Valuing the Voices of Those Who Can’t Show Up

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Author: Sairy Franks

Dear able-bodied people, please be so careful about activism and saying that you only can share your ideas or voice if you can show up physically. For those of us with disabilities, that tells us that we do not deserve to share our ideas and have nothing of value to offer because our bodies can’t leave our house or bed. You are further marginalizing us. I know that is not anyone’s intention (I used to say the same stuff until I could no longer drag my body out into the street) but that is the result.

I think people who haven’t dealt with chronic illness and other physical hurdles would be really surprised to experience just how silencing and painful hearing this message can be. It doesn’t just silence folks with disabilities, but a great percentage of the population who for a wide variety of reasons are struggling and unable to join you in the street. Simply praying for change is not enough if that’s what we all do collectively and I am grateful when folks encourage each other to do more, but please don’t frame it in a way that removes our right and ability to have good ideas even when our bodies can’t back them up. I may speak up a lot online, but it’s always with the feeling that people may not think I am in a position to share because I hear this message so frequently. After I share I am often left with a pit in my stomach, wondering who may see my post and think that I’m not worthy of being heard.

I write a lot and don’t expect anyone to read my words because there are a lot of words online. That said, when you do read them, you have no idea how helpful it is in reflecting my worth and ability to share anything of value when I am so limited physically and receiving messages from our culture at large to the contrary. Please keep this in mind with others in your life who may be feeling similarly. They might be people working a million jobs in addition to parenting in order to support their family. It could include being a political prisoner. The list of folks who can’t join the revolution in the streets is way longer than any of us could begin to fathom, and we all deserve more love, not less.

Thank you so much for everyone willing to listen and value us for more than what our bodies can or can’t offer. There are so many of you and we see you seeing us and you have no idea how much we value your love!

 

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