to me, in my recent experience, was seeing an Autistic person who didn’t like my appearance, who didn’t try to know me and who didn’t try to understand my method of communication, going on a crusade to demonize me.
She called me a “forger” and “without a voice”, among other things. She questioned my competence and demanded responses from friends who support me.
She must be very pleased with herself. Her actions hurt and left scars.
On the other hand, I had one beautiful experience of acceptance that makes my soul jump with joy.
I met some incredibly awesome people. I knew them from social media and they knew about my disabilities and how hard it can be when I meet people for the first time.
But theory and practice are very different. These new friends do not identify as disabled. As far as they shared with me, they hadn’t experienced friendship with someone with complexities similar to mine.
They might have been surprised to meet me and see an uncooperative body that houses the brain responsible for the words we shared online.
What happened when we met was this: pure awesome. Our strongest link is music, and that’s how we connected. Their impressions of me, if different of what they chose to share are their own, as it should be. But what they showed and shared was this:
They seemed happy to meet me.
They didn’t ignore or dismiss me.
They didn’t seem shocked by how I look, or by how my body moves.
They didn’t demand proof of my humanity.
They didn’t try to ignore my disabilities either, which is a win for all.
Ableism is ugly and it hurts, sometimes deeply.
Acceptance helps with healing the wounds.
I am grateful for my non-disabled friends for coming with the kind of healing I needed so much – RESPECT.
I am grateful for my disabled friends who actually know me, who have seen me communicating in many different occasions, and who stood by me. They continue to RESPECT me.
Two events, one sadly unexpected outcome, one happy connection.