This is Alex.
He’s a pretty cool kid if I do say so myself. He is clever, empathetic, funny and just plain sweet.
Alex is 15 years old and a freshman in high school. He has loads of friends, even though we just moved to a new district. People like him, which makes sense, he is a likeable person.
Some time in the next 4 years, I think he would totally dig going to a formal high school dance. He enjoys socializing and dancing, I think he would have a blast. Whether he goes stag or has a date, he would be in for a great night.
But when I think of Homecoming (or Prom), there’s a bit of trepidation. Alex has tons of friends, both in in his special education classes and in the school in general. What if a young lady asks him to the dance? And what if it happens to be a young lady without a disability? And what if the local news caught wind of it and decided that they need a feel good piece to round out their broadcast?
I don’t want my son to be a feel good news piece.
And I don’t want him to be asked to a dance by someone with secret hopes being a the local hero for the day.
I get it, it’s moving. Perhaps it seems like a Cinderella story. But there’s a term for stories that use people with disabilities to play the heartstrings of others; it’s called inspiration porn.
Just like the standard type of porn, you know it when you see it.
And just like the standard type of porn, the subject is objectified in order for other people to get off.
If Alex does end up going to Homecoming, why can’t it be just like every other student in the high school?
Is it because we assume that anyone who would ask him must be some sort of saint? Really? Only a saint would want to get dressed up and spend an evening out with him?
But what other reason would there be for news coverage of two high school students attending a formal dance together?
So please, think about it. Put your child or yourself in those shoes. How would you feel if your high school student got on the news for getting a date for Homecoming? Isn’t that something most students take for granted? Isn’t that a normal rite of passage?
I plead with you, use your critical thinking skills. The next time you see that feel good headline, picture your child as the person whose date to the dance is such a novelty that it’s considered newsworthy. Then pause and reflect on whether that’s something we should embrace as a society.
I don’t think it is.