I Marched (Sorta) Because…

I can’t answer for everyone, but I can answer for myself. I was actually unable to physically attend any marches, but I had planned to attend a smaller local one until I had surgery last week and couldn’t go.

Marching wasn’t about being against Trump or for Hilary, in fact, most of it has nothing to do with them at all. It is what our nation represents at this time. I think Trump just offered a launching point. The fact that we as a nation so readily elected a man who is so openly anti-black, anti-Muslim, anti-Mexican, etc. just reflects who many of us are as a nation.

In spite of being disabled and female, I have white privilege. I’m racist, not because I want to be, but because of the country I grew up in. But that is not how I want this to be. I want things to change. I want people of all races, religions, colors, sexual attractions, genders, etc. to feel welcome here because that is what America was made to be. We are a country that was built on freedom – freedom to be yourself and not be afraid to be you. That is the biggest reason I wanted to march. Because people deserve to have that right, whether they are a black gay queer Muslim woman or a white cisgender heterosexual Christian man. It doesn’t matter if I “agree” with them, they deserve to live their life as a free American in a safe place because THAT is what America is all about.

But the march isn’t the end. It is the beginning, more like a promise of what I will do in the days to come. The people I will stand up for, the things I will stand against, the values I will hold myself to.  The Women’s March on Washington has a 10 actions in 100 days campaign that I plan to follow, but I plan to do some work on my own too.

30 Things to Do While I’m 30

Some people do a “30 things to do before I turn 30” list, well, I’m a little late for that since I’ll be 30 in a month.  When I was 15, I did make a goal to visit all of the continents before I was 30.  I made it to 5 out of the 7 before my chronic illnesses prevented me from international travel.  While I still dream of visiting the final two (Antartica and Africa), it won’t be anytime soon.  Instead, I decided to make a list of 30 things to do while I’m 30.

1. Make a website about cavy genetics. ✓
2. Hang portraits of my pets (past and present) in my hallway.
3. Read the rest of the Harry Potter series.
4. Learn basic conversational French.
5. Bake an apple pie and crust from scratch.
6. Take a picture every week and crop/edit it to learn new skills. ✓
7. “Pay it forward” to someone else. ✓
8. Earn a title on one of my dogs. ✓
9. Crochet a dinosaur.
10. Blow bubbles when it is below freezing outside.
11. Make a planner/organizer.
12. Visit a museum I’ve never been to before.
13. Find 30 geocaches.
14. Release a new travel bug for my birthday. ✓
15. Finish a jigsaw puzzle (500+ pieces) by myself.
16. Become a volunteer at the Humane Society. ✓
17. Make paw print impressions of my pets.
18. Rewatch all of the House episodes. ✓
19. Wear pajamas for a whole day. ✓
20. Try a new food each week. ✓
21. Put my books on shelves in Dewey Decimal order.
22. Visit an Antartica exhibit at the zoo.
23. Visit an Africa exhibit at the zoo.
24. Fly a kite.
25. Blog once a month. ✓
26. Try to grow Brussel sprouts. ✓
27. Plant a tree. ✓
28. Grow a vegetable that is a “funny color” (purple broccoli, white carrots, etc.).
29. Write a letter to my 40-year-old self.
30. Make a list of Things to do Before I Turn 40 (and do them before I turn 40, not after).

I’m Not Your Inspiration

The posts are all over the internet, giving people warm, fuzzy feelings.  A grocery employee squishes a loaf of bread and the patron writes a letter to the grocery, but she isn’t angry, she praises the grocery for hiring an Autistic employee.  A man buys a cake and asks for something written on it, but when an Autistic employee writes on it in spite of not being supposed to, he shares the story with the world.  A disabled man wets himself, but a non-disabled person comes to the rescue, escorting him to the restroom and calling for clean clothes.  I could give hundreds of examples that circulate daily.  But I won’t like a single one because I hate them.

A friend recently shared the story about the lady in the grocery with squished bread.  The employee counted her change multiple times, squished her bread, and she went home and wrote a letter to the grocery praising them for hiring an Autistic employee.  I won’t like it because I don’t want to give them traffic.  But I do want to discuss it and posts like it.

What is wrong with it? First of all, the lady assumed the guy had Autism. She didn’t know, he could have been having a bad day, he could like numbers, he could have anxiety, he could have Tourette’s or a stutter or OCD. Maybe he is bad at math or it was his first day at work or he miscounted his drawer yesterday and was nervous?  Maybe he justed liked squishing bread or was bad at bagging.  I mean repeating stuff and squishing bread isn’t exactly in the DSM 5.

Now, that part aside, let’s look at what makes this story worth sharing. Is it because someone with Autism did something awesome? Because it is spreading awareness or acceptance about Autism? Because it is helping others understand what it is like to live with Autism? Nope, none of those things. It is literally shared because it makes “normal” (ie. non-autistic or non-disabled) people feel warm and fuzzy inside because they aren’t Autistic.

Let’s replace the guy in the story with a non-disabled person. Suddenly, the story is uninteresting, isn’t it? It’s pretty boring when it is about a normal person writing about a normal person who counted some stuff twice and squished some bread. It is only when a normal person acts like a decent person should to a disabled person that non-disabled people get all squishy inside and feel the need to share the story.

Imagine you were the cashier – would you want this story shared about you? What if it were your child? Your parent or sibling? We might be Autistic, but we are people. We have lives and feelings and emotions and believe it or not, we don’t exist solely for your inspiration.

This type of story is known in the disability community as “inspiration porn.” They are at best pointless and at worst ableist and objectifies the disabled. The sharing of this type of story needs to stop.  A good way to draw the line is to replace the disabled person in the story with a non-disabled person.  Does the story suddenly become really boring?  Then don’t share it.  That story about the grocery store is a great example of this.  On the other hand, the story I just read about the four Paralympians who ran faster than the Olympians at Rio in the 1500m?  That is pretty darn cool disability or no!