Born-day and #IDPWD

It’s my birthday and it’s also International Day of People with Disabilities.

#IDPWD2019 a day to acknowledge our struggles, be at one in pride & commit further to acting together to remove systemic inequality. Whether you like international days or not – that’s my intention today. Plus it’s my birthday, so for me it’s a celebration of survival.

There’s been a lot of talk about invisible disability and I’ve been recovering lately from some experiences I would rather not repeat, but that sadly have experienced a lot during my lifetime.

Recovery means doing what you have to do.  That might mean talking or not talking, writing, resting, rehab.  It also means dealing with the stigma (your own internalised and other people’s) associated with recovery.

Don’t let the “today tonighter’s” get under your skin.  These are the people who cry “fake” when they don’t understand disability issues like; semi-ambulant use of a wheelchair or that screen readers help low vision people use a mobile phone or people who think disabled people are broken. The people who say “it can’t be that bad” to criticise people taking care of themselves.  This is the ableist shit we cop from people who buy into the burden arguments of the old medical models (whether inadvertently or not) and this blog entry is not for them, it’s for PWD.

So here are my tips for dealing with ableist S.H.I.T.

S – is for Shame.  Shame and stigma are weapons and it’s something we are learning to resist (internal and external shame).  Try to work with kindness to yourself when you feel you are self-shaming.  For example, mental health issues are experienced by 85% of the population and probably everyone at some point in their life, if we are honest.  If you’ve had someone tell you to hide a non-visible disability because you can – gently remind them reasonable adjustment is a right and shaming you is harassment and hurtful.  Remind people (or get an advocate to remind them) that disability is not to be ashamed of and that shame can be a form of abuse.

H – is for Hate.  As an Autistic person I struggle with people’s hatred.  I just don’t get how people can hate with passion.   How it translates into thinking that because a disabled person rights are somehow special treatment – or that we are a burden.  This is hatred and it covers a view that disabled people are less than them.  I call it out and have tried to learn to call it out with compassion, but none the less call it out. Hate is hate – even when sheathed in politico speak like “merit based” arguments used to diminish what a disabled person might need to contribute.  The whole rotting pearl of “we can’t change everything for one person” crapola when people merely ask for a reasonable adjustment.  Same with poor taste jokes and casual use of disability slurs. Call out people who slag off someone else because they are different and if you can’t safely call it out – allow yourself to get space away from them or get an advocate and get to safety.  You do not have to put up with hate.

I – is for I.  Allow yourself to be an I.  Hold space, take up space.  You are enough.

T – is for Time.  Things are getting better over time.  Take employment, for example.  In 3 out of the last 4 jobs I have disclosed disability safely.  Compared to before that when you couldn’t even talk about it.  Things are getting better, it may not be quick enough for many of us sadly, but together we are making change.

Keep on keeping on. We can do it.  #disabilitypride

Love Reminders

Since coming to live in Melbourne I’ve been blessed with awesome people who’ve supported me. The “love reminders”.

You know that some things have been challenging lately – but my art, my comedy and my home life are just…well the only word I can muster…magic.  Got to open Melbourne Fringe festival with a variety showcase about identity, diversity and pride with a bunch of local  heroes, Sally Goldner, James Williams, Kath Duncan, Naomi Chainey, Larissa MacFarlane and Yvonne Fein.  I was very lucky to be mentored by the awesome Nelly Thomas as part of the Melbourne Fringe Navigate mentorship.  A big thank you the Fringe team (and special thanks to Carly Findlay, Patrick Hayes and Laura Milke) – you are legends.

ticketsonmyself
Image description: Jacci standing on stage dressed as burlesque x circus x queer zombie Marie Antionette with James Williams on guitar with a look of concentration on his face. Behind them in a screen with the words “I’ve filled in your forms, you’ve already got the information. Photo by Nelly Thomas.

I’ve had one amazing workplace where I was privileged to work with some of Australia’s biggest brains and expertise in the violence prevention field.  Since early October it’s been bumpy with change (some of it quite nasty).

BUT! While the daily challenges still exists I’ve been lifted up and reminded of my value by fellow artists, scholars, comedians and friends (new and old).  I’m shouting out to a few here, but there are lots of you and I love you all.

I was faced with a no fault eviction the day after the show (September 13) and for a while it felt like everything I had done was for nothing.  The house move was hard – but made so much easier by wonderful people. Together we did it and have a new home I love.  A special thank you to Nelly Thomas for her support during this period.

These challenges are made harder by the world around us as Autistic people.  It’s really important we don’t have people around us who are ableist, but who believe we can get through.

*A reminder of some of this challenge is this article by Terra Vance sums up how a lot of us spectrum folk feel about the challenges of the neurotypical world present us – https://blogs.psychcentral.com/aspie/2019/05/308/

I am very fortunate people have banded around me and lifted me up.

People reminded me that speaking up when you need help is healthy. That is doesn’t mean you are weak or that you “have problems” – it means you are strong. This blog is intended as a testimony to that.

The bad old days of letting feelings fester and not being honest about situations should be over.

We know that approach – of pretending everything is okay when they are not causes mental health to decline.

I am resilient because I’m honest about my feelings.

I am resilient because I walk away from toxic people and situations.  No, actually I run now.

I’m about to publish my first book. I do great comedy that I love. Yeah things are tiring – but that’s life for people like me.

My home life is fucking brilliant.

My commitment just before my 49th birthday is this – I will not tolerate hate and I won’t listen to people who sanction hate.  I’m going to stick with the love reminders.

I’m queer, autistic and proud. These are good things to be.