The Mighty Gets It

Dear readers,

I found the most awesome article by a faith minister concerning the church’s view of disability. She began with a letter someone wrote about a guy whose autistic son was asked to leave the church because of his vocalizations, and this young boy was nonverbal at nine years old. Autism spectrum disorders manifest themselves differently, but being nonverbal got little Tristan kicked out of the King’s College Chapel in London. Well, that little boy’s dad wrote the most powerful note ever, and the reverend apologized. I’m glad the guy, Tristan’s dad, actually got the apology from the reverend and leadership in charge, but this doesn’t always happen.

The author of this article also forgot to mention something huge with adults who have disability. The ability to legally and safely get married is always called into question at church where weddings are always a first choice for couples. LGBTQIA disabled people are frequently excluded from church because of an Old Testament directive that deems homosexuals “an abomination in God’s eyes” to quote a comment I got from someone who claims to know the Bible.

The big question that bugs me is, does this lady who wrote the article know about intersectionality in the disabled community? Does she even know that many disabled adults are excluded not so much only because they are seen as too needy or projects for the faith communities, but they are also seen as other, not marriageable, and worse, seen as a burden on the church’s budget. Grace Community did not serve me to the fullest, kicked me out of church by writing an exclusion letter to an ex, and worse, tried to be nice about it. This church is supposedly biblical and goes by the gospel, but they’re too focused on purity there. This church got disinterested in serving me the minute my current love walked through the door. Very few people really got it, and the energy was off. I could tell because he fell on the floor crying when we got home. I was not simply just put on what they called church discipline, but kicked out of membership simply because of the hardships. Marriage is a financially costly endeavor for anyone, especially though, people with disabilities. We are seen as broken in body and mind, and incapable of love. This is altogether 100% not true.

I can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that my own family feels this way. It calls to question whether a family like mine should have ever gotten involved in my relationship business. For one, my mother threatened to have therapists “fix” me, which is a big red flag. If I dated white boys, my parents would be prouder than if I dated someone of a different racial background. They made up shoddy excuses like, “He’s sexually experienced” (in the case of a Haitian born immigrant no less), “He doesn’t like you”, and “He doesn’t do anything but go to church.” All this and then, “Wait six years.” Would they do this if I were sighted? If I were sighted, I would depend on nobody but myself in financial categories. But my parents have inert biases due to the culture they espouse to, namely the Roman Catholic Church they attend, Florida politics, and racial purity within my brothers’ friend circles. Not one of my brother’s girlfriends and not even his wife are black. My youngest brother had friends, all white. I couldn’t stand the whitewashing of my family, much less the faith community. Grace and St. Teresa’s Catholic both had some pretty awful dark secrets about them. At least St. Teresa’s church was able to accommodate mothers whose babies cried a bunch, and they had a separate room where all the moms and babies could go for a break. That’s fine. But Grace? I can’t say they would accommodate my family, and a lot of churches don’t have a van or a way to pick people up who can’t use Paratransit buses. My friends at Grace use Paratransit, but the minute they marry either blind or sighted men, they won’t be able to. My friend Michelle, for instance, might not get visitors next time she breaks a leg, literally. She broke her ankle while walking on ice, and church members had to pitch in to take care of her. I think they did it out of genuine concern, but Michelle is single, pure, and doesn’t have a boyfriend. Now that Trenton and I are seriously concerned about the marriage question and prospects of who’s invited, things are hefty and chaotic with regards to the way churches might accept it.

When I was engaged to Deq Ahmed, my Somali Muslim ex, the Islamic community refused to do a nukkah, the formal ceremony or contract of marriage, for Deq and me. Their excuse? Guardianship. It is so important that parents not get guardianship of a disabled adult child, whereby this happens. Trenton will marry me regardless of that, but we have to keep the marriage behind closed doors until at random, we say we’re married, but we won’t be finalizing papers, changing names, and so on. Revolutionaries in the Suffrage movement didn’t change their names either. For example, Lucy Stone married Henry Blackwell, but they worked out a deal whereby Ms. Stone remained a Stone, and kept her property. Henry Blackwell didn’t want his wife to feel like property, which was the norm in the nineteenth century when Lucy was alive. Lucy Stone is my favorite example of a woman who stood up and smashed walls, and told the guys, I am not your queen. I am not the normal everyday housewife you want, so forget it. Of course, Susan B. Anthony comes to mind when suffragettes comes up in a conversation. If I said the word, “suffragette”, you might immediately not know of the women who were force fed in jails across the nation, the Anthony sisters besides Susan of course, or Henry Selden. Henry Selden was a women’s rights attorney, and he fought for Susan’s right to vote. Once the amendment, which came about in 1919, was ratified, many women became voters. I think we need to make sure the poll taxes in Florida are demolished, but that’s another story for another day.

These thoughts are thoughts that no minister can comprehend. Faith communities must, if they want to retain their integrity, do the following which has also been listed in another entry:

  1. They must baptize or christen disabled children with equal pomp and circumstance.
  2. They must ultimately allow teenagers with disabilities to ask good sex questions if they feel a certain way.
  3. They must allow a disabled girl who is in a relationship enough room to grow in love with her husband, but preaching submission due to gender or disability should be thrown out.
  4. Marriage is a two way thing, so in pastor counseling sessions, there must be someone in the counseling arena that can preach equality of the sexes and people with different abilities. They cannot pressure a disabled woman to give up her babies, change her last name, and so on and so forth.
  5. When a disabled woman gives birth, a faith community must bless the child, regardless of how the child was had or acquired. Women with disabilities are 85% likely to be sexually assaulted or raped by family or other family friends and acquaintances on a regular basis. So many #whyIdidn’treport posts I saw involved family sex abuse, but none of the pregnant victims would be believed, and most miscarried their babies. Churches can help these particular victims of abuse seek treatments if they desire, and should instead of forcing them to have a baby by their abuser, the churches should instead offer options the lady can live with, i.e. adopting the baby to a loving family or if the burden is too much, abortion. Yes, it is a hard subject to grasp, but a disabled rape survivor isn’t always going to be able to protect herself at a young age from sex abuse, and may be forced into motherhood too early, so churches must step in and do the right thing.
  6. As a disabled woman’s children or child grow in the community of faith, counselors and family members should be available equally to all members of a disabled person’s family.
  7. If a bride and her groom are not supported because of disability, the faith community should step in and do the financial support role if a father cannot do such things. Diana Yochim’s family was lucky enough to support her, but there is also the factor in the Catholic priest’s ability to support the reception and he told the prospective bride and groom, my buddy Art and his wife, well his fiancé at the time, that he and the parish people would provide the food and that Art didn’t have to pay catering costs. My my, if only a church would do this for me and Trenton, but that’s highly not going to happen.
  8. If a disabled person dies in the church, they should be granted funerary arrangements equal to others who die in the church. A disabled female to male transition is no exception to the rule of who gets to go to heaven or whatever you call paradise. Disabled men and women and other nonbinary folk who die in church memberships should be given propert funerary arrangements, given the right kind of casket they desire, and if it is a child, buried with pastel colored flowers like any other child. Caroline “Cari” Loveridge died at age fifteen, of leukemia and was also born blind. She was welcome at her church, and best of all, cared for by her family and she was not abused to my knowledge. She believed in Jesus’ death and resurrection, and so was given a funeral that sent her spirit high up there somewhere. This is an example of disabled people in funerals and so on. If the death of the disabled child or adult is a result of complications in the disability itself, it doesn’t matter. Peter Cerullo, may God rest his soul, died of pneumonia but it had nothing to do with his disability. Peter was well liked in the community he served, and was given proper funerary arrangements. Peter’s widow is probably sitting there somewhere, reading this and wondering why I chose to write the man’s name here. Peter at least had a proper burial and funeral, but the challenges are often that of a race difference, gender expression difference plus disability, and other things. Danielle Jacobs had to wait extra time to be buried after she was gunned down brutally by Mesa police officers in Arizona. Her brother, one of my good friends to this day, had to bear the burden of finding alternative arrangements since most of the immediate family refused to believe Danielle’s gender change and so on. Uncles said she’d been “damned to Hell” and other disparaging things because of her status as just beginning the change from female, in this case her name was Danielle, to male, in which case her name would have been Caden. Or his name would have been Caden, had the transition been complete and full. Clayton had to find alternative pastors and land and all, and this didn’t include the fact that the police were thoroughly sued by the family themselves. The money probably went to find all these special arrangements for this person, and it became a challenge in and of itself just to get proper funerary arrangements and so on.
  9. When a disabled dead person’s name is spoken by members of the church, it should be spoken with reverence and decency. Like with Peter, all people should treat the dead with respect.

Thank you all for reading, and Thank you again for the support, and don’t forget to behave yourselves so you don’t tempt me to put the cookie jar above the door.

Beth