Content/TW: Discussion of ableism and abuse.
The best advocates for people with disabilities are other disabled people. Not their non-disabled parent(s), not their non-disabled teachers, not non-disabled researchers and professors, not non-disabled support or care workers or clinicians or therapists or professionals. Us.
(I preface these possible relations or positions as non-disabled because that is the relevant marker here. Obviously -- or I hope obviously, if you read this blog -- disabled people can be any or all of these things.)
If you tell a disabled person that their advocacy isn't effective because they're too emotionally involved or personally vested, what you're saying is that we should forget the trauma and harm visited on us for a false specter of neutrality -- a neutrality that derives from white masculine "rationality" and neurotypical supremacy.
The idea that intellectual, rational, neutral, distanced thoughts, speech, or advocacy are the best kind of thought depends on a way of expression that silences survivors, devalues femininity and neurodivergence, and replicates white dominance over emotion.
Let me make this plainer.
The disabled adult who survived years of abuse by classmates knows better than anyone else what a disabled kid abused by classmates in school is going through, understands without having to say anything the exponential harm created when teachers refuse to punish the instigators and only ever and always punish the victim for reacting, knows exactly what it is to be disbelieved by parents, targeted repeatedly by those pretending to be friends, forced again and again to return to the same doors.
The disabled adult who survived involuntary treatment aimed at fixing their supposedly broken, inferior brain or body knows better than anyone else what a disabled kid whose own parents who claim to love them keep making new appointments with the same doctors or therapists for the same marathon sessions of pain where no one believes what the kid says about their own feelings, where they tell them over and over again that they're hurting the kid for their own good, knows exactly what it is to be told that if only they stopped talking like that or moving like that or being interested in that then other people could accept them, or at least a fake version of someone who never existed but who everyone else believes is better than who they are.
The disabled adult homeless, disowned, out of work, stuck at home or in bed, body flaring up in pain, shaking, triggered, self-harming, using, incarcerated, committed, still healing from childhood abuse, isolated, taught to hate themself and everything about themself -- that disabled adult is exactly where others have been, has been where others are, knows their own almost as well as they know themself.
We don't need to explain ourselves to each other. We understand the forced eye contact, the leg braces, the never being allowed to say no, the someone else always being the expert on our own bodies, the always surviving new traumas, new violence heaped on old. We get it.
We take care of our own. We are fierce. We don't need your acceptance or your approval. You can keep trying to relegate us to your tokenizing idea of what you think we should be doing but we know exactly what it is. It is a lie. You would have us either pretend our experiences don't exist so you can treat us as really just like you (that is, not really disabled) or you can co-opt our experiences into a more palatable, easy to digest, non-threatening version for your daily dose of inspiration porn (enough to remind you were disabled but not so much that you remember the power of who we are).
No one knows better than us. No one can advocate better for us than ourselves. In any context. This is precisely why we need more sick and disabled people as nurses, as doctors, as healers, as lawyers, as care workers, as PCA's, as therapists, as teachers, as trainers, as lobbyists. Living fiercely, living proudly, relying on the strength of who we are and what made us to possibly be the support for each other that we never had from anyone else.
Don't fucking tell us that our experiences make us "too close" to the issues. If you have to resort to that, you are part of the ableism problem.