A shared refrain in the persecution of disabled and transgender folks by the Trump administration and the GOP is that our bodies are too expensive to care for. Such zero-sum thinking stirs hate and resentment against us. The ableist and bigoted vocabulary of Trumpism hangs a target on the most vulnerable, including my kids.
Our family is a “special needs”, “special ed” family. The term “special” causes a lot of harm. It is an ableist term that fuels segregation and grievance. I see it used against disabled and transgender people by folks who think something is being taken away from them when disability and transgender rights are recognized. Special is used as a dirty word to suggest someone is being treated as more than equal, when in reality special means segregation, societal exclusion, abuse, and inferior services. We in the disability community see this usage all too often. This piece gathers writing on the subject from neurodiversity and disability self-advocates:
After POTUS tweeted about transgender folks in the military, I noticed a rise in the use of “special” accompanied by appeals to a perverted notion of equality that erases disabled and transgender people, effectively telling us to shut up and die.
Equality is not when everyone gets the same thing. It’s when everyone gets what they need. Disabled and transgender people aren’t trying to take away anyone’s Medicaid, or anything else; the GOP is.
The GOP is encouraging hateful rhetoric that labels disabled and transgender people as “special” and “burdens”. Disabled people hear “burden” a lot. “Burden” rhetoric is one of the ugliest forms of ableism, and POTUS and the GOP are promoting it. This is eugenicist language. For a sense of what this language can do to a population, read up on the history of autistic people during WWII in the book NeuroTribes.
Eugenics kills the neurodiversity that has made modernity possible. When we cull minds, we cull our possibilities. Without autistic, ADHD, dyslexic, and queer minds, we are lesser.
Don’t sell a healthcare bill that most of America doesn’t want by throwing disabled and transgender folks under a bus of ableism and bigotry. Stop coming at “the least of us” with evangelicalism and providentialism that we reject as un-American, anti-democratic, and morally impoverished.