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Disability Pride Month - Am I Proud Of Being Disabled?

Three white people sit in wheelchairs in front of a historic building, wearing an array of rainbow and Pride-themed clothing and accessories, with some people standing behind them.

Mary Doggett / Shutterstock.com

 

Although originating in the US based on the landmark passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, Disability Pride Month has been slowly spreading across the globe, though many people are still unaware that July marks this celebration. 

The occasion exists not only to raise awareness of the existence of disabled people in our many forms but also to highlight our accomplishments and contributions to a world that is still very neurotypical and able-focused. 

When it comes to disability, pride is not a black and white topic. Much as with LGBTQIA+ pride, whilst society has come leaps and bounds in terms of equality, there are many areas in which we still have a very long way to go. 

So as a proud queer, trans, non-binary person, am I also proud of being disabled? It’s not a question that I have a straightforward answer to.

 

Felix Fern, a white non-binary trans man, is in an electric wheelchair speaking into a microphone, he is wearing glasses, a black and white dress with long colourful socks and colourful shoes. A white protestor is behind him, and to his right is Shaira Choudhuri, a Bengali non-binary trans woman, in a dark shirt and dungarees with blue hair and glasses.

 Photo by Angela Christofilou

 

I’m proud to champion accessibility in activism. I’m proud to be a visible representation of mobility impairment. I’m proud to discuss my neurodiversity. 

I don’t feel proud when I get assaulted in the street for being in a wheelchair. I don’t feel proud about the fact that I can’t get into half the shops in my city because they have a step at the entrance. I don’t feel proud knowing that I have less chance of nailing a job interview because interviewers are taught that “maintaining eye contact” is a valuable trait in a potential employee.

So given how nuanced this subject is, I conducted short interviews with other disabled LGBTQIA+ people, because these varied, diverse answers give valuable insight into the topic of disability and pride. 

Of the 11 people that I interviewed, many only recently became aware of Disability Pride Month, and only half were aware that there is a Disability Pride flag design. 

So, what did they have to say?

 

 A white woman with short blonde hair and blue eyes smiles and waves at the camera, she is wearing a black t-shirt and denim dungarees. She has a nose ring, pink bow in her hair and a tattoo on her shoulder.

Laura Ellen - She/Her - @the.rainbow.birth.club

Invisible Disabilities

Laura is a 35-year-old queer polyamorous “mama to one beautiful kiddo”, who works as a Coaching Leader and Hypnobirthing Instructor.

She’s incredibly passionate about birth, especially when it comes to supporting queer and disabled families.

Do you feel proud to be disabled? Why/Why not?

“It's an identity I'm still trying to figure out to be honest! I don't "look" disabled and so I spend a lot of time either having to explain my disability, or having it completely ignored because it's not obvious. That plus a lot of internalised ableism means it's a lot to unlearn and relearn to be proud of.”

If you could tell the general able public one thing about life as a disabled person, what would it be?

“We don't have to be inspirational to be valued!”

 

A white non-binary person smiles at the camera, they have short dark hair with a shaved side head, and they are wearing dark glasses and a green t-shirt.

Cet - They/Them - @PocketBadgerCIC

Fibromyalgia, Neurodivergent

Cet is a bisexual, gender fluid, non-binary person. They’re also a sex educator, drag performer, and singer-songwriter. 

Do you feel proud to be disabled? Why/Why not?

“I feel proud of my neuro divergence but not my Fibro. People often don't believe me about my pain or think it's to do with my weight. I'm not ashamed of it, but I don't like mentioning it to people if I can help it.”

If you could tell the general able public one thing about life as a disabled person, what would it be?

“We don't get free stuff. It's expensive not being able to work and buying special equipment you need to function.”

 

A non-binary brown-skinned person is smiling at the camera, faer brown curly hair falling over one shoulder. Fae are wearing dark glasses and a dark top with a floral print.

Kathryn Bristow - Fae/Faer - @KathrynBristow

Ehlers–Danlos Syndrome, Autistic, ADHD, OCD, Dyslexic, Dyspraxic

Kathyrn is a 33-year-old non-binary asexual lesbian. Faer involved in multiple trans-led organisations primarily helping with anti-racism, accessibility and other intersections that fae has lived experience of. Fae is also a drag king by the name of Holt Fracking, where fae use comedy to advocate for social and climate justice. 

Do you feel proud to be disabled? Why/Why not?

“I do feel proud of being disabled, which sadly in today's society is still a very radical statement to make. Far too often when I explain EDS to people they say they are sorry to hear that I have to live with it, which is founded on the mistaken belief that there is something wrong with my body and I don't accept that I should feel upset or ashamed because of my body.

Who I am is shaped by being disabled, it affects how I interact with the world and how I think. If I could be "cured" of my disabilities it would take away a massive part of me and I love who I am, therefore I also love being disabled.”

If you could tell the general able public one thing about life as a disabled person, what would it be?

“Disability is not a bad thing. Yes, I do need medication and disability aids to improve my quality of life, however, I didn't seek help for most of my life because of the stigma around being disabled or believing "I wasn't disabled enough". If those were presented as things that could make my life less difficult, rather than a last resort that I should try to avoid, then my health would have likely been much better than it is now.”

 

A white non-binary person is sitting in an electric wheelchair, looking down at the ground. She has wavy brown/orange ombre hair with glasses on top of her head. She is wearing a rainbow-striped dress, rainbow-striped shoes and is heavily tattooed.

Abi - She/They - @pixellatxd

Physically disabled with a spinal injury, wheelchair user

Abi is a 25-year-old illustrator and fibre artist with a passion for rainbows. They crochet and love to create clothes that aren't really found on the high street, and that can be modified to be sensory-friendly and adapted. She also cross stitches.

She’s been taking a break from illustrating but is starting to make some Disability Pride-related designs.

Abi feels that, at the moment, Queer describes them the best. They’ve spent a long time unsure of themselves and their identity and have only recently begun to figure it all out and realise who they are. She feels that she still has a long way to go, but she feels the most comfortable and happy in herself than she ever has.

Do you feel proud to be disabled? Why/Why not?

“That's a difficult one. I'm not necessarily proud of my disability, but I am proud that I continue to thrive and live and love in a world that is determined to exclude me and make me feel "less than".”

If you could tell the general able public one thing about life as a disabled person, what would it be?

“Asking a random stranger about their disability or why they use a mobility aid, isn't making conversation. So many of us are constantly accosted by strangers on the street like this. It's not polite, it's not a talking point, and it's potentially forcing someone to relive a traumatic event. Ask us about the weather or something!”

 

A white woman in front of a pink background. She is wearing a pink paisley bandana with long dark hair coming down from inside it, and dark glasses. She is wearing a yellow t-shirt and gold hoop earrings.

Jessica - She/Her

Chronic Fatigue, Long Covid, PoTS. She uses a stick and a wheelchair.

Jessica is a trans woman in her 40s. She absolutely loves collecting old VHS tapes and Blu-Rays. She also enjoys video games and spending time with her fiance and their dog, Jack.

Do you feel proud to be disabled? Why/Why not?

“I feel neither pride nor shame. It’s just a part of who I am.”

If you could tell the general able public one thing about life as a disabled person, what would it be?

“There is still a LOT of work to be done with regards accessibility and stigmatisation.”

 

 An illustration of a smiling non-binary girl with long ginger hair and large blue/grey eyes. She is wearing large dark glasses, a dark stripey scarf and a dark jacket.

Unvisible Girl - She/They - @UnvisibleGirl

Autistic, ADHD, Anxiety. She uses a stick.

Unvisible Girl is nearly 32 and "technically" self-employed but unemployed on limited capability to work, which she had to fight for.

She is a demi-pan non-binary trans girl, though online she generally only mentions the trans identity as the rest is a mouthful.

Her hobbies and passions are video games and making things, so she plays a lot of video games and learns new skills to create with. 

Do you feel proud to be disabled? Why/Why not?

“I honestly don't know. On the one hand, it can give me unique experiences, insights and ideas into the world, especially with my autism, but on the other hand people and systems can be so nasty.

Whether it is through a lack of education or actual malice people will put you down, abuse you, take advantage of you or make you feel bad for a variety of reasons and this has an effect on how you view yourself.

I would love to say I am proud of my disabilities but society constantly reminds me that I am a burden to them and expects me to change and burn myself out so I am not an inconvenience to them instead of them adopting ways of thinking or policies that may be a minor inconvenience to them but has a massive impact on making the world accessible to us.

If the world would stop treating us like a nuisance, I could be proud of the unique things I could bring to the world.”

If you could tell the general able public one thing about life as a disabled person, what would it be?

“If a disabled person asks for something it's generally because they need it, we know ourselves better than family members, better than co-workers, better than doctors to be honest. Society is built for neurotypical abled people so you often don't see the problems we face. Please make our lives easier and just help us.”

 

 A white non-binary person doing a peace sign with their hand to the camera. They have teal hair with a fringe above their eyes, the rest is tied into a ponytail. They have a nose ring and three bottom lip piercings. They are wearing a shirt that is half black and half black and white stripes.

Megan - They/Them - @irony_is_coincidence

Chronic Pain, Fatigue, Suspected hEDS. They use a wheelchair, smart crutches and many other daily aids.

Megan is 22, bisexual and non-binary. They enjoy crocheting (currently working on a cardigan for themselves) and other creative crafts, they also love to read and bake. They love being outdoors and going out and about but unfortunately, their health definitely hinders this often.

Do you feel proud to be disabled? Why/Why not?

“I feel a sense of pride in still carrying on despite chronic pain making life difficult for me but I wouldn't necessarily think "proud" is the correct word. It's just part of me and something I live with and that's not going to change.”

If you could tell the general able public one thing about life as a disabled person, what would it be?

“It's difficult to feel proud of being disabled when we're still on the side of society - treated as different and expendable, especially during covid. It makes you feel like less of a person. Also, just because somebody doesn't use aids or they seem "healthy" some days and in a wheelchair on others or something, doesn't make them any less disabled. It's difficult enough getting through the day in pain and to have your every move scrutinised by people to make sure you're not faking is dehumanising.”

 

 A white trans masc person facing the camera, in the background is a wheelchair. They have blue eyes and short ginger/blonde hair that is spiked up at the front. He is wearing a blue, pink and white tie-dyed t-shirt.

Michael West - He/They - @michael_alex_98

Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, Chiari Malformation and Tethered Cord Syndrome, which has led to paraplegia and being a full-time manual wheelchair user, and a lot of time in bed due to fatigue

Michael is 23 and identifies as queer and trans masc. They spent a few years studying for a sociology degree with a focus on trans issues but had to drop out, and have spent the last 4 years working as a youth worker for Gendered Intelligence and 2BU Somerset, both trans and LGBTQ+ youth organisations. However, they have recently had to step back from these roles due to their disabilities and health issues.

Their hobbies include D&D, reading queer YA fiction, and watching fantasy/sci-fi TV shows. 

Do you feel proud to be disabled? Why/Why not?

“I do feel proud to be disabled most of the time, it's definitely something I'm working on to be all of the time though! It's sometimes hard when you're in constant pain or bed bound to feel proud, but I'm getting better at meeting my body where it's at, having compassion for myself and being proud of what my disabilities do allow me to do.”

If you could tell the general able public one thing about life as a disabled person, what would it be?

“My visible disability and use of a mobility aid doesn't entitle you to my personal medical information, you are welcome to ask questions but it doesn't mean that I have to answer.”

 

Nate Adam - He/Him

Chronic Fatigue, Dyslexic (especially audible Dyslexia)

Nate is 37 and identifies as a trans and bisexual man. He works in reporting for a charity but also creates his own personal events and socials for the LGBTQIA+ community. In his spare time, he also illustrates and makes a podcast.

Do you feel proud to be disabled? Why/Why not?

“Not really. I want to be independent and look after myself. I've often felt, because of my dyslexia, that I'm not capable of advancing to higher career roles, and people judge my intelligence. The audible part of my dyslexia has meant I've had to struggle for some time, especially at work (talking on the phone, having to deal with noisy open-plan offices). The Chronic Fatigue Syndrome has made me feel weak and I've felt people see me as lazy.”

If you could tell the general able public one thing about life as a disabled person, what would it be?

“That everyday things can still be done by disabled people and it just feels like the world can't be arsed to make even small changes to make it accessible.”

 

Critical Cupcake - @CriticalCupcake

Osteoarthritis, Nerve Damage, Chronic Pain, Chronic Fatigue, Massive Memory Dysfunction. Uses a stick and wheelchair. 

Critical Cupcake is 44, unemployed due to health reasons, but equally a dogsbody for two family businesses, and does most of the IT work. Critical Cupcake finds that they can’t afford the energy for hobbies, however, they’d say Twitter and being a YouTuber probably class as hobbies now. They are passionate about equality in rights, ending religious privilege and any claimed unearned privilege. 

Do you feel proud to be disabled? Why/Why not?

“I struggle with the word proud here, in the same way I'm not really proud to be trans, pan, queer etc, It's what I am.”

If you could tell the general able public one thing about life as a disabled person, what would it be?

“I think they need beating about the head every few months and be told that their life, their ability to think, to move, is not shared by everyone, the effort required for you to do the simplest thing that took a few minutes could be an actual day's effort for someone else.”

 

Em - She/Her

Long-term health condition that affects energy levels, a condition that causes pain and affects mobility (can't sit or stand for long periods, occasionally walk with a stick) and long-standing mental health condition.

Em is a 35-year-old bisexual woman. She works in an equality and diversity role within the public sector and she is passionate about social justice.

Do you feel proud to be disabled? Why/Why not?

“I'd say more neutral - I don't see any of my conditions in themselves as massive tragedies, but I find societies ableist expectations very disabling.”

If you could tell the general able public one thing about life as a disabled person, what would it be?

“That actually doing the stuff I need to do as a disabled person to stay well is exhausting - and whilst one more obstacle might not seem like a big deal, those obstacles add up.”

 

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 Felix F Fern | Writer Bio Pic

This article was written by Felix F Fern (He/They). Felix is a disabled, mspec and non-binary transgender activist and co-founder of the grassroots activism team Trans Activism UK.

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