I owe an apology to our readers and I'd like to offer it now. I'm sorry that I was an ass. I didn't mean to and it was callous of me. I stand corrected. I should have known better and I'm embarrassed about my mistake.
Where is this coming from? I got this letter from reader David in the ole inbox this morning...
First of all, congratulations to you and everyone at Bilerico for your recent rise to national attention! It warms my heart to see such a great voice for GLBT issues, especially eminating from my home state, a "Red" state.
I'm originally from Indiana (born in Lafayette), and moved to the Boston area in 1965. I have been a GLBT activist since 1970... In 1986 I became disabled and so have quite naturally drifted into being a disability advocate. While there are a few issues of disagreement, it seems to me that the GLBT and PWD (People with disabilities) communities have many of the same civil rights issues. It has been gratifying for me to see, in general, a lot of acceptance, understanding, and cooperation between the two communities -- which underscores my feelings that they ought to be natural allies. My years in the GLBT community have helped me personally to understand disability as a diversity, justice, and civil rights issue just like GLBT stuff, and I have seen the way our society uses language in perjorative ways -- even sometimes using the proper terms but in hateful ways.
So, as proud as I am of being from Bilerico country, it recently has been a bit embarrassing to read postings on disability e-lists that refer to your recent comments on Bilerico in which you use disability terms in a perjorative way (I'm referring to your recent posting on Ted Haggard.) I don't know you or your writing style well enough to understand whether you were serious or joking, but in either case several posters on other e-lists found your words very insulting and disrespectful of PWD's (as did I). Some folks have the impression that you are at least not comfortable around disabled people, and at worst have a very negative regard for PWD's and our worth and rights as human beings.
I went and looked at the post and noticed the comments taking me to task for my insensitivity. I hadn't been paying attention when they came in and didn't notice the comments. That doesn't, however, excuse my behavior. David is right. It is embarrassing. I shouldn't have been so thoughtless.
To help rectify my mistake, I'd like to share something that I've never written about before in a blog post. I'd like to address the highlighted part of the above e-mail because David is right, it's something that I struggle with. I'm not very comfortable around some disabled people.
Mostly because I'm disabled myself and I'm not comfortable with that.
I've never really said anything about this on the blog, but I have mentioned it in a couple comment threads. I'm bipolar. Sometimes my brain backfires and things get difficult. I was diagnosed about four years ago after a major mania that scared the bejesus out of me. I don't think I have ever been so scared or ashamed of myself for mood swings and emotions that I knew weren't normal but couldn't stop.
I ended up on disability and there have been times that I've struggled. I've had to make some concessions, of course. Alex and Michael already knew and have covered for me here on the blog when I needed it. A few of the contributors knew too, so my support system on the site has been spectacular. Yet, I've not only never really mentioned it in a post, I've deliberately avoided it like the plague.
I don't want to be seen as anything other than on target and at my best - never crazy and therefore untrustworthy. Bipolar disorder is my Achilles heel. I'm not comfortable with it. I don't like it. I hide it. To quote Terrance:
...too many people see mental health problems as moral or character failings, and Americans have a almost pathological desire to separate the "lambs" from the "goats"
Hell, I heard through the grapevine in the past couple of weeks that a former employer of mine told a friend who mentioned me, "Oh? Has he had his meds lately?" By digging at my mental illness, he tried to undercut me personally and professionally. Despicable and cowardly? Yes. Common? Oh yeah.
I am just guilty. I judge myself according to these standards. Am I crazy today? Should I triple-check everything to make sure I don't look stupid? Maybe I need to stay home since I'm talking a little fast or my finger is twitching because of my meds? I'm either "on" or I'm not in my world. Perfect or not. Positive or negative.
Whenever I notice someone on a blog say something like "He's off his meds," I get slightly offended. I've written friends about something they've said on their own blogs that was rather rude and when I could be anonymous I've left comments on other blogs about thoughtless statements. I still get hurt by small things that people say when they don't know I'm bipolar - because I try to hide that part of me.
I can completely see how my joke would offend others. I was an ass for not thinking that someone who is blind, short or has a cleft palette would - understandably - be pissed off at my glib word choice.
Forgive me, my friends.
Thanks for holding me accountable. As a disabled person, I appreciate it even if I won't usually admit it.