Celebrate Disability Pride Month during July by removing the stigma year-round

by Ali Gautier

I’m sitting on my bed, laptop cooking my thighs as my partner comes into the bedroom to ask what I’m doing. Staring at the blank word doc in front of me I reply, “I’m writing an article about Disability Pride Month.”

The question tumbles out of their mouth, “Shouldn’t they have someone with a disability write that?”

“They are.”

Disabilities are as diverse as the people who have them. I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder in 2006 at the core Myspace marketing age of 13. I was a fat Black closeted theatre kid, living in a small conservative Kentucky town, with the fresh new label of mentally disabled. In short, the world hated me, and so did I.

Even though I felt completely alone, just in the year prior, the Disability Justice Collective (DJC) was founded. A movement started by queer, disabled women of color, Patty Berne, Stacey Milbern, and Mia Mingus. Learning about these women, and joining their movement led me to the first time in my life where I felt like a complete part of a community.

According to their website, the DJC works to create genuine inclusion, accessibility, respect, and connection.

The site states their mission: “As a collective we prioritize leadership and direction from those of us who live in the cracks and at the margins of all our communities. Specifically disabled* queers and Trans*, people of color, and poverty class folks.”

July is Disability Pride month. The month honors the signing into law of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which occurred on July 26, 1990. This act was only signed after an incredible display of civil disobedience known as the Capitol Crawl, in which approximately 60 members of the disabled community showed first hand how inaccessible public spaces were by physically crawling up the steps of the Capitol building. This moment catalyzed Disability Justice as a whole.

According to the Center for Disease Control, people with disabilities are the largest and most diverse minority group in the United States. Although the ADA was enacted in 1990, systems of oppression were not dismantled to allow for true equity. The DJC saw, and experienced first hand, the compounded bigotry prominent for SDQTPOC (Sick & Disabled Queer Trans People of Color) and SDC (Sick, Disabled, & with Chronic pain) BIPOC people.

We don’t just need an accessible entrance to the Capitol building, we need to be believed by medical professionals. We need the removal of stigma towards mental illness in our various cultures. We need inclusion in queer spaces. We need voices and representation as diverse as our community really is.

This is why the DJC centers “disabled people of color, immigrants with disabilities, queers with disabilities, trans and gender non-conforming people with disabilities, people with disabilities who are houseless, people with disabilities who are incarcerated, people with disabilities who have had their ancestral lands stolen, amongst others.” -Piepzna-Samarasinha & Leah Lakshmi from Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice.

I am a happier and safer person having the support of a community that understands and holds space for the difficulties of my life. Everyone deserves that. Show pride in all of the pieces that make you who you are, and take action to learn, center intersectionality, and create accessible spaces for all to be able to do the same! You’re allowed to make mistakes, just like my partner, but it’s the work you do after that matters most.


Happy Pride!

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