Images are incredibly powerful, regardless of whether we see them with our physical eyes, or if they’re painted with words.
A good recent example are the photos of boys wearing skirts to school in Taiwan in support of their transgender peers, as seen in this article on PRI. That act set off a fair amount of backlash, apparently. That chain of events told many stories. Their motivation and bravery in supporting people who struggle with the social fallout of the transphobic culture in which we all live are big parts, but the bigger aspect is in the reactions to them. Take a look at the article and think about your reaction.
Are you repulsed by the idea of non-conforming gender expressions? Are you warmed by this support? Do you find it funny? How do these answers reflect on your attitudes toward gender expression and general differences in our world?
This translates beautifully into the classroom and disability issues, as well. It’s hard to identify with a group if you can’t see yourself represented with them, after all. When you go to a web page and don’t see other people of your gender or race, it can hard to feel invited to take part.
Last year, there was a small twitter campaign, #dyslexicselfie, in which dyslexic people were encouraged to take pictures of themselves and post them with that hashtag. Unfortunately, it didn’t gain traction, but there were a few of us who took part in showcasing our varied interests and accomplishments. Although that campaign didn’t really have enough of a following to really showcase the huge variety of people with dyslexia, it had potential.
There’s a great documentary about autism, The United States of Autism, in which the writer did his best to offer a peek at the diverse families and people who deal with autism every day. I’d love to see more things like that.
It’s hard to really capture the huge amount of diversity that makes up the neurodiverse community at large. Too often, we’re represented by only a few types of people, often white and male by default. Girls, trans-folk and people of varied ethnicity are underrepresented in both diagnosis and representation. Diversity is incredibly important, though it can be hard to convey in a single image.
When choosing the icon to represent this blog, money was an issue. I couldn’t pay an artist or photographer fairly for their work, because I didn’t have the funds. So, I turned to my own amateur nature photography for inspiration.
I chose the image of flowers growing out of rock taken on the shore of Lake Superior as my icon for this blog. The one thing those of us with learning disabilities share with those with ASD, and others who fall into the neurodiversity or disability category in general, is being forced to cope with a world we don’t mesh well with.
In a lot of ways, we’re a lot like those flowers taking root in rock.
We shouldn’t be able to do what we do in such a hostile environment, but somehow, we survive, and often, we thrive. Like these little flowers, we seek out sustenance in cracks opened by forces beyond our control, or chip them out ourselves. We soak up the sunlight that is our support systems and we drink the water of hope whenever we can.
Most importantly, we develop the toughness and determination needed to excel in the harsh environment around us.
We’re each unique, beautiful and often overlooked, except by those already inclined to find us. Sometimes, people who don’t understand what’s really going on want to rip us from those delicate roots, but those of us who survive hold on, come back and eventually bear fruit.
Interestingly enough, flowers in the Lake Superior area bloom at different rates. Because the lake influences the weather conditions, plants closer to the water bloom at a different time than those in the woods in the surrounding area. That’s another great analogy for learning. We each develop at our rates, just like those tough little blossoms.
To me, that amazing flora is the perfect analogy for our shared struggles. It applies to more than only the disability community, as well. Women from all walks of life, those facing racial prejudice, the LGBTQ+ community, those who struggle with chronic illness and so many others who feel marginalized know how it feels to survive in a world that seems to go against them at every turn.
That’s one part of the power of images. They can bring us together, empower us, encourage us to take action and help us learn about those we share the world with.