This post is dedicated to all my fellow disability advocates out there but mostly to my friend and mentor, Carly Findlay Morrow xo
It seems to resurface in a cycle. The critics, the condemnation and just general apathetic hatred for me as a person and for what I do.
I am an advocate. I am an activist. I fight for what I believe in. I make no apologies for that.
I won’t deny that at time, a brief flicker of frustration passes through my mind telling me to quit and become the hermit you always wanted to be. Or witness protection whichever pays better. Just stop giving people the opportunity to tell you what they think of you.
Honestly though those flickers are quickly extinguished. I don’t really understand what it is that smothers them as they fizzle into the void of lost thoughts that leave my mind. Integrity? Ego? Mental Illness? It could be a combination of those. I just don’t really care what people think of me. I stopped caring when I realised that if my own mother was not going to accept me as I am then no one would so trying was futile. Just get on with it.
Steve Irwin is quoted as saying ‘Crocodiles are easy. They try to kill and eat you. People are harder. Sometimes they pretend to be your friend first.’ He was a wise man.
I don’t expect everyone to be my friend. I don’t expect everyone to like what I do either. I mean what in the world would a person without a disability have to value from my work in making sure we have equitable rights, access and inclusion of people with disabilities right? It’s not like they’ll ever be in my position… oh wait… yeah. Still I don’t expect everyone to jump on my bandwagon and come along for the ride. I’m happy to travel alone. I like my company.
What I do expect is common decency and respect for advocates who are working to make the world a better space to live in. That’s not a given though. There are still those who cannot fathom why you do what you do because they’ve got so much privilege they don’t know what to do with it. There are those who just seem to be envious of the attention you get even though it’s not necessarily attention you want but it’s the necessary evil of raising an issue that needs attention for something to be done about it. There are those who well, just don’t like me so they don’t want to even appear to like or support anything I do. Which is really the saddest of them all. I don’t like the government at times but I certainly appreciate the freedoms and benefits I’ve been afforded by our democratic country. If you want to cut off your nose to spite your face that’s fine for you. Just keep your nose in case you decide you need it again one day. No point giving it to me, I have no use for it and I really don’t regard it anyway.
I’ve seen it happen to a number of advocates. Watching others try to tear them down because they have different values. It’s hard sometimes to just sit back and mind my own business. Seeing people get harshly criticised for wanting to do the right thing, the hard thing, the better thing. Or just because they have a platform to express their view on an issue that affects them. They’re not doing any harm to anyone else, but still others want to take them down. Classic tall poppy syndrome. That poppy is getting more sun than me, it has to come down now and I will make it happen no matter what it costs me.
The cost might be as simple as me, a bystander looking at the person and saying wow, you just don’t get it do you precious? It could be the loss of a friendship. It could be the whole loss of a support network when they just can’t deal with your unwarranted behaviour. The loss of a job because your behaviour expanded into bullying and you’ve brought the organisation into disrepute. Or the death of the person you’ve relentlessly criticised because you couldn’t deal with them having an opinion different to yours or a lifestyle different to yours.
It’s been really hard to watch what some of my friends and fellow advocates deal with.
I won’t apologise for what I do though. I believe in what I’m doing. If I have to make a video or go to the media or post something on social media a thousand times for the issue to get addressed, for change to happen, then that’s what I’ll do. You don’t have to like it. You can always look away. Chances are I’m not doing it for your benefit anyway.
If it really makes you that uncomfortable that a person living with a disability can speak for themselves, stand up for themselves, or dare to demand equal access and treatment, the same opportunity that you take for granted, then the issue really isn’t mine is it? It’s yours.
If you can’t allow a person to express something from their perspective on an issue that affects them, then you have far more privilege than you deserve really don’t you?
To my fellow advocates out there, I want to share this quote with you that I love from a guy named Asher Roth.
Just do it. No apologies. Unless you feel you have something you need to apologise for. Otherwise, do what you believe in. I’ve got your back.