{ Speechless }

The name of this post is inaccurate. I can speak. In fact, I do it so often that my roommate could probably write my autobiography by now. Yet, I am rarely heard.

My name is El Wilson; my PGPs are they/them/theirs, and I'm physically disabled. I have cerebral palsy, which means that my brain was damaged around the time of my birth. Because of the damage, it communicates with my body about as well as high school freshmen communicate with their parents (i.e. not well). Cerebral palsy affects everyone differently, but in my case it has blessed me with a pronounced limp, a partially paralyzed mouth, and fine motor skills similar to those of the eight-year-old I babysit. My voice is akin to that of a person who decided that the best way to treat their laryngitis was with several shots of vodka. I spend about 3/4ths of my day in my sexy, sleek wheelchair I've named Xavier.

Let me clear a few things up. First off, I am not a religious, innocent, helpless, naïve, asexual angel. Sorry to disappoint you, but I'm as inspiring as any other white, upper-middle-class college kid. Generally speaking, I don't "overcome obstacles." I simply call them an a-hole in sign language and wheel around them.

I'm not going to tell you that I love my body. Like most Americans, especially those with gender identity issues like myself, there are a million things I would love to change about my body. My disability just isn't one of them. I view my disabled identity the same way I view my queer identity. Yes, it often makes my life more difficult, but without it I would be a completely different person whose life story would have an unrecognizable plot.

Most of the things I don't like about being disabled have to do with the way people treat me. I am the invisible person who everyone stares at. Everybody is fascinated by my body. In public, people whisper behind my back, listen to what I order in restaurants, and tell my parents how "well behaved" I'm being. Some strangers (especially those on social security) are so intrigued that they believe they have the right to touch/hug/pet me whenever they want to. Despite the general public's interest in the shape of my toes, no one seems to want to know how many times I've read The Fault in Our Stars (3), my favorite color (black), or which men I would give up all sexual pleasure to marry (Benedict Cumberbatch, John Green, and Stephen Fry).

Other people seem to think that my life would make a great, inspirational Lifetime movie. Unless the director decided to make a film about stealing fruit from Stevie, a slight Diet Mt. Dew addiction, and a messy dorm room, my story wouldn't even make the first cut. Maybe if they highlighted some of the family drama, TLC could make a 5'1.5'' version of Little People Big World, but I doubt it would run more than one season.

Since film and TV won't acknowledge how amazing my life is, I've decided to try it with the publishing industry. I've been writing creatively since 7th grade. My specialties are overly symbolic fiction, tragically funny memoirs, and emo poetry. I've decided to venture into the world of blogging because I haven't heard one Obie acknowledge their able-bodied privilege; because my winter term project will be more interesting than my drool ever is; and because I may often be speechless, but I refuse to be voiceless on this campus.


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{ Responses To This Entry }

Despite the still relative newness of blogging to the publishing sphere, it's a wonderful place to be a work in progress, develop your voice and stories, and it's an AWESOME way to let the world know that you not only write, but write with some regularity. So happy you get to add "Oberlin blogger" to your list of writing creatively now too!

(One day I'll look back at how many pages of memoirs have started here on the Oberlin blogs. I think I've reached at least shorter young adult fiction at this point.)

Posted by: Ma'ayan on October 16, 2014 9:56 AM


El, your post was so funny and honest! I can't wait to see what else you write! Excited to be blogging with you.

Posted by: Emma Davey on October 16, 2014 3:21 PM


Way to go. Not sure if you know about Elizabeth Hamilton's FYSP in disability, but if not you should hit this most excellent professor up and ask to talk with her class.

Posted by: Spike on October 17, 2014 3:14 PM


I have a massive soft spot for Oberlin - some days I consist entirely of soft Oberlin feelings - and within that, a spot reserved especially for the blogs. I still read them assiduously. And I am terribly glad that you are adding your voice to Oberlin and these blogs, and terribly excited for you to stir shit up. Thanks for existing, and for writing about it!

Posted by: Ida on October 19, 2014 11:00 PM


Hi El!

When I wrote my first blog post, I spent most of the time wondering if I could just write "Um, hi" and call it a day. It's so cool that you have such a clear voice/grasp on what you wanna say from Day 1. I'm your blog mentor for this year, and I can't wait to read more from you! Have a great fall break.

Posted by: Alison on October 23, 2014 2:25 PM


From the POV of a parent, which is, I realize, from the outside looking in, this is an area of privilege that seems curiously overlooked at Oberlin. Thank you for writing about it.

Posted by: Anonymous on March 11, 2015 8:32 AM



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