Reactions to my
tics in general don't faze me much anymore. On occasion I'll step up
on behalf of others so as to educate in how one should behave when one
sees an individual ticcing. For the most part, though, I no longer get
personally affronted. Except when something like this happens………..
It's a Friday evening
and I'm taking the transit down to Union Station to meet a friend. A
man in his late 30's is riding the rocket as well, sitting across from
me with his two young boys. Both youngsters stare at me with their wide,
young, impressionable eyes as I tic. Their expressions reveal an innocent
amazement at this unusual new input; before long they look to their
father, knower of all things, for the appropriate response. He turns
to follow their line of sight, sees me, gazes down at his trusting and
awaiting offspring… and smirks. Their query answered, these boys now
grin back, and settle into slyly sneaking knowing glances at me before
giggling to each other. Just like dad. This demonstration of utter faith
and paternal modeling would be touching, excepting of course that this
father just reinforced in his charges that it's ok to be a bigot.
As a TSFC volunteer
I've in-serviced a substantial number of classrooms over the past five
years and change. I can tell what the classroom atmosphere will be like
long before entering it. All I need to do is spend a moment with the
teachers, gauging their ease with the child I'm there to help. As a
clinician working in schools on a daily basis now, I am treated to all
ranges of staff reaction to my presence, from the extreme of outright
admiration to the opposite pole of distaste. Most have not uttered a
word, and they don't need to. I'm not fooled, and neither are the children.
While I have not to date had any complaints or questions with respect
to my competence in any of the schools that I service, should any ever
arise I could predict for you right now with some confidence which school(s)
would lodge them.
While adults of
all disciplines and walks of life possess an array of opinions about
someone with my difference holding the position that I do, I'm particularly
harsh with certain populations like parents and teachers. The choices
that these groups make in determining their behaviour are not limited
to themselves - they are, unwittingly or not, also moulding the choices
of the young minds surrounding them in how to conduct their affairs.
In my opinion these special cases demand an added responsibility to
become aware, and to model acceptance accordingly. The excuse of ignorance
is a luxury that, in these cases, cannot be afforded. Our students,
our young patients, our children ………….those who cross at our crosswalks
or stand in our cafeteria lines………….they are all blank slates on which
we write. We must be much attuned to this privileged duty, and we must
be mindful of what we inscribe. For it is written in an ink not easily
Bearing this duty
takes no more effort than inflicting the damaging lessons of the father
described above. I recall being at St. Jacob's Farmer's Market a couple
of summers ago with a previous girlfriend - she had noticed that I'd
caught the eye of an astonished young girl, now intent on spying on
me. My partner met her eye and smiled warmly at her - "your curiousity
is ok", her response communicated. Next my partner caught my eye
and smiled warmly at me. Finally, she returned her gaze to the young
girl and, without breaking eye contact, took my hand and drew me close.
Volumes were spoken to that young girl that day: important messages
about respecting the dignity of others, and the lovability of those
who might appear different than most. Yet not a single word was uttered
As my bus neared the Yonge and Eglinton station I let loose with a fresh
volley of tics. The youngest son stared in stark incredulity. Dad looked
down and gave him a sharp jostle with his elbow. Ok, so buddy wasn't
all bad. Score one for papa.
Until next time,
B. Duncan McKinlay, Ph.D.