Content warning: ableism, hate speech, suicide reference
It’s Face Equality Week, led by Face Equality International. The theme is “we will not hide”.
This video lists some of the many ableism things that people have said or written to or about me. And I know countless people with facial differences, skin conditions and disabilities who’ve endured the same. It’s horrific but not uncommon. And still, we are often disbelieved. And there is no penalty for hate speech, despite the enormous impact.
Last October I gave a testimony to the Disability Royal Commisison, about abuse in public spaces (online and IRL). I mentioned some of the statements I’ve repeated in the video. This is an excerpt from my statement, which specifically talks about why I sometimes choose to hide.
“The main impact on me of all these experiences is absolute exhaustion. Even though I write and speak about issues of disability rights and facial difference, responding to questions and comments from strangers on the street, or online, is so tiring. In my experience, society expects disabled people and people with a facial difference to educate others constantly.
Moreover, every time I receive a look, a laugh, a stare, or an abusive comment or question, my exhaustion is compounded. I don’t think people quite comprehend that living with a facial difference is my every day, and dealing with everyone’s reaction to it is also my every day. The more it happens, the more it wears me down.
Sometimes, I cannot bring myself to go out in public or do certain things, in order to avoid the inevitable reaction. For example, I will position my chair facing a wall in a restaurant, instead of facing the diners. I also generally try to avoid places where I think there may be drunk people. People who have been drinking are often difficult to be around, as they do not seem able to hold back their comments or questions. Consequently, I often decide not to attend events such a music gigs or festivals, as I know these are places where there may be people who are drinking. This makes me quite sad, as music is a great passion of mine.
In general, however, I try my best not to let the ongoing abuse get to me in a way that will limit me living my full life. It is not always possible, but it is what I work towards.”
A news clip about my DRC hearing is here