July is officially Disability Pride Month, although were you not disabled yourself you probably wouldn’t know it. Where corporations have smothered LGBTQAI+ Pride Month to the point where rainbow coloured logos have lost all meaning during the month of June, even the crickets don’t seem to bother chirping for Disability Pride Month. Perhaps it is only a matter of time until capitalists try to capitalise on morality points for another month of the year, or perhaps it is an indication that the empty gestures made during June have no real-world impact on the way their queer and trans employees are treated, and are thus absolutely meaningless. I’ll let you figure that out for yourselves.
When discussing taking pride in our disabilities on social media, one comment will repeatedly arise, albeit varying in tone between the genuinely curious and the downright abusive. Not many people outside of the disability community seem to understand why someone would be proud of being disabled. Indeed, in The Dollmaker by Nina Allan we are referred to as the “unwelcome reminder of what [is] true”, a seemingly callous statement that is none-the-less accurate, explaining why the able-bodied shy away from disability altogether.
I am proud of being disabled for the same reason I am proud of being bisexual and bigender; oppression. If those in power had their way, I would not be able to openly disclose my sexuality or gender and still have access to normal people things like homes, jobs, and education. They don’t necessarily oppose LGBTQAI+ culture, but they don’t want it openly flaunted either. Ironically, without a centuries-long history of oppression from people just like them that they choose to continue by basing policies on such comments, it wouldn’t need to be flaunted. If the community did not collectively and persistently push for equity and inclusion, progress would be lost and might even regress.
It is in exactly the same manner that I find myself being proud of being disabled. It’s no secret that popular opinion still leans towards keeping disabled people hidden indoors, out of the way, because we couldn’t possibly offer any valuable contributions to society. In fact, the pandemic has even been used to try and justify this outlook on more than one occasion. It shouldn’t be this way, but disabled people are having to prove that they can and do contribute to society and are not disposable citizens. By taking pride in our disabilities and by “flaunting” it in the way queer people flaunt their queerness, more and more people are forced to accept it and even embrace it.
Perhaps the view that disability is not something to be proud of stems from the notion that to be disabled is to have something fundamentally wrong with you. A lot of disabilities are the result of physiological problems that cause pain and sickness; our bodies are often described as “broken”. In late-stage capitalism, broken things are deemed to be lacking in worth and should be discarded, but these “things” don’t tend to be sentient individuals who would very much like to be alive. If you’re subscribing to the notion that disability isn’t something to be proud of because we shouldn’t celebrate broken things, what you’re really saying is that you do not view disabled people as people who are greater than the sum of their (dodgy) organs.
If you don’t like to see or even think about disability then 1.) Why are you on a website called Diary of a Disabled Person? And 2.) I have bad news for you; disabled people are not going to go away. We will continue to be proud of ourselves, our achievements, and our history, and the more that we are oppressed, the louder we will be.