For 25 years I have been best friends with a woman I’ll call “Tracy.” Tracy is 35 years old, and she has Down Syndrome. Tracy is high-functioning, as is her longtime boyfriend, “Tyler.”
Amy, they have been together for five years. They have lived together for the past three years, and recently announced their engagement. Everyone on both sides of their families is happy for them — at least we all thought so.
Since Tracy made the announcement a few months ago, their families and I have been getting questions and comments about it that are so rude, stupid and downright ignorant, it’s not even funny. A brief example:
“It’s nice you’re letting them play pretend like that.”
“Is it going to be legal? I mean, since they’re like, not right in the head?”
“You had them fixed right? Otherwise you’ll be stuck raising another one.”
“Why are you letting them get married? I mean, they’ll just forget.”
Amy, both Tracy and Tyler have jobs, they can balance their checkbooks, and yes, they know what sex is. They live in a one-bedroom apartment, and neither of them is sleeping on the couch.
Basically the only thing they need help with is transportation, as neither of them drives.
Between both families, some kind co-workers and friends — it all works out.
How do we respond to theses idiots?
I’m seriously about to slap some people and trust me, I ain’t the only one! Help!
I scored a window seat on my morning commute, unfolded my paper to my favorite advice columnist, and began to read. When a stranger set next to me, she was on a call and it was clear she was talking to a child and was politely reprimanding them or walking them through a crisis. I tried to reengage in my article, but her tone was firm yet calming. So, I found myself listening in as she stated “The world doesn’t have to like you. Your goal is respect yourself and do your best.” There were a few moments of silence as the invisible person on the other end spoke. She retorted “I love you. I have to get to a meeting. Don’t forget your skates.” I looked over and smiled. I notice right away she had Down’s Syndrome. She politely smiled back while her eyes shifted to my paper and her brow furred. Before I could look or respond, I was at my stop. I excused myself. In my office I noticed the headline and then I read the article. I found myself angry for the mother on the bus and was bewildered that sterilization is still happening in this millennium. To refocus myself I figured I would finally read my advice columnist (talk about a serendipity moment). I exhaled and thought this would be a great “What would you do question?” for my students. Should mentally ill people and criminals be sterilized?