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my face is my heart

September is Craniofacial Awareness/Acceptance Month. On one hand I’m of course happy: Craniofacial conditions are terribly misunderstood and largely ignored by both the medical/disability and greater society. It is, quite frankly, a weird disability to have. You are part of both worlds. You can pass sometimes, not other times. It is tricky.

Then come the tag lines that make me cringe:

Beyond the face is a heart.

I’m smiling on the inside!

…Foundation of Smile

Etc, etc.

Now beyond the obvious irony of the focus on smiles when the population I am familiar with perhaps cannot smile or smile conventionally, I am slightly weirded out by the discourse – “beyond the face”, “comes from my heart”… it puts a weird kind of dissasociation between one’s insides and one’s outsides.

I see where they are coming from, but from a disability theory point of view it’s so problematic. 

Being born with a visabile disability does not mean that one’s insides and one’s outside appearance are separate identities. My insides are irrevocably linked to my outsides, in both good and problematic ways. But they are linked. 

To me, awareness is as much for the people affected by what they are raising awareness for as for the general public – it is about owning it, putting words to experiences and feelings, about taking control of your personal narrative.

I just hope these narratives give voice to the complicated world of craniofacial conditions.

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