Are You Talking to Me?

In Columns, Just My Bellybutton, Opinion by Nathasha Alvarez

Robert Deniro look on Nathasha Alvarez

Are you talking to me? 

Contrary to popular belief, I am not a gimp or a crip. I detest those words. What I really loathe is when I hear those words come out of disabled people in public! What are they trying to prove? That they are disabled? I think we know that already. If people are obese should they call themselves fatso, flubber blubber? I think not!

So why do some disabled people do it and not others? Many years ago, when I had a really rough day because of my disability and I wasn’t able to pick up my purse when it fell in public, I was more alert to strangers’ stares that day, and I had pushed down the street to find that there was no curb cut waiting for me, I called my other disabled friend and told him that I had had a bad crip day and he understood. But that is not what I would tell my family and friends. That is not what I would share with any strangers even if they were disabled, too. The only word we used was crip. It was a code for us. In retrospect, I should have simply said that I had a bad day. That is what able bodied people would say if more wrongs than rights occurred in one day. That code was quickly banished from my vocabulary.

However, when I hear disabled people calling each other gimp, crip, handicrappy and more, I am embarrassed. Why do they feel the need to call each other these things in public? Could it be that they feel so bad about their situation in life that this is their way to vent out their frustrations? Maybe so.

The problem lies when these words are exploited for commerce. I am disabled. That is no secret. I don’t need to buy a shirt that says “GIMP”. I do not see myself as a gimp and I know I don’t want the rest of the world to see me that way.

Once we market ourselves as crips, gimps and other degrading labels we are focusing on our limitations. I am a public school teacher but I am not a gimp teacher. The more we use these words in public and accept them as the norm the stronger the statement to the able bodied world that they too can call us those things.

In fact, we are only going back in time, instead of progressing towards a more understanding and accepting society. There is nothing amusing in television shows, movies, and the internet marketing on these degrading terms. Even if they are meant to make people laugh because it pays a price and it is at our expense.

You wouldn’t want to go to job interview and have them say, “You gimp, fill out this form and get in line between the nigger and the spic.” It is insulting and narrow minded.

Now when my disabled friends call me crip but supposedly it is said in love, I give them my best glare and say, “Are you talking to me? Are you…talking to me? I don’t think so.”

But hey, that’s just my bellybutton.