Sunday, October 9, 2016

Passing is erasure

People talk about "Passing Privilege".
Or there's "High Functioning" that is defined so frequently on how disabled you look.

There's this overarching idea in the language used, that passing is something that is desired. Looking less disabled, more neurotypical is better, because disabled is wrong.

1. Disabled isn't wrong
2. Passing is being erased.

Being passed means being told you aren't really yourself. Being forced into an "us vs them" scenario on the other side of the us vs them - the side for the non-disabled. You're "high functioning" - one of them who's role it is to hold the others down, by lifting you up to almost human.

Being passed means being told you don't really need support; you're just lazy. Those words aren't your words, those labels are for "real disabled people". Being passed means denial of culture, denial of community, denial of social supports, and being left alone.

Being passed is lonely, and exhausting. It's not knowing when to say, but this isn't me, I really am disabled. It's not being believed when you claim that, because why weren't you "disabled" all along, lazy person. It's needing support and not getting it.

And at the same time, being passed means safety. So there's the question of what's safest, because there's safety and lack of safety at the same time.

So there's questions and choices of when to erase oneself, because passing is erasure.

And there's knowing that you're seen as "acceptably disabled" and people try to use you as almost human and that your role is to be the acceptable disabled ones, and fighting that is fighting the safety of passing.

And there's knowing that safety is always at the expense of safety.


  1. I appreciate this post. I really highlights, for me, the difference between 'passing' and 'being passed'.

    It now seems to me that 'passing' is something one might choose to do and 'being passed' is an action imposed by other people. Both are erasure, but one is erasure of one's own choosing and the other is erasure chosen by other people.

    Other minority groups also face the problem of when to pass/accept being passed and when to represent their group-- trans folk, people of the non-dominant culture/heritage, non-straight folk.... It's a shared challenge.

    1. Exactly! on the difference between 'passing' and 'being passed'. They're both being seen as not as you are, but there are reasons it might be self-imposed vs other imposed.

      And yeah, it is a shared challenge. Being other means being seen as other, or being seen as not other but not seen as self.