Friday, April 27, 2018

A Question of Intelligence (Random Thoughts)

Back when I used to frequent disabled chatrooms, there was a deaf man I'll call John. John came into chat multiple times a week to "flaunt" his intellect. He'd call people "stupid", make obscure references and imply no one would "get them", muse about the rest of us "wasting ourselves on base pursuits", etc. In hindsight, I think John needed a place where he felt superior. Or he was just an ass.
When I have an appointment or meeting with a new doctor or caseworker, I tell them my IQ number. It becomes my sword. People who look to my husband for answers coming from my mouth snap alert, pay attention. My words become relevant. Their opinions change and I am worthy.

And I, inadvertently, reinforce their notion that my IQ makes me a human to respect despite being a wheelchair-user. It tells them it's okay to overlook other disabled people if said disabled people don't prove themselves worthy. It isn't my intention. But it is the result.
In a fair amount of novels with disabled protagonists, there is a scene where our hero says something like "I may be disabled, but I ain't dumb". It's a moment that's supposed to be powerful, affirming... a resounding cheer in text form.

But our hero's message is essentially:  I'm a different kind of disabled than the other cripples. It shits on our siblings with intellectual disabilities or processing disorders and says it's just fine to treat them in a negative way because they (it implies) aren't smart.  The message is never, "I'm amazing no matter what".
Writing for publication is considered an intellectual endeavor. Disabled and/or neurodivergent people aren't always taken seriously as writers because some able-bodied/neurotypical people equate disability (and, at times, neurodivergence) with a lack of intelligence and creativity. 
Assumptions can sink our careers before they even get off the ground.
Disabled and/or neurodivergent people don't need to be proven geniuses to be treated as human. We need to be more mindful about what we say about ourselves and each other. And we all need to remember what makes a person truly valuable.

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