What if we refused to hide?

We whisper. We move to a more private room. We use vague terms. We are given privacy policy documents. We are assured that our feedback will be given anonymously. Because that is expected.  

There is so much secrecy around disability. 

It has become so normal to hide a mental disability, that it is just assumed that we won't want anyone to know about our situation. It is just expected that we will want to keep this quiet. 

I understand the need for it to some extent. I understand that it is meant to help us. But I think the secrecy that is designed to protect us is also creating, or at least perpetuating, the problems that we fear the most:

Discrimination and bullying.

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It is so rampant and accepted, that we are made to feel like we must hide from it.  We are led to believe that this is the only way to protect our children from the haters and the bullies who might attack us if they knew. And so we do it.

We tell the autistic child not to flap or make his noises in public, so people won't stare.  

We try to keep him quiet in a restaurant, so people won't say something to us.  

We try to get him to dress like the other kids so that he won't stand out at school by wearing his baggy sweatpants every day. 

We tell him to keep his hands out of his mouth or his fingers out of his hair, so that people don't see his stimming behavior and think he is "weird". 

But why?

Why should our child be made to act like someone he is not? Why should he have to work even harder to fit into somebody else's standard of "normal"? Why are we to be punished because we have a child who is different? 

Why should we be the ones to hide? Why should we be the ones to feel ashamed? 

Just so that the haters won't have a target? 

I think discrimination and bullying happen because of a lack of understanding, a lack of familiarity, and a lack of empathy. I think people fear (and sometimes lash out at) what they don't understand.  And by keeping disability in the closet, we are doing nothing to help people understand.  We are doing nothing to demonstrate to them that even people with disabilities aren't abnormal, they're just different.  We are not helping to create any familiarity or empathy. We aren't educating them that differences are ok, that differences are what make us great. All we are doing is perpetuating the behavior that we fear. 

I don't want to do it any more. 

What if we refused to hide?  

What if instead we were all out in the open?

What if we made the haters keep quiet?

What if we made the bullies feel ashamed?

What if we forced the people with their dirty looks and rude comments into the lonely corners?

We if we made the haters and bullies hide?

What if we refused to make our child fit their definition of "normal"? 

I learned last night that 20% of the students in our school are receiving Special Education Services.  One in five.  

What if that wasn't a secret? What if all of those parents banded together and forced the world to look our children square in the face and accept them for the beautiful, unique, loving people that they are? 

Imagine what might happen...