I'm sitting here thinking of how to introduce myself to the Ouch! readership, and for the first time in weeks, I have writer's block. I'm having the blogger's equivalent of stage fright. It's strange and scary, introducing myself to whole bunch of new people who probably expect me to be witty, articulate and super-informed about Disability Issues. Well, two out of three ain't bad, I guess.
I'm Zephyr, I'm 29, and I've had Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritic for 23 years. I am living proof that arthritis is NOT an old person's disease, and my #1 Most Hated Thing That Able-Bodied People Say is "But you're so young!" The one part of aging that I'm looking forward to is never hearing that phrase again. Of course, then people will say "Ah, it's your age, I suppose." Grrrrr!!!
My fellow guest blogger, Nicola, wrote about how some people refuse to let their disability define them. I'm not one of those folk. When you have severe, full-body arthritis, it affects everything you do, believe me. I find that to be true of many folk with chronic pain disorders. It is hard for us to forget the disability because the pain is always there to remind us. My disability is ever-present in every aspect of my life; therefore, it really does partially define me. Of course, it's not the only thing that defines me, which is what we disabled folk would like the able-bodied to remember. Of course we're more than our disabilities! But my disability is a very important part of who I am, one of the most important parts. After spending most of my life trying to hide or downplay my disability, it's crucial that people recognize how much of my character has been shaped by having arthritis, and what a huge role it has in my life.
In fact, one of the reasons I called my blog Arthritic Young Thing was to embrace the personal adjective as a way of showing disability pride. I know a lot of PWDs prefer to be called a person with a disability, or a person with arthritis, to emphasize they are a person first. I couldn't agree more. But for me, I wanted to exhibit pride in using the word arthritic the same way I would use the word bisexual or Pagan to describe myself. The 'Young' part was to emphasize that young people can develop arthritis. The 'young thing' part was a play on 'pretty young thing' or 'sexy young thing'. *grins* Like many of my fellow PWDS, one of my focal blog issues is how you can have a disability and still be sexual, and sexy. That's not something I've ever had a problem with, but it staggers me to hear how many of my fellow crips battle being asexualized and treated like children.
I grew up in Newfoundland, Canada, and moved to Vancouver, BC, a few years ago. After living in an inaccessible wilderness of ice and snow, I can't get over how much more accessible and disability-friendly Vancouver is. It still has a long way to go, but for a gal from out port fishing villages, it's aces.
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