I recently discovered a podcast that I’ve heard of before, but have just now looked into. The podcast is called LGBTQ&A; and in one episode of this show, its host Jeffrey Masters talks with a woman named Robyn (who was close friends with Whitney Houston, a well-known pop star). In this interview, Robyn talks about why she’s decided to share her story, including of course, that Whitney Houston was special to her. It was interesting to me to hear Robyn discuss how news reporters and other folks involved with some form of entertainment media, seemed to only see in Whitney Houston whatever it was that they’d wanted to see in her. She (Robyn) explains that neither she nor Whitney Houston used any sort of relationship discriptors for themselves, as the two of them (Whitney Houston and Robyn) knew within themselves what they shared together…and that was good enough for each of them as individuals.
And TBH, I could really find myself relating to what Robyn was saying throughout this interview, in terms of people wanting to put her into boxes because she was so close to Whitney Houston for decades. The part of this interview that I found myself relating to the most, was how Robyn did seem to struggle within herself about the depth of feelings that she’d felt for Whitney Houston. And I remembered within myself how for years, I struggled within myself, trying to figure out how I identified sexually. Those were quite confusing times for me, not to mention scary times…because even the idea that I could potentially label myself as gay in the wide world at some point down the road, was so foreign to my brain. Because I didn’t know whether I even knew anyone within the LGBTQ community, not to mention, my family of origin helped fuel my internalized homophobia on a daily basis.
And in fact, when Robyn specifically talks about how Whitney Houston showed her (Robyn) a Bible one day, saying that she and Robyn could no longer have a sexual relationship with each other, I felt the sting in her (Robyn’s) voice when she’d said those words to the person interviewing her. But at the same time, I also empathized with where Whitney Houston may have been coming from, especially given that most people in her (Whitney’s) family of origin, were probably deeply religious. But then again, my heart hurt to hear and think about this particular situation between Robyn and Whitney Houston, as it saddened me to know that the two of them felt like they couldn’t love one another proudly and openly.
But upon remembering this insane part of my journey now, I’m having compassion for myself. Because while I’m not a famous person like Whitney Houston was, I figured out that online, I could be honest about the things that I was struggling with internally. And in doing so, I received tons of support from folks, along with tons of hatred from other folks. I was made fun of by people because my sexuality was ever-changing, and online, I was always open about that fact. And so, in summary, listening to this interview of Robyn talking about her story with Whitney Houston made me feel comfort: to know that even famous people go through hardships like the one I’ve been talking about, felt like a sense of togetherness. It helped me see Whitney Houston’s humanity, even though I wasn’t even aware that she didn’t seem like a fellow human being to me, prior to listening to this interview with someone who was close to her for many years.
In another episode of the LGBTQ&A podcast, Jeffrey Masters talks with someone who used to work for Fred Rogers. And honestly, as soon as I heard VoiceOver on my iPhone announce that part of the summary for this episode, I knew that I’d love listening to it. Because I grew up watching Mister Rogers’ TV show; but that being said, given that this podcast is LGBTQ-themed, I was excited to hear how this particular theme related to Fred Rogers. But I didn’t expect to hear that this person who’d worked for Fred Rogers, had had conversations with him (Mister Rogers) about this man’s openly discussing his sexuality, not being a straight man. But being that this man who was being interviewed for this podcast felt that outing himself would cause Mister Rogers a lot of pain, he chose to stay quiet about who he knew himself to be. He made it clear to Jeffrey Masters though, that Mister Rogers himself wasn’t homophobic. Mister Rogers was truly a kind and loving man…but this man seemed to believe that other folks would not be kind or loving towards Fred Rogers, if they knew that he openly embraced folks in the LGBTQ community. It truly was unfortunate that things had to be that way…but even so, I’m happy that this man was finally able to come forward and share his story with the world.
In yet another episode of LGBTQ&A, Jeffrey Masters (the host of this show) talks with Andrew Gurza (who’s the host of the podcast entitled Disability After Dark). And something that Andrew Gurza talks about as a guest on this particular podcast, is how even we as disabled people can be ableist. And one example of this being true for myself, is actually internalized ableism: sometimes whenever I’m somewhere that isn’t the house I currently live in, I’ll hesitate to ask people around me where a cup is that I’m going to be drinking out of. I know that probably seems silly to some folks–I’ve been totally blind now for over a decade…but I still find myself encountering internalized ableism. Like, there’s something in my brain that sends me the message of “if I ask people where the cup is that I’m going to be drinking out of, that’s something I should be ashamed of doing…and especially because whomever I’m around then will somehow punish me for it.” But I’m totally fucking blind!! It makes perfect sense that I won’t always know where the cups are that I’ll be using. Because there are so many variables to this sort of situation; are there tons of items on the table I’m sitting at? Is the table I’m sitting at small or large? Are there other people currently sitting at the table? And I think of these sorts of things because I have to, honestly. Because sometimes someone will place a cup on my left side but a few inches away from my plate. But other times someone will place a cup a few inches in front of my plate…and I won’t catch the sound that the cup made when it’s been put down. So, I’m pretty sure that this internalized ableism of mine comes from the ways in which my family of origin treated me/taught me to move through the world, as someone who, in their eyes, was not a whole person.
Another personal example of my own internalized ableism, is regarding my journey through life walking. And yes, I actually mean the physical act of walking, that many folks probably take for granted. Because for me, walking has always been a huge struggle. Like, I was born with Cerebral Palsy and I’ve never been able to walk with ease, even though people might have perceived I have done so. But internalized ableism comes into the picture because walking is a lot harder for me to do nowadays. And not only does that particular reality make me sad, but it frustrates me to think of how society as a whole is so fixated on seeing people with disabilities walk…even though many of those able-bodied people know that walking is difficult for us.
And in fact, I’ve been through things where able-bodied folks have encouraged me to walk; they’d take away my white cane as well as my support cane and then ask me to walk by trusting the verbal directions that they’d give me. And the thing was, I could’ve spoken up about how uncomfortable that particular thing made me. I could’ve challenged those people’s ableist attitudes and told them to fuck off. But in those moments where this actually was happening, I just quietly complied. But inwardly, I did feel like this attitude was incredibly ableist, not to mention toxic…and I hated every second of it. But my idea of what my confrontation with able-bodied people who’d force me to walk would be like, was probably much scarier than the reality of me being honest might have actually played out. But the last thing I’d ever wanted to do, was to cause a scene…so there was that. But also, I cared about how people saw me and I didn’t want to be seen as being rude or a bitch, just because I stood up for myself. Whereas nowadays, I’d hope that I’d be able to speak my truth as it really is, even if I’m in an uncomfortable situation.
But that being said, internalized ableism comes into this picture, as me missing the times when walking wasn’t so noticeably painful for me. And the thing is, intellectually, I know that there’s nothing to be ashamed about. As a human being, my body constantly changes, right along with other parts of me. And these changes happen all the time, literally. But there’s something internally where I feel in a sense like I was a better/more worthy person because I did what I could to pass as normal. Like, I’d say that I felt obligated to walk, no matter what level of pain I felt, because not walking meant that I was somehow defective. And so, even now as I’m writing this, there’s a part of me that’s thinking that maybe there will come a day or a time when I could feel comfortable walking again…even if just for a little while. But that’s just it: if I do walk again, it’s going to be on my terms and my terms only. I’m not going to allow myself to be an object for others to gawk at, just because they figuratively get their rocks off, in seeing me walk. Because for the most part, walking feels like an incredible hardship of mine.
But anyway, I say all of this to encourage able-bodied people to think before you speak. If you’re thinking of asking a physically disabled wheelchair user to get up and walk for you, sit, I mean actually sit with yourself for a few minutes…and ponder why it is that you want to inflict this kinda pressure on someone. Because that’s exactly what it is that you’re doing: you’re pressuring someone to fit into a particular mold. And for what? So that you can feel better about yourself? So that you can tell people “look, today, I made a disabled person get out of their comfort zone and walk…all because I feel like that’s what makes them more human to me.” Now, of course, people wouldn’t necessarily say that last part of the quote that I’ve written. But they may as well say that entire quote of mine. Because the truth is, disabled people don’t exist to make able-bodied people feel good about themselves. We as disabled people don’t exist to make people fixate on the “who has it worse” olympics. We, like you able-bodied people, exist because two people did a physical thing together that created us. But much like how most able-bodied people want to quietly live their lives, I as a disabled person often want to do the same with regards to my life. But yet this belief that society has that my disabilities make me less human than other folks, acts as a barrier…in my life and in the lives of others who interact with me. And so, please, able-bodied folks, please stop dehumanizing people who look different than you do. Please think before you speak, especially if you’re about to play a round of the “who has it worse” olympics. Because human beings have far more in common with able-bodied people, than most able-bodied people probably think we do. So please, trust in that truth!!
Another thing that Andrew Gurza talks openly about on the LGBTQ&A podcast, is how disabled people are not often seen by society at large as sexual human beings. I’m glad he decided to talk about that truth, because it’s important that those of us who are disabled and sex-positive folks, make society aware of the sexual part of our lives. Now, to clarify, I’m not suggesting that we go into graphic detail with people about the ways we have or like sex to happen. There is such a thing as privacy for ourselves, but also for our partners that we’re with at any given time. And in fact, that’s one reason why I rarely, if ever, talk about things that happen in romantic relationships that I’m actually in. I only talk about things if I’m given permission to by my partners or I wait until a later date when I’ve gained perspective on things. Because even though society would say that I’m someone who can’t maintain romantic partnerships with others, I wouldn’t agree with that assessment. Because I’ve learned things literally from every single romantic relationship I’ve been in; and even though all of my romantic relationships have ended, I don’t have any ill will towards any of my past partners. I don’t communicate with any of them, unless I happen to run into them in public…but that doesn’t have to mean that I hate their guts. It simply means that we were people who wanted very different things for our lives…and that those differences were so different from each other that we just naturally fell apart. That sort of thing happens a lot in life, to most people, I think.
In another episode of LGBTQ&A, Jeffrey Masters talks with Fran Tirado (who used to host the podcast entitled the Outcast). Hearing Fran’s voice made me smile, and I realized how much I’ve genuinely missed hearing it. He’s very animated, like I am; but I could really relate to what he said in this podcast about growing up gay in a Christian-centric home. Because that very situation was mine as well; I was forced to go to church on a regular basis…which I was sure was a punishment for what a horrible person I was. And then on top of that, people at whichever churches I’d gone to, told me that homosexuality was wrong. People in whichever churches I’d gone to, felt like their treatment of me was fake. Like, I could internally tell that I rarely could make actual connections with people at churches or at church-related events. And this might sound kinda weird, but I felt so isolated and alone in church-related or church-specific gatherings. I felt like I was misunderstood, not to mention shunned, for who I was. And on top of that, the abuse I regularly dealt with at the hands of my family of origin, didn’t help my self-worth. But thankfully, I don’t feel like I have to play pretend in any way, any more.
Something in Once Upon a Time that stood out to me, is the fact that Bell (from Beauty and the Beast) gets to a point where she can’t take any more of Mr. Gold’s/Rumpelstiltskin’s vengeful ways. But unfortunately for her, she’d already married this buffoon known as Rumpelstiltskin/Mr. Gold. And even though she’d exiled him from Storybrooke through using the dagger to control him, I knew that the problems he’d created were far from over. And sure enough, it turns out that Rumpelstiltskin and Regina/the Evil Queen, are both working with Ursula, Maleficent and Cruella de Ville (or Cruella for short) because all of those villains are seeking their happy endings. And each of these villains is willing to go to any lengths they have to, like stealing Pinocchio from his (Pinocchio’s father Gepetto’s shop) turning Pinocchio into August and then trying to force August to give them (all of the evil villains) the information they want about the fairytale book’s author(s).
But I want to go back to the very beginning of Once Upon a Time for a bit because I want to talk about how the show first started. So even before Henry went to Boston to find Emma (his birth mom) his teacher in school was named Mary Margaret. And Mary Margaret had given Henry a book of fairytales to read, as she’d felt that he could really use the book’s contents to help him see the world in a beautiful way. And so, as this show goes on, we the viewers eventually see that Henry wholeheartedly believes that Mary Margret is actually Snow White. And that belief of his is correct: Mary Margret is, in fact, Snow White. And so, a huge part of the first season of Once Upon a Time, is Henry trying to convince Mary Margret, David AKA Prince Charming and other residents of Storybrooke, of their true nature. But no one believes what Henry tells them, for quite some time.
One of the things that we the viewers find out in season four of Once Upon a Time, is that Mary Margret and David AKA Prince Charming, think that the two of them (Mary Margret and David) make Maleficent’s baby disappear from Storybrooke. The reason that Mary Margret and David think this, is because Mary Margret and Maleficent were pregnant at the same time as one another. And also at that time, Mary Margret and David are told by an elderly man that their unborn baby has the potential to become extremely dark. And this elderly man tells Mary Margret and David that this darkness could be done away with if the two of them (Mary Margret and David) knew of another source to transfer said darkness to. And so, as it turns out, Maleficent’s baby is the source that Mary Margret’s and David’s baby Emma, is transferred to. But the thing is, when this elderly man gives Mary Margret and David the news that the Charming Child will possess the ability to become dark, the man intentionally doesn’t tell the Charming Family that Maleficent’s child will be sent to a realm other than Storybrooke. Mary Margret and David end up discovering that that’s what happens, through this child being whisked away as soon as the old man has finished telling Mary Margret and David what they think is good news: their child most likely won’t become someone who’s dark. But the saddest part of this whole thing, is that ever since Maleficent, Cruella and Ursula have come to Storybrooke, Mary Margret and David have told lie upon lie to Emma, not wanting her (Emma) to know what the two of them (David and Mary Margret) did to Maleficent’s child. But the more that Mary Margret and David lie to their daughter Emma, the deeper that they (Mary Margret and David) get into making up mor lies…until there comes a time when Emma confronts them about the recent lies that they’d started telling her.
There’s something I forgot to say about the survey that I’d recently filled out for school: the fact that people having the necessary tools to ensure their success in school, is not the entire picture for everyone continuing to pursue their education. What I mean by that, is that it’s rare for people to consider that some folks may have far more complicated situations than people can prepare for on a large scale like a community college, for example. I mean, I know I explained this well in the survey questions I’d responded to; but in thinking a bit more about this huge shitty situation, I feel like this point I made cannot be over-stated.