bio_dave_hingsburgerSo, I was listening to someone as they told a story. I was part of the group and, like everyone else, was enjoying the ease with which the story was being told. The punch line of the story ended up being that the main person in the story ended up having an intellectual disability and “that explained everything.”

In the story the person was a little off, a little different, not quite comfortable in the social situation that he had found himself in. He bumbled a bit. He stumbled a bit. At one point he kind of startled the story teller – the kind of startle that ended up in the encounter becoming an anecdote to be told in spaces like this to people like this. The story teller obviously knows me and knows that I have a disability but felt that, as my disability was different than the guy in the story, I’d enjoy the humour. But instead I didn’t. I found it disphobic and ableist at the same time. My face showed offence.

Yes, we’ve talked about this, but that’s not what I want to write about and some encounters need to remain private.

I want to take issue with disability “explaining everything.”

Everyone else laughed at the punchline and understood inherently that somehow disability, in particular intellectual disability, is an explanation for some things. His behaviour is off because he’s off. His actions were different because he’s different. He bumbled and stumbled because that’s what ‘those people’ do.

I don’t accept this.

People with intellectual disabilities are not a homogeneous group, one just like the other. Intellectual disability itself takes may forms and affects everyone differently. Everyone with Down Syndrome isn’t happy. All people with cerebral palsy aren’t wheelchair users. Right? Right.

When anyone thinks that a group descriptor, race, sexuality, gender, religion, ‘explains everything.’ They are wrong, it explains only one thing – that bigotry and bias are behind the assumption.

One of the political leaders in the election to the south of where I write this loves to talk about ‘The Blacks’ or ‘The Gays’ as if there is such a thing. Oh yes people exist in those categories but I am a very different ‘gay’ than many of ‘the gays’ that I know. I’m different in the same way they are different from mainstream but our sharing difference doesn’t create sameness. Well, except I do really like Judy Garland.

“That explains everything.”

Um.

No it doesn’t.

Shut up.