“You’d be dead.” I wondered if that was meant to comfort me as my stomach clenched. I know, I know. I do not want to know. These arguments have been haughtily shoved in my face for as long as I can remember. People tend to argue “It could be worse. Be thankful America doesn’t murder your kind,” to remind me that I will never be equal to my able-bodied counterparts. This is a petty, ableist argument that comes out of nothing benevolent. I cannot even justify it as ignorance because it is an indirect threat, as it insinuates strong, disabled women should sit down and shut up. Sadly, this argument comes from a place of hatred and able-bodied superiority. I am fortunate to have all of the resources and services I have. I cannot refute that, but that does not change the discrimination and injustice I face on a regular basis. Saying “at least we didn’t murder you” will not help me up the stairs. Saying “at least we didn’t murder you” will not get me a job when I am turned down because I am a liability. Saying “at least we didn’t murder you” does not bring back the disabled people that have died at the hands of the police (yes, police brutality affects disabled people, especially people that are both black and disabled). Saying “at least we didn’t murder you” does not end assisted suicide; instead, it encourages it.
Our society would rather “humanely” kill disabled people than support them. This is a reality I have had to live with. It is what contributed to my self-esteem issues, bulimia, and previous suicide attempts. I live with guilt everyday, the knowledge that people like me “shouldn’t be alive,” that the world is doing me a favor by simply keeping me alive. It is a reality I have wrestled with time and time again. It is a sort of survivor’s guilt–why me? Why do I get to be here when millions of other disabled people don’t? I do not know the answer. I do not know why life is unjust, especially for marginalized populations. I do know, however, that I have an opportunity to ask these questions and push for change.
I will not lie; this argument was like a knife to the chest. I sat in Latin, holding back tears and rehearsing this blog post in my head. I am a strong, disabled woman. With that territory comes able-bodied fear (especially from men). I realize that people that do not have much to offer (in terms of changing the world) fear change. They do not want the world to accept disabled people because they are not ready for us to be equals. They want complacency. They want us working minimum wage jobs, barely scraping by. They certainly do not want us to have ideas, especially not ones that could turn into change. This I know, for this I have experienced.
I refuse to entertain ableism. I refuse to be told that asking for equal rights is too much. I refuse to be voiceless to make people comfortable. I refuse to be kept down. I know that ableist arguments intend to trip me, sending me into a downward spiral. These arguments are meant to paralyze me in a way that a disability never could. Instead, this argument fuels me. I am here. I am a strong, disabled woman.