For most of my growing up years, I was privileged. I didn’t know it at the time, but the privileged rarely do. I grew up a white, middle class female in a Christian home. I knew the label of “Christian” set me apart–my mom told me so often. But labels like cisgender/transgender or gay/straight were not yet part of my vocabulary or understanding.
It wasn’t until I was in my 20’s that I realized I was gay. That instantly separated me from the conservative, fundamental, Christian upbringing I’d been a part of. I was suddenly “less than” in their eyes. I quickly found out what it was like to live as part of a marginalized group when I lost everything–literally everything (my family, relatives, friends, church, hometown)–to live as my authentic self.
The rejection and exclusion I experienced after coming out heightened my awareness of other ostracized groups that previously I’d been oblivious to. Muslims, refugees, people of color, transgender people, immigrants, those in poverty…these are the people who are most often forgotten, overlooked, and ignored.
My wife is a first generation immigrant, a person of color, a gay woman, a Christian, and she’s served in the army for over 20 years. She checks a lot of boxes on the minorities list. My relationship with her has further risen my awareness of privilege (or lack thereof) and talk of minority groups is now a frequent conversation in our home.
Then, three and a half years ago, I unexpectedly joined another minority group: the disabled. During a routine adjustment, I was injured by a chiropractor and it has forever altered my life. For 18 months, I got passed from doctor to doctor, I was misdiagnosed, I had multiple MRIs and CAT scans, and I was told my pain was psychosomatic. All the while, my mobility consistently decreased.
At first I noticed it in my workouts, then I started walking with a limp, then I struggled to make it up stairs, and eventually, I couldn’t even get myself out of bed. My muscles and ligaments completely gave out and could no longer support the weight of my body .
After much searching, we finally found a phenomenal osteopathic/sports medicine doctor who knew exactly what was wrong and helped me execute a plan to recovery. Though it’s taken much longer than I ever expected, he’s faithfully walked that road with me now for 2 years. With a treatment called prolotherapy, we’ve slowly re-grown new ligaments in my body that have given me much of my autonomy back.
But it’s still not easy. I’m still in treatment every 8 weeks, which is a big improvement from every 2 weeks, but still puts me in bed on ice for 3-4 days after every round of injections. I’m still limited in what I can do, and I’ll never be 100% again. Much of my functionality has returned, but many things I’ve had to learn how to do differently.
My functionality (and the visibility of my pain) vacillate from day to day. Some days I walk fine without pain, other days I use a cane, but every day I struggle to sit for any length of time. That means everything I do now has to pass through a filter that asks, “Can my body handle this?” I now have to think everything through in a way I never had to before. It’s made me realize how much I took my health for granted.
While this hasn’t been a secret, I haven’t talked about it publicly before now, mostly because I hate feeling limited. I hate that some days I feel almost normal and other days I’m in a wheelchair. I hate asking for help. I hate admitting I can’t do something. I hate the word “disabled.”
I want to be normal. I want to be free and unlimited. I want to be able to do whatever I please. But I’ve learned that my body now has limits I must follow, and that’s been hard to accept.
All these things have led me to a greater appreciation for the abilities I do have, and even the baby steps I make towards progress. It’s also made me more aware of privilege–the things I take for granted because I can. The things I forget to be grateful for. And the people around me who struggle because they don’t have them.
This short, 4-minute video on privilege is a powerful representation of this. It makes me more cognizant every time I watch it.
As we go about our week, let’s resolve to be more mindful of those around us who don’t have the same privileges that we do. Let’s work to not take our own for granted. Let’s challenge ourselves to think outside ourselves and make life a little better for just one person each day.
Let’s make eye contact. Let’s smile. Let’s say, “Hello.” Let’s meet other people where they are, and truly love others the way Jesus did–and does–love us.