People are always making comments about how they’re surprised or skeptical that someone young can be disabled. There is a very simple explanation for that: millennials are the first generation of disabled people whose majority reached adulthood.
There are all these misconceptions about disability that are fundamental issues for us; we spent all of our time explaining/justifying our existence to able-bodied people. We have to explain basic things like it being illegal for us to get married, illegal for us to travel, our minimum wage being set at $0.22 an hour, our not being allowed to have savings, our only being allowed to have $2,000 at the most at any given time, that 50% of all murders committed by the police in the United States are disabled, that we were systematically and legally sterilized until 2014.
Up until the past few decades “disabled” people were people that were injured or elderly. At times most disabilities were war wounds and if you were disturbing to look at you weren’t legally allowed to be in public. Those were called Ugly Laws and they ended throughout the United States throughout the 70s. Able-bodied people were coming back from Vietnam only to find that they no longer had a place in society and that’s why things change. For them, not for us.
If any child was born with a visible disability they were immediately killed. They were considered to have died in childbirth and most parents weren’t informed about the reason.
When it became evident that a person had invisible disabilities like mental illnesses and certain genetic mutations they were gotten rid of in three ways: wealthy white families would have a nursing staff at home where the disabled person would be hidden, the family would kill the disabled person in what was considered socially/politically/question acceptable as a mercy killing, or they would be sent away to asylums.
It’s perceived that these asylums you see in horror movies are from eras back but there are still people alive today who survived those facilities before they were condemned. When those most heinous institutions were shut down and abandoned they made more. They made more that didn’t look as bad. Everything remained the same and the three options families had or wanted remained the same.
As a marginalized people, disabled people didn’t receive civil rights until 1990 when what we call the ADA was created. These ratifications in the 90s have still not eliminated basic things like segregation.
That these things are still going on, let alone legal, seems far fetched to people because those are the issues they read about in history class. They, able-bodied neurologically typical millennials, learned about racial prejudice in such a whitewashed way (pun intended) that most are also shocked to learn that there are some people alive who remember racial segregation. The average person can tell you who Rosa Parks is but not Claudette Colvin. When they were taught about the Holocaust they didn’t acknowledge queer people; they were never told that the infamous gas chambers were originally built for disabled people who were the Nazi party’s first successful genocide attempt.
They didn’t learn that America had a more aggressive eugenics system, that the Nazi party adopted it and the only reason any were outlawed in America itself is because the association with Nazis with such bad press internationally. It’s the same reason that little girls have to wear pink.
Before World War II pink was seen as a gentle red, the color of blood, so boys were dressed in pink. Blue was associated with the Virgin Mary so people would dress their daughters in blue. You can see the story of eugenics in any toy if you know what you’re looking at but no one does.
Well, they don’t.
That’s the reason they don’t pay attention to things like the 2016 genocide in Sagamihara, Japan. Despite it being a first world country, one of our allies, and their government’s refusal to release the names of the victims as to not embarrass the families just as all of the Pulse victim’s names from Florida were released in full.
They don’t notice because they don’t think genocide of disabled people is entirely bad because they only know the kinds of disabled people who used to be one of them. Sometimes in TV and movies they have people who became disabled but then things like magic or miracles happen and they became able-bodied again. One of them again.
Most people have never seen a whole disabled person.
Admittedly, we are seeing a few actual disabled people (disabled as in society has disabled them, they didn’t become a fallen hero or a cautionary tale) but all of them are from that top-tier of disability, the privileged white ones. In defense of privileged white ones, they don’t get anything beyond crip face so it’s not all that great, but still.
We have to be fair and remember how ignorant they are but we also have to be fair about our demands for visibility.
Praise Hephaestus, the Internet came to life just as this real generation of disabled people did and we took advantage of it. Some of us could stay in the closet in real life but a lot of us couldn’t. Even then, those of us who couldn’t/can’t are still constantly questioned and criticized because able-bodied don’t believe someone that looks so young or “healthy” or even happy could have a disability so we are constantly coming out every time we leave the house… So we sometimes chose not to; we stay at home and pretended to be one of them.
A lot of people still depend on being in the closet. Unfortunately the Internet hasn’t always been our friend, because of social media if we are outed in one place we are outed everywhere. Then we have to come out every time we log on because we might be lying. We don’t sound like disabled people, whatever they think disabled people sound like.
For many people it’s still a matter of life or death, families still don’t want disabled relatives to the point where they kill them. Legally.
There’s hardly ever any news about us so we tend not to notice but the legal precedent for killing your disabled child is to dismiss it as a mercy killing. Even rape is given the equivalent sentence of bestiality because laws made when we were considered inhuman still remain. There are still a lot of hospitals that kill disabled people as soon as they’re born and the parents still aren’t told. We still have parents suing hospitals because they wanted to keep us but the hospital never gave them an option.
So although it can get frustrating when no one includes you in their “social justice” remember that there are a lot of reasons they don’t know we exist and there are a lot of us that are alive only because we can keep their existence a secret.