What Meda describes here is so much of my life. This thing with P specifically, but also, like, my entire K-12 social experience and some of college. Not knowing things that Everyone Knows. Doing things that seem totally reasonable, but they’re Not Done That Way, and people smile and shake their heads Oh, there’s Minty, fucking up again.
And I don’t have a diagnosis. I must have been under a decent amount of scrutiny as a small child, because my parents got me labelled as gifted and got permission for me to start school early, but apparently nobody thought I was remotely weird enough to have a diagnosable problem. AND YET EVERYONE CAN TELL.
Quoting in full because I don’t want to lose this:
it’s tough because. i don’t come across as the kind of person who would get the r-word treatment — i don’t come across as that kind of person, not even to the people who treat me that way, while they are treating me that way. there is some giant cognitive disconnect or schism in their minds. people don’t tend to mistake me for having an intellectual disability, because of my expressive vocabulary and other superficial stuff; people don’t even tend to infer that i have a developmental disability. not on a conscious level.
and i mean, even if i were the kind of person who could escape the r-word treatment — i should still care. it would be horribly hypocritical of me to dismiss a facet of ableism i didn’t personally experience. BUT i think that some people see me getting upset about condescension, the Disability Voice, the being-an-unperson, and they think in the back of their heads ‘but no one would ever do that to you.’
i mean, you talk in complete sentences on the internet!
but here is the thing. i get that from everyone. oh you’re so Smart, oh you’re so high-functioning, oh i cannot imagine that anyone would ever consider you ‘retarded’. oh, you’re such a bright and strong person, i can’t fathom that anyone would treat you that way.
these are things said by the people who DO treat me that way.
they don’t realize how deep it goes. their impulse to treat ID/DD people as un-people is so thoroughly ingrained, that they don’t need to know someone is ID/DD to use it. they don’t need to be consciously aware of ‘disability’. i just need to act in a certain way, that trips the wires in their heads, and suddenly they are calling me ‘sweetie’ and denying my own experiences to my face; suddenly they know what’s best for me, when i couldn’t possibly know; suddenly my thoughts and desires are adorable. because people like me aren’t people. people like me are something else.
all i have to do is not get a joke that Everyone Gets. or ask a question about something that should be Obvious. or speak with an unusual turn of phrase. or make a funny noise. or get upset about something that Doesn’t Upset Anyone.
and suddenly i’ve flipped this switch in their heads, and i don’t have a mind, or feelings, or opinions; i am a malleable piece of putty to be shaped as they see fit. a puppet, or a nuisance to be dealt with.
so don’t you dare tell me i am not one of those people. you’re the ones who decided that i am. i live in that part of the disability spectrum, yes, me, with my ‘articulate’ speech and my insights and my intelligence. because you put me there. because you fucking created it.
you, nondisabled people, created this division. you decided there was a line below which a person is not a person. you demonstrate your knowledge of this line every day. and there are disabled people, too — those who manage to avoid this kind of treatment, or who are able to dismiss it as a mistake — who uphold the division themselves.
i don’t want to move the line. i think it shouldn’t exist.
i like to think i would still have this viewpoint, even if i were consistently treated as a person myself. but the truth is i have no way of knowing. because living above the person-line goes deep. sometimes i get a chance to swing above it, and i forget. but i need you to understand how much time i spend below.
it is going to be very hard for you to treat me as a person, after being conditioned out of it for so long.
you can start by listening to me.