Thursday, December 27, 2018

My Ambiguous Wrestling With "Inspiration Porn"

"Inspiration porn" refers to material about people with disabilities where the primary focus is either on the "AB" caregivers and their emotional responses to us living our lives, or is some voyueristic exploitation of some struggle we have, to make "normals" feel good about themselves. I truly do understand why it's a problem, and why it can be demeaning. As one TED speaker put it in paraphrase, I'm not a hero for getting out of bed this morning.

On the other hand...

A cross is a cross. If someone says to me, "You inspire me," charity requires that my first instinct should be to take him or her at face value. Have you ever noticed all the dying and disabled kids who love sports teams? You might wonder why. The secret is this: Weakness, inability, and failure is a reminder of creatureliness and mortality. Athletic glory and victory is a reminder of the perfection of Heaven. If someone pays you this compliment, stand in awe. Yes, your words may teeter on the edge of the maudlin here, as you try to receive this, but do try. I'm telling you that this vale of tears is a little more bearable because of the glory of your body, and what you can do with it. It's a tough balance, but if you pay me respect, I don't mind if you draw a little inspiration from me. It's only fair.

I love Roger Federer. Every time I see his face, or get to see a match, I feel joy. As he has struggled in these later years to tell Father Time to sit down and shut up, I've loved him all the more. We all face these reminders of mortality; a disability allows you to face them more acutely.

If Roger Federer told me that I inspired him to dig a little deeper, to push harder, I would nod in respect. He's earned that right, by doing his job so well. And of course, it's not something that he couldn't or wouldn't say to any fan. I need a gracious humility, to receive that in the spirit in which it was intended.

I give people a wide latitude in this. Life is actually hard for all of us. Anything we can do to help each other, we should do. I guess if I could sense an attempt to put me in my place, or to brush me aside, is a different matter.

Disabled Sexuality, Not An Oxymoron

Yes, it exists. I'm starting to own it. Took me long enough. There is of course an idolatry of sex, and an idolatry of "normal" or "able," and I have been guilty of both at times.

"If I don't end up with a normal girl, then I'll never be totally me, or attain my goal."

"I don't want a disabled girl."

Both of these are false, properly speaking. There is the mystery of chastity, and I have discovered a wonderful thing: You can't really properly order your sexuality, integrating it into the whole of your being, unless and until you acknowledge it is there, and that it's really not that different than anyone else's.

All this being said, some of you are quite aware that I have not seen fit to limit my romantic aspirations to the disabled. Ahem. Honestly, I hope it makes someone uncomfortable, so that I have someone to share the awkwardness with!

Seriously though, you might consider why it makes you uncomfortable, if it does. You may want to sit down for this.

Everything works.

I'm saying this here and now, so I don't have to be crude at bars and parties. As far as I know, there's no reason why I couldn't marry validly in the Catholic Church. [Aside from the fact that you don't go to bars or parties.--ed.] So true.

There was a badly deformed guy for whatever reason--I can't recall his disability--who used a prostitute to feel "whole." I don't recommend that, but I understand it. Oh, boy, do I understand it! I think like many other disabled people, we experience a lack of touch in general. I wonder if people are thinking they're going to catch something? Anyway, that's weird.

I probably just committed some heinous faux pas with "badly deformed." Oh, well. I guess I should say that actually, I am looking forward to the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Which is not to say that I'm sad about my body, or its limitations. It's just that I appreciate all the things you "ABs" can do with yours. I have the soul of an athlete, absolutely. Had I started earlier, I definitely think I would have been involved in several wheelchair sports.

Where I think activists are going off the wheelchair ramp, so to speak, is that sexual sin is sin. As much as I can appreciate the "freedom" of fornication, in the sense that a fully sexual body has been acknowledged and seen in some way, it's still well short of what God is calling us to.

Truthfully, I have no idea how I would handle being a faithful Catholic with multiple children, as a person with a disability. Then again, everyone is terrified of parenthood. I have decided to stop being any more terrified than anyone else.