Contemplations on queerness, transness, and other Otherness.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

self-checking my ableism

       My perception of my identity and the reality of my life as a result, have made me more receptive to the unique oppressions of other groups. i try to be aware, not merely of other vectors of normativity, but also the ways in which that normativity is (re)produced. Recently i’d been thinking a lot about the standard of able-bodiedness. This process led me to also think about standards of able-mindedness. i’ve been interrogating my own ableism and trying to check my privilege and policing.

       i’ve been explicitly challenging myself in the past few weeks to eliminate language like “crazy” and “insane” from my vernacular. The colloquial use of these words seems to operate in the same way as epithetical usage of terms like “gay” and “tranny.” Frankly, this is not a cultural norm that i want to reinforce.

       In this process i’ve found that, for me, this type of language was very present. i often define (and i keep this in present tense explicitly, as this is a process that is still quite current and active) things that i see as irrational or bad in this way. By linking these definitions to irrationality and badness i play into a cultural process of stigmatization.

       Like with many other things, people exist and operate along a spectrum of varying ability and need. No single point on this spectrum is normal, they are merely different points. To play into the cultural idea of “craziness” seems to delegitimize folks lived experience by casting them in this negative light. To paint someone’s thoughts or actions as “nuts” is dismissive on the grounds that their brain should function like a mythical normal brain. i don’t see this as different than when folks dismiss queer and trans experiences in similar ways.

       So i’ve been working to cut this language out. In realizing how common it was in my vernacular i have struggled to redefine the way i think about things that i don’t like or don’t understand. i’ve been searching for language that is more accurate to what i actually mean in the first place.

       i’ve defaulted to the word intense a lot. i’m not yet sure if this is better, but it is definitely a step in my personal process of growth around this issue. i often find myself saying that things are “crazy” when i feel overwhelmed.

       My lack of understanding does not equate to someone elses' “craziness,” and i’ve been trying to own that. i’ve also found that this process has led me to try to understand people more explicitly. i’ve asked for clarification more. i’ve found myself being more open to people about my uncertainty about their meaning or intention. This has created spaces for conversations and common ground that i would not have found before starting this process.

       i’ve also begun to notice how common this is in other peoples’ dialogue as well. i’ve tried to challenge other folks to grow with me. Sometimes they get it, sometimes they don’t. But i am making conversations happen, and i tend to think that is a good thing.

       i’m far from done here. This is the beginning of my ownership of a specific vector of my own privilege. i hope that it continues to bring me growth and insight. But more than that, i hope to find more ways to challenge ableism on a cultural level because all people deserve to have their varying needs and capacities acknowledge, honored, and respected.