I still feel totally sad about the [location redacted] drama yesterday. The Internet can kill you with the way it lets you interact with people you like theoretically from a distance.
I used to read  and [name redacted, let's call him Ted] was one of those people whose blog you read and imagine that they'd probably be your kind of person if you ever met or talked to them. Now we've had an exchange where he told me there's this big difference between Zoe, me, Julia, etc., and people who "can't self-advocate" and if that statement offends me it's my problem not his.
The more I talk, listen, read, and write about anti-ableism, the more certain arguments and statements become painful for me to even hear. Which is kind of a huge problem and makes me think I will have to bow out of here sooner or later. But for the time being, I'll just say that the belief in a concrete division between people who can and can't self-advocate is really frustrating to me.
First it's frustrating because labeling some people as unable to self-advocate takes away their voice. Ari Ne'eman once wrote something about the difference between action and behavior. Actions are things that people choose to do for a reason and, if a person's not able to use words describe their feelings and needs and desires, the things they do are a pretty good window into what their feelings and needs and desires might be, and therefore are a form of self-advocacy. When all of a disabled person's actions are categorized as "behavior" that needs to be changed to look a certain way--instead of as communication--this is the act of taking away someone's voice.
But Amanda Baggs addressed this much more clearly in The Meaning of Self-Advocacy, maybe because unlike Ari and me she is someone who has been labeled unable to self-advocate, and isn't looking at this from the outside.
I really want to address the other category, the one I'm supposed to belong to: people who can self-advocate. Zoe was told she belonged to this group due to writing a blog post. I was told I belonged to the group due to writing a comment on that blog post.
Now, I'm sorry if I'm underestimating the power of the Internet, but I don't think writing a comment on a blog post is especially impressive, and by some people's standards it would not be self-advocacy. Arguably, neither is having a blog. I wrote something for ASAN one time but otherwise I have never been involved with any self-advocacy or disability rights organizations; I've never been to a disability rights protest or a self-advocacy conference, summit, etc.; I've never spoken formally to a group about being disabled, or about anti-ableism; I've rarely even tried to talk to people, informally, about anti-ableism; I've never written a letter to a newspaper or made a phone call in support of disability rights.
Some of these things--like speaking formally about anti-ableism--are things I might be able to do, but just haven't gotten an opportunity or motivation to do. Other things, like writing letters to newspapers and going to protests, are things I very much can't do. In fact I remember a time when I got really upset and felt like a failure for wanting to support anti-ableism when I wasn't able to write a letter to the newspaper.
Don't worry guys, my impairments will never stop emerging! In addition to this more obviously political stuff, there are some more personal acts that are often described as "self-advocacy." For a lot of my life my parents (and the very occasional support staff I have grudgingly been allowed) have been trying to get me to do these things:
*Successfully use disability services when I was in college
*Ask for help from teachers/professors when I was in school
*Ask for help from boss/coworkers at a job
*Explain my disability, when it is relevant to help I need
*Ask people to write letters of reference for me, or be a phone reference
*Call places to follow up after I've applied for a job
*Make my own doctor's appointments
All of these things I either can't do at all, or find so hard to do that they almost never happen. Why yes, I am looking for a job right now and I'm scared as hell, and if I don't get one or end up getting the only job I was able to drag myself through the application process for and am stuck with it no matter what it is...like, I really won't feel better when I think about writing a two- or three-sentence comment on Zoe's blog?
Ultimately, I guess I will feel better when I think about writing this blog (the entire blog, not this particular post) because I know that it's helped some other disabled people think about disability and ableism. And ultimately I guess I do consider myself a self-advocate and this blog a form of self-advocacy, but I don't think it fits into conventional standards of either political or personal self-advocacy. I think it pretty much is in there with screaming and smashing, because it is a last resort, and because most non-disabled people seem to think it is a waste of time.
So I guess what I mean to say is, I don't really think I am a self-advocate in a way that someone else isn't. And it's probably clear why I find it painful to be told I am, when there is so much I can't say for myself.