Affirming My Identity
"...People often assume that disabilities are straightforward to describe. When they ask what your 'conditions' are or what 'challenges' you face, they expect a clean answer, which is often impossible.
It is hard to label myself, as I constantly move back and forth on the scale of disability and ability. But why should I be bothered by the lack of labels? Shouldn’t disability be an individual experience?... the lack of labels is not confusing but liberating—it is defined, articulated and enriched by individual narratives.
Yet for the longest time, I thought a label was important. Growing up, I measured myself against the medical and social standards of ability. I tried to be ‘able’, being too proud to accept the disability stigmas. Realising that I couldn’t, I sought to embrace disabilities, yet again finding myself ‘too normal’ sometimes to be ‘qualified’."
—Excerpt from "You Are Not Hard-Of-Hearing Enough: Performing Normativities" by Xie Yihui
I have been thinking about the idea of vulnerability, and how it reveals and affirms our selves at once.
Three years ago in the middle of Covid-19, when Victor approached me about writing a chapter for a disability anthology about my experience as a hard-of-hearing person, I was elated but apprehensive. I struggled to explain and articulate who I am as a hard-of-hearing person. I thought long and hard and only came up with awkward and contrived sentences. I read the few writings available online on disability and hard-of-hearing, trying to locate my experience on the trodden paths. There are few, but growing writings on disability, some of them eloquent, some half-formed, but all of them are brave, honest accounts of their vulnerabilities.
I am grateful to be contributing to this growing corpus of disability writing. I have never put together my experiences and reflections about my disability before, and doing that in the written form has proven to be affirming of my identity. Writing about things that I am too shy to talk about, that I was ashamed of, that I felt too strongly to find the right words for, is difficult but deeply rewarding. In doing so, I have become disabled in writing this chapter of the book and my life. And I am proudly so.
Contributor to Not Without Us: Perspectives on Disability and Inclusion in Singapore.
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