Disabled, and Differently-Abled

I have a chronic illness, a hidden disability that sometimes causes me to be utterly incapacitated to the point where I can barely walk or even move. I’m in pain 24/7 to varying degrees and each day greets me where I have to force myself to push past it to just get out of bed and feed the dogs. But I do it. I do a lot, considering it’s a constant battle against the entropy and the “You Can’t Do It” demon in my head and it’s minions out in the “real world”.

Those of you that also have disabilities know that demon. The one in your head that questions whether you can actually do a thing that you’re actually in the middle of doing. If you have difficulty walking, and are enjoying a day at an outdoor event with a lot of ground to cover, that demon is saying things like, “Are you SURE you should even be here? You’re holding up your friends. They’re moving slower, waiting for you and your cane/walker/chair. People are looking at you.” That guy…Gods, I hate that guy.

But his minions out in the world are worse. You can ignore the demon in your head, but his minions inhabit humans and what do you say to them? How do you tell a person that thinks they’re showing concern for your well-being that they’re actually undermining you? That they’re being ableist by saying things like, “Are you sure you should be doing that?” or “Maybe this job isn’t for you.”  What are you supposed to say — unless it doesn’t matter whether you ream them out, because believe you me, I can tear someone to shreds when I want to. But I’m at a loss with this one especially since I’m pretty sure it’s unintentional.

I’m already on SS disability because I CAN’T work a full time job due to my disabilities. But I do some part time work, have a small (very small) business making dog collars, and volunteer where I can. I do what I can when I can because I NEED to be a productive member of society and have a lot of skills from when I was in the workforce. I have a college degree. I don’t want to be a drain on resources, or someone that’s pitied or looked at with scorn. So when I say in conversation that my body doesn’t always function the way I need it to and that it’s frustrating, I’m not looking for pity or sympathy — and I’m definitely not looking for any type of response like, “Isn’t there someone else that can do __________ for you?” The answer is, no, there’s not. It’s just me, but that’s besides the point — that question shouldn’t even be asked.

Do not presume what I can or cannot do, I’ll be the one to determine that. Sometimes, I’m not even sure. It changes from day to day. Today I might be able to run a mile (hahahahaha). Tomorrow, I might not even be able to walk to the bathroom. We are all differently-abled, even those without any kind of disability. All it takes is ONE injury or illness to knock you out, and you can find yourself in the same boat as I and many others — begging for a chance to prove oneself worthy of consideration and equality.

Hijab for a Day, the Alabama Way

Today is World Hijab Day so as a sign of solidarity, I wore hijab. I occasionally cover my head either for fashion or for protection as I am very fair and prone to sunburn. I shaved my head last February to raise funds for St. Baldrick’s and wore bandannas and scarves throughout the summer, sometimes wrapping like a tichel, sometimes just winging it. Wearing hijab wasn’t too far a stretch from what I’ve been doing so I decided, why not? I’ve been protesting our country’s despicable mistreatment of refugees and immigrants ever since Donald Trump was a candidate.

I live in Alabama. That could mean that I’d get a lot of flack for it, even as a white woman. However, my city (Birmingham) just declared itself as a Sanctuary City so while Alabama is seen as backwards and racially divided and divisive (and is, in many ways and parts), Birmingham itself is a bit more progressive and dare I say it: a little blue dot in a giant sea of red. Still, I was a little nervous as I went out to run my errands, which included a visit to *gulp* Walmart.

Now, I’m used to being stared at. Before I shaved my head, my hair was blue, aqua, purple, and down to my waist. Then with a shaved head tucked under a hat or bandanna or scarf – people often thought I was a cancer patient and I had to correct that misperception. I did get some looks, a couple of turned heads but no problems. No one said anything TO me but one woman decided to take her child and their food home from McDonald’s rather than eat it there after taking a good long look at me.

So that was my experience with hijab for a day. I may do it again, depending on the weather and my clothes. I overheat too quickly and can’t imagine a sweaty sticky hijab is attractive on anyone.

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To “Beckywiththepinkhat” from another Becky with a pink hat

There are many viral posts making the rounds from WOC (women of color) or indigenous women that were at the Women’s March on Washington or other cities this past weekend. These posts are admonishments to the white women that have just now decided to rise up and fight for rights that WOC (I am going to use WOC in this post to include all races EXCEPT white for reasons of expediency) have been fighting for generations. Two of these posts I will link here as examples:

https://twitter.com/sydnerain/status/823378710833270786

 

As a white woman, albeit a Latina (Brasilian) of Jewish descent, it’s hard to read those words. My first reaction is, “Hey! I didn’t do that to you! I am intersectional with my feminism. am a first generation American. MY ancestors didn’t oppress anyone – they were the ones oppressed as German/Russian Jews!” etc. And yes…I have been activist in some form or another for most of my life but not quite as activist as I SHOULD have been especially in light of what has been happening in this country. I was focused on other things, what I deemed important to me at the time (in my case, pit bull advocacy and animal welfare. Still important but the human animal is deserving of compassion too — and…I almost went off on a tangent. Nope. Stay focused Jax.)

Lakeshia and Hokte, and others saying the same — I want you to know that I AM LISTENING. WE ARE LISTENING.

Some of us white women are tardy to the party … but we are here now. Educate us.

I know you are frustrated with us; that it took us SO LONG to get here. But please, welcome us now that we’re here. Many of us are trying, please realize that. We’re going to flounder and flub and make stupid mistakes because for many,  it’s our first time as activists.  Educate us. Treat us like the newbies we are — be gentle. We are not used to being trod upon. I know…special little snowflakes are we, we white women of privilege. But that’s the thing here — so many of us (not me specifically) ARE coming from a place of privilege and have JUST NOW realized that it’s all being threatened and we are TERRIFIED and don’t know what to do. We don’t know how to act. I’m willing to bet that many of the women that marched on Washington had never marched before, had never traveled out of their own state or interacted with people outside their own demographic. It may not seem like a lot to you —  WOC who are activists and experienced in fighting for their rights but for some of the women I traveled with from Alabama — it was a GIANT leap of courage to leave their tiny  towns and interact with folks so far from their usual perspective. Acknowledge that.

I know you’ve been angry and oppressed and repressed for most of your lives and look upon so many suburban housewives with their silly pink hats with disdain and think, “what took you so damned long?” I don’t blame you for wanting to call us out. But at the same time, we ARE here NOW. So after admonishing us for being clueless or rude or just plain ignorant — maybe take a moment to also thank us for making the attempt to cross a cultural bridge that has stood for so long and that for many has been more of a wall than a bridge. Many “Beckys” DON’T understand. But they will now. Or maybe it’ll take another week or a month or a year but the fact that so many “Beckys” showed up is a step in the right direction. Acknowledge that.

If you, and we, want to work together then your admonishments need to be followed up with education on HOW we can be better as women. Just women. Not WOC or indigenous or white women or Jewish women or Muslim women or Christian women or how about we include the men of all kinds that joined us in the marches.

We were late. We were ignorant and rude and faltered and didn’t act correctly. But we’re here now and WE ARE LISTENING. We are trying. Help us help ourselves, together.

This is me: My name is Jackie (not Becky). I am a white latina jewish pagan buddhist LGBTQ disabled woman. And I wore a pink pussyhat. And I was there in DC. And I’m pretty sure I wasn’t rude to anyone and if I was: I’m sorry. But it had nothing to do with your skin color or culture, it had to do with the pain I was in and my body breaking down. At that point, you could have been Rutger Hauer *swoon* and I’d have barked at you to get out of my way.

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