Privilege. Having some aspect of a mainstream societally accepted group. We hear about it all the time, especially in the disability community. In the most simplest of explanations for the context of this post- it means that even though you have a disability you can pass as not having a disability or “like most of society” “typical” or as much as the term makes me gag for personal reasons- “able bodied” Privilege has many types. Passing is just one. You would think that this would be a benefit to people who live with invisible disabilities (ones that are not visibly apparent) Yes, I will say for the most part it is easier for those with invisible disabilities to be accepted into society, I mean we look like our non disabled peers. We don’t appear any different on the outside. “You are lucky you can pass” my more visibly disabled friends tell me al the time. You can get a job easier without disclosure being obviously necessary or unavoidable, you have an easier time with relationships because you don’t have to worry about the disability vs. sexuality dilemma, you don’t have to deal with accessibility that comes with wheelchairs or crutches. I have heard it all from those with disabilities that are mainly physical. I live with physical disabilities but they are mild enough that I don’t require any aids and I have invisible ones as well (health and learning) I want to tell them and everyone while everyone thinks that passing is such a wonderful thing that in fact, it can be quite a curse. How can being like everyone else be such a curse when they accept you?
In short, here are some reasons I strongly affirm to stop using the passing privilege.
1. Your disability may be invisible and you may not want to or need to disclose the disability: the difficulties present from them are still there. Often it leads to people not understanding as readily as if they could get a visual representation of disabled such as crutches, service dogs, wheelchairs, obvious limps or consistently visible medical devices. So, is it really a good thing to have difficulties that you can’t get people to want to accept because they say “its not really that hard, I mean you function so well!”
2. When your invisible disability puts limitations on your independence such as not being able to drive ( I am experiencing this right now) which limits your access to careers and everyone says just go and get a job you can handle it. Yes, I can handle it but I need to disclose disability because of transportation and then find out that I am not quite disabled the “right way” for services.
3. You get scolded by people for not disclosing your disability because you learn to adapt to it so well in society and then when you experience a barrier you need assistance to work around (such as adaptations) most people think you are trying to take the easy way out because it’s not “disabled that badly”
4. Last but not least, because I want to keep this from becoming too much of a rant YOU DON’T FIT ANYWHERE. There are disability communities everywhere and yet when you are invisibly disabled you learn growing up often to “not tell anyone” “it’s how you are and don’ flaunt it” so, having the support that is much easier for those with visible disabilities have is harder for us to come by (in my experiences and many others who I have spoken to) You don’t quite fit in the typical society because you have difficulties that people who aren’t disabled in any way just don’t seem to relate to and then of course the other side where in the disability community you get bashed by activists because “you are so lucky to pass”
Passing isn’t always a privilege. Passing is a subjective measure and is situational to each individual. Do not tell someone they are lucky to pass, the may be able to pass, but they are experiencing more internal challenges then those who on the outside do not have the opportunity to “pass” In a whole, I am glad I can pass often, but sometimes it makes situations so much harder to handle but I know I would never use my disability as a crutch (some people do and it makes me mad) but I also know that there are times I need people to know even if they cannot see it that there are difficulties which are not innately my fault or in my control (although there may be those too) Essentially, just because someone has a disability it doesn’t negate personality traits. I may not tell you I live with a disability because it wouldn’t affect what I am doing for you- but if it does and I tell you I want you to know that the difficulty I am experiencing is beyond a “personality difference” but in fact an affect of the disability that I did not choose nor can control. Please do not tell me not to open my mouth because of the social stigma. The stigma exists whether or not we open our mouths.
I disagree. Passing is always a privilege. Having the ability to look ‘normal’ means facing less discrimination. Passing is a lie, by commission or omission, that one is not disabled, gay, trans, a POC, etc. Sometimes, it means safety or work. Members of marginalized groups who can pass have more choices than those who cannot. However, the circumstances that create the need to pass are no privilege. Passing arises from oppression. Having an invisible disability and passing as non-disabled are different. Plenty of people who are not obviously disabled to an observer without knowledge of a specific disability are obviously different. There are unique problems associated with being invisibly disabled. They are a different issue from passing.