The Disability Coming out process

Hi my name is Val and I have a disabiliy. I have said those words so many times on panels to people, my disability primarly means I have auditory, visual, and kenetic dyslexia. I see things backwards, hear things differently, and letters occassionally jump up and down and all around. Those words are things I say all the time now in disability Q and A it happens for most of my friends, coworkers, the random classes, trainings , and the random people who interview me. I probably have said those words at least 10 times this year alone. It is so much a part of my idenity to the world it has almost become something visual I become "the disability girl" at every college or group I join because I go and say this isn't accessible I make the changes for myself and other. I am open about my disability and knowledgeable about others. I make a point of caring and reading ADAG and disability rights history books on my free time(yes, I know I am a geek).

I made the point a while ago that being diagnosed was a big exciting experience for me until I realized other people would think the diagnosis was bad. After those experience I didn't tell people untill I felt I really could tell them. I used to have this kind of disclosure or coming out process for my friends after I felt I knew them. It involved you know fun things and then me describing my diagnosis to my friends. Sometimes this went really cool, oh I get it and sometimes it went horrible people disclosing to everyone and their mother with out my permission oh yay grade school and middle school confidentiality much.

I slowly got more and more into with examples. The best example involves the cosby show specifically Theo and the kids 2 part episodes it talks specifically example of Theo(He is the one boy child of Bill Cosby on the show and is based on Cosby's actual dyslexic son). Theo writes some squiglly lines on a black board and says "What does this show?" The person looks at him and says I don't know, then theo draws connecting lines and says what is this? The person looks at it and goes well obviously it is a bike. Theo then says this is what dyslexia is you see the lines but you can make the picture complete being diagnosised and learning coping skills allows you to put the picture together and see the whole picture.

Then I started to find myself wanting more and more to talk about my disability openly. I started to talk more and more about my disability willing to disclose easily and more openly. The first part of this I did was I was given the chance in 7th grade to write a research paper on anything I wanted so i wrote it on my disability. I learned more and more about what my disability really met and the more I learned about it I started to see my disability again as something that was more neutral not this big secret thing that I never knew if people would like me after. I see it though, you look into someones eyes, and you wonder did I say my speel wrong is this something that you just don't belive in or is it me; I know you think I am lieing here. Sometimes this isn't just the assumption that is made sometimes you wonder if it is a specific part about the disability; well this part is okay and that but really you are making this part up.

Eventually you find yourself being okay with it having it just come up, you talk about it like nothing is happening to you oh yeah I have a disability. A lot of times I find more people are more curious or suprised. The higher I go in school, the more suprise there is wow I didn't know that was possible. I know this is silly cause I know most people see this reaction as a poistive but there is this thing in side me that keeps going why is it so suprising? Yes, I have a disability and yes I can honestly say everyday it is an active part of who I am and yes I am in college or I have my masters. I find myself liking the questions but I have always been a questions answer person give me a question and if I know it I would love to tell you what I know and if I don't I will tell you I don't know.

Eventually I decided I needed a way to help people about disabilities. I started getting more and more involved with actively talking about it. I gave a speech to my high school about it. I started to develop training programs about people with disabilities and eventually a class curiculum on it and it's intersection with gender. It is now a very active part of who I am. However, I do get wierded out when people ask who wouldn't know. Oh I see your handwriting it looks like you have a learning disability or do why aren't you getting accomodations in my class I can tell by the way you use american sign language that you have a dyslexic accent. It is wierd when this thing i think I can control the information about becomes something people see and go oh you are sooo dyslexic. It makes my mouth hang open and pause; thinking I was caught people can see me but the funny thing is if I was the one to disclose a lot of times I wouldn't care if the person knew or asked any questions. I just find myself wanting to control the information and yes I know that is a privledge of having a hiden thing but it also puts presure on you to figure out how to do this dance of disclosure or coming out.


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