ASKING “WHAT WOULD YOUR LIFE BE LIKE IF YOU WEREN’T DISABLED” ISN’T BEING CURIOUS, IT’S ABLEIST

It’s always puzzled me, when watching interviews with artists and musicians who’ve made it big in the industry, that almost without fail, the interviewer asks a question along the lines of, “What would you do if you hadn’t pursued music?”

I understand that the underlying intent of the question is a curiosity about the artist’s other interests. After all, not everyone who pursues music makes it to a level where they can rely on it to pay their bills. Most creatives have full-time jobs, or several, with their creative passion as a side hustle or hobby.

But whenever this question arises, a lump forms in my stomach, and only recently, have I begun to realize why.

As a disabled woman, I’ve been asked a similar question but with a completely different underlying message.

“So Rhianna, what do you think your life would be like if you weren’t blind?”

For some, it may be simple curiosity. Maybe, if I hadn’t become blind, I’d be an airline pilot, something I am unequivocally unable to do, and that’s all they’re after.

But, there’s an hidden ableism in this question that even I didn’t realize for years, and it needs to stop.

Why are you asking me about what my life would be like without a disability? I am disabled, and unlike pursuing a career in the music industry, my disability wasn’t a choice. What good does it do to play the what-if game about my life now? — I can’t change it. And in truth, I wouldn’t change it even if I had the choice.

Is my disabled life that sad or pitiable that you need to imagine it, able-bodied and “normal” to cope? Are you really going to wallow in the “what might have been” pity pool?

These mindsets don’t do anyone good, but especially not for the disabled person for whose life you’re talking about like nothing more than a hypothetical rather than a human being. Our lives aren’t a guessing game, or a puzzle that’s missing a piece that you need to find so we’ll be whole again. You don’t need to feel sadness at what might have been if we weren’t disabled.

Because being disabled isn’t something to be sad about or pitied, and it isn’t something anyone needs to regret. You don’t need to dwell on the past in a vain hope to offer sympathy; all it does is tell me that you don’t see the value of my disabled body the same way I do.

And that’s what makes me sad.

I’m not sad that I’m disabled. I love my disabled self, because it’s who I am and life is only good when you accept yourself for who you are and who God created you to be.

So, before you ask your disabled friend what they imagine their life would be like if they weren’t disabled, do them a favour and don’t. Move on from the what ifs and might-have-beens, and accept that their life is just as valuable and fulfilling as anyone’s. And pardon my bluntness, but it’d be a lot easier to live like that without having to fight these ableist mindsets that are far, far too prevalent in our society.

Be part of the solution, and cut this question from your conversations with disabled people. On behalf of the 25% of the population, I thank you.

I AM A CHRISTIAN — UNASHAMED, UNAPOLOGETIC AND OUT LOUD

I am a Christian–a follower of Jesus Christ, and I am not ashamed.

Many people see the word Christian and presume many things about me. Christians as a whole are stereotyped, categorized and presumed to be many things that they are not–a few of the more common presumptions being judgmental and close-minded. These are often based on a person’s encounter with a few individual Christians, and that creates their overall perception of the entire group. And as a Christian, I’ve been subjected to my fair share.

I was scrolling through Twitter a few months ago and came upon a tweet that claimed they would not follow anyone who called themselves a Christian in their bio because that meant they were Trump supporters and bigots. In a burst of uncommon boldness, I replied to this tweet, saying that not all Christians should be labelled this way, and simply because certain Christians may be, support, or condone those things, I will not be ashamed to use the word Christian.

Because that is what I am, despite what attributes the world attaches to it.

I am a Christian and I choose to use that word unashamedly because it is not a label indicative of political leanings or any other standard by which we measure ourselves. It means simply that I follow Jesus Christ and try [and fail because of my flawed and sinful humanity] to live according to biblical standards. To some who don’t share the faith, that makes me naive, unloving and a hater, and I have been treated as such and suffer for it.

But that is what living a Christian life is.

Jesus suffered insurmountable hate, pain and rejection while He walked this earth. He said, “and whoever does not take their cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” [Matthew 10:38]. The Apostle Peter writes also that “for this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. / For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. / For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.” [I Peter 2:19-21].

Suffering is not comfortable. It hurts. It hurts when I’m accused of being homophobic. It hurts when I’m called a hater because I disagree with what the world deems acceptable. It hurts when non-Christians use selective Bible verses–without understanding how they fit into the meaning and message of the entire Bible– to dictate how I should treat them, though they themselves do not live by the Bible’s standards. And it hurts when as a Christian, I am held to a pedestal of perfection that can only be met by the God I serve, not me.

This world hurts. And Jesus said it would. And in the moments I’ve already walked through and the many more I know will come, I hold to the truth and the assurance that I have in being a Christian, and that I am following the words of Timothy: “fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” [I Timothy 6:12] And I take the most comfort and assurance in the knowledge that I will live forever with Jesus in Heaven where there is no more suffering.

But while I am on this earth, I will do my best to live by the words that are written in the Bible. And while I know the world will be offended by it, I will follow the God of my faith first and be as like Him as I possibly can. I am called to show love to others. I am called to be kind and compassionate. I am commanded to forgive those that wrong me, just as God forgave me.

But I am not called to follow the ways of the world because those ways go against God. So, no, I am not a supporter of lifestyles that contradict God’s Word. I am not “pro-choice” because I believe God chooses life, both for the born and unborn. I am not going to compromise on my values just to make someone comfortable. I am not going to back down or stay quiet. My God and standing up for the truth comes first before anything else. But I will always care and be kind to others who don’t share my beliefs as much as I am able because I am commanded to be Christlike, to bear His image and character in the world.

I will try for my whole life to live out those things. And at times, I will fail. But I am a Christian and I do not live according to a secular worldview. My faith directs and shapes everything I do–my writing, my advocacy work for the disabled community, how I try and treat those I come into contact with. It does not mean that I am perfect, but that I am trying to emulate God’s character in my life. And that includes the parts of the Christian faith that are uncomfortable, that go against the world’s beliefs, and even against other Christians who have differing views. I choose to be a Christian and to be unashamed of the title and be proud of what I stand for. Because these are not self-made standards–they come from the mouth of God, the creator of life and the world, and I am proud to be His.