You’re sitting at the dinner table with your fiance. Your parents just met him, and he folds up his white cane. Then, he proceeds to eat the dinner that your Mother prepared for the family. The fiance strikes up a conversation, and all goes well. Then, …
The next thing that happens could mean the difference between a life of misery or discrimination and a life of happiness. If Orien Henry had gone to dinner with me and my family, maybe we would have been married by now. Sounds like a scene from Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, right? Wrong. Not always. When a white lady wants to marry a black man, or vise versa, there’s always that possibility the parent could be racist. While I’m all about diversity in all areas, I think it would be better to address something a bit more close to home: ableist parenting.
Ableist parenting does have something to do with marriage. My mother from the get go did not really want a “blind” child. She tried and failed to stop all the habits she felt were inappropriate. Such parenting is common in households with disabled children. But it didn’t stop there. IF I did not exhibit behavior that the parents deemed appropriate: modest, quiet, shy, submissive, etc., I would not be allowed to do things. I wasn’t allowed to ask a boy out. I wasn’t allowed to go to prom, something Blake is angry about. Prom is a once in a lifetime thing, and I won’t be able to get that back … not at all unless Blake knows anything about a time machine. Right, H. G. Wells? I don’t know.
Well, this is a common problem. Ableist parenting also says that a disabled child does not marry or make love or date to a disabled significant other. Ableism says that we need to be taken care of in all aspects of life from money to sex to everything else. Our biggest fan, Kyle Cogan, probably would agree that this type of bringing up is wrong and stupid and promotes a less competent approach for disabled people to live.
So you’re wondering what this has to do with marriage. The central tenet of marriage is love. Love and God are the two most important parts of a marriage that we need to consider. It has nothing to do with the person’s ability to walk, though talking is a pretty big thing. Obviously, it would be ten times harder to say that a vegetable gave consent for sex or marriage. But then, you could say the same thing that I’m not able to consent when I myself can speak for myself. You could say the same thing of my friend Haley S., and she’s fine. But the people who truly cannot speak for themselves, cannot move their bodies and cannot talk and won’t breathe on their own are the only ones who can’t marry. Marriage does require a degree of communication about love and God. There are three types of love that marriage possesses, and I learned these from Patricia Hutnick, my old middle school teacher. I credit her and the other teachers for their outlook on love and marriage. Eros, amor, and caritas. In other words, erotic physical attraction, romantic feelings, and finally charity. Charity is a powerful love that binds two or more people together. It can be the way friends bind themselves together. It’s amazing. Eros and amor don’t really make a marriage last. It is those plus the element of caritas that will ultimately make a marriage last.
None of these three parts of marriage and love have anything to do with race or abilities. While I love my friends who are disabled in caritas, I love Blake in eros and amor because we’re literally attracted to each other. We’ve developed a bond that probably won’t go away. Caritas is the most important part of love that Blake and i have developed. With that said, we can surpass anything and take on any storm in our lives, and yes, we can do anything. We will be able to take care of each other, and nothing about blindness or mental issues comes to mind in this case.\
So why do couples and parents of potential married couples deal with their disabled children like they are their pets, not the children? The Ableist philosophy of taking care and throwing the kid in an institution prevails in marriage situations as well. I applaud Kathy for acknowledging that Blake and I are in love, but I do not like some of the stuff she could say to us, “How are you going to take care of him/her?” This is a bad question to ask. Can’t you stop asking questions about your children’s abilities or racial differences? Race comes into some parents’ minds because they think it’s psychologically bad for kids to be with a black/white family. Well, had Orien and I married, we would have not needed this. Orien probably would have made a good husband for someone whether disabled and white or not. Blake understands me better than Orien, and I hate to sabotage anything, but Orien had a chance to be with the coolest person on the planet, but he chose the world. He chose something God would not have put favor on. Maybe he thinks differently, but Ableist thinking in titusville ultimately prevailed.
My hope today for all of us who read this post is that you get rid of your Ableist thoughts. Don’t question one or the other’s ability to take care. Blake and I have a plan, and I am planning on ways to convince a judge that Blake and I need to be able to do and have some things. We need to live in a fair market or safe place where children are allowed, pets can be bought and had, and so on. Blake is not a possession, right Theresa? What I’m concerned about is I found a rare diamond and I’ll do anything to buy it. I’ll take care of this rare diamond till it stops shining for all of this world and God’s design.
A good thing I might say to the judge at any hearing would be this, “Blake and I will need a housekeeper to clean the floors and buff the wood floors.” Then, I’ll bring up my parents’ usage of a young or middle aged lady to clean their house. They have wooden floors in their home, and the lady cleans the floor. So why worry? Ableism sucks, and it’s hampering so many young disabled couples who would put a lot of heart and soul in to raising a family. Here’s an example of a really exemplary couple who have managed to get past the Ableist approach to life itself.
Scott went to the Student Work program. I forgot what the e stood for, but it was called SWEP. I remember hearing Scott’s speech about how it tried to put him in his inferior place. Scott somehow met Anahit at the Center for the Blind in Colorado after having grown up and tried many things, but he would not let Ableism stop him from becoming a successful disability rights advocate and lawyer. Scott is, for some, a firebrand, but I say he’s just someone whose name should have been Keegan, a Gaelic word that means, “little fiery one.” He’s not quite little, but fiery, yes. Anahit, his wife, gave birth to two kids. Scott says that they are perfectly good kids, and they must have found a routine and a system that works. The thing Scott and Anahit stress about the things they do is that they have nothing to do with sight, and it’s all about the alternative skills of blindness.
While I am about to lie down on an incomplete bed, I’m going to say this one more thing. I hope that Blake becomes someone, and he will. I will. We will become more successful than the lawyer who is deemed a snob, the judge or the doctor who thinks we aren’t right, the Ableist parents who try and cancel any wedding their daughter wants to do.
Thank you all for your support.