On the Notion that Having a Disability is Tragic

A handicapped parking spot

In my observations, many (but not all) attitudes about people with disabilities seem to fall into one of two categories: either someone is an “inspiration” just for living with the disability, or the fact that someone has a disability is “tragic” and sad.

Many of the disability activists I know of, through following them on social media, try to push back against both notions—the notion that they are inspirations and the notion that it is tragic that they have the disability. However, I want to focus today’s post on addressing this notion that exists among some of us that having a disability is a tragedy.

Why do some people view it as tragic? It’s because of the fact that in many cases, a disability that exists out of the control of an individual can limit what someone is able to do—everything from the jobs one is able to do, to the subway stations in New York City one is able to enter into or exit out of. These limits that exist therefore make the disability itself tragic.

I can see where the “disability as tragic” mindset comes from, but in thinking about why a disability is viewed that way by some of us, I can’t help but ask the following question: Is it the disability itself that is tragic, or instead is it the fact that many homes, employers, governments, individuals, houses of worship, and other places don’t even bother to make the effort to make their part of the world more accessible to people of a variety of disabilities? You see, in a world where all of us made an effort to make sure that people with a variety of disabilities are included fully, then we would be in a world where one’s opportunities are not limited by disability. In a world where all this effort is made at accessibility, then the limits would be fewer and farther between (if they were to exist at all). And yet, nowhere near enough effort is made at this.

It is that lack of effort at making sure people with a variety of disabilities have a fair shot that is particularly tragic.

To address the tragedy, we need to cut out the excuses. Yes, it costs money to build ramps and elevators, add accommodations for braille, and make sure there are sign language interpreters where that is necessary. But if we really wanted to make sure all human beings have a fair shake, then we need to find a way to make sure that people with a wide variety of disabilities are accommodated.

What Is…TGNC?

Pride flags

My “what is” series was initially designed to understand terms that are sometimes viewed as social justice jargon. However, as this series has gone on, I’ve come to realize that it is not just terms, but also acronyms, at times, that make people feel a little confused or lost.

One such acronym is TGNC. This acronym stands for transgender and gender nonconforming.

Before going any further in this post, it is worth defining what the terms transgender and gender nonconforming mean, as well as defining what birth sex, gender, and gender identity are:

  • While gender can be a challenge to define, the best definition I’ve heard about gender (in relation to one’s birth sex) is that birth sex is “between the legs” while gender is “between the ears.” In other words, birth sex refers to the sex one is assigned at birth, based on one’s body parts (e.g. seeing a penis and determining that it is a boy; hence, between the legs). As for gender, it refers to one’s own sense of how they align internally with masculinity, femininity, a combination of masculinity and femininity, or neither masculinity or femininity (hence, between the ears).[1]
  • A person’s gender identity is a person’s sense of what they understand their gender to be.
  • A transgender individual is someone whose gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned at birth.
  • A gender nonconforming individual is someone whose gender doesn’t conform to the norms expected of them based on the sex they were assigned at birth.

This acronym is that it is meant to cover people who do not have the experience of feeling like they have a gender identity that falls perfectly in line with the sex they were assigned at birth. In other words, it’s an acronym that covers transgender and gender nonconforming people.

Even though not everyone who identifies as transgender also identifies as gender nonconforming, and even though not everyone who is gender nonconforming identifies as transgender, the TGNC acronym can still be useful. The reason is that many TGNC individuals, regardless of whether they identify as transgender or gender nonconforming, have that shared experience of being treated awkwardly or poorly, in one way or another, because of their gender identity. And, speaking as someone who knows a number of people in that community, many of those experiences are similar, whether you are transgender or gender nonconforming. In a way, the TGNC acronym is one meant to capture people with two different identities who have, in many cases, similar experiences.

A few of my readers may ask the following: What about people who identify as non-binary? After all, individuals who are non-binary—people who feel they don’t fall into one of the typical “binary” categories for gender (male and female)—also have that experience of feeling like their gender does not align with the sex they were assigned at birth (an experience shared with transgender and gender nonconforming people). To answer this question, TGNC is usually the acronym I see when talking about people with the aforementioned experiences, which is why my “what is” post is on what TGNC stands for. However, some prefer to use the acronym of TGNCNB (transgender, gender nonconforming, and non-binary), in order to include individuals who identify as non-binary. Regardless of which acronym you prefer, we should not lose sight of the use of this acronym, which is to talk about people with a shared experience not held by people whose gender identity aligns with the sex they were assigned at birth.

So, with all of this in mind, I wish individuals in the LGBTQ+ community a Happy Pride Month in June, and I hope individuals not in the LGBTQ+ community come away from this post a little better informed than they were before reading this.

[1] I should note that how one presents oneself in terms of clothes, makeup (or a lack thereof), hair, etc., doesn’t necessarily determine one’s gender identity, though for some how they present themselves can relate to how they identify themselves gender-wise.

My First Blog News Post in Some Time

When looking at the page on my blog for “Relevant Blog News” it dawned on me that I had not written a post dedicated solely to blog news since February 2020. Goodness me! It just goes to show how much time flies, especially during a global pandemic.

Like with many other aspects of life, the pandemic resulted in a change of course for how I did things with my blog. Instead of a mix of republishing some old blog posts, blog news, announcing blog awards I received, sharing others’ blog posts, and giving some blog advice on select Thursday evenings, I instead dedicated myself to the weekly COVID updates every Thursday evening when the pandemic was bad in New York City (not having COVID updates for the portion of 2020 when COVID was not that bad where I was).

A global pandemic can have a weird way of making you reevaluate your so-called plans. Well, in my case, the pandemic helped me reevaluate whether all of the things I used to do on select Thursday evenings with my blog were things that: a) others wanted of my blog and/or b) I wanted of my blog.

Here is the result of my reevaluation:

Going forward, I do not plan on usually republishing old blog posts.

Even though there seemed to be some support of my republishing old blog posts when I contemplated starting the practice, the reality is that republished old blog posts don’t seem to be that popular or that well-read, even among some of my newer readers. While I’m not one who likes my content to be driven based on popularity, republishing old posts was, in part, a way to help newer readers connect with older content—something that just didn’t happen as I expected.

That being said, there may be some occasions when I realize that an old blog post needs significant revisions. In such circumstances, I may yet republish a significantly revised blog post. I don’t expect that to happen often, but it may happen.

I still see a place on this blog for blog news posts.

I am not a fan of suddenly making a significant change to the blog or its content without announcing it first. Such announcements tend to be made through blog news posts such as this one.

I am “semi-retiring” from doing blog award posts.

This is something that I have been thinking about for some time, and this is not a decision I take lightly.

I am flattered and honored that there are some bloggers who think that my content is good enough to merit a nomination for a blogging award. And, in recognition of the fact that I am flattered and honored with getting such awards, I still plan on mentioning who nominated me for which awards at the end of a calendar year.

However, these awards (and subsequent award posts) come to me every 2-6 months at this point, and it is honestly time-consuming to put together these posts (between the answering of questions, looking at which blogs I want to nominate, etc.)—posts that aren’t even read much if at all by readers more than a few days after I publish them. The bottom line is that I see more drawbacks than benefits of writing blog award posts at this stage of my blogging life. The one exception I will make is if I get a blog award that seems particularly prestigious.[1]

However, the one aspect of blog award posts that I still want to do is making my readers aware of other blogs that I think are worth reading. This brings me to my next announcement in this blog post full of announcements…

I am as enthusiastic as ever about sharing others’ posts, even though I haven’t been good as of late about documenting for myself which posts seem worthy of sharing.

I recognize the fact that my perspective has its significant limits, as I’m white, able-bodied, and middle class in the United States of America (to name a few of my identities). Yes, I try to educate myself as much as I can, and I try to share a lot of what I learn with others. However, that doesn’t take away from the fact that my perspective on a lot of things, including when it comes to issues of injustice, has its limits due to my life experiences.

As such, I really want to amplify the voices of bloggers who have perspectives I may lack. That is where sharing others’ blog posts comes in.

While content from me tends to be more popular than the content I share from other bloggers, I still hope that sharing content from others will become an important part of my blog again.

I also hope to resume the posts offering blog advice.

I have now been blogging for over four years. While I’m not the biggest blogger on the planet, I have a decent-sized following for someone who’s not a celebrity, and therefore I feel that I have some wisdom to share with other bloggers about blogging as a whole. I look forward to sharing that wisdom once again through blog advice posts. While this blog is not focused on teaching others how to blog, I do see this being a piece of my blog going forward.

I know I went through a lot of assorted pieces in my blog news post today, so if anyone has any questions or comments about how my blog is going forward, feel free to reply in the comments section below!

[1] By the way, if you’re interested in reading about whether to accept blog awards or not, feel free to read my “Blog Advice” post on the subject.

On the Naomi Osaka Situation

I am not even a tennis fan, and yet it caught my attention when Naomi Osaka, one of the top tennis players in the world, withdrew from the French Open (one of the biggest tournaments of the tennis season) last week as a result of a dispute with event organizers about her decision not to speak with news media during the event.[1] There can be disputes between athletes and the press, but seldom (if ever) does it get to a point that a star athlete withdraws from a major event.

However, it was no ordinary dispute between an athlete and the press. Osaka has made it clear that her decision to avoid the press was due to the impact press conferences had on her mental health—something that should not be taken lightly given the fact that the tennis star noted that she has suffered from “long bouts of depression” for years. And yet, in spite of the fact that she made it clear that the decision was made in order to take care of her mental health, she was given a $15,000 fine from the organizers of the French Open and was threatened with expulsion from the tournament.[2] As a result of all of this, Osaka withdrew from the tournament entirely.

As someone who knows people who battle depression, I am personally sympathetic to Osaka. Others have been much less sympathetic. However, regardless of where your own sympathies lie in this instance, there are some things that I think all of us should try to learn from this situation:

  • Successful people can struggle with their mental health. This should be the first, and maybe most obvious, thing that people should get from this whole situation. Osaka is a world-class tennis player, a winner in four “Grand Slam” tournaments,[3] and considered one of the top women’s tennis players in the world right now. And yet she goes through long bouts of depression. This goes to show that depression is not just for people who are struggling with life in general—highly successful people can go through it too.
  • Even successful people can have certain things that give them a ton of anxiety. For Osaka, it is speaking with the press—she said that she feels “huge waves of anxiety” before speaking with the press.[4] In other words, successful people are human too!
  • Different people process similar events or situations in different ways, and that is okay. To see how this can be the case, look at how Osaka and one of her tennis competitors, Serena Williams, deal with invasive and inappropriate questions from the press. Some people argue that since Serena Williams can weather through the pressure of such press conferences, so should Osaka. But, the fact is that Williams and Osaka are different people with probably different things that have an impact on their mental health.
  • Punishing someone for avoiding a certain obligation out of self-care puts that individual into a box: either forcing them to do the certain thing they’re avoiding out of self-care, or simply going in a different direction entirely. When the organizers of the French Open (who, in my humble opinion, should be ashamed of themselves) gave the punishment they did to Osaka, those were the two options she had: she could’ve avoided self-care by facing the press (which she decided not to do) or go in a different direction (which, in this case for Osaka, meant withdrawing from the French Open). Either way, punishing someone’s attempt at self-care as they’re battling something like anxiety or depression is not wise, and if one is not careful, could put someone’s life in peril.

These are just a few of the takeaways I have from the Osaka situation, though if others have other takeaways, feel free to let me know in the comments section below. Regardless, I want, and hope, that the situation with Osaka can be an opportunity to think not just about the mental health of athletes, but about mental health in general.

[1] Read more about the dispute here: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2021/may/31/naomi-osaka-withdraws-french-open-press-conference-fines-tennis

[2] Ibid.

[3] “Grand Slams” are the biggest tournaments on the tennis calendar, the tournaments with the most prestige. Those Grand Slams are the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon, and the US Open.

[4] Ibid.

My (Hopefully) Final Coronavirus Update From New York City: May 27, 2021

Ever since I got my second COVID-19 vaccine dose, I’ve been thinking about if, when, and how to end my weekly updates.

Tonight’s post is the culmination of that thinking.

My thinking was that it would be time to end these weekly updates once everyone in my family was: a) vaccinated, b) at full immunity, and c) in a neighborhood where the COVID test positivity rate was low.

And now, all three things are the case.

My parents their second vaccine doses in mid-March, I got my second vaccine dose in late April, and my younger brother got his second vaccine dose in early May. As all of us are not only fully vaccinated but to a point where we are all at maximum immunity, the risk of any of us getting COVID (let alone seriously getting ill from it) seems extremely low. It’s not impossible to get COVID even if you’re vaccinated (look at the outbreak that happened with the New York Yankees baseball team as an example), but the chances are very low.

Additionally, the test positivity rate for COVID in my neighborhood is now extremely low–at just over 1%. It is good news that the test positivity rate is as low as it is. The good news means that I am no longer reporting from a COVID hotspot, and it means that the concern that existed about all of us in New York when I started my first iteration of these posts (or even when I started my second iteration of these posts) does not exist to the same extent. If such concerns come back, I will resume these weekly update posts, but unless and until that happens, I think now is a good time to end these weekly update posts.

I should emphasize that just because I’m ending my COVID update posts doesn’t mean that COVID as a whole is over, either in the United States or around the world. Far from it. Hundreds are still dying from the pandemic every day in the United States, while worldwide we are at our highest death rate since January. If we think we’re done with this pandemic, we are very badly mistaken. To that end, those who aren’t vaccinated should get vaccinated, while at the same time practice the appropriate public health precautions until being fully vaccinated.

Last, but not least, I want to thank all of you, my readers, for being a part of this journey. It has been quite the journey, but I am thankful for the fact that many readers have joined me on it.

Please note that I will not write a post next Monday, since next Monday is Memorial Day.