It used to hang in one of the women’s restrooms of the Tennessee Disability Coalition. It was a poster with photographs capturing protest demonstrators who use wheelchairs. Stamped on the corner was the classic circle with a slash atop the words: “Piss on Pity.”
I remembered these words as I tried to sort through my feelings after a dinner party at my fiance’s last weekend. A well-meaning friend of his told me several times he had no idea the difficulties I experienced in my daily life with my daughter who has autism, so just for the record, he assured he “didn’t judge me.” Context: this friend is a physician and my fiance has talked to him often about some of my alternative health-care choices for my daughter. The third time our guest said this, I told him that I did not look at my life as trouble-filled nor through the lens of a deficit model and when he said those words, it gave me the impression that he thought I did….I don’t think he heard me.
I bless his attempts to be affirming and supportive. But here’s one thing that people who don’t live in the world of disAbility miss. Most of us, the emotionally viable amongst us, don’t want pity. We don’t want you to feel sorry for us. Presumably “joining” me in my trials and tribulations is not supportive. You can listen. You can ask what you can do to help. But please do not assume I am crying in my beer. That I feel sorry for myself. And, please do not offer me your pity. Pity will not help empower me.
Instead, try compassion. Understanding. Tolerance. And celebrate with me the Goodness I feel and see in my Journey. That will do.
Piss. On. Pity!
(t-shirt from Thenthdegree.com)