Saturday, September 17, 2011

Clarification of Question and Yet Another Apology

Last Tuesday, Sparky wrote the post, Is There Really Such a Thing as a Safe Space? In the comment section, I asked:
I just have two question for you. You said that the only way you could find yourself in safe space if you were surrounded by people that are gay. You have two sites of oppression that you must negotiate. You are disabled as well, and so wouldn't there be a potential to have disability fail around people who are GLBT as well?

Also even if you are in all GLBT, they are capable of making all kinds of fails that are not GLBT related does that not make the space unsafe as well? I don't know about you but even when a comment isn't about my marginalization per say, I am still incredibly troubled when someone says something that actively promotes an ism
Since it has come to light that there are those that believe the question in and of itself is homophobic, I thought I should address it publicly.  I asked this question of Sparky because as one of the few disabled people I know, we have had many occasions to talk about disability and how best to negotiate it.  One of the common frustrations that I have discussed with him, is that even in situations that are safe for me in terms of race or gender, quite often there will be failure when it comes to disability.  Don't get me wrong, I love my friends dearly, and while they would never dream of saying something racist and or sexist to me, disableism is something that I am constantly having to educate about. 

I found that when you exist with more than one marginalization, finding an exact match to you is a very difficult thing.  When I am in a space that is largely populated by women, sometimes race and disability function to make the space unsafe.  When I am in a space that is all Black, sometimes it's gender and disability that makes the space unsafe.  I have yet to be in a gathering which represents all three of the marginalizations that I currently negotiate.  I know that there are Black, disabled women out there, I just have not had the good fortune to be able to gather or actively talk to them.  Invariably, when I want to talk to someone about disability, who actively gets that fucking recommending goji juice to me at every damn turn is disablist as hell, I turn to Sparky.  We have had many laughs over the recommendations of goji juice and vitamin C.  Hey, did you know that they are a cure for everything that ails you?

I didn't ask Sparky this question because I think that GLBT spaces are inherently unsafe.  In fact, they are necessary in the same way that I believe that all groups need to be in spaces with others who represent their lives.  Sometimes you just need to have a family conversation, because only family truly gets what you are going through.  I love the unhusband most desperately, but he cannot understand how much disableism truly hurts, in the manner that someone who is disabled can. He can empathize, and he ensures that he doesn't say anything disableist, but as much as we share a life, talking to someone who is disabled creates a level of understanding that just is not possible anywhere else.

So, when I asked Sparky this question, it was based in my own lived experience as a disabled person. As I mentioned earlier, I have yet to find a space that is truly safe in terms of disability.  For me, it was about finding a space where I could potentially interact with others without being told about the latest cure, having to repeatedly explain my disability and god forbid, go without being offered goji juice.  Can someone please explain the fucking obsession with goji juice and vitamin C? He says he has found a safe space in terms of disability within his interactions in the GLBT community, and honestly I envy him that.  As someone who is straight and cis, this is a community that I am not a part of and would never dream of honing in on to alleviate the disableism that I face, but it is nice to know that there is at least one community that is getting it right. 

I know that I have had my share of GLBT failure and that is probably why the benefit of the doubt was not extended to me.  I can understand and respect that decision, as I myself am not always the most forgiving person of continual fails.  All I can tell you is that like anything else, learning to negotiate my privilege and to be more respectful of other marginalized groups is something that I am actively trying to improve.  I am going to be perfectly honest and tell you that I will fail again, because decolonizing one's mind is lifetime project not a sprint.  I get angry when I shouldn't and am resistant and this is a reflection of my personal privilege and a quick temper.  I sometimes relate it to Buckleys; it tastes terrible but it works.  I don't want to hear when I have failed, but I know that I need to, to grow as a person and be a better parent to my children.

In this case, I was not insinuating or declaring that GLBT community is inherently unsafe, but asking if it is possible that any group that is not a disability group can possibly be safe, because I have not found one.   I apologize to those who were offended by the question unequivocally, and fully understand the high level of distrust about anything I may say about the GLBT community.  I know that intent is not a magic elixir but I truly didn't mean to offend and understand that my personal history plays a large part in how my comments were received.  Once again, I apologize to all of those who were offended by my question.