People keep saying that they don’t think of me as disabled.
Even though I am.
People keep saying that they don’t see me that way.
Even though I am, quite visibly, disabled.
People keep saying that I shouldn’t speak of myself that way.
Even though I am sitting in my chair while we talk.
People don’t understand why I bristle at the idea that they are complimenting me.
Even though it’s clearly offensive to tell me I’m not what I am.
People don’t understand why I state that I am proud of my status as a disabled person.
Even though they understand pride in virtually every other person.
People don’t understand why the conversation turns sour when they are being so sweet.
Even though it’s not ‘sweet’ to kill off all the words I use to speak of my self.
I need those words, the words they want to eliminate, expunge, euthanize, to make my experience real. I need those words to explain my place in the world. I need those words to reify my history and my present and my future.
I need to speak those words.
I need those words to be heard.
I need those words fully scrubbed. Bright and clean, free from shame.
I am disabled.
I need that word to describe who I am.
I want to exist in language.
It is not a gift to eliminate me.
Word by word.
Taking my power and my experience and my history from me.
I am disabled.
Whether you see it or not.
Whether you think of it or not.
Whether you speak of it or not.
I am real. My experience is real. My community’s history is real.
Without need for your permission.