The expression, “stay in your lane,” is getting increasingly common among Disability activists.
The term is a reference to driving, and if you veer all over the road, you’ll end up hurting the other drivers. In addition, it points out that you don’t own the whole road; others have a right to use the road as much as you do.
Often, we say it to parent activists and other busybodies who can only speak about their personal experiences, and suddenly, they’re swerving over to talk about the Autistic experience or the experiences of another Disabled person. It’s also used in issues of race or class or religion. Basically, anything that is deeply personal, about which only someone who has lived the experience, can really testify about.
If someone witnesses you talking about a life experience that you do not actually live for yourself, it’s possible an activist will tell you to “stay in your lane.”
When you hear that, you might get offended. You might try to respond that you have as much rights as anyone else to speak your truth. You’ve seen Muslim people, Autistic people, Disabled people, Black people, whatever you’re talking about, and so somehow you know the experience.
Seeing something and even living beside someone does not guarantee that you know the experience. Sure, you might understand things a little better than someone who has never lived with a Disabled person (etc.), but that doesn’t mean you belong in their lane, so to speak.
But that’s okay.
Let me tell you about something that will help you feel a little better if someone tells you to, “stay in your lane.”