An address given by Dave Plassman
Originally posted on November 3, 2014 at 5:25 PM
Hi, I’m Dave and I’m a recovering sighted person…
but I try to be at least two things at once! Blindness isn’t generally as much of a barrier for me as what others do with it; the assumptions, sometimes neglecting to notice I’m even there. When I was young, people talked about my vision being restored someday. When I was in grad school a man stated, as if fact, that I was working off a debt from a previous life. A woman I’ve known said we choose our adversities in order to grow spiritually and strangely enough, I think I agree most with her.
No I didn’t choose at age 5 to be blind but I think it’s possible at some point, perhaps elsewhere or elsewhen , I chose life goals which caused me to pass through this process. I’ve always had a sense of destiny; of things I should accomplish, things I should become.
At the University of Washington as the only male member of The Society of Women Engineers, another member asked if I’d help her go through card files (remember them?) in The Dean’s Office to identify female engineering students. I said the spirit was willing but the flesh wasn’t quite up to it. She was embarrassed but I was smiling because she’d forgotten I was blind. My being male was enough to wrap her head around.
On another occasion a member said she didn’t want men coming to a particular event. I asked “What about me?” She said “You’re different. You’re a member.” And yes, I realized, I was. Something of which I’d had glimmerings but hadn’t quite come to terms with, I did in large measure see myself as a feminine person, though others didn’t.
A number of years later, at a gathering of The Center for Christian Feminist Ministry, a Seattle based spirituality group, I sat in a circle of my sisters listening to one then another talk of her poor self-image, her feelings of being devalued, her diminished sense of worth. As I listened I had a strong feeling of love for them and I said “I wish you could see yourself the way I see you, because to me you’re beautiful and worthwhile people.” Since that time I’ve not regretted being blind.
Now in the day to day business of documenting, being in meetings, answering phone calls; the big picture can become blurred but I do try to ground myself every day with my major life goals and I try to bring a measure of that love and the spirit of feminism I shared with that circle, to my work with clients.
I had a preponderantly female case load and when once in a while a woman (though sometimes a man) comments on the Goddess I wear, this is usually someone who’s been abused and has experienced emotional hardship. They tell me they felt safe when they saw The Mother. Whenever I work with a domestic violence or rape victim I tell that person that I am honored to meet and know her (or sometimes him.) When I see my folks in the community they almost always come up and greet me warmly.
There’s a rather humorous side to being ‘Differently Insighted’ you could call it. One day a young coworker came to me. “There’s a guy applying for food benefits and he’s wearing a dress.” I said “yes sometimes that happens and we provide services to him just like anyone else.” “Yes,” she said “but he’s a man and he’s wearing a woman’s dress!” I said what a person wears likely doesn’t prevent us from providing food.
When in 1986 I told Feminist Pastor Jan Anderson I wanted to help abused women in the same way that others had helped me; she said in effect “Don’t come planning to help women. Women can help themselves. Men helping women is the cause of much of the problems we deal with.” (Okay, not what I’d wanted to hear but honestly stated.) At that point I determined to hand people tools.
Hand someone a tool and she can throw it down, give it away, sell it or pick it up and build something. No one is being condescended to. Nobody loses anything. That’s my first take-away point. In January I’m teaching a tool using class for the Grant County Housing Authority and I’ll give away a cordless drill as a door prize.
An engineering prof many years ago, told me “You have a problem visualizing.” I said “No, I have a problem communicating.” I may have an entire machine in my head but I have trouble making You see it.” I think I’ve demonstrated that point. My wife of 36 years and I live on a 3-acre farm where I’ve built fences, chicken coops and a good deal else. I’ve now written a software drawing program which can enable interested blind persons to draw most things they might want to build.
My other take-away today is therefore, if a problem exists it’s nature may not be as obvious as first impressions indicate and what may be a problem in one sense may actually turn out to be a solution to another, perhaps unexpected problem.
I know that had I not been both blind and what I call Gender Different I’d not have the insights I have today. Others can arrive at them too but it’s how I came here.
I thank you for hearing me today.