Was it just last night? We three, sat there, safe in each other’s open and curious minds?
Ideas and laughter were flowing, eyes sparkling as we bounced around ideas for fun direct actions to tackle the daily experiences of discrimination we had experienced as disabled people trying to manage in a world that still does its very best to put the disabled in disabled people. We felt angry, excited, amused and energised.
‘I know this feeling, I remember this.’
All those years ago sitting in cafes and bars planning marches, events, actions to tackle LGBTI discrimination. My body tingles with a visceral memory of those days, those hard, exciting, scary times. The mid 80s in Scotland were not a comfortable or even a safe place to be a young lesbian. We lived with fear and violence and discrimination every day. We were angry, but we were also joyous. Why is it so hard to feel like that now? Is it because I am older?
‘Don’t be stupid. You know why. You know why this hurts so much…’
We looked at each other and understood how important this was, to talk like this. To let out the anger and fear was good. But there was something else… We were letting out the hurt. The hurt at how unjust the world’s apparent inability to notice all this was. All the able bodied people who seem incapable of really taking on board what it is to haul ourselves through a world with endless barriers. How it feels navigating a journey full of obstacles only to find yet more as you try to get into your place of work. How it felt to piss yourself on a train for want of a disabled access toilet. How it felt to be stared at with anger and disgust and fear intermingling. But there was something else. Deeper. Darker. More shameful.
‘Come on Cat, say it. Name it. You know what it is. You can trust these women. They can hear this.’
She asked the question I knew the answer to but felt so afraid to say. I said it. Safe here with these amazing women.
“It’s because it’s not joyous. When I was a kid fighting for gay rights I was fighting for love, for joy. Fighting to be allowed to do the thing that made me happiest. But now I am ‘fighting’ for the right to be marginally less unhappy. Fighting for something I wish with all my being I wasn’t. Fighting to be treated equally as kind of person I wish I wasn’t. Ashamed that I have to ask for these things. Terrified of why I have to ask for these things.”
I saw it flash across her eyes – the recognition. My heart sighed contentedly and I instantly felt less pained, less ashamed, less distressed. In that moment I knew everything had changed, would change. My struggle to be a disabled rights campaigner was about to shift gear. I was home.
Today is a new day. Today is a joyous day.