I have finally entered into the world of blogging. I’m not going to lie, I have been putting off this inevitable step because every time I have toyed with the idea, I quickly decided that no one would want to read what I have to say. And as you read this, you are probably thinking that my assumption was correct. However, I have for some time now wished to write an autobiography of my rocky younger years. And although I have plenty to tell at the ripe old age of 22, I feel that sharing my past and current experiences through the format of blogging will be a far more successful. On the flip side, I would just like to say that so far it has been a bit of a rocky start. I will start my blog by explaining why exactly I feel the need to share my experiences with the world and then I guess I will periodically write about either past or present events depending on my mood.
My reason for wanting to write an autobiography was sparked from a module I took in the final year of my English degree. It was my Lesbian Literature teacher who opened my eyes not only to lesbian oppression, but the various other oppressions that exist within society. Categorisations of what constitute ‘the norm’ inevitably exclude members of society who do not fit inside this structure, thus any person who is not a middle class male, may feel inferior, oppressed, or excluded from ‘normal’ society. This structure shifted and is still shifting as the way we view class boundaries, racial prejudices, the subordination of women and various other social inequalities, is changing. The world is slowly but surely becoming more and more accepting of those who are considered to be outside of the ‘norm’. My intention here is not to preach about the injustices and oppression of women, lesbians and various other oppressed parties, but instead explain my discovery and reasoning behind my purpose for writing.
So back to lesbian oppression, I studied a fantastic and inspiring author called Audre Lorde. Lorde explained that
“Institutionalized rejection of difference is an absolute necessity in a profit economy which needs outsiders as surplus people. As members of such economy, we have all been programmed to respond to the human differences between us with fear and loathing and to handle that difference in one of three ways: ignore it, and if that is not possible, copy it if we think it is dominant, or destroy it if we think it is subordinate. But we have no patterns for relating across our human differences as equals. As a result, those differences have been misnamed and misused in the service of separation and confusion.”
Lorde embraced difference, brought all her differences together to create her whole, rather than being oppressed or defined by one aspect of her identity. Lorde explains that
“As a Black lesbian feminist comfortable with the many different ingredients of my identity, and a woman committed to racial and sexual freedom from oppression, I find I am constantly being encouraged to pluck out some one aspect of myself and present this as the meaningful whole, eclipsing or denying the other parts of self. But this is a destructive and fragmenting way to live. My fullest concentration of energy is available to me only when I integrate all the parts of who I am, openly, allowing power from particular sources of my living to flow back and forth freely through all my different selves, without the restrictions of externally imposed definition.”
Whilst studying this incredibly brave and strong woman, I realised that I had spent most of my life, “eclipsing” and “denying” my own identity to fit into the norm. The alternative would involve admitting, not only that I was different, and most commonly described as abnormal, but that I am rejected by society and stared at by those who are either ignorant or just plain rude. I am not a lesbian, or black like Audre Lorde, I do consider myself a feminist and I am also disabled. I was born without my right hand. I spent torturous teen years internally trying to come to terms with this fact. I was facing a long bleak future with constant struggles in most aspects of my life, and isolation from everyone around me, no matter how much sympathy and support friends and family can give, they can never fully understand. Unfortunately for me friends between the ages of 12 and 17 were not quite ready to deal with me and my baggage. Not only did I become isolated from them because I needed to ‘lighten up’, I was then bullied by almost my entire year group for, as far as I can gather, being an easy target as an emotional ‘manic depressive’.
Although now, as an adult, I can understand why I was an undesirable friend, my hormonal misery was not my fault. I have instead realised, after reading one of my diaries and crumpling into tears from dredged up memories, that my biggest enemy was loneliness. I was facing huge, scary questions about my future: How was I going to manage this constant struggle? Why would any boy like me? How am I ever going to get a job? Will I even be able to manage a baby one day? If I can, will they hate me for being different? Will they get teased because of me? Yes, even as young as 12 I was worrying about the overwhelming effect my disability would have on my life. Don’t get me wrong, many of these issues are still prominent features in my mind, and still very much overwhelming. The difference now is that I have a network of support; I have amazing friends and a brilliant boyfriend to boot. However, I feel the reason that I struggled so much as a teenager was because I was missing support from the people I needed the most: other disabled people. The Internet was only just blooming when I was in my teens. It was a time of dial up, limiting the period I was allowed to spend online because the house phone was out of action. Moreover, I used the Internet for msn and very little else. Even when the Internet and search engines became more accessible to me, it would never have crossed my mind to try and find a forum to talk to others like me. This combined with the fact that back then forums and chat rooms were practically taboo as the fear of pedophiles seemed to lurk around every corner. I was completely alone.
I have finally, at the age of 22, come to terms with my disability. Despite this reconciliation with myself, it is still hard to be strong and proud of something I’ve tried to suppress and ignore about my identity, something I felt should be hidden away because the world is ignorant and non-accepting of people who look different, who are different from the norm. I gave up my dream of becoming an actress, an ambitious career I know, because the world wasn’t ready for someone who looked ‘odd’ or ‘abnormal’ on the television. I thank the universe that this fact is now slowly changing, however, I think ignorance and prejudice preside too strongly in people’s minds to impact a noticeable change in the way we currently view the world. And as we continue to try and fight against prejudice, I want to share my past and present experiences in the hope that any disabled or ostracised person, teenager or otherwise, is able to relate to, or is helped by the knowledge that, someone else (specifically myself) has gone/is going through the same troubles and experiences. With this in mind, I won’t be limiting my topics solely to disability as it is not the only aspect of my identity. Thus I conclude my (accidentally large) first blog.