[This post will potentially get me into trouble. I’m sorry 100x. Also I’m being a bit exclusive--the issues that I bring up could also speak very closely to the trans community. I’d like to explore the connection between disability and trans issues further at a later date.]
Today I am tired. Today I am sad. Today I feel like giving up. I'm tired of fighting other people's fights. I'm tired of being afraid to speak up for my community. I'm tired of feeling like personhood belongs to everyone else but my and my community. I'm tired of being patronized and remarked as inspiring or badass. I'm tired of doubting the productivity and usefulness of my body. I'm tired of worrying my body isn't made for living. I'm tired of thinking that the narratives that represent my body are truthful. I'm tired of being barred from participating in my own fight, but continuing to fight for others. I'm tired. I'm tired. I'm tired.
I love media and I love art. Almost as much as I love media, do I love to movement of Internet social justice. I know that is unpopular opinion, but I have to say, without blogs about the rights and placement of diverse minority groups, I may still be a white Midwestern girl without a sliver of understanding of diversity or privilege. Even growing up being one of the most diverse students in my school system, I did not grasp the importance of minority inclusion. (In fact, I stopped acting because I wholly believed there was no place for me in any sort of performance.) Since coming to NYC and having a better awareness of the importance of diversity in media, I decided to pick up performing again. Daily, my facebook feed is filled with articles and videos calling for racial and gender inclusion in media. FUCK YES, MY FRIENDS ROCK, I think. I will join their battle. I have committed myself and my work to be as racially inclusive as my talent pool allows. I want to make work with trans actors and see narratives better suit that community. At the end of the day, I fucking get it. I know how shitty it is to be a minority sometimes, so I will fight for all diversity. I will always be an ally (however gross that word is).
But today I'm finding it hard. This really awesome video has been popping up on my social networking sites lately. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SOHaJizzjdg
If you haven't watched it, do it. It's important. While I am so so game for everything it has to say, I'm left a little...cold.
What. About. Me. Such a gross feeling to have. I never want to compete in the Oppression Olympics. I'm a big believer my struggle not negating the struggle of others. I feel so incredibly ashamed to admit that I feel left out. I feel like a whiny brat. BUT moreover, I'm ashamed that I am timid to fight for the disabled community. I'm ashamed that I'm too scared to demand being a part of the conversation. These videos do a great job highlighting the exclusion of all People of Color. Literally all ethnicities are examined, but why focus the diversifying exclusively on color? Why leave out the trans and disabled communities? Why do I fight in solidarity for POC but get ignored entirely when it comes to ability. To be quite honest, while I am IN NO WAY condoning tokenism and stereotyping in the media for POC, as a performer with a disability, I would be over the moon if I got cast as a stereotypical disabled character, because at least an abled bodied actor isn't playing me.
To celebrate shows like Orange Is The New Black and movies like Mad Max: Fury Road for their racial and gender diversity yet ignore their problematic/nonexistent representation of disabled actors is hypocritical and exclusive. To hold theatre and art shows in inaccessible spaces, yet claim the work is diverse and inclusive is hypocritical and exclusive. For your casting call to advertise diversity, yet type out performers with disabilities is hypocritical and exclusive.
Or is it? Here is where I falter in my manifesto.
The disability community see themselves as a cultural minority--as one would with race. But the normative able bodied perspective of disability is one of impairment. The narratives of my body in the media are one of impairment--not one of culture and existence. So I am confused. Do I get to be a cultural diversity or do I get to be an impairment (problem)? I've been written upon so fiercely that I doubt my ability to belong on the arts, because I've been told I add not colorful culture, but only endless streams of problematics. My own cultural voice has been muted by streams of self doubt while others, with other struggles yell louder and brighter.
The estrangement, narrative creation, and ignorance of disability that both minority and majority groups participate in, alike makes me think that the two maybe aren't that different after all. But then again, maybe inclusion can only exist if there is exclusion. Maybe there is only an 'in' if there is someone on the 'out.' I guess the disabled community is just taking one for the team?