I've been reading people's blog posts about the TPGA Dialogues, and I think that some people think that I think something that I don't think. (How's that for Theory of Mind?) I've seen a couple different people summarize the original disagreement that Robert and I had by saying: "Robert wrote a post about how the R-word can hurt parents of special needs children, and then Zoe responded saying that non-disabled people have no right to be offended by the R-word."
I'd just like to clear this up because that's really not something that I think at all! I think the R-word is offensive, and that quality can/should/must be recognized by everyone, not just people with disabilities. I would never ask anyone not to be offended by the R-word. Please, get offended! Do it loudly! Make sure everyone knows you're offended! We need as many people as possible speaking out about this.
Here's the thing, though: I don't think that it's okay to talk about the offensiveness of the R-word without talking about how it hurts disabled people. That was my criticism of Robert's post: he wrote a lengthy essay against the use of the R-word, but the only reason he gave was that non-disabled relatives of disabled people could be hurt by hearing it. And I don't think that was appropriate, just like I don't think it's appropriate to talk about sexism and never mention the effect it has on women, or talk about racism and never mention the effect it has on people of color, or talk about homophobia and never mention the effect it has on queer folks. When you talk about prejudice, you can't ignore the people who experience it first-hand. That's all.
People have also said that I wanted Robert to "write from the perspective of a developmentally disabled person" something which he, as a neurotypical person, clearly can't do. Or they say that I expected him not to write from his own perspective. This isn't really true either. I appreciate the fact that parents/siblings/caretakers write about their experiences - they are important experiences to share. But they are not the only experiences of disability that it is possible to have. What I would have loved to see from Robert would be an acknowledgement of other people's experiences relating to the R-word, especially the people who the word refers to. In the entire post, he didn't mention that disabled people are affected by the use of the R-word at all, an oversight for which he later apologized. I was upset about this oversight, not because he was writing from his perspective, but because he left out other perspectives. That's all.
Non-disabled people, I really don't want to silence your voice. I want to hear it! But I want you to hear my voice too. So please speak out against the R-word -- but don't forget to mention the effect it has on disabled people. And please, write from your own perspective -- but don't forget to acknowledge ours.