I’m about to leave for Oakland, CA where I’ll be reading at the Queer Memoir salon and presenting a workshop on fat bodies and popular culture. I’m incredibly excited, not to mention I’ll be in California!! Drummer is all packed and ready to go, his kibble is in a gallon-size Ziploc bag and we even have a Kong and peanut butter for those long hours where he’ll be in the hotel room and I’ll be gallivanting about.
Getting ready to board a plane is such a conflicting emotional roller-coaster for me. There’s a bevy of reports of certain airlines discriminating against people with disabilities. I had a terrible experience in 2008 flying back from CA with my newly minted guide dog on United Airlines. I triple check my luggage to ensure TSA regulations are followed and print out 14 CFR Part 382 of the US Department of Transportation policies outlining the rules of traveling while disabled. I pack extra underwear. I remember a back-up white cane. I breathe.
Inevitably though, something will happen. The first time I flew with a cane I had a TSA employee claim he had to take my “stick” and run it through the xray machine. That violates 14CFR Part 382 – I can’t be separated from my mobility aide. I often travel alone, requiring assistance through the airport to find my gate. I’ve been left at check-in for a half hour waiting for assistance, been left at the security point to fend for myself, had the helper-person stop to talk to his buddy for a good 10 minutes, been directed to a bathroom when asked to be taken out to relieve my dog, etc. And of course every time Drum goes through security he gets padded down – even if he’s out of harness and wearing a metal-free collar/leash.
Granted my experiences are mine alone (as I should say for this entire blog) but they aren’t unique to my experience. Flying while disabled can be incredibly empowering (and fun!) and it can be dehumanizing and frustrating. It’s in how we empower and educate ourselves as PWD and how far we’re willing to educate that goes a long way into making our experiences less negative.
Not to say airlines…cough United cough….don’t need to shape up and do the right thing. But printing out policy and gearing my loins for confrontation can’t hurt.
Also I got my hair cut. I look extra queer. We are so ready!!