Bryn Gallagher: More than a syndrome

Bryn Gallagher

Yesterday was World Down syndrome Day, a great day for a great group of people who deserve a lot more recognition, one thing that I know firsthand.

I have a cousin with Down syndrome, but that is certainly not his whole story. I have a cousin who is an actor, a photographer, a comedian, and, by the way, he has Down syndrome. He is so much more than what people see him as, than what one extra chromosome evidently defines him as.

It’s easy to look at someone who isn’t the same as you and mark them as frightening. My cousin Blair, “B” for short, is a huge part of my everyday life and has been since I was a little kid.

“B” is not someone you should or can write off, that is if you meet him. Never speaking to him is robbing yourself of a wonderful personality and a wider world view.

I don’t really know his opinion on the derogatory use of the word “retarded.” I’ve never asked. I do know that it pains me. It is taking all of the many facets of my cousin’s personality, squeezing them out, rolling the remainder up, and using that to insult him. Perhaps I place too much emphasis on a word, but I just don’t think that’s fair to “B” or his peers.

I overheard someone once say (with the best intentions I’m sure), “don’t say something is gay, that’s retarded.” Now that, in all honesty, this is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard; it simply drips with hypocrisy.

Why is it better to insult one group of people instead of another? Why can you insult my cousin but not my friend?

Let’s make a pact, all together, to not only stop using “retarded” but “gay” and all the other derogatory terms that we use to mark others as well. When it comes down on it, who are you to assign other people’s personalities?

“B” has gone through a lot, and continues to go through a lot. If anything he should be complimented, not insulted.

So in light of World Down syndrome Day, try and step outside of your lovely little comfort zone. Meeting someone who is different than you can change your life. If you don’t give someone a chance, you’ll never know what you’re missing. Which is, in my cousin’s case anyway, a ridiculously fun time.

What do you think?