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Life on the Line: Between Abled and Disabled

Courtesy of Veronica Hamly

Veronica Hamly has lived her entire life between categories.

She’s diagnosed as having cerebral palsy and was born male but identifies as female. For her, that makes things tough.

I have what my mom called "mild" cerebral palsy. I like to describe it as being on a fence stuck between abled and disabled.

“I have what my mom called 'mild' cerebral palsy. I like to describe it as being on a fence stuck between abled and disabled. I can drive, walk 10,000+ steps a day, workout, and cook my own meals, but there are things that I can't do like type, waitress, and perform fine motor activities,” she says. “The kicker is that there is little help for someone like me and discrimination is everywhere.”

During this Talk of Iowa interview, host Charity Nebbe talks with Hamly about discrimination, stigma and living in a body that doesn’t match-up with her heart or mind.

Do you find that due to your physical disability people often underestimate your intelligence?

“People have never underestimated my intelligence, but they often underestimate my abilities. When people say 'you proved me wrong,' that is such a great feeling to have someone say that to me… When people see that you are disabled, and then they automatically think that you are as disabled as someone who is wheelchair bound. But I cook for myself, I drive myself. I live very independently."

Credit Courtesy of Veronica Hamly

Do you feel discriminated against when looking for work?

  “I can’t pass a typing test and would be a terrible waitress. Manual dexterity is hard, but that makes it hard to get people to look past the things I can’t do to see the things I can do. I’ve been laughed out of interviews… people see my altered gait when I walk into a room, and you can see in people’s faces that they make assumptions right away. Vocational Rehabilitation is an underfunded service. People like me are usually left until the end of the fiscal year… so if I applied at the wrong time, I would have to wait 10-12 months for services.”

Why don’t you like term transgender?

"A lot of people are comfortable with that term, and I don’t want to disparage anybody who is. But having grown up with a disability, something people see right when you walk into a room. It’s something that I think deters people from being friends with me; the last thing I wanted was another label. I consider myself female, and sometimes I talk like I’ve always been. Holding onto the term transgender was just not something I’d wanted to do."

What’s your relationship like with your parents?

"My mom is my best friend. I don’t know where I would be without my parents. I came out to my mom in an email. She came out really quickly. For my dad it was a little harder, but he had called me one name for 33 or so years, so changing to another name can be difficult, but they are loving and supportive."

Lindsey Moon is IPR's Senior Digital Producer
Charity Nebbe is the host of IPR's Talk of Iowa