After the Cruel Nun Threw Me and My Guide Dog Out of the Church

“Here’s the thing,” I thought as I stroked Corky’s beautiful face with one hand and brushed my tears with the other, “disability is not a clean ‘coming out’—just because you’re no longer hiding you’re still only accepted conditionally.” It was a hard thought, something like a friend’s betrayal.

There was a meanness out there. It might come from a nun, a bus driver, a person at work, the man who runs the delicatessen…moreover it wasn’t an infrequent nastiness. What to do with this?

I stood in the sunlight of Milan and thought, “abuse ye will always have with ye…”

What does one do about it? Discrimination is a sign of knowledge for the disabled. Your dog offers no fairy tale solution. Split the difference, maybe half the world accepts you and half does not. The numbers aren’t precise. You’ll never know the real numbers. Perhaps thinking half the world accepts you is too optimistic. Whole areas of the planet are opposed to service animals; large portions of the world treat the disabled as unwanted burdens. You know this and still you need to enter life, stand before Leonardo’s masterpiece, visit the opera, eat risotto a la Milanese with saffron, stand in the dear sunlight and whisper. Life beckons. You harness your dog and go.

“So I’ve come out,” I thought. “And there was less of a celebration than I’d imagined.”

“At least,” I thought, “I know who I am. They can’t take that away.”