Hi. Been a while. I know, I know. Life has been hectic! If you can forgive me, I’d like to discuss something special. This post is belated, but you know what they say…. better late than never. Without further ado, here’s the announcement: this blog is featured in the textbook Getting Real About Inequality: Intersectionality In Real Life, edited by Cherise A. Harris and Stephanie M. McClure. Hooray for this important book and hooray that my little blog has garnered some publicity. You can find The Spastic Diplege in the essay “When I Think of Disability, I Think of a White Guy in a Wheelchair”: The Social Construction of Disability and Its Intersections of Race, Class, Gender, and Sexuality by Jennifer Domino Rudolph, who I’m very proud to say is indeed a former professor of mine — from my undergraduate days at Connecticut College (fun fact!). I’m totally thrilled and honored that my work is featured in the essay and book as a whole. My perspective as a disabled Latina navigating ableist societies and cultures does matter. And let me just say that a shoutout in a book doesn’t prove that but it does amplify it quite a bit. Representation matters. Disabled voices matter. That is, after all, pretty much the point of this blog.
I want to start off by saying the blog entries Professor Rudolph chose to discuss in her essay really brought me down memory lane! The first post, where I almost went banana-boating in the ocean and didn’t know how to swim (update: I still don’t) was such a treacherous activity. At least for me. What the heck was I thinking? No, really? Also, what else can I say other than I’m in total agreement with Professor Rudolph’s argument? She writes “At the heart of this post is the negotiation of the autonomy and independence of bodies, with the practical concern of safety” (347). Yes. Couldn’t have said it better. Independence is vital. But safety comes first. Just the way it is.
The second post about taking the Metro North…yikes. I don’t like to remember that experience. Guess you could say it’s kind of unfortunate that I wrote about it being that there’s a reminder of it in print. Ha! Kidding. Whatever. It happened. Professor Rudolph does make valid points around “the obsession of labeling disabilities” (347). I was being labeled. I just didn’t think about it that way in the moment. I was focused on the social implications of feeling so incredibly embarrassed about being challenged on a core part of my identity. An obvious part at that. The audacity. I can’t hide the CP. The crutches give me away. My gait gives me away. But obviously the crutches weren’t enough to prove anything that day on the train. Not that I should have to prove anything in the first place. Believe disabled people. We know our bodies. Why should I even have to say that? Come on now.
While we’re on the subject, I’m glad Professor Rudolph addressed the reply I got to that post. I didn’t know how to reply at the time for reasons I won’t get into. Professor, you took the words right out of my mouth. The reply along with website link does “reiterate the way our ableist culture labels and legalizes bodies” and does “miss the nuanced complicated aspects of identity related to defining disabilities” (348). Not having the card wasn’t the point at all. The point was indeed about identity. I do wish that post didn’t start a flame war when a friend of mine posted it to his social media. It carries a negative association and now that post gets overlooked, even by me. I just said I don’t like to be reminded of it, so there you go. Though I’m glad Professor Rudolph wrote about it because it’s important. In fact, she brought a whole new context to the post that I admittedly wasn’t even thinking about at the time: being Latina.
I haven’t written much about being Latina on this blog. The absence of this element doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter. Of course it does. Obviously. I’m beyond proud to be Puerto Rican and Cuban. It’s just that growing up and even now, I’ve never felt marginalized because of it. This is a position of privilege. To be clear, I’d never minimize the experiences of other Latinx people and other minorities just because I haven’t really experienced certain things. Ever.
These are the facts: I’m Puerto Rican and Cuban. I’m also disabled. I celebrate my Latinidad daily….but over the years it feels like my experiences as a disabled person have just been a bit louder. If that makes any sense…I’m probably rambling, right? This intersection is complicated. Complex. It’s going to take more than a single blog post to unpack it all. But I do want to unpack it a bit more on here. More to come.
The last post highlights the intersection between disability and sexuality. My professor’s essay does, too. Personally, I don’t want to remember that visit with that gynecologist any more than I want to remember that disastrous trip on the Metro North railroad. Was the doctor’s visit traumatic? Absolutely. Does it matter? You bet.
The awful visit with the doctor truly worsened the already fragile relationship I had with my body and my self image. I’ve spent a lot of time in the medical system. Being a patient had been such a huge part of my life for so long that I became enamored and fixated with the idea of one day going to medical school. Being disabled certainly muddled the reality of what becoming a physician really meant. Took me a while to realize that, however. I attempted pre-med science courses in college as an English major. Three separate times, to be exact. It took me attending a whole other university as a post-baccalaureate pre-med student to realize how miserable I was on that path. And I mean truly and completely miserable. Depressed. Anxious. Utterly incapable. Totally heartbroken. Now that’s a horrible picture to paint but that’s what it felt like and I’m not apologizing for it. Eventually I told myself that nothing on this earth was worth sacrificing my happiness and compromising my mental health. Nothing. I mean that. Leaving that pre-med program was one of the most liberating things I’ve ever done. I’ll stand by that decision always. It blew my whole world open. Cleared the way for me to do what I love and to have SDR surgery. You know what they say. When one door closes….
Phew. That was a lot. I want to close with another heartfelt thank you to Jennifer Rudolph and the rest involved. Go buy the book. You won’t be disappointed.