I'm a 25-year-old Portland native. I've been using a manual wheelchair since I was 7. I'm lucky enough to be part of a radical queer community where I'm surrounded by body-positive and intelligent people who understand my independence and don't patronize me for being four feet tall. But the rest of the city and world have a lot to learn about ableism. A staggering number of adults I come across on a daily basis treat me in an embarrassingly condescending manner, disguised as a well-meaning gesture. Don't you see how offensive it is to treat me differently just because of your own perceptions of what you assume I can't do? I'm tired of feeling pressured to speed-shop in order to avoid uncomfortable stares at New Seasons while I reach for trail mix in the bulk isle. I'm tired of strangers asking if I need help crossing the street. Do you think I've just been waiting there quietly, hoping someone would come along and ask if I need help? And you know what is worse? When you call out to me, "you're doing great!" Or, "look at you go!" I don't need that shit, man, because guess what, I'm just living with what I've got. It's no bigs. I don't need your awkward, empty validation. Pull your head out of your own privileged ass. Show me enough respect to let me come to you. Trust that I can take care of myself, and don't assume that able-bodied people are the only ones capable of leading independent lives. Cause you look like a real jackass.
Get the best of the Mercury each week in your inbox!