Every year, when June comes around, a little bit of my faith in humanity is restored. Seeing the metaphorical and literal vibrancy of the month makes my heart full. People from all areas of life rally together to support the LGBTQIA+ community; its beautiful. I’ve watched Pride and the continuous beautiful work of LGBTQIA+ activists transform lives from places of darkness and shame to those of unapologetic love and acceptance. Though LGBTQIA+ advocacy movements have been thriving in the past few years, there is still so much work to be done to reach full equality. Sadly. Pride doesn’t erase the bigots, the harmful laws, the hatred, or the fact that being yourself is still a life or death decision. However, it provides a space for those left in the margins to feel empowered and worthy.
I want that for those of us left in the footnotes. In other words, I want that for disabled people too.
I’m disabled. As much as I’ve tried to force myself to love my disability, I hate being disabled. I actually don’t love my body, I often resent it because I don’t see anyone like me being celebrated, let alone recognized. I see them being misunderstood and pitied, therefore I encounter the same things. That external darkness transfers within. Yet, simultaneously, I couldn’t imagine myself in any other body. Nor would I ever want to live a life without all of the incredible people, places, and experiences that my body has brought me.
Yeah, my relationship with my Disability is as unstable and chaotic as Kelly and Ryan’s relationship in The Office.
It often feels absolutely impossible to exist in this world with a disability. I, and my disabled peers, have learned to turn the other cheek and pretend we didn’t see you move your child away from us, or hear the Helen Keller jokes, the backhanded “compliments”, the slurs repeatedly said without remorse. It may seem microscopic to most because they don’t live it, but all of these things make us feel an inexplicable sense of darkness and pain. The way society treats us tears us up in more gruesome ways than any of our medical endeavors ever could.
We need change. And change begins with acknowledgement. Acknowledgement of the fact that disabled people have been mistreated since the beginning of time. Acknowledgement that disabled people bring immense value to the world. (Marsha P. Johnson, the celebrated activist and mother of the Pride movement was disabled). Most of all, it must be acknowledged that disabled people are human.
We are more than the scars, the stares, the empty lunch tables. We are more than struggle and pity. It is excruciating to be disabled, and I won’t lie that parts of us are filled to the brim with sadness. But we are beings of incomprehensible joy and light. These things must coexist. We offer resilience, beauty, and depth. If our voices are recognized, we will change the world. But first, it’s up to the world to open their hearts to us.
July is Disability Pride Month, it is rarely recognized, so what a perfect time to start. I mean it when I say lives and livelihoods depend on everyone doing their part to unlearn and embrace. So, are you in?