“Unless you or someone you love has XYZ you cannot understand how it feels” is a template sentence I hear more and more often about people with disabilities and it is such bullshit.
Only a disabled person knows what it is like to have THEIR disability. I have spinal atrophy muscular dystrophy type two and I wont ever claim to understand what it’s like to have spinal atrophy muscular dystrophy type one or three.
My mother, friends, mail man, etc. cannot know what it is like to be disabled let alone what it is to have my specific experiences (I have talked more on this here) and I’m going to go so far as to say those close to us are often more insensitive to us than strangers are.
Don’t get me wrong, strangers have yelled things at me, hit me, molested me, humiliated me…the list goes on and on and those incidents are nothing compared to the offenses my family/friends committed against me, but that is for another time.
People that have seen me hurt and hospitalized because of my disease and the MANY subsequent ills “joke” about how they love going places with me so they can get to park up front or maybe wait inside a venue for the opening instead of waiting in line. These same people quickly ditch me if they want to go somewhere or do something that is not accessible to me. If I act anything less than thrilled for them I am being a bitch and too clingy.
I have had friends that treated me normally and have related to me on personal levels but they then get carried away with the attention they get from strangers for being a cripple’s friend. They start talking down to me in public or refusing to give me the independence they would in private. They loved being seen as selfless and an inspiration for willingly caring for (not hanging out with, as was the actual situation) a crippled. On the flip side, there have also been people annoyed with this attention and misplaced adoration and it has taken a tole on our relationship.
Then there are those people that enter into romantic and sexual partnerships with disabled people who also often fall into those two categories and it adds more pressure to an already socially unacceptable relationship.
Even being witnesses to offensive comments made toward us, abel-bodied friends/family often say the most insensitive things, all the more worse because their opinions mean something and they make them when we are in our safe spaces with our guards down. I once was spending a boring summer day at home with a friend who, hours into lazy TV watching, suddenly tells me no one will want me because I’m in a wheelchair.
These are not anomalies, these are universal experiences for the disabled.
These are also examples of well meaning people who intend to be loving, this doesn’t even begin to touch on the people who prey on disabled people for physically/emotionally hostile or sexual purposes (fyi: these are not devotees)
They say it’s hard for the rich and famous to maintain relationships, think how hard it is for the regular disabled Joe with acne.