Ever since my diagnosis (first with SAD -Seasonal Affective Disorder- then also with “regular” depression) I was aware that people might judge me. It’s still much less acceptable to say “Sorry, can’t come, having a bad depression day” than “Sorry, can’t come, have the flu”. However, I was also very glad to finally know what the heck was wrong with me and be able to do something about it. This led me to decide right from the start to decide to always be honest about my mental health, and my experiences have mostly been positive. People usually seem surprised, because they have a skewed image of what people with mental illness are like – because it’s still a topic that one doesn’t talk about, as I discovered when people reacted to my honesty with admissions of their own. It confirmed that I wasn’t alone, that mental illnesses are much more common than most of us think.
It struck me that I should probably explain two rather important words which form the basis for many ‘issue’ discussions: Privilege and intersectionality.
Especially the first one is vital – if one doesn’t understand privilege, how can one understand the mechanisms of oppression, prejudice and marginalization in all their different forms (racism, sexism, disablism, homophobia, transphobia, etc.)? But intersectionality is also rather important, not just to understand that people can be part of several marginalized groups at once, but that it’s also possible to be disadvantaged in certain areas while still discriminating or holding privilege against others. In discussions with friends, that often where I run into a wall: a poor white person might be economically disadvantaged in comparison to a rich person of colour, but they still have the advantages that come of having white skin.
Blogging Against Disablism day will be on Saturday, 1st May. This is the day where all around the world, disabled and non-disabled people will blog about their experiences, observations and thoughts about disability discrimination. In this way, we hope to raise awareness of inequality, promote equality and celebrate the progress we’ve made.
The fact that I’m posting this means that it’s been a year since I started seriously educating myself on disability activism in general and the disabled blog community in particular. It is part of my journey to better educate myself on a variety of issues (most notably LGBTQ rights, feminism, racism and, obvious from this post, disability rights) in order to become a better ally to marginalized groups and a better advocate for those groups that I’m a part of myself (as you can tell, I believe strongly in intersectionality). While with most minorities it is easy to decide whether I am on the inside or outside, reading and thinking about disability and disablism has not been quite that clear cut.
I’m a straight, white woman – and I consider myself at least disability-adjacent, so to speak, because I have a mental illness.