An Open Letter to My Neurotypical/Able-Bodied Professor

An Open Letter to My Neurotypical/Able-Bodied Professor, (but also to all those neurotypical and able-bodied ableist people)

I am not like you. We are not the same. You are the judge who passes sentence on me, yet you have never seen me before, you have never lived the life that I live. My mind is not the same as yours. My body is no longer the same as yours.

My mind is genetically different, hardwired onto the fight and flight system of the brain. Every event is cause for concern. I spend almost every day in a state of heightened anxiety. And no, not everyone gets anxious like this. I have compulsions, but the key word is that they are <i>obsessive</i>. They are something that I do over and over again until they become the problem. My compulsions are not cute and adorable quirks, they’re an attempt to appease my anxious brain, so I can stop thinking that something horrible is going to happen. These quirks affect how I dress, what I eat, the time I leave, and how I act. This is not something everyone has, and it is offensive to tell me so.

Many people will say that I am being too sensitive, that I am overreacting. They say these things to shut me up, to prove that they have issues too, that they have problems too. Everyone has issues. We all know that. But we don’t all have issues that affect our entire lives and the way people look at us.

Sure, you may have “just stress” and think it is the same, but it is not. “Just stress” means that it will go away and that if you just fix the stress-causing problem, you’ll be fine again. In my mind, there is no fine again, there’s no fixing the stress-causing problem, because almost everything is the stress-causing problem. And you can’t fix everything. I cannot fix my genes.

‘But perhaps medication will help!’ you say. It would be great if medication helped. It would be great if we could all take a magic pill and all of our problems would be solved. Perhaps this magic pill wouldn’t even have side effects.

So no, my mind is not like yours. It is not like everyone else’s. I’ve wished for years that my mind would be like everyone else’s but it’s not. It’s a part of me that is not like everyone else’s.

Now, if you cannot understand that my mind is different than yours, let me explain how my body is different than yours.

Our bodies are not the same. Yours is able-bodied, mine is not. Sometimes I can remember where you are coming from, but I like to think that I was not as bad as you are now.

I think that you think that you are progressive enough that you don’t ‘see’ disability. It must be so nice for you. Your not seeing disability leads to an effective shut-down of any discourse related to disability.

I bring up OCD when you ask about anxiety. You shut me down to say “everyone has compulsions”.

My friend brought up HOH and d/Deafness issues that our text did not take into account and you shut her down and refused to listen.

You brought up Kafka’s short story, “Josephine the Singer/The Mouse Folk”, which turned out to be extremely ableist.

I brought up that I found it offensive and you said that it wasn’t because of the time period it was written in (sometime in the late 1800s to early 1900s). You then shut me down and refused to listen.

I hope you listen now. I hope that I have the courage to send you this so you can listen. I hope that if I do send you this, you will not only listen but <i>understand</i>, so that no other student(s) with disabilities will have to suffer your egocentric and ableist opinions.

“Although she limps and leans on her supporters, no one believes that she is really hurt. Granted that her frail body is extra sensitive, she is yet one of us and we are a race of workers; if we were to start limping every time we got a scratch, the whole people would never be done limping. Yet though she lets herself be led about like a cripple, though she shows herself in this pathetic condition oftener than usual, people all the same listen to her singing…

“Since she cannot very well go on limping forever, she thinks of something else, she pleads that she is tired, not in the mood for singing, feeling faint. And so we get a theatrical performance as well as a concert…

This text from Kafka’s short story is what finally led me to dropping the class. I did try to look at it objectively and bring up that it was offensive, but being shut down and then told how wonderful the author was, was too much to deal with.

Here is why: Kafka’s opinion and description of “cripples” is something that I still come across EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. It is 2010 and almost 2011 and this is the view from someone who lived in the 1800s. We have not come very far.

The ADA is only on its 20th anniversary. It is still not enforced. There is no manpower used to enforce it because no one cares. No one cares whether disabled people can get into a shop or into a bathroom. No one cares whether disabled people can go enjoy a movie or a play. No one cares whether or not disabled people can get their books for their classes or even if they can make it to their classes.

Elevators stay broken. Fire escape plans say “use the stairs”. Door opener buttons don’t work half the time and it’s considered a usual part of life. Ramps are further away than stairs and often hidden. For every eight flights of stairs, there will be one elevator.

When we talk, we are told that we are whining. That we need to shut up and get over it. We need to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, and fly up stairs.

And people think that it is horrible if I dare go outside. If one day I can use a cane and the next I use a wheelchair, I am seen in “a pathetic condition oftener than usual” as if it is something to be shameful of. When I point out how horrible accessibility is, how horrible people are to those with disabilities, I am putting on “a theatrical performance” because no one cares.

You know what? Who cares if I put on a “theatrical performance”? I exist outside the norm. I represent what could be. I represent that there is NOTHING you can do to keep from getting a disability. I am young, I am healthy (I think), I’m not overweight or underweight, but I’m still “broken”. Part of my body broke and through no fault of my own. And it can happen to anyone. That is why my very existence now makes people uncomfortable. And you know what? I. Don’t. Care.

Be uncomfortable all you like. Don’t take it out on me. Figure out why you are uncomfortable. Take your BOOTSTRAPS!! ideal and shove it up your ass. We are not the same. Our society doesn’t ignore you, it doesn’t pretend that you don’t exist, it doesn’t pretend that you are worthless. But it does to me. And since you are buying into that, YOU are ignoring me, acting like I don’t exist, acting like I am worthless.

I do not buy into your worthless ableist assumptions. I do not buy into the fact that it is just your opinion. Opinions are not simple thoughts, they have the ability to be harmful and prejudice even if you don’t think you are being so.

I wish I could easily dismiss you. But I cannot. I will not. I don’t want to imagine what other people who have disabilities have to go through to take your class. And in the end, I helped pay your salary and I want my money back. Your class was required and you have no right to act the way you did.

Leaving your class was the best thing I did all semester. I could have stayed. But you weren’t going to allow me my accommodations anyway, and I know you probably would’ve failed me for some reason or another.

Don’t be surprised when multiple people report you at the end of the semester. Don’t be surprised when I fill out a discrimination report.

I do hope that you will receive a physical disability so that you can be in for a huge shock for how the world works.

In the meantime, I will not be silenced. I do not care how obsessive my talk about disability is. There is something very wrong with how people treat us and it needs to be fixed.

Your ex-student,

The “cripple” girl with the wheelchair and the cane.

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2 Responses to An Open Letter to My Neurotypical/Able-Bodied Professor

  1. Heather says:

    I am in a feminist theory class and the other day we were speaking about people who “don’t see race/color/gender/whatever”. It is wrong to ignore our differences- if we do, then we won’t get anywhere because they do matter. These obviously shouldn’t be used in a discriminatory manner, but they often are. It is a difficult question as to how we should incorporate these differences into discussion and into everyday life- how do we see past disability/race/gender/etc. but also acknowledge it in a way that is productive?

    There is something wrong with the system and how society treats the disabled and you are right- it needs to be fixed.

  2. John Michael Prudom says:

    From your ever so friendly British Astro-Mongolian Neurounitypical veggie dude. I say that with pride because I am “gimped” by modern society just as much as you your darling self are. My condition is rare among brits, infact as far as I know I’m the only living British fully capable person with my condition with no adult signs of ferality/muteness/sever autistism chronic and acute infantile/childhood n’adulthoods ottitus media / Sensitive Middle/Inner Ear/ Otters syndrome / Otto-Man’s disease / Cow ear syndrome…. I’ve been self-theraptised all my life, mostly behaviourial & communicative therappy, but primarily only publically as a child intill I was heading to year 5 when I was intregated/disintregated into mainstream education. Anyway now as an Adult I have found there is zero public recognition to those with sensitive hearing.

    Unlike most people, when a firebell alarm rings & people scream n’shuffle in panic. My body quite literally cringes in pain as it aneorobically respires and produces a lot of acid n’ adreneline. I have no garuantee whether I can keep myself concious or even rational. I’m in a mixed state of pain, anxiety and adreneline, I have to deal with bouts of muscle paralysis and sensory depreviation(yup I can go blind’n’deaf, like a faint where my body/brain doesn’t go sleep…) with the ever loving taste of pain. I only manage to cope in these situations because I know fire safety to the point where I have even walked on hot coals (no pressure to my ears compared to a ladies scream, sounds wierd but the scream is a million times more painful then a lil skin singe).

    If everyones running out the building screaming or in an organised line that’s good for them, I’ll be the one staying behind with a fire extinguisher at hand intill I have a clear path. Not because I don’t value myself, it’s because I have value other peoples safety. I’ve broken peoples entire hand as a child under duress, just an idiotic girl that probably fancied me, but again not very good for myself is it. Nowadays It’s only the odd knife hilt that I snap n’explode….

    Objects = fine, got thick skin. People = not fine, they got thick skulls.

    Infact its too the point where I have to be my own police man occasionally and yell + clap my hands extremely loudly just to produce a few sonic booms n’hope to demonstrate a minitude of ear ache some idiotic noise polluter has given out.

    I recently had a horrible experiance with a chemical leak in my home(my not so bright younger brother thought filling the house with white wash vapour in the middle of the night was wise….), I had extreme physical pains all over my body, not just the head ones I’m very used too. So I phoned an ambulance for assistance and laid peacefully outside my home where’s there’s fresh air.

    Needless to say, despite all my calm manners, I was not taken to a hospital or treated on the spot. Instead I had to deal with the ordeal of an old fat bald cruel man insult me with great prejudism for several minutes because I said I was not on any drugs….. He drove off with me begging for assistance.. He even called the hosiptial to call me a violant drug abuser, instead of checking up on my medical history….I had then had to make my own plans to get to the hosiptial emergency ward. When I did get there, 2 drunk people with bar fight injuries were getting treated, i saw them out in 20 mins. It then took 4 hours for a “doctor” to come see me. Who insulted me racially( I said my skin colour was mixed north n’south euroasian and that I’m not naturally pale white n’transparent….. she refused to believe me on my own ethnicity… because I got blue eyes and tri-coloured/dirty blonde hair?). Not only did she spend more time trying to stare into my eyes from within 2 feet away she even tried to send me to a mental assessment team. When I told her I just want to sign out and get some rest(7am at this point)

    I had to make contact with police & my own set of GP(health center on rotary order….) in order to not get dragged by police to a mental assessment team. I also get told that the chances of any the “medical proffesionals” that refused to treat me would not get disciplined unless I personally made complaints to their each individual governing bodies…

    Worst thing is, there’s many ear specialists, historians, writers, directors, speech specialists & developmental psychologists that sorta understand the condition.Yet don’t seem to be given any appointments to see these chaps. Unless my ear started bleeding externally rather then internally -.-‘; I dont see why Doctor Joe average knows nothing about ear inflammation n’ infection. Bah Waltz disneys hunch back of notre damn should teach them all they need to know. After all his only real condition is his ottitus media n’ low self-confidence. He’s in control of the bells so they don’t hurt his ear drums, but he still finds his own reflection revolting. Why? because it’s a nightmare to get respect, love and the freedom to never be screamed at.

    Had lotsa luck elsewhere, phew I almost eloped with a Gesiele Ceblanc(an awesome awesome amazonian dancer/suntan model/beautician) when I was working abroad in 08

    Oh and ontop of that my parents think i’m magically cured from chronic sensitivity because I’ve managed to live with it. They’re disgraceful for not believing in me the way a parent should, my gp’s, special needs teachers/therappists or any factual medical advice over the matter.

    They’ve never put up a poster in the house with advice about my condition. F*** they haven’t even bothered teaching me about St Cornelius the patron saint of ear aches n’pains. They turned their backs on the churches when I was 4 and first starting to get the hand of speaking english. Having them proclaim war is purely birthed from these momuments to the human heart was an insult to all the assistment I’d priorly been given.

    Pfft as far as I can now tell, they turned their backs on some common human kindness n’ intelligence not a god. Whilst nobody has managed to find a defacto image or proof of god, that doesn’t mean people are contemplating evil by looking up at the stars in wonder….

    Ah well I wish you all the best Miss Missfortunate open letter gal. I wouldn’t let anyone, but yourself call you a gimp either btw(it’s a term coined to describe a physically handicap animal or person & to describe “visually deformed beyond “standard” reproductive use” person). The only time i’ve ever seen the old word gimp used properly by others is in a stable to describe a poor 1 eyed 3 legged horse. Ah Ralphie the “Trojan Try” horse he was a champion ya know, not the racing type. The Real type, he used to give special needs/disability groups rides at a stable in Liverpoo. Ah I wish he’s still alive, but I think he’ll be long retired by now(thinking around 10~12 years ago), Maybe I’ll knock round n’find out sometime, I only volo to clean his poo n’ brush his mane a few times 😉

    at the end of the day handicapped people have lived successfully as a part of 99% of human societies. Only time I see them struggling is when the nazi’s tried to elimanate them from pictures and then from reality…. pretending they were doing the world a favour, and the horrible aftermath & media propaganda since. My own great great grandpapa went over the trenches many a time in the first world war. Even on horseback(sharpnel to the leg, got told he couldn’t walk again, big al the 7 foot Elkanna always shown them wrong), all it takes is a strong heart n’atleast 1 keen physical sense to be a hero. That was one of his many motto’s

    I haven’t double checked this type up so apologies for any grammatical nuissances n’ any possible swearing.

    Peace out and keep on rocking on through life!

    JMP (yup that’s right my initials spell out JIMP!)

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