All I’ve heard about the last few days has been about friends and family and the holiday season. I tried to fall asleep tonight and I just couldn’t. The Amanda that’s in my head came back for the vengeance. When I was 13 years old I realized that I wouldn’t be the girl that I imagined in my head, the girl that can walk and read and move like everyone else. The girl without her brokenness. Ever since then I’ve been trying to bury that person, the Amanda without any disability. But like anyone that I’ve ever grieved over sometimes you just have dark spots where they haunt you and you can’t get them out of your head.
She came back tonight. She sat on my bed and walked around and made fun of me as I was laying there trying to sleep. She said, “Why aren’t you working? Why aren’t you living? Why aren’t you out on your own?” All these questions popped into my head. Most of the time I know how to get them out of my head and fall back asleep but tonight they just wouldn’t go. All the relaxing exercises I did would not work. So I had to be in my sadness and feel it. This is normal. It’s not okay but its normal. Everyone goes through this but is afraid to talk about it. The spots of darkness that go through our lives. That’s why I’m talking about it.
25% of people under the age of 30 are unemployed. 79% of people with severe disabilities are unemployed or underemployed. 1 out of 5 people have some sort of psychological disability. Dealing with our dark spots is nothing new but its time to shine the light on some of this. So every day I wake up and I say you can change the world one person at a time. Tonight I didn’t feel like that but that’s okay because being in the darkness is part of being human. So I sit and I think about all the people that I’ve loved in my past, that I love in my present, and those people I will love in the future as I try to fall back asleep tonight.
Sitting looking at myself
Looking at my body and its curves
Holding on to that beautiful image
Of who I thought I had to be
Sitting naked holding on to my true self
My scar on my back
My scar that set me free
I can feel my cold legs now
As I lay down to sleep
But I know it will go away as I dream
My scar, I’ve never seen it.
I’ve never touched it
Has allowed me
To be the woman that I was supposed to be.
Sitting up, frozen
Locked in my body
Is what this scar set free
Sitting and looking at my back
The scar that showed me how to love myself again
As a disabled queer woman, I never really go out to clubs with my friends very often and now I know why I don’t and why my friends don’t go out either. My friends and I wanted to go to Connections to go dancing. I’ve never been and one of my friends has never been to that club either. I should have brought my tape recorder but I didn’t. I was in there for three hours and within that time six people came up to me and told me how great it was that I came out to the club. I didn’t even know how to respond to peoples’ comments. One person said, “I hope you have a great time tonight!” very maternalistically. It made me feel uncomfortable, the ablist comments that people were making about me being out like I wasn’t ever able to come out of my house or something. One of the security guards was helping us get around because there were so many stairs and he wouldn’t talk to me, he would only talk to my friend. I’m sure I’m not the only person who has felt this way before, who has tried to come out and live their life and has had to deal with this bull crap. Its not only dealing with people’s ignorance about disability, its coping with people’s ignorance about their privileges. I think the one comment that hurt the most was the last one at the end of the night. This person didn’t sound maternalistic he was feeding right into the stereotype. He came up to me and shook my hand and said it was so great that people with intellectual disabilities came out to the bar and I should come out again. I should have said to him, “Its so great that white gay men can come out to the bar too. Isn’t it?” This conversation reminded me of this quote, “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.” - Martin Luther King Jr. As hard as it is for people with disabilities to go out to public places and be vulnerable like I was last night, it needs to happen more to help people understand we’re just living our lives and we’re not only disabled, we’re women and men who have families and values, who are valued. It shouldn’t be an accomplishment that I went out with my friends.
These are two videos that humorously relay my point, so please watch them and pass it on.
Talk Part 1
Talk Part 2
Last Wednesday, October 3rd, the Leo published an article on disability services in this state of Kentucky. As a person with a disability I want to share my response with you. Below is the link to the article followed by my response.
Dear Readers of LEO,
I’m writing in response to the article “Losing choice or gaining independence?” (Oct. 3). There were several points in the article that were concerning to me as a person with a disability. First, as a social justice activist who experiences disability, I took issue with the writer of the article referring to the individuals with disabilities as “disabled people” instead of saying “people with a disability”. A person like me who is disabled can refer to herself as a Disabled Person as showing pride in being disabled; this is the only time when this is acceptable in society. Secondly, people with disabilities have been striving to be integrated in society for over 30 years. Zoom Group, The Council on Developmental Disabilities, and similar organizations have to consciously realize what they are doing to people with disabilities; they are segregating them. By using a space like StudioWorks and the UPS facility, they are separating people with disabilities from people without disabilities. An example of how to encourage integration for people with disabilities would be organizations working with several art galleries to help people with developmental disabilities find work in the galleries alongside people without disabilities, instead of the model that is used now. The funding through Medicaid is for integration, to help uphold the Olmstead vs. LC (1999) decision by the Supreme Court, which said that people with disabilities have the right to live in the community. Thirdly, the author quotes a woman who states that her sister with a developmental disability receives cruel stares from people in the community. The woman’s intention is to protect her sister which would be any family’s response; however, it leaves the community without any responsibility for understanding the underlying issue of oppression and bullying that people with disabilities may feel when they’re in a community. Lastly, people with disabilities, physical or mental, can be integrated in society. I’ve had the privilege to see what is possible for a person with a developmental disability if they’re given the right support. The article downplays this fact to a fault. The tragedy in this situation with the Zoom Group is that organizations like this say people with disabilities have the option to choose what services they have, but this is not always true. People with disabilities are typically forced into devalued roles in society so it may appear that they have a choice, but they don’t because they’re role is so devalued. For example, often time’s people with disabilities are treated like children and therefore, their expectations to succeed are minimal. This article is an example of how a group of people is only valued in one role and not valued in others. As a person with a disability I have had the opportunity to play many roles, such as a full-time student, organizer, activist, and Social Worker. As a person reading this letter you also may play many roles. Instead of giving people with disabilities activities and “jobs” to do, give them valued roles in society to help them not just be present, but to become active members in society.
Disability and Queer Activist
As one of the 54 million U.S. citizens that define themselves as disabled, our community is in jeopardy of being forced into institutionalization. In 1999, in L.C. vs. Olmstead people with disabilities won the right to live in the least environment possible. This verdict was argued under the American with Disabilities Act. Recently, however, the state of Virginia cut community services to their citizens by 10%. Virginia was then sued for not upholding the Olmstead decision and the state lost the case. Now, the governor is trying to bring this case to the Supreme Court in an effort to overturn the decision.
Click the link below to get the whole story and please support the petition!
I was featured on the local NPR in Louisville, Ky and I am super pumped about it. I hope people enjoy. Please let me know if you have any comments.
Hi my name is Amanda Stahl for those who havent heard of me before. I started blogging on another website and decided to try out Tumblr as well! Now you can find me on Tumblr and on WordPress.
As every professional heads out to the work force they look forward to being able to support themselves and the people they love. This is no different for me. I am a disabled person who wants to make a community for herself. However, it is very difficult. Society and institutions that we are a part of don’t understand disability. I am trying to work and not lose my entire paid support system. The way the government evaluates disability is the majority of programs believe that the person intrinsically can be fixed. This is just not the case. People with disabilities learn how to cope and accept who they are. This is made clear in working with people with developmental or physical disabilities and also dealing with mental illness or substance abuse. Therefore, we should be helping people understand the recovery instead of having them feel ashamed of their “brokenness”. So the question is not how do we fix the disabled, it is how do we change people’s mind in society to accept all forms of the human spirit?