College football season is finally coming to a close. I was never into football as a kid, or many sports at all. And although I didn’t buy season tickets or anything, I liked to think of the Michigan football games as a representation of all of the pride the school had to offer, where students of all ages and backgrounds could come together to celebrate.
I went to my first game in September. I was so excited, bursting with school pride. My friends and I hit up some parties on the way down South U, then made it in line for the stadium. That’s when it all went down hill. No bags are allowed in due to safety precautions, but I’m a type one diabetic, which means that I have tons of medical supplies I need to have on me at all times. I figured it wouldn’t be a problem; I didn’t even think twice. I got in line at the gate and showed my ticket, but the guards wouldn’t let me through because of my purse. I tried to explain it was for my medicine, but they sent me to another line to get assistance. I went to another line but they weren’t much help either, and they just sent me to a separate line for people with disabilities. At this point my friends had gotten in already, so I was all alone.
I waited in the disability line. Ahead of me was a man in a wheelchair who was with a woman carrying multiple bags of supplies and a pregnant lady with a giant tote bag. The man in the wheelchair and his friend were let through immediately without question, and all the pregnant woman had to say was that her tote was full of supplies and was sent through. She didn’t even have to open the bag. Then it was my turn. I explained to the guards that I carried a purse for medical supplies, and opened the bag to show them my needles, test kit, pills, etc. They told me the purse would not be allowed in. I said, “I need it,” but they refused. I was choking up, saying I need my medical supplies to stay alive and I wouldn’t go in without it. Then they said I’d have to put the medical supplies in a smaller bag and drop the purse at home. I said I couldn’t, I lived a mile away. Then they tried to say I could go to the other side of the stadium, check my bag, carry the medical supplies, then walk back to the student gate, get approved again for the medical supplies, then maybe get in. I was done by that point, alone and frustrated and upset, so I just interrupted the man and said, “You know what, this is disgusting. I don’t even want to go to the game anymore, goodbye.” And walked back towards my dorm crying.
In the stadium that was supposed to represent pride for my school and all of its diverse students, leadership, and individuality; I felt nothing but exclusion and disappointment. I wasn’t trusted by my own school because I have a chronic illness. A man in a wheelchair and a woman expecting a child were fine, but not a young woman like me. And why?
It’s simple. I don’t LOOK sick. I’m happy, I’m lively, I’m of average weight and height, I can walk and talk and do anything any able-bodied person can do. So how could I possibly sick? I don’t look like I need a bag for medical supplies so of course I must be trying to sneak in beer cans or pill bottles and needles full of party drugs. Invisible illnesses are real. Just because someone isn’t in wheelchair, has a cast, visible scars, etc. does not mean they are not in pain. Just because someone’s illness isn’t immediately noticeable doesn’t mean they are just complaining, making excuses, or looking for pity. Invisible illnesses need to be treated just as equally as visible illnesses. We need more awareness, properly trained employees, and less stigma. People of all abilities and disabilities should be accepted and supported, especially at a school that claims to be committed to providing equal opportunity for students of all backgrounds.
I may be a proud Michigan student, but I guess game days just really aren’t my thing.
University of Michigan
LSA Residential College
Photo courtesy of Reuters