First off: I’ve got nothing against masks. I’m still making masks for friends/family/neighbors/etc. I don’t mind wearing a mask when I go to the doctor’s office, or if I have to be around other people in close quarters (which is SO rare for me) – even though I believe, at this point, that it is more of a courtesy to accommodate their misguided fear than a legitimate protective measure.
But now they’ve rolled out the “mandatory facial coverings” order (I question its legitimacy as an actual “law”) for my entire state beginning tomorrow.
No, I won’t be wearing a mask every time I leave my home. To do so would be patently absurd.
Written into the order is a provision for exemption, for anyone with a condition which contraindicates regular or prolonged mask usage.
There is, as far as I’ve read so far, no provision requiring any individual to disclose the details of their condition to ANYONE for the exemption to apply.
This is as it SHOULD be. Why?
Well, I personally have a small handful of conditions that would certainly qualify.
In terms of easily quantifiable physical effects: I have a genetic condition which causes MANY problems for me, including trouble with body temperature regulation. I’ve spent the last three decades of my life learning how to dress to mitigate this problem while also maintaining my personal and religious standards of modesty. It’s easy when the problem is that I’m too COLD – just put more clothes on, and/or start moving until my body warms up.
It’s not so easy when I’m too HOT. Wearing a mask over my mouth and nose, even while just sitting in a chair in the waiting room at my doctor’s office, causes me to overheat quickly and sweat profusely. No joke – after my last two visits, I left a small puddle of sweat on the exam table and was feeling lightheaded by the time I left. And all I did was sit there. I dressed as lightly as I reasonably could.
Is that the sort of thing I should have to disclose to every random person who demands that I justify my exemption to them?
What about the conditions that are less easy to quantify or prove? What about conditions that require digging into an individual’s intimate history, and digging up past traumas, in order to “prove”?
What about the woman who has a combination of claustrophobia and PTSD from (or exacerbated by??) being held in a closet and then physically assaulted as a child by her mother’s abusive ex-boyfriend?
What about the woman whose narcissistic and abusive ex-husband more or less bartered her body in sexual trade to other men – one of whom pinned her down and held a pillow over her face during the act?
I am both of those women – and you’d better believe that when I start getting too hot, and when I start having a hard time breathing, those events (and more!) are replayed through my neural networks whether I want them to be or not. There’s enough written elsewhere about all of the very real physiological changes that go along with those sorts of flashbacks, I don’t really feel like getting too much into it myself.
And yeah, I’ll talk about all of these things here in my little corner of the internet where I am at least semi-anonymous, where I can talk about it on my own terms, and where my sharing these things might help others gain a better understanding of the nuances of these sorts of “laws” and exemptions.
But should I have to dredge all of that up – to reveal intimate or embarrassing details about my physical condition, or to reveal and re-live past intimate trauma, over and over – in order to justify my exemption to every store clerk and every Karen who is on some kind of personal power trip and thinks they have the ability to personally determine, at a glance, whose exemptions are “legitimate?”
And neither should anyone.