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10 Questions You Always Wanted to Ask a Person With Down’s Syndrome
This article originally appeared on VICE Germany
Jonas Sippel is one of over 50,000 people that have Down’s syndrome in Germany (60,000 in the UK). According to the NHS website, « Down’s syndrome is caused by the presence of an extra copy of chromosome 21 in a baby’s cells. In the vast majority of cases, this isn’t inherited and is simply the result of a one-off genetic mistake in the sperm or egg. »Because chromosomal disorders often result in problems with the heart, Jonas had to have open-heart surgery before he had reached the age of one. He still has a long scar across his chest today.
Jonas is 22 now and lives with his parents in the town of Rangsdorf, just outside Berlin. He used to want to be James Bond or a palaeontologist but after doing an internship at Berlin’s RambaZamba theatre, he grew passionate about acting. Since then, he’s appeared in six plays and one film. We met in the theatre’s auditorium for a chat.
VICE: What’s shitty about having Down syndrome?
Jonas Sippel: It’s pretty annoying. For example, I often deviate from a subject, when I don’t find it interesting. But people with Down’s syndrome can’t do anything about having an extra chromosome. Some say we have a mental handicap. That isn’t exactly true.
I am indeed a little limited when it comes to certain abilities, which to others come easy, but I know quite a lot about history and I have a very good memory too. I know the ‘Iliad’ and the ‘Odyssey’ almost by heart – and Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen too.
Is there anything you’d like to be able to do, that people who don’t have Down’s syndrome can?
If I didn’t have Down’s, I wouldn’t be the same person – and I like who I am. There are a lot of things that I would like to be able to do of course, but nobody can do them. For example, I would like to found a league of superheroes and be able to create my own superheroes.
Is it annoying that you can recognise Down’s syndrome just by looking at someone’s face?
The fact that you can see it isn’t so bad. But when someone tries to reduce me to my Down’s syndrome, that annoys me.
Why do people with Down’s syndrome always laugh so much?
If something is funny, then we laugh. Or when we’re being mischievous – though that’s not so nice.
How hard is it to find a partner?
It’s pretty tricky. I’m waiting for the right person but I don’t really believe in love any more. I used to have a girlfriend but it didn’t really lead to anything. Maybe it’s my fate – I’m not sure I’m made for relationships.
Would you prefer it if a girlfriend of yours also had Down’s syndrome, or not?
That’s a good question. I actually would rather not have a girlfriend with Down’s syndrome because I have it and it’s not always easy. But it would also be fine if my girlfriend had Down’s.
What about children?
I love children and it’s a big wish of mine to have my own children. But you really have to want it and I’m still searching for what I really want.
Would you have your baby tested for Down syndrome before it was born?
You’re talking about abortion, right? I would give anything to have a child – even if it had Down’s syndrome. But I would have to decide that together with my wife of course.
What do you think about the fact that some people have abortions, when they find out their baby will have Down’s syndrome?