Her: “Oh, wow! Can I just take a picture of you both? It’s so rare to see two people in wheelchairs together and you two look so good together!” She smiles broadly, beaming, clearly enamoured with her own brilliance.
She also links to Thagmano’s post about her own experiences with stupid questions:
3. Another WCW, who walked into my office while I was making an
appointment for a haircut.
WCW: Sorry to interrupt
Me: No problem. I was just making a hair appointment
WCW: Oh, what are you going to get?
Me: Nothing, just a trim. I’m trying to grow out my hair
WCW: Oh, really? Why don’t you just get a “weave” [she totally said weave like it was a word in a different language that she didn't understand]
I posted my list a few months ago. My hands-down favorite was a pair of questions received via email:
Do you have a penis?
If so, how?
To be fair, he sent me an email beforehand asking me if he could ask these questions. Something to the effect of, “I never met an ftm before and I’m curious.” I said, sure, you can ask. I don’t think I ever wrote him back. I remember feeling very tired. The format was just a little much. How do you answer that question, anyway? I think a straightforward No would have been the opener, by his reckoning. Should I have described all my attachments? Maybe just one or two? Should I have defined clitoromegaly? Should I have discussed surgical options and then explained why those hows were not my preference? All three, probably. Maybe that would have occasioned more emails.
Awaketodream’s iteration isn’t exactly a question (“Are you related?”), but the encounter is imbued with the same anthropological connotations. Their constitutional, her spectacle. Ooh, isn’t that interesting! Two of them at once! And they make such a pretty picture! This isn’t the way you treat someone you meet on the sidewalk. This is the way you treat an animal at the zoo.
The commenters at blackademic’s post and many of the echoing stories that were subsequently told pointed out one common thread: These stories involve an assumption of difference. The subject of the curiosity is exoticized in ways that they don’t necessarily agree with, ways that frequently remove them from their rather mundane lives. Oh, you have a spouse? Oh, you have sex? Oh, you go for walks? Oh, you tan? Oh, you have a job? Oh, you like to read? Oh, you have children? Oh, you play sports? Oh, you attend church? Oh, you like privacy? Oh, you need intellectual stimulation?
This is not a reflection of the way life is for different people. It is not the result of careful study or even glancing acquaintance with the lives anyone actually leads. It’s the result of segregation exacerbated by popular stereotypes focused on difference and the fact of difference. Common characteristics are downplayed in favor of exotic difference. Common needs are downplayed in favor of dehumanization. The end result is the reduction of a pair of human beings to a display.
- Lone Butch Blues by piny May 30, 2006
- Potential by piny July 10, 2006
- Walking Papers by piny April 29, 2007
- Know Your Place by zuzu September 16, 2006
- Why are poor people poor? It’s not the reason you thought! by Cara January 7, 2009