Is Your Cowboy Hat Too Tight


I’ve been picking on Calgary in my writing recently, its hard returning home to find that home is no longer home and discover how much you’ve changed as well.

I’m no longer a Calgarian but I am a Calgarian in the best sense of the word, I am friendly and helpful. There used to be the white Stetson people here in the summer who would roam round with a button that said proudly, “I am Calgarian. How can I help you?”. Those days are gone. I visited the stamped this year and was horrified to see that the show has not changed not evolved, other than becoming sleazy, When I was working in Calgary the game was to see how many meals you could get for free during stampede week. Now I think its how many beers.

Growing up in Calgary I was generally frustrated with the approach to things that were difficult or different, namely me. There is an approach here not to say anything and not to do anything and hope the problem goes away. I have asked for assistance and accommodations many times in this town and the response has been nothing; nothing at all, no acknowledgement, no conversation, no accommodation, nothing. So I’ve had to become the little red hen, “I’ll do it myself”. I had to do many things myself because there is no assistance here generally for things that are difficult or different.

When I moved away from Calgary it was refreshing I could breath I could explore my disability and come to terms with what my disability meant to me. I could begin to understand my disability and be open about it. When no one is talking its easy to see your differences and your challenges as bad things. You learn the hard way its in your best interest to shut the “FLOCK” up, or else. Calgary remains a very difficult town to be disabled or different in.

In Calgary for some reason you have to be “thankful” for any consideration for your disability, beholden, reverently appreciative. I’ve not experienced this anywhere else I’ve worked or lived, I’m appreciative for the opportunity the challenge the work. The accommodations were just a logistical consideration to getting the work done and not questioned. I thanked those that accommodated me for their consideration and got the work done. In Calgary for some reason I can’t get past the reverence I am supposed to show for the accommodation. No where else have I been held up by so much focus on ego’s and icons.

I can appreciate the value of the rugged cowboy image the head west young man and make a living from the harsh land, watch out for the indians. I can get my head wrapped around making a go of it on my own. I’ve been harsh on Calgary and likened the attitude here to the agriculture approach if it an’t right kill it and burry it and don’t talk about it. Harsh generalization but up to 1972 it was not uncommon for visibly disabled babies to be starved to death at birth. Or if the disabled baby survived the medical system at birth then they were systematically sterilized. I made in through both.

Recently there was an editorial in a Calgary newspaper touting that we should accept bullying as a fact of life. The premise is that we all do it at some point in our life. Farcical!!! When you are “apart” and marginalized it is difficult to be the bully. Calgary is a city where everybody is from somewhere else. The workforce is migrant and ebbs and flows at the whim of the success of the oil and gas industry. You’d think there were be a great tolerance for uniqueness and differences. I’m not seeing it.

Growing up here I now understand why I hid my disability, why I lied. It’s depressing, and harsh to be told if your different you can’t play. Having any language for discussing openly differences and difficulties quashed or silenced then receiving only silence as an answer. You have to be able to talk about an issue, you have to have language to express the issue and grow. With suppression, oppression, of your thoughts and idea’s what are you left with? I’m thinking activism more than advocacy, frustration instead of conversation, explosions of pent up emotion and frustration, or just trips to Edmonton to feel sane again.

Whilst I remain in Calgary I am going to continue speaking I am not going to lose my language. I am going to continue to be out and open about my disability and my differences. I am going to self advocate as positively and constructively as I know how.
If I am activist for being a blind man on the go so be it.

About the Author:

Kyle has ocular albinism and has been legally blind since birth. Kyle leads a very active live and is besides his professional career involved in many projects for persons who are different.

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