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Emotions

Exactly one month ago was National Coming Out Day. In honor of that, I’m focusing this article in my “We Need to Come Together” series to relations between the LGBTQ and the disability communities.

I’m pretty sure not a week goes by where I’m not subjected to remarks about my disability. Now, before I even get into this topic, I’m going to politely put forth my counter-argument to the inevitable responses that I’m being nit-picky about semantics or complaining unnecessarily about comments made by well-meaning able-bodied people. I believe that if you truly mean well, you’ll consider how it feels for people with disabilities to be gawked at, subjected to ridiculous comments or prodded for our life stories, and perhaps stop to think about whether it’s appropriate to blurt out a nosey question.

You know it’s going to happen. After awhile you develop radar for it.
You and your husband are at the movies with some friends. Out in the lobby, you chit chat about the movie, then everyone makes plans to have dinner together at one of the friend’s house two Fridays from now. We extend our regrets. Even though we really wanted to go.

Discussing disabilities may feel like trying to avoid metaphorical tripwires.
One innocent misstep and an able-bodied person may receive a tongue lashing just for saying “handicap vehicle” instead of “wheelchair accessible vehicle.”

To help you sidestep situations like the one above, note the following tips when discussing disabilities.

Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the creators of South Park captured a key insight about disability in the second episode of the seventh season when they did a show called “Krazy Kripples”. In the show, two characters born with disabilities known as “Jimmy” and “Timmy” create a club that can only be joined by people who were born with a disability as a way of protesting the media attention given to Christopher Reeve, who acquired his disability in a tragic equestrian accident.

How do people in society perceive one another?
It is within our nature to cast an assuming glance and to judge reality. Within just a matter of seconds our world becomes what we project it to be.

The average person gets a little confused when they find themselves attracted to someone in a wheelchair. Not everybody feels this way, but it is the most common response.

Everyone loves stories about the underdog. I mean, what’s not to love? Every day there are examples of people who persevere, who adapt to life in incredible ways and who approach life with positivity, focus and a passion to go out and accomplish their dreams.

What is it with our society and the way it treats people with disabilities? The stories that I have heard lately – from the murder (by law enforcement) of Ethan Saylor, a man with down syndrome, to the ‘pink letter” sent to the family of an autistic teenager urging them to have him euthanized – have sent my mind reeling and have made me physically ill. The message being pounded into my soul is that the lives of people with disabilities are somehow not as worthy as the lives of non-disabled folks.

A recent ad for Guinness portray’s the true message of what friendship is all about–and what helps define character.