Jan. 11th, 2010

  • 3:08 AM
la_vie_noire: (Default)
This can be extremely triggering and I'm sure will be painful to read, but cis able-bodied people have to do it. Read it.

is a dream a lie if it don’t come true / or is it something worse

A little while ago, Melissa was crossing the street in front of her apartment with her roommate, bringing home groceries late at night from the store right across the way. They were struck by a car in the crosswalk in what appears to have been an innocent, freak accident. Melissa’s roommate was killed instantly. She, because there was an ambulance less than a block away at the time, made it to the hospital with a shattered leg, head injuries, and Gods know what else, comatose.

I didn’t know, when I heard Melissa’s roommate was killed on the morning news, because the news said she’d been with a man, and my first thought was oh, God, is Melissa okay, does she know what happened, she must be so worried. I left a couple of voice messages, but couldn’t get through, and it was only once I saw a report with Melissa’s old name on it that it hit me: there was not a man hit in that accident. She was comatose, with friends there, and family on the way. The prognosis was very, very bad, like “we don’t think she’ll make it till morning” bad.

She made it till morning. And the next night. And the next. We all started passing around updates of how she was doing and taking time to mourn the schoolmate who hadn’t made it. Family arrived, connected with each other, and everyone took a few deep breaths. Melissa started improving, against expectations–eyes opening, snapping fingers when asked, responding in small ways to the people present though she was semiconscious at best and could not move. They made plans to fix her leg and skull and there was talk of moving her to a specialist facility closer to home, one with real support for people recovering from comas, and against all odds she was fighting. It should have been no surprise: she was always a fighter. She was going to be okay.


They had ultimate power over her–her body, her brain, everything. She was disabled, and couldn’t speak for herself, and couldn’t express her own preferences, and they were next of kin, and they knew best, and the authority for medical decisions was in their hands. They loved her more than anyone, and had her best interests in mind, and were just looking to her recovery, just listening to the doctors.

And if she woke up as from a deep sleep, she’d wake up into a world where her best friend was dead, where her body had been forcibly edited back to its pre-transition state and given a few more years of the influence of testosterone to boot, where her memory and self were hazy and confusing and nobody was calling her by the right name and pronouns, they were in fact pretending four years of her life, the four years she finally got to be honest and true to herself, those had never happened, and shh, she’s just confused, shhhh, calm down, let’s work on fixing your memory some more.

If she was–as many people deemed unconscious, or low-functioning, or unaware by medical professionals, as many many people with disabilities who can’t communicate the “right way” are–aware in any way of what was going on, laying there helpless and voiceless while her body and life and mind were edited and mutilated by loving people, wise professional people in complete control…I actually can’t finish that sentence, because I am shuddering too hard, because I have a hard time imagining a real scenario closer to Hell.

This is not an unusual scenario. It happens all the time, and in worse, far worse, forms. This is still practically standard in the history of how people with disabilities are get violated, and the intersection with trans status only magnifies it. If I got into a car accident tomorrow and fell into a coma, it could happen to me–I can’t marry legally, and my parents who are not part of my life could walk into the hospital and have my partner removed and do pretty much whatever they please with me, a possibility that gives me dry-heaving panic attacks.

Oct. 1st, 2009

  • 7:32 PM
la_vie_noire: (Default)
Fiona Pilkington inquest: how ableism can lead to suicide. (Yes, it's Renee. This can't be ignored though.)

According to MSNBC:

“Fiona Pilkington suffered more than a decade of abuse from a gang of youths who terrorized her family by urinating on her house, taunting her developmentally challenged daughter and beating her severely dyslexic son.

Despite repeated calls to police and desperate letters to her local lawmaker, no one intervened to stop the persecution, and Pilkington killed herself and her 18-year-old daughter when she set fire to their family car in October 2007.”

Here we had the tragic loss of two lives because of the abuse of people who were neurologically atypical went unchallenged and unheard. Socially we protect those who we value, and a refusal to intervene can only be understood as a desire to make the Pilkington family disappear. Each time Fiona reported these incidents and they in turn went unchecked by local authorities, the behaviour of her abusers was encouraged. Now, following a lengthy inquest, Leicestershire police have been found partially responsible for the tragedy. It’s too late for Pilkington and her child, though.

The differently-abled are understood to exist without power because some of them need accommodation to negotiate the world today. The accommodation can come in the form of alteration, to make the environment physically accessible and it may also come in the form of a refusal to subject themselves to the same sort of standards as a neurotypical person, depending upon the circumstances.

How many adults would stand idly by while a four year old girl was being abused by a gang? I daresay any adult within eyesight would intervene, yet the police force ignored the hate aimed at Francesca Hardwick, Pilkington’s daughter, who had the mental development of a four year old girl.

Fiona Pilkington was told that she was “overreacting” and to “draw her drapes.” It is difficult for many to believe that such cruelty is actually intentional, but those that must negotiate ableism face this sort of behaviour on a regular basis. Some of the violence is fear-based. Even though it is common knowledge that disability is not contagious, there is an irrational fear of difference that leads to rejection and a devaluation of our shared humanity.


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