When Disability Is a Toxic Legacy
Disability is not wrong or tragic or bad, but sometimes it is a symptom of a grave injustice.
ThisisAn Unquiet Mind, a monthly column by s.e. smith that explores disability identity and its interaction with the world at large.
One of my earliest memories involves sitting under the massive, whirling arms of a Heidelberg Windmill, listening to the kiss/thunk of the press, beating in a steady, familiar, comforting rhythm that matched the beat of my own small heart. It was a foil run that day, and the light glittered off the foil, a forbidden banner of gold, as it jerked through the feeder. Someone must have been operating the press but in my memory I am alone, looking up through the forest of machinery, feeling the throb of the press across my whole body.
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You will remember, in fact, the first doctor who does ask, who says ‘is it okay if I put my hands here,’ gesturing, waiting for you to say ‘yes.’
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It is very rare, as a disabled person, that I have an intense sense of belonging, of being not just tolerated or included in a space, but actively owning it.
How can I say that I fear I’ll never date again without feeding the monster? No one owes me their touch; I am starving for it just the same.
It is not so much that these things are invisible as it is that people are trained to hide them, and society is conditioned to look away from them.