Am I Brave?

Yesterday I was interviewed on As It Happens, a daily Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) radio show. It was aired in the early evening and at my request all my tics, which included some swearing, were left in because I felt it was important that my disability was heard uncensored. I think this was a brave decision by the CBC, and one that many stations wouldn’t have made.

I’ve been thinking about bravery a lot today because about two thirds of the many amazing messages I’ve had following the show have commented on my bravery. I was struck by how widely the audience used the word ‘brave’, always in a very positive and supportive way. I wasn’t offended by it but I’m not a big fan of the use of the word when it’s linked to disability, and I’m not alone – a BBC Ouch poll revealed it’s in the top ten disability-related words that people find most offensive.

This is because it reinforces the ‘Tragic but brave’ stereotype of disability, and implies that for disabled people to be successful they have to be ‘brave’ enough to ‘overcome’ their disability. The emphasis should be on everyone’s responsibility to be inclusive and make adaptations.

The supportive messages from Canada and elsewhere help ensure I don’t let negative experiences defeat me, and I hugely appreciate them for that. But I’m not brave because I live with Tourettes – I don’t have any choice and I just have to manage all the challenges as best I can.

Leftwing Idiot and King Russell have found all the mentions of bravery particularly amusing and have enjoyed telling me to “Be a brave girl” all afternoon.

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