In a few short weeks I’ll be in Washington DC at the GCLS conference and I’m excited to be part of a panel titled, Differently Able.
The moderator set up a Facebook group and asked the panel members for a bio. I’d already provided mine the first time she’d asked because I have a touch of OCD. Another panel member asked if she should note her disability in the bio and the moderator then asked me if I wanted to add my disability to the bio. Oh shit, I thought are they expecting this to be a panel of authors with disabilities? I wrote back I didn’t have an obvious disability to share in a bio and I hoped that was okay. The moderator assured me it was fine.
This got me to wondering about the different perceptions about disabilities and the biases around mental health issues and those persons with disabilities who have hidden challenges. My thoughts jumped to appreciating the title of the panel, Differently Able, because I would rather focus on those special gifts that everyone brings to the table. Alternately, the challenges I would argue, are ones that everyone has in life with certainly different degrees of difficulty. Those with certain mental health issues are largely unseen to the world and don’t always get as much press, but definitely feel a lot of stigma for their condition.
For example, a person with severe OCD or an eating disorder may appear quite “normal” (whatever normal is) to the outside world and yet, to those who are close, the disorder can get in the way of a solid relationship, the person’s health, and a whole host of challenges that others may not consider when categorizing who is or is not a person with a disability.
Is there a pecking order such as a person in a wheelchair is the most notable and a person with a sex addiction doesn’t even register at all on the list. Before you ask, no, sex addiction is not a hidden disability of mine.
I’m not asking these question to be flippant or minimalize the real challenges persons with disabilities face every day. I genuinely want to know the answer to these questions.
My other major thought was can a writer who does not have first-hand experience with a particular disability, write about it? The same question is often posed regarding how authors who are not lesbians can write lesbian romance (for the record I am 100% lesbian or so my wife says). The best response to this I ever heard was, “You don’t have to be a sociopathic murderer to write about it.”
I wrote Locked Inside because I had a burning desire and a passion for this topic. I wasn’t sure if it would sell well. Hell, I wasn’t sure it would be published, but I didn’t care because it was a story that was very near and dear to my heart. I felt compelled to write it. I wanted people to begin to look beyond the outer package and see a person’s inner beauty and worth. To see the strength within despite an outward appearance that is prejudged.
I just completed a first draft of a new book about two young women with Down’s syndrome who fall in love. I realize this story may never see the light of day (be published), but I don’t care. This is a story that needed telling. I suppose I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it of whether it is publishable or not. I wasn’t sure Locked Inside would ever make it and to my utter surprise, Affinity not only decided to publish it, but it is a Goldie finalist. Wow….who knew? My Betas have given high marks to my new story called, Unconventional Lovers, so perhaps that too will see the light of day. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see! In the meantime, if you want to see what all the fuss is about regarding Locked Inside, or any of my other books, follow the links below!
Here’s a link to the new book in case you need it! Also don’t forget to check out Ali’s book!