This is about developing disability pride. You can listen to me read it by clicking the player below, or subscribing to my podcast on Spotify or iTunes. Patrons can download the pdf for this.Become a Patron!
Disability Pride is a Protest
When you are continuously told by your culture, language, history, school, work and/or family that you need to fit your square pegged self into a round pegged world, need to conform, change, therapize essential aspects of who you are – shame is the consequence. You feel shame in all that you need to change, all that you seem to embody. You are representing the broken, the inept, the weak, the ugly, the mocked.
To even hint of feeling pride over all the things you have been taught to feel shame over is a radical act. To feel proud that you can’t hear? Of your deafness? Proud of what, Down syndrome? Proud of being neurodiverse? Proud of whatever condition you have that sent you in for therapy or an IEP or IPE or funky medical gadgets that made you feel like a freak in the cafeteria?
To feel pride in any of that can see delusional or masochistic.
And pride can also be a profound statement of protest. To claim, say or feel pride in all that we’ve felt shame over is a daring protest to the culture, language, history, school, work and/or family that told us we should feel that way about ourselves. It’s a fundamental refusal to buy-in to the shame anymore. It’s a call out to dig in even deeper: this is me; I am valid. I am worthy. Whether or not my culture, language, history, school, work, and/or family believe it, I have a right to be here.
Pride is radical. Pride is powerful. Pride is a protest.
And like Laura Hershey said, we get proud by practicing.
Some of us have spent a lifetime, decades, of trying to cover up our hearing aids, walk without a limp, mask our neurodivergence. Some of us have spent years in cubicles, offices, with people giving us treats to change the way we talk, move, express, or feel so that we can better conform within our culture. Some of us have already given in to all that we could to self-soothe, self-medicate, ease the raging internal pain – because nothing hurts so much as feeling so unwanted, broken, inept, ugly, mocked.
Feeling pride in those circumstances is monumental, an enormous reach, a leap of Everest-worthy proportions. How do you do it? How can it even be done?
We get proud by trying. One step at a time. One piece at a time. Bit by bit. Little by little. Inch by inch.
It’s a massive unlearning, a fundamental shift in our understanding of the world and our claim to space within it.
Those of us with the decades of shame internalized within us, it’ll probably take a little more consciousness and practice. Which doesn’t mean that for those of you who are still coming up in the world it will be much easier – it may not, it may still require a great deal of conscious thought and practice to shift your internal compass and feelings about yourself.
But the first thing to do is to start.
Meriah Nichols is a counselor. Solo mom to 3 (one with Down syndrome, one on the spectrum). Deaf, and neurodiverse herself, she’s a gardening nerd who loves cats, Star Trek, and takes her coffee hot and black.