Tuesday, April 5, 2011

"visible" and "invisible" disabilities

Today someone commented how "much harder it is to live with an invisible disability[sic]* than one people can see". 

Now, this kind of comment happens pretty regularly. And every time it makes me fucking cringe.

Here's why:

a) The ableist language surrounding "invisible" and "visible" disabilities squicks me. It presumes that the "viewer" is sighted, and that shit is boring and yes, ableist. That's why i use [sic]*, not because i don't think it's "real". And really? If we were coming at things from a non-sighted, from a blind point of view, everyone would have "invisible" disabilities. i happen to live with both so-called "invisible"and "visible" disabilities, and i just want to find more expansive ways of talking about this stuff, ways that do not centre sightedness etc. 

b) It's actually not easier. It's not easier to be seen by sighted folks as a gimp, to always be perceived as a gimp, to always have that on you no matter where you go. It's not easier to always be a literal fucking target, to be called really fucked up things because people can perceive you as disabled, and to have all of their shit dumped on you -physically, emotionally, verbally, sexually-- because you are what they perceive to be a problem. It's not easier, believe me. 
There are a whole host of things that folks with "visible" disabilities have to deal with that folks without generally do not, and there are things folks who don't have "invisible" disabilities don't necessarily deal with. So let's just knock it off with the "you have it easier" bullshit.

c) most importantly, how exactly does this unnecessary, ableist-based hierarchicalization help any of us? i mean how does it help us really? How does it get us closer to getting the services we require? Into the communities we have a right to be in? How does it help us feel welcome and lifted and understood? 
When disabled folks, however you define that, cut at each other's throats to get to the meager resources out there, to justify ourselves, to find ourselves in community with people, or for any other reason we do this to each other, we do the exact opposite, and we set up a situation where we can't even trust other gimps to do right by us. We set up hierarchies --based in completely ableist traditions-- to keep each other down. 

And that aint liberation.

1 comment:

Kalamity said...

Yeah! I have encountered this debate again and again over the years, going both ways - claims that it's harder to have a 'visible' disability or that it's harder to have an 'invisible' disability. It is this need that many people seem to feel to identify the perfect/pure/essential example of the oppressed experience. But there is no perfect/pure/essential experience of anything. People experience ableism differently for a lot of reasons, with one of those reasons being whether or not a person's disability is apparent to enabled folks. Getting caught up in this debate wastes time and energy.