An open letter to my ableist doctor

By Sarah F. Griffin

Last summer, I went to the gynecologist for the first time; even though I knew there was nothing wrong, I was still pretty nervous, which I’m sure all people who have had that experience can relate to. 

The appointment itself went fine, but something happened as I was getting up to leave that I feel I should talk about. As I was putting my shoes on, the gynecologist,who did not have a particularly charming bedside manner to begin with, said something to me that I will never forget: “You know, you walk pretty good for someone with cerebral palsy.”

In all honesty, after she uttered those words, I had one of those moments where you aren’t sure what just happened — I just stood there like an idiot who should have told her doctor to buzz off, but didn’t. 

So, in honor of March being National Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month, here is what I should have said, in the form of an open letter: 

Dearest Doctor Doofus, 

You may not remember me, but I certainly remember my appointment with you, not because you were kind, or even a particularly good doctor, but because last August, you committed one of the biggest microaggressions I have ever faced as a disabled person. I am not going to remind you of what it was, because as a doctor (and a decent adult), you should know what you did wrong.  If you don’t, it’s not my job to spell it out for you — do some self-reflection. 

Instead, I’ll tell you why what you said was wrong. 

First, why did you feel the need to comment on my ability to walk at all? Do you do that for all your patients, or just the ones like me? 

Did you ask me that because I didn’t match your perception of what a disabled person was? 

If that’s the case, I have another question: did you have your mind blown by me (which is astonishing because I am not unordinary in how my cerebral palsy appears), or did you think that I really couldn’t be disabled? 

If the latter is the truth, which I expect was the case because of how you asked the question, you need to do something: find a new profession. I have always had cerebral palsy and I am sure my parents, the doctors that delivered me, my former physical therapists, the teachers at my preschool for kids with special needs and just about everyone who has ever known me know that I am disabled. 

Did you really think that if I was faking it that I was able to fool all those people for 21 years? You have more faith in my acting abilities than I do in your ability to be a competent doctor. 

Secondly, I paid my co-pay before the appointment, so I owe you nothing — not even an explanation for the things about me that you find so impossible to believe.

Please check yourself the next time you want to ask or accuse anyone about their identity, or better yet, please grow up. 

Coldest regards, 


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