This entry was inspired by this link. Disability in Science Fiction
About 20 years ago I gave Christianity a try. Honestly, I went to church, voluntarily. It was an alternative church in Malibu where young people sang and prayed and celebrated God in a way that someone like me, who had given up on my own religion, Judaism, might find, peace, answers, like-minded people? I am not sure what I was looking for really. It lasted all of three Sundays. On my final visit I was approached by a junior pastor who asked if he could pray over me. Not wanting to offend I let him put his hands on my head, bow, and pray for me to be cured. I don’t know if he was looking for me to suddenly feel the Holy Spirit and jump out of my wheelchair or what, exactly. But I knew somewhere in his spiritual journey God told him I (a disabled person) was broken and needed to be fixed. And if that is how this Modern-Christian God saw me, that was not the religion for me either.
I am not broken. I mean physically. Mentally the jury is still out. But just because I rely on the use of a wheelchair to get around does not make me damaged goods. Society sees it differently though. People are always trying to fix those who do not possess whatever the social conscience says is “the perfect body.”
What is broken is how society views people like me. Futuristic novels are always coming out with new ways to make people better. Modern day medicine is also there – but my beef is not with them. Making life easier on an amputee by creating the perfect limb is not an issue. Spending millions of dollars on regrowing lost limbs, that’s excessive. Because in our society a metal or plastic limb cannot possibly be as good as a pure flesh or “normal” looking one.
It is all about perception. Reactions to me out in public vary from pity to surprise (if I am out alone). Then there are those who talk to me like I am 5. That one’s fun. And the best is the one where people talk to my friends on my behalf like I am incapable of responding or thinking for myself.
Society’s views need to change. And it needs to start with how we are seen in entertainment mediums. I have spoken on this before. There are very few inspirational disabled characters for people like me to look up to. The one wheelchair using kid on Glee is played by an able bodied actor, an upcoming revamp of wheelchair using detective “Ironside” is played by an able bodied actor. I am pretty sure there are at least a few actual wheelchair users who could fill those roles. And when a disabled actor is a part of a show or film, they are touted and held on high like it is some sort of miracle they were able to show up on set and follow direction. Separate and decidedly not equal.
The article I linked above has a blurb from the introduction of a book about how writers write disabled people in science fiction. In it the author points out that even in those worlds a cure, a perfecting mechanism, a way to make us like everyone else, are core ideas in society. The question is under who’s vision of normality? Who gets to decide whether or not a disabled person is “normal?” In my brief experience with the church it was God. In my lifelong experience it is entertainment. In my dreams it is I who gets to decide. I don’t want your pity, I don’t want your normalcy, I don’t even want to be perfect. I just want to one time leave the house and not be stared at, pitied, spoken to like a child and prayed over. I want to open a book, see a movie or watch a television show and see a functioning disabled person portrayed as human, not an anomaly (Professor X).
I am the hero of this story. I do not need to be saved.