Every time I write about another aspect of our collective humanity that we have managed to reduce to a seemingly singular facet of our identity (for today, Disability), I feel immense gratitude for the wisdom and influence of Black and Brown women, femmes, queers, trans, and nonbinary folks who have repeatedly explained social identity, intersectionality, and the nuances of our existence in a world where power hoarding, greed, and a driving desire to control one’s fear and actuality of death are the norms perpetrated by those wishing to maintain exclusive power.
Today, on International Day of Persons with Disabilities, I reflect on how Disabled People and the Neurodiverse have been historically and contemporarily constructed pejoratively as criminal, unhealthy, immoral, ungodly, pitiable, and inhuman. Further, the whole conceptualization of “disabled” has been leveraged against Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities, queers, trans, nonbinary people, cis-women, and more. Indeed, research any social identity that has historically or contemporarily minoritized and/or marginalized, and you will likely find a medical, legal, and/or sociopolitical history of that group or community having the language of Disability leveraged against them. A clear example of this was the inclusion of Homosexuality in the DSM II until 1973 and the current inclusion of gender identity disorder in the DSM-5.
Disability is an aspect of life that is highly likely to affect a person directly or within one’s family. One in four U.S. adults has a disability, 25% of the adult population. I identify as neurodiverse, chronically ill, and trauma survivor. Just writing this feels scary and difficult to me, even though I love my brain, how it thinks, what it can do, and what it brings to the world. I value my experience as a chronically ill person for many reasons, not the least of which is that it further helped me confront all how I was raised up into White supremacy to believe that I had to be perfect, consistently producing, and more. I do not love that I experienced the trauma that I did, nor that I have the anxiety and depression that I do as a result, and when I begin to feel myself shy away from writing these words, I remind myself of where I started this piece. I am so grateful and indebted to the Black and Brown women, femmes, queers, trans, and nonbinary folks who have fought in every movement, for every community, for every bit of liberty that any of us have. So, when I am scared and want to avoid making myself vulnerable, I remind myself why I have space at all, and I take a breath, make myself vulnerable, breaking open space for others. Today, let’s all make more space for Disability to be recognized, expressed, valued, and loved.
written by Jen Self