Being part of social movements seems inherent when your body vehemently resists mainstream society. Becoming part of organizing and activism felt natural, like home, like community. And, as in a family, there are conflicts. As people who strive to embody anti-oppression, we should hope and yearn for critiques and opportunities to grow.
Our love and care is built around statements of anti-oppression, and so I have always trusted our relationships to be places of safety, of warmth and call-ins. I trusted that these relationships would be safe spaces for me to not experience ableism, or if I did, that I would be able to assert my needs, and call people in when necessary.
However, over the past year, I have constantly been let down by people I trusted and have experienced violence, ableism, femmephobia and saneism, which, when questioned, is met with more violence and anger as opposed to being met with gratitude and reflection.
I experience ableism every day, be it from strangers who feel safe to ask me what’s wrong or the institution removing my autonomy, and so experiencing it in relationships that I am supposed to feel safe in feels extra violent. On the right end of the political spectrum, I am forcibly sterilized, institutionalized. On the left, I am viewed as a shiny token, to be collected, in order to build the perfect, diverse friend group or political movement.
Unfortunately, neither of these ends of the spectrum allow me to exist as myself. I am rather forced into a caricature of the “good cripple,” the cripple who is grateful for friendship, who takes their medication, and who does not expect to be able to attend every event, due to inaccessible spaces.
I have never been the good cripple though, because I want my community to grow, to learn and to be as radically un-ableist as they claim to be. This desire for change and learning from community has not been easy, and comes at great cost to my well-being and my energy.
The thing about ableism is that it creates and maintains experiences of betrayal. Once I am left behind, and made to choose between my activism and my disability, it leaves me in a state of conflict in my own body. I am forced to sacrifice my identity, my health and, all too often, my safety, in order to allow other people to feel safe and politically correct.
It’s so hard to understand the rhetoric of “we seek to make spaces accessible to all,” with responses of “you can’t really expect every event to be accessible.” Surely I do though, reading the anti-oppression statements and hoping for more, hoping to be included in events, hoping to have the option to attend.
My anger is not of violence. My anger, instead, is of hope for more. It is the love that I share. It is not as sharp and hard as it may sound but, rather, of soft, gushy optimism. I believe in utopian futures, in movements that are accessible,
My anger is my love letter. It is my belief in evolution and revolution. My anger is vulnerability, entrusting you to hold it in your palm gently and use it. My anger is my hope for spaces to grow, to shift and to hold space (accessible space) for all of us, for all our experiences.
Megan Linton is the national Disability Justice Commissioner for the Canadian Federation of Students. She is a mad activist, sometimes seen clutching a cane, other times, clutching a sprinkled doughnut. You probably owe her a doughnut for unpacking your deep-seated ableism.
Published in Volume 73, Number 5 of The Uniter (October 4, 2018)