Voices of the Community: Stereotypes… we all deal with it. By Courtney Cirabisi
I know no matter who you are, if you’re walking or rolling, no matter your skin color, no matter your age, where you live, how much money you have…all of that is irrelevant. You’re going to be dealing with the stereotype in your lifetime. The different kinds we deal with will vary depending on your situation. As uncalled for as it is, it’s become a part of our lives.
Years ago… somebody gave me a ‘compliment’. They told me that I’m probably the prettiest person they’ve seen in a wheelchair. At the time, it was very flattering. I was younger then, so I wasn’t thinking of it the way I’m thinking of it now. Here I am about five years later…In my early twenties, and I still hear that comment. People will say, “oh you’re really pretty…for someone in a wheelchair”. Or, “Yep, you’re still cute”. That’s where I need to just back the tractor-trailer up here. It makes me sad, to think that people automatically assume if you have a wheelchair that you’re not going to have good looks, or be physically appealing. I put some thought into this. I really did. I was beginning to wonder, “well maybe someone started a rumor?” It’s not like that. It’s not like somebody had a megaphone in a huge crowd and they were like “Yo guys, listen up! People who don’t walk will not be attractive. Just remember that!” It didn’t happen that way.
I saw a quote before that read ‘sickness is not attractive” You know, honestly, it fits this situation that I’ve been going through. Someone will think of a wheelchair, or they hear that someone has one, and naturally they think just like the quote says, it’s not attractive to be sick. If someone has a wheelchair, the reason they would need one is because something no longer works right, and they’re not able to stand up. Naturally in a walking person’s mind, I’m sure they’d think of it as a sickness. When you’re ill, it’s common knowledge that you’re not going to be looking your best. Say you have the flu or a cold, some sort of bug, it’s going to be obvious on your face that you’re unwell at the moment. It’s entirely different, though, when it is a physical disability.
Just because you’re not walking doesn’t mean you’re not going to have your mothers genes. Or your dad’s smile. Putting it into your mind that when a person isn’t walking, that they won’t be appealing, or attractive, it’s just not something you should do, because there’s not truth to it. At all.
I hear this stuff, and part of me is irritated, and I’m like “oh, not this comment again.” Part of me was amused, but more importantly, I was inspired. Feeling this way moved me to write this article. I thought, why not discuss how I felt about the stereotype that I deal with regularly. As I sit here typing this out, my hopes are that it will help open everyone’s eyes a little bit. So the people who can relate to what I’ve been going through don’t feel so alone and, the ones who do this, and think this way, will realize that it’s just not true, and it doesn’t need to continue. If you are tired of dealing with the stereotype, I hear you loud and clear. Don’t ever give up on raising your voice for what you believe. They say it only takes one person to change the world, I’d like to think I’m off to a good start.
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