Not Passing, and Not Failing

I have passed assumptions, stereotypes, exams, tests, many of them I didn't even know were actual tests, most of them probably without a #2 pencil.

And I can't think of a time when passing something hasn't been great. I don't think there has been a time when passing hasn't allowed me to gain something, or advance me to the next set of stuff to learn and accomplish. 

Except for when I have been passing as an able-bodied person. 

Did you need to read that sentence again? It's okay. So did I. In this case, I recently found out that "passing" means being able to assume the benefits, or behave in the way of a more privileged and dominant group. In the context of this blog post the more 'privileged group' are the able-bodied folks. ((Note: this concept is fairly new to me and if I am not explaining it correctly, or if I'm mis-interpreting -- please let me know in the comments!!) 
And still you are thinking: Sandy, you are in your mid-20's.. the height of a toddler, you wear hearing-aids, and you get around in a very obviously fast wheelchair. No part of this represents anything "able-bodied." And you're absolutely right. So let me try to explain this again.

I didn't realize that during my time in school, learning about historical figures with my mental capacity and those who shared my gender was not fully encompassing who I am. When I watch t.v. and movies, I can be sure to find a character on set who shares my sense of humor. As I am looking for jobs or organizations to get involved in - I am confident that my ideals and work ethic will be aligned with an open position out there somewhere. Growing up I looked for friends who shared my interests, or who had a similar personality as I do. For a while I equated "you are an inspiration" with "you are doing a great job!" When my parents said "you shouldn't be worried about that, look your brothers can do it and so will you!" I didn't realize that they were indirectly shuffling something under the rug. As I am making plans for the weekend I do not consider whether or not a place is accessible, I usually just assume it is.  
Variations of these and other experiences are what make up my every day routines. This is the experience that I am immersed in and it is largely generated by those who are able-bodied. This is also the experience that molded part of my identity while I was growing-up; internally I began to identify more as someone who is able-bodied than someone with a physical disability.

And you're thinking: but during all this time you were doing all of that.. wasn't it obvious that you were also so very different? I mean.. you know..what about all the fractures that happened during that time? Didn't those clue you in?

Well, yes. But I didn't realize that those were anything other than a symptom of the O.I. Was I ever curious about the O.I. more than what they meant to me outside of a cast room, or an x-ray? Not exactly; largely because that was all that it was ever presented to me as. To me there was no 'privilege' associated with being physically disabled as much as there are privileges associated with being able-bodied. Never mind privilege, I didn't even consider O.I. was a part of an identity, didn't recognize it as falling under a larger umbrella that united a social demographic. ...One that has its own history, movements, important figures, t.v. shows and movies, professional focus, culture, and lifestyle. Most importantly in all of this is that it is not separate from the able-bodied group, and nor is it a subcategory beneath it either - but one that falls among its ranks. 

I realize now that "passing" as able-bodied... or maybe I haven't really been passing.. but deluding myself may not actually have so many privileges. "Passing" as able-bodied has suddenly made me feel ignorant. Now there is an option to NOT PASS! And the fact that "not passing" in this case doesn't mean that I am failing is something else vitally important. I'm thankful that you are here reading this self-confession, that you are patiently watching as I work through this. This is totally new, totally exciting, and one choice that I can say I am very curious to explore. 

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One Response to Not Passing, and Not Failing

  1. A really thought-provoking post, and you bring up a lot of good points about forming and "evolving" our identities. I look forward to more on the subject, now that you are actively "exploring" the topic.


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